A dozen of the US Air Force’s latest F-22 stealth fighter jets, four F-35 stealth aircraft and 13 F-15 aircraft took part in the exercise, Japan’s defense ministry said on Thursday.
The American fighters were joined by 20 Japanese F-15 and F-2 fighters and three American reconnaissance and support aircraft.
Japanese and American fighter jets flew over the skies over the Sea of Japan, the Pacific Ocean and the East China Sea to improve tactical skills and “joint response capabilities,” Japan’s defense ministry said.
The Air Force did not immediately comment on this week’s exercise, but the service said in a press release last month that it sent 12 F-22s from the Hawaii Air National Guard to Kadena Air Force Base in Okinawa.
The F-22s were in Japan on “various operational readiness missions to protect Japan and secure a free and open Indo-Pacific region,” the US said in a statement.
The exercise was held to “strengthen the Japan-US alliance’s ability to effectively deter,” Japan said in a statement.
Chinese coast guards and naval ships have spent a record amount of time in the waters around Senkaku this year, according to Japan’s Defense Ministry.
Earlier this year, China’s foreign ministry told CNN that the Chinese Coast Guard’s patrols in the waters surrounding the islands were “the proper exercise of China’s sovereign right.”
The Russian flotilla of five ships sailed for a week near the Japanese islands, from Hokkaido in the north to Okinawa in the south, the ministry said.
Meanwhile, at least two Chinese warships and a supply ship have been sighted in the Izu Islands, about 500 kilometers south of the capital Tokyo. One of these ships was the Lhasa, a Type 55 guided missile destroyer and one of China’s most powerful surface ships.
This week’s exercise comes as the US Air Force moves some of its most critical assets to the Indo-Pacific.
Two B-2 stealth bombers have moved from their base in Missouri to Royal Australian Air Force Base Amberley, where they will “conduct training and strategic deterrence missions with allies, partners and joint forces in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, about this US Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) said in a statement.
“This B-2 deployment in Australia demonstrates and enhances the combat readiness and lethality of our long-range strike group,” said Lt. Col. Andrew Kusgaard, commander of the 393rd Expeditionary Bomber Squadron, in a PACAF statement.