India’s Su-30s to square off against Japan’s fighters in first mutual exercise

IAF Su-30MKI and C-17
BoeingMan777 /

Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) has released additional details of the first air combat exercise to be conducted in tandem with the Indian Air Force (IAF).

The event, named Veer Guardian 23, will take place at Japan’s Iruma Air Base, Hyakuri Air Base and the surrounding airspace, between January 16 and 26, 2023.

According to JASDF press release, eight Japanese fighter jets are set to participate in the exercise: four F-2 of the 7th Air Wing and four F-15 of the Air Tactics Development Wing.

Mitsubishi F-2 is Japan’s domestic derivative of the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon. JASDF also operates the Mitsubishi F-15J, a version of the McDonnel Douglas F-15 Eagle.

On the Indian side, four Sukhoi Su-30MKIs from No. 220 Squadron of the IAF will participate, as well as two C-17 heavy freighters from No. 81 Squadron.

Su-30MKI is an India-specific version of Russian Sukhoi Su-30, a highly upgraded derivative of the Su-27. Su-30MKIs are manufactured by Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL).

This will be the first time India and Japan have conducted a mutual air combat exercise, following on closely from a major joint maritime exercise held by the Japan’s Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Indian Navy September 2022.

The fact that the countries are to hold an air combat exercise was first announced in September 2022, in a meeting which saw the countries discussing their mutual strategy in the face of China’s ambitions in South East Asia.

Both Japan and India have territorial disputes with China and see containing their mutual neighbor as a major goal.

India operating Su-27 derivatives could also be an opportunity for JASDF pilots to train against Chinese aircraft that they closely resemble. A number of fighter jets operated by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) and the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN), such as the Shenyang J-11, J-15 and J-16, are also domestic derivatives of the Su-27.

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