The exercise continues a trend of expanding Japan’s security ties with European powers as France looks to the Indo-Pacific.

The Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) announced on July 21 that Japan and France will hold their first joint combat exercise in Japan next week.

This marks a historic milestone in the two nations’ defense and security ties amid China’s military buildup and regional aggressiveness.

With the French Air and Space Force (FASF) flagship fighter, the Rafale, flying to Japan for the first time later this month, their first joint air combat training will also demonstrate France’s strong commitment to expanding deployments in the Indo-Pacific in a bid to bolster regional security.

Japan and France will hold the first joint combat aircraft exercise.

The exercise will be held from July 26 to 29 at the Nyutabaru airbase in Miyazaki prefecture on the island of Kyushu, as well as in the airspace of the Kanto region of eastern Japan, according to the JASDF.

The JASDF is participating with three F-15s and two F-2s, a KC-767 in-flight refueling aircraft and a C-2 transport aircraft, while France is deploying two Dassault Rafale fighters, an Airbus A330 MRTT aircraft and an Airbus A400M transport aircraft, along with a contingent of around 120 people.

Japan and France will hold the first joint combat aircraft exercise.

“We believe that the joint exercise will deepen mutual understanding between Japan and France, promote France’s involvement in regions around Japan, and become an important initiative for realizing a Free and Open Indo-Pacific,” Japanese Defense Minister Hamada Yasukazu said at a regular press conference on July 21.

The JASDF Chief of Staff and the French Air Force Chief of Staff will hold a joint press conference on July 27 at Nyutabaru Air Base, where the Rafales will arrive. In addition, a joint exhibition flight between France and Japan, including the Rafale, is scheduled for July 28 at Iruma Air Base and the area around the Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park in Saitama Prefecture, according to the French Embassy in Japan.

Japan and France will hold the first joint combat aircraft exercise.

The exercise is part of the Pégase 2023 mission, a long-range transcontinental power projection exercise that the French military is conducting from June 25 to August 3.

France has long been considered a major security player in the Indo-Pacific due to its overseas territories in the region. It is the only European country with a permanent naval presence in this part of the world. More than 90% of France’s exclusive economic zone is in the Indo-Pacific, including territories such as French Polynesia and New Caledonia, and around 1.6 million French people live in the region.


Admiral Pierre Vandier, the French Navy’s chief of staff, said in an interview in Tokyo in November 2022 that it is important for countries operating in the Indo-Pacific to maintain dialogue with China and that the French Navy’s deployments to the region, including across the Taiwan Strait, are not targeted at any specific country.

“France values ​​freedom of navigation, but we also don’t want to provoke a particular country. I think the route we take [through the Taiwan Strait] will change every time,” he said at the time, taking both the United States and China into account.


This is in line with the philosophy of Emmanuel Macron’s government in France. Macron refused to see the Indo-Pacific region divided into two blocs by China and the United States, instead, France is seeking its own “third way” to ease tensions.

Meanwhile, the JASDF has also recently conducted its first joint exercises with the German and Indian Air Forces in Japan. The exercise with the German forces took place in September 2022, and the exercise with India in January.

Japan is apparently aiming to strengthen defense ties with various countries, taking into account China’s increasing assertive military activities.

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