Fighter jets of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) flew to Japan for the first time on September 28. Among the three Eurofighters, one was piloted by Lt Gen Ingo Gerhartz, Chief of the German Air Force.
The jets landed at the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force’s (JASDF) Hyakuri Air Station in Ibaraki Prefecture. Staying in Japan until September 30, the Luftwaffe fighters engaged in joint training exercises in Japanese territory with two JASDF F2 fighters and others for the first time.
Lt Gen Gerhartz piloted his fighter jet for about eight hours from Singapore. With its specially painted fuselage, it was brought to a halt at an apron while water cannons welcomed the Team Luftwaffe with spray.
As the aircraft’s canopy opened,Lt Gen Gerhartz waved his hands and greeted members of Japan's Air Self-Defense Force and others who were receiving the German guests.
The specially painted plane had a large Rising Sun flag drawn on the right wing, with a slightly smaller South Korean flag near the trailing edge. Australia's national flag was likewise featured on the left wing, with a smaller Singaporean flag near the other trailing edge.
Standing Together East and West
Germany's deployment of Luftwaffe aircraft was symbolic of a series of training exercises the German Air Force is conducting for the first time in the Asia-Pacific region. Taking part in exercises throughout the region over the three months from August to October, are six Eurofighter jets, four A400M transport planes and three A330 MRTT (Multinational Multirole Tanker Transport) aerial refueling/transport planes.
Of the group, three Eurofighters, an A400M transport plane and an A330 MRTT aerial refueling/transport plane flew to Japan. The arrival of the A400M transport plane, too, was the first ever to have been made to Japan.
In a press conference in Tokyo on September 29, Lt Gen Gerhartz said, “I decided to pilot the fighter jet on my own as I believed it important for all of us to appreciate the value of the training operations by participating as a team."
Referring to the significance of the Japan exercises, he added, "Piloting the plane in person in my capacity as chief of the German Air Force, also shows the importance Germany attaches to its relationship with Japan."
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(Read the report in Japanese at this link.)
Author: The Sankei Shimbun