US, Japanese forces join for Pacific Weasel exercise

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Chris Jacobs
  • 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs

Members of the 13th and 14th Fighter Squadrons, Misawa Air Base, Japan, executed exercise Pacific Weasel over Draughon Range, March 27.

The 35th Fighter Wing began practicing large-force exercises in 2018, and each iteration has been refined and improved upon since its inception. Air Force members had the opportunity to integrate with Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members and assets.

“Each (Pacific Weasel) provides opportunities to train in a larger event with other aircraft than we would be able to train with in standard day-to-day training,” said Maj. Daniel House, 35th Operations Support Squadron assistant director of operations. “We have offensive and defensive teams, each with their own objectives and mission sets. This exercise gives our aviators the opportunity to really stretch their legs.”

This exercise’s iteration included F-16 Fighting Falcons from the 13th and 14th Fighter Squadrons, command and control assets assigned to the 610th Air Control Flight, and surface-to-air missile simulators from the Japanese Ground Self Defense Force 101st Antiaircraft Artillery Unit from Camp Hachinohe. Each of these units play a critical role in the mutual defense of Japan, and by joining forces for an exercise of this scale, enables all personnel involved the opportunity to interact as they would in a real-world scenario.

“The (Pacific Weasel) exercises are a great time for us to fully mission plan, execute and debrief a mission set that is essential to Misawa and our host nation partners,” said Capt. Peter Magness, 13th Fighter Squadron electronic combat pilot. “We had the opportunity to train with SAM site operators. Misawa (AB) is fortunate to have a series of emitters at Draughon Range that we get to train with, but the incorporation of the JGSDF into (Pacific Weasel) gives us an extra layer of realistic training for our Wild Weasel mission. With Red Flag-Alaska 20-01 being canceled because of COVID-19 travel restrictions, days like this still allow us to participate in large force exercises and develop good learning points.”

Given that the 35th Fighter Wing hosts the only units in the Indo-Pacific region whose mission is the suppression of enemy air defenses –otherwise known as the Wild Weasel mission– the ability to partner with its JGSDF counterparts is critical to pilot development and training. Maj. House said Pacific Weasel’s future is limitless.

“Currently, Draughon Range is one of the most dynamic and unique ranges we have outside of the United States. We have capabilities here that you can’t get anywhere else. In the future, we would love to see (Pacific Weasel) fill the gap between day-to-day training and large force exercise like Cope North, or any of the Red Flags, and I think we are well on the way to doing that here.”