Bilateral exercise Southern Beach reinforces USAF, JASDF alliance in the new year

  • Published
  • By Airman 1st Class Cesar J. Navarro
  • 18th Wing Public Affairs

The 18th Wing teamed up with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force to kick off the new year with another Southern Beach exercise at Kadena Air Base, Jan. 19. 

“Southern Beach is a bilateral exercise between the U.S. Air Force and the JASDF,” said Tech. Sgt. Daniel Propst, 18th Wing unit manager. “It reinforces our alliance together and allows us to prepare bilateral training, tactics, techniques and procedures that we are ready to execute when it comes to the defense of Okinawa.” 

Southern Beach gives military members and newer operators a chance to see how to execute missions as a team, especially when they get involved in the planning, Propst said. 

“Southern Beach 22-2 focused on resupplying forces in a heavily contested environment,” said Capt. Graham Johnson, 44th Fighter Squadron chief of weapons and tactics. “Overall, the exercise consisted of 28 aircraft fighting in a multi-national and multi-lane war. The JASDF led the mission planning, execution and debrief of this exercise, demonstrating their ability to coordinate and execute operations with their partners.”

According to Johnson, it allows both allies to understand each other's strengths and practices when it comes to mission execution, practicing fluidity among different units from different countries.

“Southern Beach forces us to go from the strategic statement, ‘We will fight together,’ to the tactical question of ‘How will we fight together?’,” Johnson said. “It’s a litmus test for our combined lethality.”

This particular iteration of Southern Beach took place during a spike in COVID-19 numbers at the start of 2022, adding another element of coordination and maneuverability in the planning and execution of the exercise. Integration and involvement from both sides took place within the level of restrictions taking place around Okinawa, Propst explained. 

Southern Beach 22-2 pushed the boundaries in both scope and complexity for exercises conducted via video teleconferencing,” Johnson stated. “The JASDF and 18th Wing planned and executed an incredible bilateral exercise, despite the difficulties.”

Participants conducted exercise planning virtually in order to integrate effectively and safely during the operation. Five units from JASDF worked alongside seven units from the 18th Wing, including the 961st Airborne Air Control Squadron and their E-3G Sentries

Propst stressed that each successful Southern Beach exercise forges a stronger alliance between the 18th Wing and JASDF, creating a more safe and secure environment in the Indo-Pacific region.

“This exercise is an incredible opportunity to strengthen the bond between the USAF and JASDF,” Johnson emphasized. “Each exercise provides new insights and lessons learned that help us become a more lethal and effective fighting force.”