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Sun sets on training for Japanese students at the 162nd Wing

  • Published
  • By 2nd Lt. Lacey Roberts
  • 162nd Wing Public Affairs
As Japan prepares to mark five years since a massive earthquake triggered a tsunami that devastated its northeast coast, the Japanese students at the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Wing located at Tucson International Airport completed their F-16 pilot training.

Japan turned to the premier training program here after the disaster left the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) short on F-2 training aircraft.  Although there are no F-16s in the Japanese inventory, the multi-role F-2 is based on the F-16 design, with modifications to meet the needs of the JASDF. 

After almost five years, the JASDF is ready once again to continue training students at home.  1st Lts. Toshiaki Kawanishi and Fumita Sakyu are the final Japanese students to complete the basic course in Tucson. 

Kawanishi said training here gave them the opportunity to practice in a unique environment with the vast airspace and training ranges - a far cry from the mountains and forests of their native country.

Alongside students from the United States, Iraq, Poland, Norway, Singapore, Denmark, Morocco, and the Netherlands, they enjoyed the exceptional weather and immense ranges offered in Southern Arizona.

"We cannot accomplish the mission with only one country," said Kawanishi. "This is a good opportunity to learn about other nationalities and personalities, and to be able to apply that to the mission in the future."

"We train everyone at the same level and to the same objectives," said Maj. Matthew Hodges, one of the instructor pilots responsible for the JASDF training in Tucson.
The partnerships that are built here during training enable our nations to go to war together and achieve the same standards and objectives, said Hodges.

Now that they have successfully completed training here, the two students will move on to Matsushima Air Base, Japan.

Kawanishi said he will remember the "Burger Burn Fridays," when students from other countries get together after a long week of training and have lunch together, building long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships.

"There are a few U.S. students that are going on to Misawa, so we are planning to see them again and show them around Japan," said Kawanishi.

Over the next six months at Matsushima, Kawanishi and Sakyu will become fully qualified F-2 fighter pilots, ready to protect their nation against potential threats.

"These students are on top of things every day and their study habits are impeccable," said Hodges.   

Instructors at the 162nd Wing average more than 2,400 flying hours in the F-16, graduating more than 4,000 students since the wing began training international students 27 years ago.

"The pilots have a lot of experience," said Kawanishi. "The stories they shared about how they felt in a combat situation were so amazing."

The 162nd fighter pilot training program continues to be the face of the U.S. Air Force to the world and provides the best trained coalition war-fighting partners for the U.S. and allied nations.