Japan said its announcement today that it would be sending an aircraft to participate in its first ever European airshow this week was a step towards developing closer military ties with the UK.
A Japanese KC-767J from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force will arrive at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire on Thursday (July 5) for the weekend's Royal International Air Tattoo (July 7-8).
Other than for State visits, it will represent the first time a Japanese military aircraft has touched down on British soil.
Capt (Navy) Atsushi Minami, Defence Attache at the Japanese Embassy in London said the decision to send an aircraft to the Air Tattoo was taken following visits to Japan by the RAF's Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton last year and by David Cameron in April.
Capt Minami said: “When Prime Minister Cameron paid and official visit to Japan, our two prime ministers agreed in a joint statement to upgrade bilateral defence co-operation in various fields. On instruction from the two Prime Ministers, the Japanese Defence Minister and the UK Defence Secretary signed a Defence Cooperation Memorandum earlier this month (June).
“The prodigious economic growth of countries in East Asia amid the delicate strategic balance in the region represents both an opportunity and a challenge for Japan and the UK. Japan and the UK are each other's most important partners in Asia and Europe, respectively. We hope our participation in the Air Tattoo will enhance defence cooperation between our two countries.”
Chief of the Air Staff, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, said: “I am absolutely delighted to see the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force participating in this year's Royal International Air Tattoo. During my visit to Japan, late last year, I was particularly keen to secure the attendance of the JASDF for the 2012 Air Tattoo and I am very pleased that the Taiko Drummers have also travelled to Fairford to provide some outstanding entertainment and to showcase some Japanese culture; It is my pleasure to welcome them to the United Kingdom.”
European Airshow Council Chairman Gilbert Buekenberghs said: " Whilst other nations will also be sending aircraft to European air shows for the first time this summer, most notably South Korea and Colombia, it is the backdrop against which Japan is proposing to participate that makes their visit to the Air Tattoo so significant. Whilst other far flung nations may choose not to attend for reasons of distance or cost, Japan's absence over the years has been self imposed, a restriction borne out of the Second World War. That they now feel the time is right to participate more fully on the international stage is to be applauded - and certainly one welcomed by the European airshow community."
Aviation author Lindsay Peacock said: "Since the end of World War Two, the Japanese have adhered to a pacifist clause in its constitution that prohibits it from settling international disputes with the use of military force. However, in recent times, the once strict interpretation of this clause has been relaxed somewhat, resulting in participation in training exercises such as 'Red Flag Alaska' as well as involvement in humanitarian efforts. In addition, Japan is now beginning to play an increasing role in global security. Sending its first ever military aircraft – a Boeing KC-767J – to an airshow in Europe is an indication of Japan's growing confidence."
In addition to its 14 crew, on board the KC-767J will be a troupe of 26 Taiko drummers from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force. They plan a series of performances during the airshow.
The aircraft, one of four JASDF tankers, will arrive via Elmendorf US Air Force Base, Alaska, on July 5.