Air Force hosts training exercises with Japan, S Korea in Alaska

FAIRBANKS — Japan and South Korea air forces are participating with U.S. counterparts in military combat training at Eielson Air Force Base outside Fairbanks.

The two-week exercises in the Delta Junction area run through Friday.

It’s the first time Japanese and South Korea air forces have jointly trained in Alaska or anywhere, according to Lt. Col. Tom Pagano, commander of the 353rd Combat Training Squadron that plans the Red Flag Alaska training exercise.

Two other military exercises scheduled earlier this year in Alaska were canceled because of budget cuts, the Fairbanks Daily News-Minor reported.

Pagano said that seeing two major U.S. allies practicing together is likely to be a highlight of this month’s exercises, which began Aug. 9.

“We have allies that are now on the same sheet of music able to cooperate, integrate and face a common foe (North Korea),” he said.

In one of the exercises, a Japanese C-130 cargo plane was escorted by four South Korean F-15 fighter jets as it flew through a series of simulated attacks.

For the Red Flag exercises, Japan and South Korea each sent six F-15s, air-to-air combat planes built by Boeing.

This month’s exercise is the only international military training planned for Alaska this year.

Air Force spokesman Tim Jenkins said that between Eielson Air Force Base and Anchorage-based Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, about 2,600 people and 60 aircraft are participating.

Jenkins said the Pacific Air Forces spent about $12 million to contract for base operations and the range space for the exercise.

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