British troops exercise in Japan for the first time

Fifty soldiers from the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) have deployed to Fuji Training Camp on the slopes of the iconic mountain where they met with their counterparts from the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF).

Exercise VIGILANT ISLES began with a joint helicopter drill where troops from both nations demonstrated their rapid reaction capability. The training continues for the next fortnight in Ojijihara, north of the city of Sendai, a five-hour drive from Tokyo.

Troops will be deployed to observation posts in the rural training area to simulate a joint operation involving a similar number of Japanese soldiers. The exercise will focus on sharing tactics and surveillance techniques.

The HAC is the Army’s Reserve intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance regiment. Commanding Officer Lt. Col. Mark Wood, said: “The HAC has almost 500 years of history, but this is the first time anyone in the Regiment or indeed the British Army has had the opportunity to train alongside the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force.  It is an incredible privilege to be at the vanguard.

"The Japanese have been incredibly welcoming and excellent partners to work with, and we have learned a huge amount from them, improving both our mutual understanding and our ability to plan and conduct activity together.”

The British army works alongside its allies around the world.

Despite recent joint exercises with both the Royal Navy and the Royal Air Force, this is the first time any foreign troops- with the exception of the Americans- have conducted military exercises on Japanese soil.

Lt. General Patrick Sanders, Commander Field Army, visited the British troops at Fuji on October 2. “It’s important to remember that the British army works alongside its allies around the world and trains with many of its security partners," he said.

"Japan remains one of our most important strategic partners in the Asia-Pacific region and we welcome the opportunity to develop strong bi-lateral ties as well as demonstrate the UK’s approach to joint exercises. No nation operates alone and we want to assure Japan that they will not have to fight alone either.

“Stability in Asia is essential to stability around the world and the UK is opposed to any change in the status quo by force. This exercise is designed to promote peace and stability in the region with our natural partners whose values of respect and democracy we share.”

General Tamara of the JGSDF was also present, and commended the exercising troops: “The HAC has a very long and respected history within the British Army and we are grateful to the British for sending such an experienced unit. Japan wants to deepen security cooperation between our two island nations who share so many values. We hope this is the beginning many joint exercises.”