03/14/07 — Japanese Air Force colonel takes a look at Strike Eagle

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Japanese Air Force colonel takes a look at Strike Eagle

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on March 14, 2007 2:02 PM

Japanese and American fighter pilots battled in the skies just above the North Carolina coastline earlier this week before joining forces to "bomb" the lighthouse at Cape Hatteras -- but it was all in good fun.

Six officers from Japan's Ministry of Defense will wrap up their five-day stint on Seymour Johnson Air Force Base today and say good-bye to their host fighter squadron, the 335th Chiefs, before returning to their home country.

Col. Ota Toru said the delegation came to Goldsboro to learn about the F-15E Strike Eagle, as the Japanese Air Force is currently investigating different aircraft that might one day replace their fleet of F-15Js.

"We are very happy to be here -- to learn about the world famous Strike Eagle," he said.

Seeing the "long line" of Eagles on the flight line was "an amazing scene," he added.

"The F-15J is not so dark," Ota said. "The Eagle, it looks a lot more intimidating in a way -- very muscular, very manly."

Once he got into the cockpit and took flight, he learned the air-to-ground and low altitude flight capabilities are superior in the F-15E, also.

"Lower-altitude flying is strange to us," Ota said. "It was an amazing scene."

But the Strike Eagle was not the only aircraft the Japanese tested during their 10-day stay in the country. Before landing at Seymour Johnson, the group was in California with the F-18 Hornet, the jet flown by the Blue Angels Navy Demonstration Team.

335th Commander Col. James Jinnette said his squadron was proud to host the pilots -- and to show off the F-15E.

"The F-15J, it's more of an air-to-air guy only," he said. "We were happy to show them what our aircraft could do and had the opportunity to show them every capability we have."

So they took to the skies and headed east, simulating air-to-air engagements over the Atlantic Ocean before moving in for air-to-ground strikes along the Outer Banks.

"They fought their way in from 100 miles out at sea and took aim at Ocracoke runway," Jinnette said. "It was a tremendous opportunity for them."

Ota agreed.

"What a valuable experience," he said.