Back at the beginning of December, the U.S. Air Force (USAF) and the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) staged a mammoth drill in the Pacific Ocean. Called Operation Iron Dagger, the get-together was meant to signal “the continuing effort to support the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command’s dynamic force employment concept through agile combat employment.” Or, in words we can all understand, a whole lot of military hardware being used for war games.
The impressive formation of aircraft seen here is led by an American B-52H Stratofortress, that seven decades-old piece of hardware that thanks to the continuous upgrades it receives still causes fear to manifest itself in the hearts of America’s enemies.
Accompanying it, and positioned aft and to the left in the direction of the flight, are no less than seven F-35A Lightning IIs, making for one of the largest formations of such fifth-generation aircraft we’ve seen in the sky in official USAF images.
To the right, we get four Japanese aircraft, in this case, Mitsubishi F-2s, a breed we don’t get the chance to talk about all that much. Developed by the Japanese company together with Lockheed Martin back in the 1990s, these things are so rare any sight of them is bound to cause some emotion: just under 100 have been made to date.
Based on the F-16 Fighting Falcon, more precisely the low-cost and scrapped Agile Falcon variant, they’re being used solely by the Japanese.
Nicknamed Viper Zero, which is a mating of the nickname for the F-16 and the moniker used by Japanese planes of World War II, they are single-seaters powered by a single General Electric powerplant that give them a top speed of Mach 2, and pack all the modern weapons arsenal one would expect from an aircraft of this caliber: cannons, rockets, and air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles.