Paratroopers jump into January in Japan
British paratroopers have earned their Japanese parachute wings, developing the ability of British airborne forces to work alongside our allies in the Pacific.
Some 25 troops from 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team, (BCT) the British Army’s global response force, have been in Japan to train alongside Japanese, American and Australian paratroopers.
Exercise New Year Jump saw the multinational paratroopers train to use Japanese parachutes and practised air assault missions from Japanese Chinook helicopters. Pathfinders, the BCT’s advance force, trained to parachute under Japanese freefall canopies, jumping from Chinooks alongside their Japanese, American and Australian counterparts.
The training culminated in a combat demonstration in front of a crowd of thousands at Narashino, a training area on the outskirts of Tokyo. Supported by tanks and attack helicopters, the multinational force was inserted by helicopter and parachute to attack a simulated enemy position.
Bombardier Chris Kearney, of 7th Parachute Regiment Royal Horse Artillery, was one of 400 paratroopers to jump in.
“I had a fantastic view of Tokyo, which is just vast, and it really felt like we were jumping into the middle of the city,” he said. “Mount Fuji was on the horizon, and it was all quite distracting, so I had to make myself concentrate on my landing drills!
“It was really interesting to go to Japan, on the other side of the planet, to find that their paratroopers were doing the same role as us and had done the same training with similar equipment. Even with the language barrier, we worked together easily and got along very well - I think that’s because we all have that shared experience of jumping out of an aeroplane.”
The training is organised by the Japanese 1st Airborne Brigade to celebrate both the New Year and the partnership between multinational paratroopers. Dating back to the 1960s, this year is the first time British soldiers have participated.
During the exercise Brigadier Nick Cowley, Commander of the Colchester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade Combat Team met with fellow commanders to talk about their units’ roles and capabilities and plan further joint activity.
“As the British Army’s Global Response Force, it is critical that we train to be ready to operate alongside our allies, wherever and whatever the mission is,” he said. “It has been a fantastic opportunity to come to Japan and build new relationships with our Japanese and Australian counterparts while deepening our existing links with US airborne forces. As paratroopers, we all share a similar mentality and experiences and I look forward to continuing to work together.”
The training is part of a growing military relationship with Japan as part of the Government’s "tilt" towards the Indo-Pacific region in defence and foreign policy. A Reciprocal Access Agreement signed by both countries’ Prime Ministers last week will see increased training between our militaries.
In late 2022, reconnaissance specialists from across the Royal Artillery took part in Exercise Vigilant Isles alongside the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force, while The Band of the Coldstream Guards was wowing audiences on a tour of Japan.