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British Army back in Japan with Vigilant Isles 2022 exercise.

| 2022

The British Army is back in Japan. Combining the influence of soft power and the expertise of operational training. This December month, the British Army has been fostering closer ties with an important strategic partner in the East. The British Army has reaffirmed the UK’s ongoing commitment to the Asia-Pacific region and with the resumption of the biennial training exercise Vigilant Isles.
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British and Japanese soldiers ready to board a CH-47 Chinook (Picture source: British Army)

British soldiers have been training alongside their Japanese counterparts in a bilateral wargame exercise in Gunma prefecture in central Japan. It is a joint exercise on island defence. The exercise saw British Forces leading six reconnaissance teams each comprising personnel alongside the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force as part of wider bilateral defence engagement activity.

Members of 7 Para Royal Horse Artillery, 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery and 104 Regiment Royal Artillery were on exercise Vigilant Isles 22 alongside the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force (JGSDF). They were working together to develop the JGSDF’s operational capabilities and to promote mutual understanding and trust.

This partnership began in October 2018 when the Honourable Artillery Company (HAC) trained with the Japanese Ground Self Defence Force on the slopes of Mount Fuji for the first Vigilant Isles exercise. Other than the Americans, no foreign troops had ever conducted military exercises on Japanese soil, in what the HAC’s then Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Wood described as “an incredible privilege”.

The Covid epidemic interrupted further collaborative training exercises. Recently, the UK government's defence and foreign policy integrated review announced a "tilt" towards the Indo-Pacific region. In May 2022 Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, visited the UK and signed a defensive partnership. Exercise Vigilant Isles resumed soon after.

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