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Sri Lanka Air Force, JASDF, meet with USAF Search and Rescue

Trilateral SAR engagement

Sri Lanka Air Force members sit with U.S. Air Force members in a briefing highlighting USAF search and rescue operations at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Feb. 13, 2019. U.S. and Japanese officials shared lessons learned from a long heritage of collaboration on search and rescue operations.

Trilateral SAR engagement

Col. Sergio Vega, 374th Airlift Wing vice commander, welcomes Sri Lanka Air Force Air Commodore Kapila Wanigasooriya, Chief of Defense Staff director general of coordination, into the 374th Operations Support Squadron building at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Feb. 13, 2019. Wanigasooriya visited Yokota Air Base with five other Sri Lankan representatives to share search and rescue practices with U.S. and Japanese officials.

Trilateral SAR engagement

Sri Lanka Air Force Air Commodore Kapila Wanigasooriya, Chief of Defense Staff director general of coordination, presents Lt. Col. Scott Adams, 459th Airlift Squadron commander, with a token of his appreciation at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Feb. 13, 2019. Wanigasooriya visited Yokota Air Base with five other Sri Lankan representatives to collaborate with U.S. and Japanese search and rescue experts.

Trilateral SAR engagement

Tech. Sgt. Nicholas Poe, 459th Airlift Squadron special missions aviator, describes some of the equipment used in search and rescue operations to visiting Sri Lankan Air Force personnel at Yokota Air Base, Japan Feb. 13, 2019. The Sri Lanka Air Force was able to gain and share their perspectives with U.S. and Japanese search and rescue counterparts.

Trilateral SAR engagement

459th Airlift Squadron and Sri Lanka Air Force members pose for a photo in front of a UH-1N Huey at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Feb. 13, 2019. Six Sri Lankan members visited Yokota Air Base to collaborate with U.S. and Japanese search and rescue experts

Trilateral SAR engagement

Lt. Col. Scott Adams, 459th Airlift Squadron commander, hosts a group of visiting Sri Lankan Air Force and Japan Self Defense Force members at Yokota Air Base, Japan, Feb. 13, 2019. The Sri Lankan Air Force visited Yokota Air Base to collaborate with U.S. and Japanese search and rescue experts.

Trilateral SAR engagement

Sri Lanka Air force Air Commodore Kapila Wanigasooriya, Chief of Defense Staff director general of coordination, checks out U.S. Air Force night vision equipment in a briefing on Yokota Air Base, Japan, Feb. 13, 2019. Wanigasooriya visited the 374th Airlift Wing and the Japan Air Self Defense Force to gain perspective of search and rescue operations in the region.

YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – Representatives of the Sri Lanka Air Force (SLAF) and Japanese Ministry of Defense were hosted by the 459th Airlift Squadron on February 13, 2019 at Yokota Air Base as part of a trilateral search and rescue (SAR) exchange.

The exchange was a free flow of information regarding SAR practices between the SLAF, Japanese Self Defense Force (JSDF), and USAF to increase effective coordination in the event of a humanitarian assistance mission.

This event was a part of the JSDF’s first defense cooperation event with the SLAF focusing on Capacity Building Assistance for Search and Rescue. In addition to visiting Yokota Air Base, the delegation from Sri Lanka also visited Iruma and Hyakuri Air Bases.

SAR engagements have been a priority during USAF-SLAF Airman-to-Airman Talks and when the Japanese Ministry of Defense extended an opportunity for the 459th Airlift Squadron to showcase their expertise, the squadron stepped up to the challenge. Planning for the engagement began shortly after the INDOPACOM Capabilities Development Working Group in October 2018 and assisted in targeting specific SAR requests from the May 2018 Airman-to-Airman Talk hosted by the SLAF.

Through coordination with the JSDF, plans became a reality when SLAF Air Commodore Kapila Wanigasooriya, Chief of Defense Staff director general of coordination, visited the 459th Airlift Squadron alongside representatives from the International Policy Division at the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

“We showed them our search and rescue capabilities along with our air medical transport on the UH-1,” said Lt. Col. Scott Adams, 459th AS commander. Additionally, Lt. Col. (Dr.) Kenji Takano and his team from the 374th Medical Group shared their insights and expertise on how to integrate the medical skill sets into SAR air operations.

As part of the subject matter expert exchange, 459th AS instructor pilot Capt. David Shadoin compared USAF SAR procedures with the six visiting SLAF personnel who had expertise in rotary and fixed wing operations as well as medical and ground force SAR support operations. After the exchange, Wanigasooriya and his team were shown a display of a UH-1N Huey equipped for SAR operations for discussion.

“The more exposure we have with host nation and foreign nation relations, the better we can execute when it really matters in a humanitarian assistance or disaster relief effort,” Adams said. Successful multilateral events like this help strengthen alliances and partnerships and establish a common understanding of SAR tactics, techniques, and procedures. This baseline aids future collaboration essential during continued engagements or future real world rescue operations.