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Interview with ASDF Chief of Staff General
Tadashi Yoshida

Tadashi Yoshida

Would you tell us about your career in the Air Self-Defense Force?
I joined the Air Self-Defense Force [ASDF] in 1970, and for the first 10 years or so I piloted transport planes, racking up about 4,000 flying hours. The next 10 years or so were spent mainly overseas, including teaching at the U.S. Air Force Academy and serving as defense attaché in the Japanese Embassy in France. During my time in Paris the Gulf War broke out, and I was able to build up a good deal of experience in a tense time, including gathering intelligence on multinational-force operations. I've spent the 17 years since then alternating between Air Staff Office posts and ASDF unit commands.

What experiences stand out especially in your memory?
After the end of the cold war, the Self-Defense Forces [SDF] shifted from their initial period of "building" to one of "working" and then to one of "showing results." When I was director of the Defense Department, I repeatedly argued that there was a need for a joint operations system for the SDF in order to meet the public’s expectations. I was happy when this was finally achieved last year.
    The 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States took place when I was commander of the Western Air Defense Force. As a field commander, I thought about what we should do if the same kind of incident occurred in Japan. Responding to airborne terrorism is an extremely difficult issue not just for Japan but for the world as a whole.

What are your thoughts on the future shape of the ASDF?
The ASDF can have confidence in its ability to respond to the kinds of emergencies that were assumed during the cold war. The challenge for the future is how to preserve ground functions in the face of new threats, such as terrorism and guerrilla attacks. By their very nature, aircraft have to take off from and land on air bases. A major issue from now on will be to protect ground functions from terrorism. We're putting a lot of energy into base security.
    As a student I belonged to the boating club. In boat races, no matter how strong some of the athletes are, you can't propel the boat skillfully if any member of the team is weak. The ASDF, too, is made up of people with special skills?piloting, maintenance, radar, missiles, and so forth. Unless they all do their jobs perfectly, the ASDF can't function to its full potential. I see it as an organization in which both the improvement of individual skills and teamwork are important.