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U.S. and Japan prepare for joint exercise; US wraps up drills with allies in South China Sea

U.S. Marines with Marine Air Control Squadron 4 prepare to offload ammunition from a KC-130J Super Hercules aircraft during Resolute Dragon 22 on Camp Betsukai, Hokkaido, Japan, Oct. 8, 2022. US Marine corps photo

The United States and Japan are preparing for a large-scale joint exercise in Japan next month, the Japanese government announced today.

The Keen Sword exercise will involve 36,000 personnel, 30 ships and 270 aircraft from the two countries, as well as the crews of four ships and three aircraft from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom, according to a press release issued Friday by the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

The exercise will take place Nov. 10-19 at Japanese Self-Defense Force and U.S. Forces Japan facilities in Japanese waters and airspace on Tsutara Island, west of Nagasaki, and on the southern islands of Amami Oshima and Tokonushima. . It will include live-fire exercises and focus on a wide range of operations, including amphibious, land, sea, air, and working in the space and cyber domains.

The exercise aims to improve interoperability between Japan and the United States. Japan will send 26,000 people, 20 ships and 250 planes to the other side of the JSDF, while the United States will send 10,000 people, 10 ships and 120 planes from the army, navy, army air and navy. units in the Indo-Pacific and Japan, in addition to Space Force personnel.

Canada will participate with two ships – HMCS Vancouver (FFH331) and HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338) – which have been operating in the region since participating in Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 and one aircraft.

Both ships are deployed to the Indo-Pacific in support of Operation Projection, the Canadian Armed Forces presence operations in the region, with Vancouver also tasked with sailing around Japan as part of Operation Neon, which covers Canada’s contribution to maritime and aerial surveillance operations to enforce United Nations sanctions against North Korea.

Australia will participate with one ship and one aircraft, while the UK will send either the offshore patrol vessel HMS Tamar (P233) or HMS Spey (P234), both deployed in the region. Observers from Australia, Canada, France, India, New Zealand, Philippines, South Korea, UK and NATO have been invited to the exercise .

Keen Sword follows an extensive series of activities between the United States and its partners in the region, with the United States Marine Corps recently concluding the bilateral exercise Kamandag 6 in the Philippines and Resolute Dragon 22 in Japan. The multilateral exercise known as Maritime Training Activity (MTA) Samasama Lumbas in the Sulu Sea – hosted by the Philippines, Australia and the United States – concluded on Tuesday.

U.S. Navy sailors with Naval Beach Unit Seven park a utility landing craft during a rehearsal for a bilateral amphibious landing at the Naval Education, Training and Doctrine Command in Zambales, Philippines, Oct. 6, 2022. US Marine corps photo

“Participating units included the USS BenfoldUSNS Dahl (T-AKR-312) and USNS Sacagawea (T-AKE-2), Naval Cargo Handling Battalion 11, Patrol Squadron 45, Helicopter Maritime Squadron-51, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Forces (JMSDF), and approximately 1,600 Marines and sailors from across III MEF, including forces from the 3d Marine Division, 12th Marines, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, and 3d Marine Logistics Group teamed up with 1,400 members of Japan’s Northern Army Ground Self-Defense Force, 2nd Division, during Resolute Dragon 22″, the Navy said in a news release.

During Resolute Dragon 22, Benfold worked with the U.S. Marine Corps High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Type 88 surface-to-ship missiles, the statement said.

Kamandag 6 included the participation of 1,900 United States Marines, 530 Philippine Marines, and 100 members of the Philippine Navy and Air Force. The Republic of Korea sent 120 Marines who, along with 30 members of the JGSDF Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, participated in parts of the exercise.

US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighters, CH-53E Super Stallion heavy lift helicopters, MV-22B Ospreys, AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters and KC cargo planes -130J Super Hercules all participated in the exercises. . USS amphibious assault ship Tripoli (LHA-7), amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD-18) and USNS Expeditionary Rapid Transport Braunschweig (T-EPF 6) also attached for exercise. JRipoli and New Orleans embark the 31st Marine Expeditionary Units.

Sailors operate a telephone and distance line aboard the amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA 7) during a replenishment-at-sea (RAS) with USNS Yukon (T-AO 202) Oct. 16 2022. US Navy photo

On Tuesday, MTA Samasama Lumbas, which began Oct. 11, concluded its at-sea phase. The exercise previously consisted of two separate bilateral exercises – Exercise Samasama between the Philippine Navy and United States Navy and Exercise Lumbas between the Philippine Navy and the Royal Australian Navy. The two exercises took place simultaneously this year for the first time.

Aircraft involved in the subject matter expert exchange engagement phase included the Philippine Navy’s Beechcraft C-90, the French Navy’s Falcon 2000 maritime surveillance aircraft, the US-2 seaplane of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and a US Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft. . The JMSDF US-2 forms the 3rd air unit of the JMSDF Indo-Pacific Deployment 2022 (IPD22). The French Navy’s Falcon 2000 is now operating at Marine Corps Air Base Futenma, Japan, until early November, conducting maritime surveillance operations in support of United Nations sanctions against North Korea, according to a statement from the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

The maritime phase included two iterations of interoperability, with the first phase focusing on search and rescue and humanitarian and disaster relief operations with the Philippine Navy, JMSDF, British Royal Navy and Royal Australian Navy, with onboard observers from the British Royal Navy, Royal Brunei Navy, Royal Canadian Navy and Royal Malaysian Navy. Ships involved in this phase included the Philippine Navy frigate BRP Jose Rizal (FF150), JMSDF JS destroyer Kirisame (DD-104), RN OPV HMS Spey (P234), RAN destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG39) and the HMAS tanker Vigorous (A304), while aircraft participation included the Philippine Navy C90 and JMSDF US-2.

The Philippine Navy also conducted a replenishment at sea between Jose Rizal and Vigorous, in which 30,000 liters of fuel were transferred to Jose Rizal. The Philippine Navy said it had not conducted an ongoing replenishment in a long time.

The second phase, conducted on Tuesday, involved the Philippine Navy, RAN and US Navy in combat interoperability exercises, with the destroyer USS Milius (DDG-69) join Jose Rizal, Hobart and Vigorous. During the anti-submarine portion of the exercise, Hobart released a Mobile Anti-Submarine (ASW) Training Target (EMATT) which served as a submerged target for participating ships to identify and locate.

Kirisame is the second unit area of ​​IPD22. The first unit, which includes the helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) and destroyer JS Takanami (DD-110), finished his part of IPD22 when he returned to Japan October 5. Kirisame is expected to return to Japan later this month.

Before Samasama Lumbas, Kirisame conducted Exercise Noble Mist 22 October 4-8 in the South China Sea with US Navy destroyers Milius and USS Higgins (DDG-76), RAN destroyer HobartHMAS frigate Arunta (FFH151), supply ship VigorousHMCS RCN frigate Winnipeg (FFH338) and the United States Coast Guard Cutter USCGC Dwarf (WMSL-757). Activities between the United States, Australia, Canada and Japan in the South China Sea appeared to be a rolling series of engagements until Monday, when the United States Navy said it had completed the exercises.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) conducts a trilateral training exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s Murusame-class destroyer JS Kirisame (DD-104), the auxiliary tanker class HMAS of the Royal Australian Navy. Stalwart (A304), and the Hobart-class air warfare destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG 39) during an operation in the South China Sea, 07 October. U.S. Navy Photo

“This exercise builds on previous bilateral and trilateral exercises in recent months conducted in the South China Sea. Throughout the naval exercises, participants trained together and conducted integrated operations designed to increase the collective ability of allies to maintain maritime security and readiness to respond to any regional contingency. The integrated events included surface, subsurface and air defense exercises that included maritime patrol reconnaissance aircraft (MPRA) from multiple participating nations,” the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a news release.

Hobart, Arunta and Vigorous are currently dual-tasking on a regional presence deployment for Australia and are part of Australia’s Indo-Pacific Endeavor 2022 (IPE22), Australia’s annual regional engagement deployment. The main working group of IPE22 includes the HMAS helicopter landing dock Adelaide (L01) and the frigate HMAS Anzac (FFH150), who departed Darwin on October 13 and are now heading to Sri Lanka to begin their first IPE22 engagement.

In other developments, the New Zealand Navy supply ship HMNZS Aotearoa heads to Busan, Republic of Korea after concluding a visit to RMN Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia. Aotearoa will refuel partner nation ships during its visit to Busan, which included refueling Milius and Dwarf in the South China Sea on October 11 and more recently the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) Wednesday in the Philippine Sea.

Rodney N.

The author Rodney N.