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Amphibious Operations Key Focus of U.S.-Japan Keen Sword Exercise

A soldier with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) during the Rim of the Pacific 2014 Exercise. US Navy Photo

A soldier with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) during the Rim of the Pacific 2014 Exercise. US Navy Photo

Japanese and U.S. forces are set to stage amphibious exercises off of Guam and Tinian as part of a series of bilateral drills that kicked off this week.

Keen Sword 2017 will place a heavy emphasis on amphibious operations in the wide-ranging exercise that will have U.S. and Japanese Self Defense Force personnel drill from the Japanese home islands, Okinawa Ito Guam and Tinian.

The amphibious exercises will land Japanese and American forces on small boats and helicopters from a four ship Japanese amphibious flotilla centered on the helicopter carrier JS Hyuga (DDH-181) and the U.S. amphibious warship USS Comstock (LSD-45) attached to the Japanese force.

“Personnel assigned to Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and 3rd Marine Division have embarked on Hyuga (to assist in integration of U.S. forces into the amphibious task force and overall build on bilateral relationships,” read a release from U.S. 7th Fleet.
“The culminating amphibious landing will include an insertion of ground forces via combat rubber raid craft and a helicopter-borne assault.”

apan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) ship JS Hyuga (DDH-181) sits pierside in Guam prior to planned training during Keen Sword 2017. US Navy Photo

apan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) ship JS Hyuga (DDH-181) sits pierside in Guam prior to planned training during Keen Sword 2017. US Navy Photo

Japan and the U.S. have both worked to expand the JSDF ability to conduct amphibious operations for the last several years, including the Rim of the Pacific exercises.

“By improving our bilateral amphibious capability, we increase interoperability and readiness as part of our deep and longstanding military cooperation in support of the U.S.-Japan defense alliance,” Rear Adm. Marc H. Dalton, commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet said in a U.S. 7th Fleet statement.

The emphasis on amphibious operations is a first for this iteration of Keen Sword and comes as tensions between Tokyo and Beijing over territory have intensified over the last year.

Both China and Japan have laid claim to the Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea which Japan now controls. Over the summer China sent Coast Guard ships and a People’s Liberation Army Navy frigate within territorial waters of the island.Chinese and Japanese fighters also clashed near the islands in June. For its part, the People’s Liberation Army has included simulated amphibious assaults of the Senkakus in their regular exercises.

Keen Sword runs until Nov. 11.

  • Ed L

    What about preventing amphibious operations or denied landing areas for land and airborne assault. paratroopers?

    • Donald Carey

      That would be too much like facing reality.

  • Marjus Plaku

    The Chinese do not have much airborne or amphibious capability yet. They could not conduct such maneuvers against any of the advanced Asian nations: SK, Taiwan, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, even Vietnam, but the Philippines and Indonesia, are very vulnerable. And then of course meaningless small islands that are better just being bombed back into the sea than trying to capture a small sand pit and become a sitting duck.

  • John B. Morgen

    These drills should include Marine F-35B aircraft, by conducting operations off from the so-called Japanese destroyer (aircraft carrier) the Hyuga.