KUALA LUMPUR – Joint drills between allies in Japan between the U.S., Japanese, French and Australian navies helped the countries better understand how they can operate together in the Indo-Pacific, two U.S. officials leading the exercise.
Speaking at a media conference call on Monday, Capt. Brian Schrum, commanding officer of USS New Orleans (LPD-18), and Lt. Col. Jeremy Nelson, who commands the Marine force Jeanne D’Arc 21 contingent and the 3rd Landing Support Battalion, both said the joint exercise allowed the participating nations’ personnel to enhance their ability to work together in the Indo-Pacific.
“All the lessons and practices that we share with the Japanese, the Australian and the French allies during Arc 21 just make us more capable to responding to the current needs of the Indo-Pacific, whether it is responding to contingencies in the region or be called upon for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations,” Schrum said.
Understanding partner nations’ capabilities and limitations and communicating well with each other throughout any execution is crucial for interoperability, both officers told reporters. Nelson said understanding each other’s staff planning processes and the personnel countries bring to planning sessions is just as important. He also said that individuals with similar capabilities from different partner nations should work together to form a common understanding when planning an exercise.
“Understanding what everyone brings to the fight and being able to communicate and understand one another is most important,” Nelson said.
For the Arc 21 exercise, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force deployed the helicopter destroyer JS Ise (DDH-182); destroyers JS Ashigara (DDG-178), JS Asahi (DD-119) and JS Kongo (DDG-173); amphibious transport dock ship JS Osumi (LST-4001); missile boats JS Otaka (PG-826) and JS Shirataka (PG-829); and an unnamed submarine. The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s personnel included troops from the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, in addition to CH-47 and AH-64 helicopters. The Japan Air Self-Defense Force also deployed F-2 fighters for the exercise.
U.S forces included amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD-18), P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft and MV-22 Ospreys, while U.S ground elements consisted of elements from III Marine Expeditionary Force, including members of the Air Naval Gunfire Liason Company, a reconnaissance team, explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) specialists, a communication detachment and a logistic command element. The Royal Australian Navy deployed the frigate HMAS Parramatta (FFH-154), while France deployed the landing helicopter dock FS Tonnerre (L9014) and frigate FS Surcouf (F711), which forms the French Jeanne D’Arc training and operational mission to the Indo-Pacific region. The embarked troops from Tonnere that participated include an army landing force from 13th Demi-Brigade of the Foreign Legion and an engineer detachment of the 1st Foreign Legion Engineer Regiment (Combat engineering).
While the ARC 21 exercise coincided during bad weather, the majority of the events proceeded as scheduled with some exceptions. Nelson said the exercise planned to rehearse receiving fuel from a helicopter for a ground refueling system for storage and then rapidly move that fuel to alternate aircraft when needed. Due to the weather conditions and safety issues, U.S. and Japanese forces did not conduct the refueling, but ground personnel mutually trained on the equipment and walked through the process of doing so in a day and night scenario.
The officials also said the ARC exercise, which began last week and wrapped up on Sunday, provided strong engagement and interoperability experience for the enlisted and junior officer personnel participating. Schrum said a number of at-sea activities, including domain awareness and advanced maneuvering training, were carried out despite the weather. He described having a JMSDF LCAC enter and depart the well deck of New Orleans several times as one of the more interesting activities, adding that the experience was good for the well deck crew and other ship personnel involved in the activity.
“It’s also important for our young junior officers and watchstanders on the ship, as they get the most out of understanding what it’s like to work with partners and allies in the region”, Schrum said.
Nelson said the same was true for the U.S. Marines involved in the exercise, as they established standard operating procedures for tactics in patrolling and urban combat and familiarized themselves with the equipment and weapon systems used by their partners.
“We worked through the bad weather, we worked through common understood COVID mitigation measures, we worked through the language barrier and we still able to execute planning and executing a safe exercise that everyone mutually benefited from,” he said.