U.S., U.K. Aircraft Carriers Drill with Japanese Big Deck Warship in the Western Pacific

October 4, 2021 11:56 AM
From foreground to background USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), JS Ise (DDH-182) and USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Photo

KUALA LUMPUR – Two U.S. carrier strike groups drilled with the United Kingdom’s Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG21) and a Japanese big-deck warship over the weekend in a major naval exercise in the waters off the southeast of Okinawa, Japan.

The exercise involved six different navies – the U.S Navy, the U.K. Royal Navy, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, the Royal Netherlands Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal New Zealand Navy – making up a total of 17 surface ships, which included four aircraft carriers.

The exercise enhanced JMSDF tactical skills and interoperability with the participating navies, the JMSDF said in a news release on Monday. Anti-submarine warfare, air defense warfare, tactical movement and communications training were carried out for the exercise, according to the JMSDF.

“In addition to the two carrier strike groups of the U.S. Navy, I feel very honored to be able to train with the Royal Navy’s most advanced carrier strike group, which is an extremely valuable experience,” JMSDF Escort Flotilla 2 commander Rear Adm. Konno Yasushige said in the English-language JMSDF news release.
“This training, which brings together three CSG, embodies the strong will of the participating countries to realize a Free and Open Indo-Pacific, the JMSDF will work closely with allied and friendly navies, which share the same objectives, to respond to global challenges and defend maritime order based on the rule of law.”

This was the Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group’s fourth exercise with allies and partners since entering U.S. 7th Fleet, CSG commander Rear Adm. Dan Martin said in the release.

“[A]nd we have continued to improve our ability to conduct prompt and sustained operations at sea with a more mobile, agile and flexible force,” Martin said.

U.K. CSG21 commander Commodore Steve Moorhouse said the British CSG “offers the largest 5th Generation air wing afloat today and working with our close allies to develop operating procedures and capabilities while concurrently showcasing the agility of land and carrier-based aviation in the Indo-Pacific demonstrates our commitment to the region.”

JMSDF ships taking part in the exercise included destroyer helicopter carrier JS Ise (DDH-182), with destroyers JS Kirishima (DDG-174) and JS Yamagiri (DD-152). The Reagan CSG included carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and cruiser USS Shiloh (CG-67), while the Vinson CSG featured carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) and guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG-90).

The U.K. CSG21 ships involved included carrier Queen Elizabeth (R08), destroyer HMS Defender (D36), frigate HMS Kent (F78), replenishment ships RFA Fort Victoria (A387) and RFA Tidespring (A136), American destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68), and Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen (F805). Rounding out the participants were the RCN frigate HCMS Winnipeg (FFH338) and RNZN frigate HMNZS Te Kaha (F77).

Two of the JMSDF’s other three destroyer helicopter carriers are also underway now with JS Izumo (DDH-183), which is in the midst of a post refit trial. The refit is the first phase of work enabling it to operate F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters. US Marines F-35Bs are currently embarked on Izumo to assist in the trials, while Izumo’s sister ship JS Kaga (DDH-184) and destroyer JS Murasame (DD101) are in Colombo, Sri Lanka for a port visit until Monday as part of the JMSDF Indo-Pacific Deployment 2021 (IPD21) task group.

The main body of the UK CSG 21 is now on its way to Singapore for an exercise with the Republic of Singapore Navy, based on a social media posting by the CSG21 commander.

Meanwhile, other elements of the CSG21 group are operating in the South China Sea. Frigate HMS Richmond (F239) carried out a passing exercise (PASSEX) with the Vietnam Navy frigate Đinh Tiên Hoàng (HQ-011) on Monday as it left Vietnam following a port call. The PASSEX is the first-ever at-sea naval activity between the two navies.

Richmond is expected to head to Singapore to take part in the Five Power Defence Arrangement (FPDA) exercise Bersama Gold 21, which will take place Oct. 8 through 18 off the coasts of Malaysia and Singapore. Meanwhile, destroyer HMS Diamond (D34), which had been forced to drop out of CSG21 in July following engine troubles, is now also in the South China Sea and conducting a three-day exercise with the Australian Defence Force (ADF) Indo-Pacific Endeavour Deployment 21 (IPE21) task group. The task group includes Royal Australian Navy LPD HMAS Canberra (L02), frigate HMAS Anzac (FFH150) and replenishment ship HMAS Sirius (O266).

After it drills with Diamond, the IPE21 task group is also heading to Singapore to take part in the Bersama Gold exercise. Diamond is then expected to re-join the main body of CSG21.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

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