Japan’s defense minister raised concerns about Russia’s recent naval activities in the Sea of Japan, citing the size of the exercise and increased tension with Ukraine.
In a press conference on Tuesday, Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi announced a release by the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) stating that Japan has tracked a total 24 Russian ships of the Russian Pacific Fleet, including three submarines and a commercial icebreaker, operating in the Sea of Japan and the southern part of the Sea of Okhotsk since Feb. 1.
The Russian Navy’s fleet’s large scale exercise was unusual for this time of the year, Kishi said. The exercise, as well as the recent movement of Russian troops around Ukraine, show the country’s ability to operate in the East and West with the exercises.
“The Ministry of Defense is paying close attention to the activities of the Russian Armed Forces, including the situation in Ukraine, with great concern, and will continue to collect information and monitor alerts regarding related military trends,” Kishi said.
The movement of the Russian ships are in line with the Russian Navy’s large scale exercises from January through February. The purpose of the exercises is working out the actions of the Russian Navy and Russian Air Force to protect Russian national interests in the world’s oceans, as well as to counter military threats to Russia from the sea, according to the Kremlin.
Western nations have raised concerns in regard to their actual intentions and are seen as related to Russian actions over Ukraine.
Monitoring and tracking of the Russian ships and submarines were done by the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer JS Shiranui (DD-120) and P-3C Orions Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 2 based at Hachinohe Air Base, Honshu, according to the Japanese press release.
The release only identified the surface ships and submarines by pennant numbers and/or class. The ships spotted were destroyers RFS Marshal Shaposhnikov (543) and RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548), corvettes RFS Sovershennyy (333), RFS Gromkiy (335), RFS Gremyashchiy (337), RFS Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov (339), RFS Metel (323), RFS MPK-82 (375), RFS Koryeyets (390) and RFS Iney (418); Landing Ship Tanks RFS Nikolay Vilkov (081), RFS Admiral Nevelskoy (055) and RFS Oslyabya (066); and missile range instrumentation ship RFS Marshal Krylov (331).
Other ships spotted were the hospital ship Irtysh, an Altay class replenishment ship, Search and Rescue ship Igor Belousov, as well as several tugs and the commercial icebreaker Kapitan Klebnikov.
Russia’s Defence Ministry on Monday issued a release, along with a video, stating that ships of the Russian Pacific Fleet conducted joint maneuvering in the Sea of Okhotsk and then into tactical groups of ships along with conducting gunnery exercises.
One tactical group, consisting of corvettes Sovershennyy, Gromkiy and Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov performed joint gunnery firing at a group of surface targets simulating a detachment of mock enemy ships. The second tactical group, consisting of destroyers Marshal Shaposhnikov and Admiral Panteleev with corvette Gremyashchiy, fired at sea targets while performing the role of an enemy force.
The JSO also issued a release on Tuesday stating that the Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) destroyer CNS Taiyuan (131) was sighted on Monday approximately 273 miles (440 km) north-northwest of Miyako Island and sailed between Miyako Island and Okinawa as it headed into the Pacific Ocean. Destroyer JS Makinami (DD-112) and a P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 5 based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa, conducted surveillance on the PLAN destroyer.
The JSO announced on Monday that the JSDF will carry out a joint air defense and missile defense exercise with the United States on Feb. 21-25. The exercise will be carried out at Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s (JGSDF) Matsudo, Shimoshizu, Aonohara, Iizuka, Miyako Island and Yaese bases, JMSDF Yokosuka base and, Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s (JASDF) Yokota, Iruma, Kasuga, Tsukijo, Nittahara and Naha airbases.
The two forces will train for ballistic missile defence and air defense with the exercise overseen General Kōji Yamazaki, chief of Staff JSDF and Vice Admiral Karl O. Thomas, commander, U.S 7th Fleet. The release also stated that ships of the 7th Fleet will be participating in the exercise.
In other developments, the People’s Liberation Army Navy Landing Platform Dock CNS Wuzhishan (987) and replenishment ship CNS Chaganhu (967) arrived in Tonga Tuesday carrying relief supplies. The majority of foreign ships providing relief to Tonga have departed, but the Royal Australian Navy (RAN) Landing Helicopter Dock HMAS Adelaide (L01) is still on station there as its embarked Australian Army units and CH-47D helicopters conduct clean up and reconstruction operations on Atata Island together with theRepublic of Fiji Armed Forces.
Adelaide was joined by replenishment ship HMAS Supply (A195) on Saturday, which arrived to replenish Adelaide and bring in additional humanitarian and disaster relief stores. The replenishment was also the first time Supply replenished an LHD and its first Replenishment at Sea operation, having only been commissioned into service in April last year.
Over the weekend #HMASSupply arrived in 🇹🇴 and conducted its inaugural replenishment with an LHD. The resupply of #HMASAdelaide was also her first operational RAS ⛽ Supply departed 🇦🇺 last week with more than half a million litres of fuel and HADR stores. #OpTongaAssist #AusNavy pic.twitter.com/JhHM4Vm4cm
— Royal Australian Navy (@Australian_Navy) February 14, 2022
The (JMSDF) Landing Ship Tank JS Osumi (LST-4001) is also still in Tonga as its two embarked CH-47s delivers water supplies to the islands there.
From 14 Feb, JTF for the Int’l DR Activities has been airlifting drinking water to remote islands by using CH-47. The photo was taken from a CH-47 which had taken off from JS OSUMI to airlift drinking water to Ha’apai Lifuka. #OpTongaAssist pic.twitter.com/0nmHEdENBo
— Japan Joint Staff (@JapanJointStaff) February 15, 2022