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Makin Island, America ARGs Wrap Up Exercises with Thai, Japanese Forces

A Republic of Korea Marine provides security as part of an amphibious assault during Exercise Cobra Gold 23 in Chonburi province, Kingdom of Thailand on March 3, 2023. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

The Makin Island and America amphibious ready groups wrapped up their participation in exercises in Thailand and Japan this week. 

The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) – which includes amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8), amphibious transport docks USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) and USS Anchorage (LPD-23), and the embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) – participated in multinational exercise Cobra Gold 23, which began Feb. 23 in Thailand and ended on Friday. Although 20 countries took part in the exercise, the bulk of the approximately 7,400 personnel came from host nation Thailand, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the United States.

In addition to the ARG and the embarked MEU, the U.S. Navy also dispatched a P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) from the “Red Landers” of Patrol Squadron (VP), currently operating from Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan, for the exercise with Combat Aircrew (CAC) 3 and a maintenance support team deployed to U-Tapao Royal Thai Navy (RTN) Airfield, according to a service release.

The P-8 was assigned to provide support to the 13th MEU as part of an amphibious assault exercise, during which the P-8A used its MX-20 EO/IR system to collect aerial imagery of the coalition forces.

“The crew members of CAC-3 conducted mission-planning with representatives from RTN Squadron 102 which operates the Fokker F27-200 MAR and Sikorsky S-70B Seahawk. Mission planning enables flawless execution by both U.S. and Thai forces conducting non-combatant evacuation operations,” according to the U.S. Navy release. “Several members of the RTN were welcomed aboard the P-8A to observe first-hand the numerous capabilities of the aircraft and to exchange tactics, techniques, and procedures with CAC-3 personnel.”

The U.S. Army sent elements from the 7th Infantry Division, 82nd Airborne Division and 25th Combat Aviation Brigade. The Air Force (USAF) deployed eight C-17s – three each from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, and two from Joint Base Charleston, S.C. – under the 535th Airlift Squadron and the 204th Airlift Squadron to conduct a parachute drop of a combined 600 82nd Airborne Division and Royal Thai Army in Thailand Mar. 3, according to a U.S. Air Force news release.

The U.S. Air Force also deployed F-16 Fighting Falcons assigned to the 36th Fighter Squadron from Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, to Korat Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) Base for the exercise.

On Sunday, the America ARG – which includes amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6), amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD-20) and dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD-48) – wrapped up participation in U.S.-Japan bilateral exercise Iron Fist 23 in Okinawa, according to a U.S. Navy release.

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldier, with the 1st Amphibious Rapid Deployment Regiment, observes the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6) during a simulated bilateral casualty pick up in the Philippine Sea, March 10, 2023. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

Iron Fist 23, which began Feb. 16, was a series of drills around Japan’s southwestern islands with an amphibious landing in Okinawa as the concluding event. The Navy, as well as the 31st MEU, participated with the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, 1st Airborne Brigade and 1st Helicopter Brigade, as well as the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Western Army Aviation Unit.

This is the first time that the exercise was held in Japan since it began in 2006. Previous iterations were held at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. .

Marines from III Marine Expeditionary Force in Okinawa and 1st Marine Division, I MEF deployed to Korea to join their ROK counterparts to form the Combined Marine Component Command (CMCC) during Exercise Freedom Shield 23, according to a Monday U.S. Marine Corps release.

The Combined Marine Component Command will use a computer-based scenario to rehearse force-wide command and control. The goal of the exercise is increased collective defense capability, as well as a reduction in the time needed to respond to a crisis, according to the release.

The 11-day exercise will use live exercises and constructive simulation, according to a U.S. Forces Korea release.

Participating units will include personnel from the ROK Military, United States Forces Korea (USFK), United Nations Command (UNC) and subordinate component commands under CFC, along with augmentees, civilian personnel and representatives of the United Nations.

In addition to Freedom Shield 23, several combined field training exercises (FTX), collectively called Warrior Shield FTX, will also take place around the Korean Peninsula, according to the release.

“The purpose of the training for Warrior Shield FTX, is to further enhance the ROK and U.S. militaries’ cooperation through air, land, sea, space, cyber and special operations, and improve upon tactics, techniques and procedures,” according to the release.

The planned military exercises irked North Korean Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un, with Pyongyang threatening “unprecedentedly persistent and strong counteractions.” North Korea also conducted ballistic missiles in the past month.

In the Indian Ocean

Meanwhile, in the Indian Oceam, La Perouse 2023 exercise took place on Monday and Tuesday. It involved ships and helicopters of the Royal Australian Navy, French Navy, Indian Navy, JMSDF, the United Kingdom Royal Navy, and the U.S. Navy along with headquarters elements from the Royal Canadian Navy and the Royal New Zealand Navy, according to a Wednesday JMSDF release.

French amphibious assault ship FS Dixmude (L9015) and frigate FS La Fayette (F710), which form the Mission Jeanne D’Arc 2023 deployment, led the exercise, which took place in the waters east of Sri Lanka.

In addition to Dixmude and La Fayatte, ships taking part in the exercise included:

  • Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Perth (FFH157)
  • Indian Navy frigate INS Sahyadri (F49) and replenishment ship INS Jyoti (A58)
  • JMSDF destroyer JS Suzutsuki (DD-117),
  • U.K. Royal Navy offshore patrol vessel HMS Tamar (P233)
  • U.S. Navy Littoral Combat Ship USS Charleston (LCS-18).

The ships participated in tactical exercises, such as anti-surface warfare exercise, air defense Exercise, tactical maneuvering and cross deck landings.

Prior to the exercise, Sahyadri conducted a maritime partnership exercise with Dixmude and La Fayatte on Friday and Saturday in the Arabian Sea. The ship also worked with Suzutsuki in the Arabian Sea on Saturday.

Suzutsuki is on its way home after completing its deployment in the Gulf of Aden as the 43rd Deployed Surface Force for Counter-Piracy Enforcement (DSPE), Japan’s ongoing rotational deployment for countering piracy in the region. JS Makinami (DD-112) took over the mission as the 44th Deployed Surface Force for Counter-Piracy Enforcement (DSPE).

Perth left Australia in January for an Indo-Pacific deployment. On Feb. 28, it was in the Sunda Strait to commemorate the 1942 sinking of its World War II namesake, cruiser HMAS Perth (D29), and cruiser USS Houston (CA-30) during the battle of Sunda Strait.

Charleston is one of two LCSs rotationally deployed in the Indo-Pacific region, the other being USS Oakland (LCS-24).

Tamar is one of two RN offshore patrol vessels deployed in the Indo-Pacific. The other is HMS Spey (P234), which left Thailand Sunday after concluding a visit.

In the South Pacific

Amphibious assault ship HMAS Canberra (L02) arrived in Vanuatu Thursday after receiving a request from Vanuatu’s government. Canberra is part of the Australian Defense Force’s Operation Vanuatu Assist 2023, which is part of the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade-led government response to provide support to Vanuatu in the wake of Severe Tropical Cyclone Judy and Tropical Cyclone Kevin.

Canberra has 600 ADF personnel on board along with three Australian Army CH-47 helicopters to conduct various humanitarian aid and disaster relief taskings there along with distributing relief supplies in the country.

Anti-submarine warfare exercise Sea Dragon 23 began Wednesday between the U.S. Navy, the Royal Canadian Air Force, the Indian Navy, the JMSDF and the Republic of Korea Navy.

Sea Dragon 23, which is taking place in Guam, primarily centers on anti-submarine warfare training and culminates in over 270 hours of in-flight training ranging from tracking simulated targets to tracking a U.S. Navy submarine, according to a  U.S. Navy news release issued Wednesday.

The U.S. Navy sent two P-8A Poseidon MPAs from the “Red Lancers” of VP-10 “Red Lancers” and the “Pelicans” of VP-45, though it did not state what the other aircraft were.

A single JMSDF P-1 MPA will participate, according to a Wednesday JMSDF release.

The RCAF is likely deploying its CP-140 Aurora MPA, while the Indian Navy will likely send its P-8I MPA and the ROKN its P-3C Orion MPA.