Japan, Australia Drill Together in South China Sea for Trident Exercise

June 27, 2023 1:21 PM
Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Anzac (FFH150) and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) helicopter destroyer JS Izumo sail together in the South China Sea as part of the Trident 23 exercise. JMSDF Photo

Australian and Japanese forces conducted exercise Trident 2023 over the weekend in the South China Sea. 

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force participated in the exercise as part of its Indo-Pacific Deployment 2023. The exercise followed a port visit in Vietnam.

JMSDF helicopter destroyer JS Izumo (DDH-183) and destroyer JS Samidare (DD-106), which form the main body of the first surface unit of IPD23, carried out the exercise with Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Anzac (FFH150) and a Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) in the South China Sea, according to a Tuesday JMSDF release. The exercise focused on tactical operations, including anti-surface and anti-air warfare.

Both Australia and Japan are considered “Special Strategic Partners” in the Indo-Pacific region, Rear Adm. Takahiro Nishiyama, commander of the first surface unit for IPD23, said in the JMSDF release.

“The relationship between the JMSDF and the Royal Australian Forces has never been stronger and more important, and the JMSDF will promote further improvement of interoperability and mutual understanding with the Royal Australian Navy in order to improve the security environment in the Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

Izumo and Samidare made a port call to Cam Rahn, Vietnam, between June 20 and 23. As they left Vietnam, the two ships conducted an exercise with Vietnam People’s Navy frigate VPNS Ly Thai To (HQ-012) in the South China Sea.

The JMSDF’s Indo-Pacific deployment is an annual presence and regional deployment carried out by the JMSDF since 2019.

The first surface unit consists of Izumo, Samidare and destroyer JS Shiranui (DD-120), with Shiranui detached from the main group for a deployment to the South Pacific Islands.

On Saturday, Shiranui conducted a cooperation exercise with Kiribati Police Service patrol boat RKS Teanoai II (301) while in the waters around Kiribati. The patrol boat had an embarked Japan Coast Guard Mobile Cooperation Team and Australian maritime service advisers aboard to provide technical support.

The second surface unit of IPD23 includes landing ship tank JS Shimokita (LST-4002), which has two embarked Landing Craft Air Cushions. The second unit has yet to deploy, while the third surface unit, consisting of frigate JS Kumano (FFM-2), already completed its IPD23 deployment and returned to Japan on June 10. A single submarine rounds out the IPD23 deployment forces.

Destroyer JS Suzutsuki (DD-117), which is not part of an IPD23 surface unit, is currently operating around Hawaii. On Friday, it conducted a live firing of its RIM-162 Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile surface-to-air missile, according to a Monday JMSDF release.

JS Kashima (TV-3508) and destroyer JS Hatakaze (DDG-171/TV-3520), which are part of the JMSDF Overseas Training Cruise, are in the Pacific waters off the Americas.

Destroyer JS Ikazuchi (DD-107), the 45th Deployment Surface Force Counter Piracy Enforcement (DSPE) force, made a port visit to Colombo, Sri Lanka, Thursday through Friday while en route to the Gulf of Aden, where it will relieve JS Makinami (DD-112). Since 2009, Japan has conducted rotational deployments of a destroyer and two JMSDF P-3C Orion MPAs to the Gulf of Aden for anti-piracy missions.

Movement of People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 636 survey ship on Monday and Tuesday. Japanese MoD Image

Meanwhile, a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Type 636 hydrographic survey ship sailed around Japan’s southwestern islands on Monday and Tuesday, according to a Tuesday news release from the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of Japan’s Ministry of Defense.

The PLAN ship was sighted at 3 p.m. Monday local time sailing south-east in an area 50 miles west of Uotsuri Island, part of the disputed Senkaku islands chain administered by Japan and claimed by both China and Taiwan, according to the release.

The PLAN ship sailed southeast in an area 43.5 miles west of Uotsuri Island before sailing southwest through the waters between Yonaguni and Iriomote islands and entering the Pacific Ocean.

Destroyer escort JS Abukuma (DE-229), fleet oiler JS Hamana (AOE-424) and a JMSDF P-1 MPA of Fleet Air Wing 1, operating from JMSDF Kanoya on the main island of Kyushu monitored the PLAN ship, according to the release.

Ships from the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, the Reagan Carrier Strike Group, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), and French Navy steam in formation during a multiple large deck event in the Pacific Ocean on June 8, 2023. U.S. Navy Photo

French frigate FS Lorraine (D657) arrived Friday for a port visit in Manila. The frigate will be in port until Thursday.

The French Navy frigate integrated into the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group over the past two weeks and participated in several multilateral exercises as part of the CSG in the Philippine and South China seas.

Over in Guam, the U.S. Navy and Republic of Singapore Navy are carrying out the biennial naval exercise Pacific Griffin 2023, which began on June 16 and ends Tuesday.

The U.S. Navy is participating with cruiser USS Shiloh (CG-67), Littoral Combat Ship USS Manchester (LCS-14), dry cargo ammunition ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14) and maritime patrol aircraft from CTF-72. The RSN deployed frigate RSS Tenacious (71) and littoral mission vessel RSS Dauntless (21).

On Friday, Tenacious fired an RGM-84C Harpoon anti-ship missile, and, on Saturday, Shiloh fired an SM-2 surface to air missile as part of the live fire portion of the drills.

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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