NEWS | Nov. 10, 2020

Keen Sword redefines integrated U.S.-Japan Air, Missile Defense

By Sgt. Raquel Birk 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade

The 38th Air Defense Artillery Brigade deployed units to various locations throughout Japan to validate its ability to expeditiously reallocate defensive resources and create a first-time regionally integrated, layered Air Defense network with joint and bilateral partners during Keen Sword 2021 from Oct. 26 to Nov. 5.

KS21 is a biennial, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command-scheduled, and U.S. Pacific Fleet-sponsored field training exercise involving more than 9,000 U.S. military and Japan Self-Defense Forces personnel in and around Japan.

“This exercise is unique because it represents the first time the 38th ADA participated in Keen Sword since its historic reactivation in October 2018 and the first time Air Defense Artillery Fire Control Officers worked hand-in-hand with joint and combined partners in a tactical field environment,” said Capt. Daniel F. Emig, air defense officer, 38th ADA. “The intent of this exercise was to enhance our combat readiness and interoperability by combining Air Defense capabilities with those of the U.S. Air Force and Japan Self-Defense Forces and that’s exactly what we did.”

ADAFCO teams exist in order to integrate Army Air and Missile Defense engagement operations into the joint integrated Ballistic Missile Defense architecture.

“First, we wanted to create and exercise a joint and bilateral command post in order to coordinate how the U.S. and Japan can fight together. Secondly, we worked on defense designs to protect U.S. and Japan assets," said Emig. “These aspects reinforced our commitment to defending Japan, while spearheading the way for future U.S.-Japan Air Defense engagements to fight more effectively.”

KS21 helped with the de-confliction of fires by defining roles during simulated air battles.

“Unlike air traffic control, which seeks to keep aircraft separated and flow safely through traffic lanes, tactical control is inherently more dangerous because we are bringing fighters together,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. William Ballard, 610th Air Control Flight commander. “My unit seeks to successfully facilitate all the Air Force mission sets like offensive, counter airstrikes, escort, defensive counter air, and suppression of enemy air defenses to enable kinetics and be able to employ weapon systems against the enemy while coming together and actively integrating U.S.-Japan air defense, maritime, and land assets in the defense of the United States and Japan.”

Japan Self-Defense Forces allies shared similar imperatives.

“During the exercise, we aimed to enhance our joint/bilateral Missile Defense and Air Defense capabilities together through training with U.S. Air Force fighters/aircraft, U.S. Army Patriot, and Japan Air Self-Defense Force Air and Missile Defense units,” said JASDF Capt. Masataka Uchii, operations officer, Headquarters, Northern Air Defense Force. “On a personal note, I’m honored and excited to train with 1-1 ADA (U.S. Army 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment) Soldiers during KS21 especially because I’ve attended the U.S. Army Air Defense Artillery School and trained with them 20 years ago. It’s been a pleasure working with my U.S. Army counterparts Capt. [Stephen] Murphy, [Battery A, 1-1 ADA commander] and Capt. Emig. I look forward to conducting this training together again!”

KS21 strengthened bilateral relationships and demonstrated U.S. resolve to support the security interests of allies and partners in the region.

“This exercise is important for the security of the region for a couple of reasons,” said Maj. Gen. Viet X. Luong, commanding general, U.S. Army Japan. “First and foremost, we get to train in a realistic environment under multi-domain operations and execute our wartime tasks that are captured under the existing contingency plans and operational plans.”

Soldiers were exposed to training environments that challenged and developed individuals, crews, and battery personnel to advance levels of proficiency in Patriot weapon systems with the successful deployment, validation evaluations, and redeployment of 1-1 ADA Soldiers and vital Patriot equipment from Okinawa to central and northern Honshu, Japan.

“This was by no means an easy feat as Soldiers assigned to Patriot units at the brigade level and below must be able to successfully pass evaluations through a series of collective events that provide a means for instilling crew integrity, teamwork, and unit cohesiveness,” said Murphy.

Keen Sword provided the JSDF and U.S. military opportunities to train together across a variety of mission areas in realistic scenarios, enhancing readiness, interoperability, building credible deterrence, and ultimately redefining Air Defense throughout the region.