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NEWS | Nov. 12, 2014

Exercise Keen Sword Aims to Improve U.S., Japan Combat Readiness, Interoperability

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Trevor Welsh CTF 70 Public Affairs

The George Washington Carrier Strike Group (GWCSG) will be operating alongside their Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) counterparts during a bilateral field training exercise, Keen Sword 15, Nov. 11.

Keen Sword is the latest in a series of joint/bilateral field training exercises since 1986 involving U.S. military and Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) designed to increase combat readiness and interoperability of U.S. forces and the JSDF.

"Keen Sword is a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff directed field training exercise," said Rear Adm. John D. Alexander, commander, Battle Force 7th Fleet. "It is joint and bilateral exercise that involves both the U.S. military and JSDF in all four branches of service. The George Washington Carrier Strike Group will be the task force commander for the exercise."

With the main goal of the exercise being the practice of tactics, techniques and procedures between U.S. and Japan forces, GWCSG and JMSDF will participate in scenarios that test the competencies of multiple warfare areas.

"Keen Sword is designed to allow [U.S. and Japan] to practice and coordinate our procedures together and interoperability in all warfare disciplines," said Alexander. "We'll be conducting anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare, air-to-air and air defense warfare scenarios, and we'll be doing that as a combined force."

To further increase the bilateral integration, JMSDF Commander, Escort Force (CCF) 2 will be operating as the sea combatant commander for the exercise, employing tactics and controlling the scheme of maneuver for the strike group's escort ships.

"CCF 2 will be participating and acting as the escort force commander," said Alexander. "This is going to require us to coordinate our plans, procedures and make sure we are able to execute the scheme of maneuver and protect our force as well as project power against the simulated opposing forces."

Planning for the exercise started more than a year ago with U.S. and Japanese experts and planners working together to develop the most effective scenarios

"We have had a number of planners that have attended conferences and meetings on a continuing basis to plan the scenario and timeline for U.S. Navy and JMSDF portion of the exercise," said Alexander. "The combined planning group has taken the scenario, done mission analysis, and developed a set of concept of operations [COA]. We have chosen one of those COAs and from that, a contingency operations plan is created that we will execute. The plan will have a main focus and there will be branches and sequels where we can make adjustments depending on what the simulated opposing forces do."

Approximately 11,000 U.S. personnel will participate in Keen Sword, including those assigned to U.S. Forces Japan Headquarters, 5th Air Force, U.S. Naval Forces Japan, U.S. Army Japan and III Marine Expeditionary Force. The forces will conduct training with their JSDF counterparts at military installations throughout mainland Japan, Okinawa and in the waters surrounding Japan.

"This exercise is another opportunity for us to work with our Japanese counterparts," said Alexander. "We are fortunate that they are capable and have the capacity to operate alongside us. The fact that we are able to conduct operations as allies and partners goes to the heart of the training that we do together. We need to continue to focus on our relationship both at sea and in port."

As the Navy's only permanently forward-deployed carrier strike group, operating from Yokosuka, Japan, GWCSG is tasked with providing a combat-ready force that protects and defends the collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

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