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NEWS | Feb. 3, 2016

PACAF Supports Air, Cyber Operations for Keen Edge 16

By Staff Sgt. Alexander Martinez U.S. Pacific Air Forces

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM, Hawaii -- U.S. Pacific Air Forces members provided air and cyber operations support for Exercise Keen Edge 16 Jan. 23-29; this iteration of the exercise marked the first time the PACAF staff and 613th Air Operations Center participated in conjunction with their counterparts in Japan. 

 “Keen Edge provides an excellent opportunity to focus on bilateral coordination, host nation support, and non-combatant evacuation operations,” said Gen. Lori Robinson, Pacific Air Forces commander.  “After reaching initial operational capability as a Component MAJCOM last month, our first-time participation as the air component ensures we have the right people, pipes, and processes for effective bilateral operations.  This exercise enhances our mutual understanding, demonstrates our commitment to the alliance and safeguards stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”

Keen Edge 16's purpose is to facilitate the interactions and to improve interoperability between U.S. military and Japan Self-Defense Forces personnel during real-world contingencies. The training also ensures that all subsequent exercises will be executed smoothly allowing meaningful interaction between the participating units, and improving the overall combat readiness of the U.S. and JSDF.

“[Keen Edge 16] is important because it allows increased bilateral processes for the defense of Japan at the operational level of military activities,” explained Col. David Moeller, 613th AOC commander. “For PACAF and the AOC, it allows us to continue to build relationships between PACAF, 5th Air Force, U.S. Forces in Japan and our Japanese counterparts.” 

Moeller shared what he thinks is the most important accomplishments of the exercise.

“We were able to accomplish … increased integration with the Japan Air Self-Defense Force for the defense of Japan, as well as reemphasize our capability to operate bilaterally,” Moeller said. “We demonstrated our capability as a component headquarters to conduct airspace and cyberspace operations.” 

During the exercise, U.S. and JASDF operated under each of their country’s respective chains of command and made it a cornerstone of their training to ensure bilateral coordination was executed at all levels. 

Col. Koji Takeoka, the PACAF Japanese liaison officer, said although there are limitations that come with KE16 being only a biennial exercise, there were significant improvements which made the exercise a success. 

“More robust coordination, especially with [U.S. Pacific Command] and PACAF was important. Being able to coordinate with each counterpart to make decisions helped us to know each other more deeply,” Takeoka said. “This is important, because we need practical and detailed information to understand each other better.”

Planning for Keen Edge 2016 began more than a year ago. It is the fourteenth joint-bilateral command post exercise since 1986 involving JSDF and U.S. military forces.

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