WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (NNS) -- Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Rear Adm. Akira Saito, commander, Escort Flotilla (CCF) One, along with his staff and other JMSDF sailors embarked the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) and other ships in the George Washington Carrier Strike Group (GWCSG) as part of Keen Sword (KS) 15, Nov. 10-19.
The visitors received practical experience, observed interaction between warfare commanders, and obtained a general orientation of an underway nuclear-powered aircraft carrier.
"My duty was to study the exercises between the U.S. Navy and Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF)," said Saito. "[KS15] was a very good opportunity to see strike group operations. Conducting these exercises has made our alliance, and our defensive and offensive capabilities stronger."
KS15, a joint/bi-lateral field training exercise involving U.S. military and JSDF, is designed to increase combat readiness and interoperability of the two forces.
"We are continuing to strengthen our relationship and interoperability with JSDF," said Cmdr. Bill Reilein, commander, Task Force 70 KS15 lead planner. "Every year our exercises get more and more complex. The goal is to fully integrate the Japanese maritime operating force into the [GWCSG] and all warfare areas.
According to Saito, the U.S. Navy's offensive capabilities and Japan's defensive capabilities along with the strong friendship and alliance between the U.S. and Japan are required to defend Japan.
"I am very impressed," said Saito. "This year's maritime-strike exercises were a large highlight. Our strength will continue to grow as we continue to learn from each other. I hope that in our next exercise, I will be able to take the role of sea combatant commander."
According to Reilein, KS15 accomplished more than strengthening the relationship between the two maritime forces.
"Our Japanese counterparts were able to gain a lot of experience working with our air wing," said Reilein. "The emphasis was George Washington's striking power and the ability for the [SCC] to call strikes in."
Communication before and during the exercises played a large role in the success of KS15.
"I think we have very effective communication," said Reilein. "We exchanged liaison officers (LNO) with many of the ships, which fostered not only our interoperability, relationship building and cultural understanding. Communication at the flag, warfare commander and tactical levels were successful, and as a result we were able to accomplish our missions. Now we can identify areas to improve and focus on those topics for future training objectives."
GWCSG is underway in the 7th Fleet area of operations 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.