SAN DIEGO (NNS) - Amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu (LHA 5) conducted beach and flight operations Feb. 13, to conclude the seventh annual exercise Iron Fist 2012 off the coast of San Clemente Island, with elements from 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force.
The exercise demonstrated the interoperability and enhanced amphibious capability of Japanese and American forces. Peleliu provided amphibious lift and a flight platform, while the cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) provided supporting naval gunfire. The amphibious assault phase of Iron Fist 2012 showed that Peleliu was able to act as a single focal point for surface, air and amphibious operations, while nearly 900 U.S. Marines and Japanese personnel joined more than 1,000 Sailors aboard.
The first phase of Iron Fist was conducted at the Marine Corps' Camp Pendleton, Calif., base from Jan. 24 through Feb. 1. The at-sea phase focused on a surface and air effort and included launching to San Clemente Island's beaches. Assault Craft Units 1 and 5 safely conducted 38 hours of utility landing craft and 28 hours of air cushion landing craft operations.
From the air, squadrons conducted deck landing qualifications and both fixed and rotary wing close air support. The pilots and aircraft handlers used the time to become more proficient with numerous types of helicopters and the Marine Corps AV-8B Harrier "Jump Jet."
Distinguished leaders from across the Pacific region met aboard Peleliu to observe the exercise firsthand. United States Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Melvin G. Spiese, deputy commanding general, I Marine Expeditionary Force and United States Navy Rear Adm. Patrick E. McGrath, deputy commander, U.S. Third Fleet boarded Peleliu to meet with Japanese Maj. Gen. Katsuki Takata, Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations, Western Army and Japanese Rear Adm. Fumiyuki Kitagawa, Commander, Escort Flotilla Three.
Both Japanese and Marine forces conducted individual and combined arms live fire and maneuver training on San Clemente Island. The exercise wrapped up with the components of 15th MEU and Japanese maritime and ground self-defense forces departing via air and sea back to Camp Pendleton.
Joint interagency and international relationships strengthen U.S. Third Fleet's ability to respond to crises and protect collective maritime interests of the U.S. and its allies and partners.