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Keen Sword

The annual Keen Edge/Keen Sword exercise series alternates each year between Keen Edge, a command post exercise and Keen Sword, a field training exercise. In 1960, the U.S. and Japan signed the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security, forging an alliance built on a shared vision of peace, prosperity, democracy and regional stability. Keen Sword is one example of the U.S. and Japan continuing to strengthen the alliance and meet the treaty's goals.

Keen Sword is a bilateral defense exercise designed to practice defending Japan against foreign aggression. The goal of the exercise is to accomplish interoperability between the Japanese Air Self Defense Force (JASDF), U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps, and to exercise command and control systems of the JASDF. With the exception of the Coast Guard, representatives from all the U.S. service branches participate in Keen Sword, which is held every other year. They include sailors in an aircraft carrier battle group patrolling the Sea of Japan, Marines performing amphibious landings, and soldiers participating in ground maneuvers and artillery events. Other air operations included close-air-support and airdrop missions, and air-to-air fighter engagements.

Keen Sword, a large joint U.S./Japan military exercise held every two years, is evolving away from its Cold War roots. Instead of a land war against Soviet invaders, the scenarios these days are a lot more like the hot-spot conflicts that have been cropping up in recent years. The two sides have gone from largely observing each other to participating in each other's training.

Keen Sword 97

The "Keen Sword '97" exercise with the US and Japan coincided with the "Foal Eagle" exercise with the US and South Korea. For Foal Eagle, troops from the US 2nd Army Division were mobilized from the US mainland. Some 10,000 troops from Japan's Ground, Maritime and Air Self-Defense Forces took part in the Keen Sword exercise, with 11 Japanese warships and 130 aircraft deployed. From the US side, 12,000 soldiers stationed in Japan participated, with 170 aircraft and six warships, including the aircraft carrier USS Independence, joining the drills. It was the first time the US aircraft carrier had been used in a joint drill with Japan in the Sea of Japan. During the exercises, the US and Japan carried out their first practice in providing each other with military goods and services under a new agreement reached in April 1996.

Keen Sword 99

KEEN SWORD 99 was a bilateral Japan-U.S. field training exercise designed to enhance air operations in the defense of Japan. It was the largest field exercise of the year for U.S. Pacific Air Forces.

Approximately 150 aircraft and 24,000 Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and U.S. Air Force (USAF) personnel participated in the exercise at Misawa Air Base, Japan and surrounding JASDF installations from 2-13 November 1998.

Participating Japanese units included JASDF F-16s from Komatsu Air Base and F-15s from Chitose Air Base. USAF F-16 Fighting Falcons, aircrews, and support personnel from Misawa's 35th Fighter Wing (FW) took part in the exercise. Other USAF participants included C-130s and C-21s from Yokota Air Base, KC-135s and E-3Bs from Kadena Air Base, and Marine F/A-18s from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan. USAF B-1 Bombers deployed to Andersen Air Force Base, Guam also participated in the exercise.

Scenarios focused on dissimilar air combat tactics and air defense exercises, including simulated attacks on U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force ships and simulated targets in support of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF). During the first week of the exercise, engagements involved two fighters in combat against two opposing fighters and then progressed to four versus four. The remainder of the exercise was primarily an air defense exercise (ADX), where the Air Defense of Japan was the primary focus. It included offensive and defensive counter-air scenarios. The ADX scenarios sometimes had large formations of aircraft fighting against each other. For example, 8 versus 12 aircraft.

Also, for the first time in a KEEN SWORD exercise, US forces participated in close air support with ground forces near Iwatesan Training Area. KEEN SWORD 99 provided realistic aerial combat training, which is necessary if Japanese and U.S. forces are to be ready for any defense contingency that would require the use of airpower.

Eating breakfast, lunch or supper is an event that is often taken for granted. But for the soldiers of the 17th Area Support Group, simple day-to-day operations take on a different meaning during exercises like Keen Sword/Orient Shield. The 17th ASG coordinates the Food Service needs for Keen Sword/Orient Shield participants at Iwateyama Training Camp, located in Iwate Prefecture, the northeastern part of Honshu. The most difficult task during the exercise was maintaining the proper headcount, and having adequate storage space for food. The 17th ASG (Fwd) had to take an area that had a series of buildings without any infrastructure in place, and establish a laundry service, medical support facility, a dining facility and bath facility essentially from scratch. It was done using a combination of our manpower and local contracts. The 17th ASG (Fwd) created a city from little, if anything, and turned it into a support area that can handle between 700 to 800 infantry personnel.

Reservists and aircraft from the 927th Air Refueling Wing returned home Nov. 13-14 after a two-week deployment to the Far East. In late October, the Air Force Reserve Command unit deployed 105 reservists and four KC-135 air refueling aircraft to Yokota Air Base, Japan, in support of Keen Sword, an annual defense training exercise in Japan. The airmen of the 927th ARW who deployed to Keen Sword demonstrated their ability to quickly set up operations and sustain maximum-effort flight operations half way around the world. During the Joint Chiefs Of Staff exercise, the aircrews based at Selfridge launched from Yokota and offloaded nearly 1.5 million pounds of aircraft fuel while flying 35 sorties over the Sea of Japan and over the Pacific Ocean off the east coast of Japan. Besides the air refueling mission, members of the 927th Services Squadron supported a U.S. Marine encampment on the west coast of Japan in Kamatsu.

The North Korean newspaper Rodong Sinmun commented on the U.S. mobilization of the "B-1B" strategic bomber into the "Keen Sword" war drill, noting it shows the U.S. strategy of preemptive attack on North Korea has reached a practical phase. According to the North, the United States, pinning great hope on aerial superiority, was scheming to apply the method of blitz warfare by preemptive attack in the far east region which it chose as a major front in realizing its strength-based world strategy after the Cold War. Particulary, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea is a major target the commentary said, and continues= "B-1B", involved in "Keen Sword 99", also took part in the "98 Foal Eagle" U.S.-South Korea joint military drill. This eloquently indicates that the two war drills were linked with each other and staged in line with the scenario for Korean War and, in particular, the target of "B-1B" is the DPRK. The long-range strategic bomber boasts of operational capabilities to strike in-depth and rear areas of an opposite warring side after flying deeply above them. The "98 Foal Eagle" and "Keen Sword 99" war drills staged by the U.S. hawks with mobilization of warplanes such as "B-1B" show that the U.S.-Japan-South Korea combined operation led by the U.S. troops was tested and that the system of triangular military alliance is actually moving along the orbit of a new Korean war.

Keen Sword 2001

The skies were filled with U.S. and Japanese aircraft participating in Exercise Keen Sword, which ended Nov. 17, 2000. This was the sixth joint/bilaterial training exercise held in the Keen Sword series since 1986. About 2,800 U.S. servicemembers and 10,500 Japanese forces took part in Keen Sword. A total of 21,400 military personnel, about 20 ships and 300 aircraft participated over 17 days. The Keen Sword exercise involved soldiers of the Hawaii-based 25th Infantry Division and Japanese Ground Self Defense Forces. The scenario for Keen Sword includes two countries, each in heightened states of offense and defense. Keen Sword also proved to be a cohesive team effort, with all squadrons acting as a single defensive force. With ANNUALEX and Keen Sword complete, Kitty Hawk returned to Yokosuka Nov. 20.

Keen Sword 01 was the first bilateral exercise to be held since Japan passed hotly debated legislation in May 1999 permitting closer military cooperation with the US. The new guidelines allow Japan to provide expanded logistical support for US military missions in Asia.

Two nations, more than 400 people and several aircraft and boats, took part in Keen Sword 2001, the largest, non-combatant evacuation and search and rescue exercise in the history of the United States and Japanese military cooperative training. These exercises are done to practice evacuating and rescuing non-combatants [non-military personnel] from dangerous situations, as a result of a war or major earthquake, and taking them to positions of greater safety. The exercise was broken into NEO and SAR scenarios which took place throughout Japan. There were several groups involved in the exercise. American services consisting of Marines, sailors, airmen and coast guard sailors worked alongside the Japanese Ground, Air and Maritime Self Defense Forces to accomplish the missions.

The exercise was a training exercise for large groups of civilians and military, but it was also a chance for individuals to understand how their job is a key component of a NEO. To be swiftly evacuated, non-combatants must present proof of citizenship or resident status in Japan, or must have ties to the United States. A passport, military or U.S. Government identification, or birth certificate are just a few forms of identification that would suffice.

The operation drew individuals from various job sections and put them into an evacuation environment. The MCAS Iwakuni processing area was divided into two areas, a Japanese side and American side. Japanese and American embarkation personnel processed a mix of both American and Japanese non-combatants. Japanese non-combatants had a card in English that eased the embarkation personnel with the collection of vital information. Individuals processed aboard MCAS Iwakuni were formed into groups every 20 minutes and escorted onto the flight line where they loaded onto a Japanese C-130, one C-1 and three HH-47 helicopters and a U.S. Air Force C-130. After departure each aircraft flew to Tsuiki JASDF base, then returned to Iwakuni after a short layover.

The search and rescue portion of the exercise at MCAS Iwakuni lasted two days, and provided SAR personnel from Japanese and American services a more realistic scenario than normal training. "This is the closest we can get to a real rescue situation," said Lance Cpl. Les Begin, MCAS Iwakuni SAR rescue swimmer. The day began early with sailors from the MCAS Iwakuni Boathouse taking simulated survivors, played by Iwakuni SAR and U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmers, approximately 20 miles into the inland sea. Air Force swimmers were also dropped off by a helicopter to be located and retrieved by a Japanese Search and Rescue helicopter. Keen Sword Exercise participants throughout Japan received commands from the Bilateral Rescue Coordination Center in Tokyo, that relayed all five of the search and rescue scenarios to SAR units participating over the three-day period.

Keen Sword 2003

Keen Sword 2003 is the seventh in a series of regularly scheduled joint/bilateral field training exercise since 1986 involving the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and United States military. The purpose of Keen Sword is to train and evaluate wartime functions and bilateral cooperation procedures against the backdrop of a regional contingency scenario that has direct and immediate consequences to the U.S. and Japan.

Keen Sword 2005

Military units from the U.S. and Japanese Self Defense Forces, including various units from Marine Crops Air Station Iwakuni, conducted joint bilateral military exercises throughout Japan, 11 November 2005. These exercises were designed to further increase the defensive readiness of Japanese and American forces through training in air, ground, and sea operations and to improve interoperability between the two countries' forces. It included dissimiliar aircraft training, noncombatant evacuation operations, base security and force protection, search and rescue, close air support, and tactical air drops by C-130 aircraft.

Approximately 400 U.S. Air Force members participated in the exercise that also included members from the United States Army, Navy, Marines, and a National Guard unit. Two members of the Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan (CNFJ) Information Technology and C4I Department helped the U.S. and Japanese navies improve their communication during Keen Sword 2005

Information Systems Technician 2nd Class Michael Ford, a Reservist from Janesville, Wis., worked with the Collaborative Enterprise Regional Information Exchange-Japan network, also known as CENTRIX-J. The innovative CENTRIX network allows U.S. and Japanese forces to easily communicate with each other in their own language not only during the exercise, but when necessary to conduct a variety of operations related to the defense of Japan and maintaining the U.S.-Japan bilateral security alliance.

Keen Sword 2008 (KS08)

ANNUALEX 19G was the maritime component of the U.S.-Japan exercise Keen Sword 08.

Keen Sword 2010 / Keen Sword 11 (KS11)

Exercise Keen Sword in the Pacific Ocean, Dec. 5, 2010 enhanced the Japan-U.S. alliance which remains a key strategic relationship in the Northeast Asia Pacific region. Keen Sword caps the 50th anniversary of the Japan-U.S. alliance as an "alliance of equals." Running from Dec. 3 through 10, the exercise marks the tenth joint, bilateral field training exercise involving the Japan Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. military and will cap the 50th anniversary of the Japan-U.S. alliance. Large-scale exercises like Keen Sword 2011 enable Airmen from the combat communications squadron to focus on wartime readiness execution and support.

Following a highly successful exercise with the Republic of Korea Navy in the waters west of the Korean Peninsula, USS George Washington (CVN 73) traveled more than three hundred miles back to the Pacific Ocean in preparation for the Japanese led exercise Keen Sword 2010 which begins Dec. 3. Along the way, the aircraft carrier welcomed aboard more than 20 members of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF).

Large in scale, Keen Sword involved more than 10,500 personnel from the U.S. alone. Training events during Keen Sword 2010 will include integrated air and missile defense, base security and force protection, search and rescue (SAR), close air support (CAS), live-fire training and maritime security and interdiction operations.

Keen Sword 13 (KS13)

Keen Sword, which ran until Nov. 17, is a regularly-scheduled, joint, bilateral exercise between U.S. and Japanese forces at training locations throughout Japan. Marines, sailors and JGSDF members have been participating in Keen Sword for more than two weeks on Okinawa, including base security operations in the Central Training Area at Camp Hansen.

Keen Sword allows the U.S. and Japan to practice coordination procedures and improve interoperability required to effectively defend Japan or respond to crises throughout the Asia-Pacific region. "The purpose of (Keen Sword) is bilateral integration of both naval and ground assets between the Japan Self-Defense Force and United States forces," said Maj. Jonathan L. Hayes, the company commander for Company E, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment, which is assigned to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force. "This training not only makes us better warfighters, but also helps Japan's forces develop while increasing our interoperability."

Keen Sword 15 (KS15)

Approximately 11,000 U.S. personnel participated in KS15 which was the 11th iteration of the exercise. Keen Sword is biennial and conducted on the even years with Annual Exercise (AnnualEx) on the odd years. Units from Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF) and U.S. military forces conducted the bilateral field training exercise Keen Sword 15 beginning Nov. 8, 2014. The exercise, which ran until Nov. 19, is the latest in a series of joint/bilateral field training exercises since 1986 involving U.S. military and JSDF personnel designed to increase combat readiness and interoperability of U.S. forces and the JSDF.

Approximately 10,000 U.S. personnel participated in Keen Sword 15, 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 approximately 30,000 personnel from the Japan Self Defense Force at military installations throughout mainland Japan, Okinawa and in the waters surrounding Japan. The exercise was directed by the commander of U.S. Forces Japan, and the Chief of Staff of the Japan Joint Staff.

“The whole purpose of the exercise is to combine all four branches of both our armed forces together to increase interoperability and enhance our combat readiness by working together in an exercise environment that is challenging and allows us to improve our processes between one another,” said Rear Adm. John Alexander, commander, Battle Force 7th Fleet. “Japan is one of our strongest allies, and the fact that we are able to work together and coordinate quickly with similar procedures and processes, makes us better to respond together in a crisis situation.”

Keen Sword 17 (KS17)

Approximately 11,000 U.S. military personnel participated in KS17, including those assigned to U.S. Forces Japan Headquarters, 5th Air Force, U.S. Naval Forces Japan, U.S. Army Japan, III Marine Expeditionary Force and 7th Fleet. The forces conducted training with their JSDF counterparts at military installations throughout mainland Japan, Okinawa and in the air and waters surrounding Japan, Guam and Tinian, Northern Mariana Islands. Significant training activities during KS17 included air and sea operations, integrated air and missile defense, and ballistic missile defense in order to keep pace with the growing ballistic missile threat in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

U.S. forces partnered with the Japan Self Defense Force in amphibious operations off of Guam and Tinian as part of Keen Sword 17, Nov. 1-11. Keen Sword is a joint and bilateral exercise held between the U.S. military and Japan Self Defense Forces (JSDF), in an effort to increase operational readiness and interoperability to enhance the Japan-U.S. alliance.

U.S. Navy and Marine Corps units and personnel will combine with Japanese Self Defense Force units to conduct a range of amphibious missions for the first time since the inception of Keen Sword. Accompanying surface ships will conduct live-fire exercises and other maritime missions to simulate protecting the amphibious task force and providing supporting fires to ground forces ashore.

Personnel assigned to Amphibious Force 7th Fleet, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, and 3rd Marine Division embarked on Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) ship JS Hyuga (DDH-181) to assist in integration of U.S. forces into the amphibious task force and overall build on bilateral relationships. JS Hyuga was the flagship for a four-ship Japanese amphibious task force, complimented by USS Comstock (LSD 45) and embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit Marines. A platoon of 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment based out of Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii and forward-deployed under 3rd Marine Division embarked on JS Osumi (LST-4001) and integrate with JGSDF forces there to conduct bilateral amphibious operations.

Keen Sword 19 (KS19)

Keen Sword gives U.S. and Japanese forces an opportunity to practice critical air, maritime and amphibious capabilities essential for Japan’s defense and for regional security. The exercise is also the latest in a series of bilateral field training exercises that for more than 30 years have increased combat readiness and interoperability between the U.S. and JSDF. Keen Sword gives U.S. and Japanese forces an opportunity to practice critical air, maritime and amphibious capabilities essential for Japan’s defense and for regional security. The exercise is also the latest in a series of bilateral field training exercises that for more than 30 years have increased combat readiness and interoperability between the U.S. and JSDF.

Approximately 10,000 U.S. service members from commands such as U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Forces Japan, 7th Fleet, 5th Air Force, 374th Airlift Wing, 18th Wing, 35th Fighter Wing, and III Marine Expeditionary Force toke part.

A 36th Airlift Squadron C-130J Super Hercules became the first U.S. aircraft to drop Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers on Hiju-dai drop zone, Oita prefecture, Japan, Nov. 4, during exercise Keen Sword 2019. The JGSDF’s 1st Airborne Brigade soldiers, observed by U.S. Army Alaska Soldiers, jumped from the C-130J Super Hercules, showcasing the exercise’s capability to bring military power together to train.

“It is great that we are finally able to drop JGSDF paratroopers from U.S. aircraft in Japan,” said Capt. Jeffrey Larkin, 36th AS C-130J pilot and Keen Sword 19 C-130J mission commander. “Also, this is the first time that (the 36th AS) will fly over Hiju-dai drop zone. This is another exciting moment for us because we can fly in an atypical environment.”

Since 2015, the 36th AS and JGSDF’s 1st Airborne Brigade have been conducting joint jump training during Red-Flag Alaska. This historic first combined jump training in Japan will allow for more opportunities for future training and collaboration to strengthen bonds between the two nations.

Keen Sword 21 (KS21)

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command forces and units from the Japan Self-Defense Force began exercise Keen Sword 21 (KS21), 26 October 2020, on military installations throughout mainland Japan, Okinawa prefecture, and their surrounding territorial waters. Keen Sword 21 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 (FTX). The joint/bilateral FTX runs through Nov. 5.

KS21 is designed to enhance Japan-U.S. combat readiness and interoperability while strengthening bilateral relationships and demonstrating U.S. resolve to support the security interests of allies and partners in the region. “As we develop new and better ways to operate and integrate, exercises like this clearly demonstrate the growing strength of the U.S.-Japan Alliance,” said Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider, commander, U.S. Forces Japan. “In spite of the immense global impact from COVID, the U.S.-Japan Alliance did not falter and we have remained ready to fight and win.”

An estimated 9,000 personnel from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps will participate, including ships from the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and more than 100 aircraft from Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, USS Ashland (LSD 48), HMCS Winnipeg (FFH 338), Commander Task Force 72 and 5th Air Force. Units from the U.S. military and their JSDF counterparts will train in a comprehensive scenario designed to exercise the critical capabilities required to support the defense of Japan and respond to a crisis or contingency in the Indo-Pacific region.

U.S. training will focus on maritime, ground, and air events. Because of the bilateral nature of this exercise, JSDF training will be similar and will exercise a wide range of warfighting capabilities and demonstrate the inherent flexibility and capability of the U.S. and Japanese militaries.

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Page last modified: 30-06-2021 18:29:32 Zulu