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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.

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.

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