OKINAWA, Japan — Mine warfare forces from the U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) started Mine Warfare Exercise (MIWEX) 2JA 2020 off the coast of northern Japan, July 20.
“Working with our JMSDF allies to keep our mine countermeasure skills sharp is absolutely essential,” said Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, commander of Expeditionary Strike Group 7. “Maintaining open sea lanes for both military and civilian shipping in this important region is paramount for the free flow of trade and this exercise provides the experience our teams need to keep waterways safe for mariners throughout the Indo-Pacific.”
The JMSDF Commander, Mine Warfare Force, Rear Adm. Fukuda Tatsuya, pointed out that that this is the 39th Japan – U.S. bilateral mine sweeping exercise and discussed the challenges that the allies had to overcome in 2020.
“I feel very grateful that, despite the influence of COVID 19, mine warfare forces of both Japan and U.S. have conducted exercise as scheduled together, which demonstrates strong bonds between the JMSDF and the U.S. Navy as well as our readiness even under this difficult situation,” said Fukuda. “The aim of this exercise is to enhance the interoperability among all participating assets on both sides and to improve the mine countermeasure skill as well,” Fukuda said.
MIWEX 2JA is part of an annual series of exercises between the allied navies designed to increase proficiency in mine countermeasure operations.
“The JMSDF have an excellent mine warfare force,” said Capt. Derek Brady, Commodore of Mine Countermeasures Squadron Seven. “2JA affords us the opportunity to work closely with them, learn from each other, and strengthen our partnership in defense of Japan and the region.”
During the exercise, participating units will practice unit-level mine warfare tactics to include sweeping, hunting, and mine detection.
JMSDF Mine Division 3 and U.S. Navy Commander, Mine Countermeasures Squadron 7 will work together throughout the exercise to direct mine hunting tasks for U.S. and JMSDF ships. This training will allow all the units to practice communicating and operating in a combined environment and learn to maximize their cumulative mine hunting capability.
“The Japan-U.S. bilateral cooperation in the field of mine warfare is essential to ensure the safe maritime traffic, and I am fully convinced that the improvement of both navy’s mine warfare capability and enhanced cooperation through the exercise will contribute to the stability of the Indo-Pacific region,” said Fukuda.
“I sincerely hope that this MINEX will be completed in success and that all participants will gain good results.”
Participating JMSDF units will include Uraga class mine sweeper tenders JS Uraga (MST-463) and JS Bungo (MST-464), mine sweepers JS Awaji (MSC-304), JS Hirado (MSC-305), JS Miyajima (MSC-690), JS Enoshima (MSC-604), JS Chichijima (MSC-605), JS Naoshima (MSC-684), JS Ukushima (MSC-686), JS Sugashima (MSC-681) JS Aoshima (MSC-689), JS Takashima (MSC-603), JS Yakushima (MSC-602), JS Shishijima (MSC-691) and JS Kuroshima (MSC-692) and P1 and P-3C aircraft.
U.S. units participating include USS Patriot (MCM 7), USS Pioneer (MCM 9) and the staff from Mine Countermeasures Squadron 7.
COMCMRON 7 is forward deployed to Sasebo, Japan, and consists of Patriot, Pioneer, USS Warrior (MCM 10), and USS Chief (MCM 14) in Sasebo and Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14, Detachment 2A based in Pohang, Korea.