U.S. Marines with 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, currently attached to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, and Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, worked alongside the JGSDF during Northern Viper in Hokkaido, Japan, January 27-28, 2020. The forces conduct a bilateral, combined arms exercise and live-fire training in conjunction with ground and aviation units by utilizing the favorable training foundation of Hokkaido. The U.S. Marines join approximately 650 of their Japan Ground Self-Defense Force counterparts from 4th Infantry Regiment, 5th Brigade, as well as approximately 500 soldiers from 5th Field Artillery Unit.
The Joint Light Tactical Vehicle was brought to the exercise for its debut introduction to the force. Several heavy vehicles, Amphibious Assault Vehicles and Light Armored Vehicles joined the fray as well. Also supporting with an overhead display of firepower, were several AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom helicopters conducting a live-fire rocket attack for the first time ever in Hokkaido. The MV-22B Osprey provided several heliborne troop inserts with it’s vertical lift and takeoff capability as well. Adding to the list of firsts for the U.S.-Japan alliance, the forces were permitted to fly an RQ-11B Raven Small Unmanned Aircraft System. This is the first time approval has been granted to fly fixed-wing sUAS in Japan, and the opportunity was a significant step forward for the alliance and demonstrates a deepening bond between Japan and the U.S.
The weather in Hokkaido was ideal for the cold weather training sought by the U.S. and Japan forces. There was plenty of snow to maneuver through, clear skies for flying, and a cold bite to the air to test the warriors and equipment alike. The forces showed up looking to improve their tactics, techniques, and procedures in cold weather, and they had ample opportunity to do so. Because of the clear threats to peace and security in this region, the highest levels of readiness must be maintained to respond at a moment’s notice to any threat, crisis, or humanitarian disaster. The bilateral training at Northern Viper built upon an already strong alliance and capable force. There’s already excitement in the air about the benefits and opportunities possible for the next iteration of Northern Viper.
Northern Viper is a regularly scheduled training exercise that is designed to enhance the collective defense capabilities of the U.S. and Japan Alliance by allowing infantry units to maintain their lethality and proficiency in infantry and combined arms tactics. This iteration of the exercise is executed by units across III Marine Expeditionary Force including an activated reserve unit, 1st Battalion, 25th Marine Regiment, currently attached to 4th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division, as part of the unit deployment program, alongside their counterparts from 5th Brigade, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force.