U.S. Indo-Pacific Command forces and units from the Japan Self-Defense Force began exercise Keen Sword 21 (KS21), Oct. 26, 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. 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.
“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.”
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.
In coordination with public health and military medical personnel, every aspect of Keen Sword is continually being assessed to ensure appropriate COVID-19 mitigation measures are taken. The planning focus of mitigation measures was to protect service members and their families; prevent the spread of the virus to U.S. forces, local residents and allies; and ensure warfighting readiness in order to accomplish assigned missions in a COVID-constrained environment.