France, Belgium, Japan and U.S. Forces Complete Group Arabian Sea Warfare Exercise 21
France, Belgium, Japan and U.S. Forces Complete Group Arabian Sea Warfare Exercise 21

France, Belgium, Japan and U.S. Forces Complete Group Arabian Sea Warfare Exercise 21

France, Belgium, Japan and U.S. forces conducted a Group Arabian Sea Warfare Exercise (GASWEX) 21 in the Arabian Sea and Gulf of Oman, March 19-22. Led by the French Marine Nationale’s Charles De Gaulle carrier strike group, this combined, multilateral surface, air and sub-surface training is the first major multilateral exercise conducted since commencing their Clemenceau 21 deployment in February. Units involved from the Charles De Gaulle carrier strike group included the aircraft carrier FS Charles De Gaulle (R 91) and its carrier air wing (20 Rafale marine fighter aircraft, 2 E2C Hawkeye, helicopters Caïman marine and Dauphin), auxiliary ship FS Var (A 608), frigates FS Provence (D 652) and FS Chevalier Paul (D 621), Belgian frigate BNS Leopold I (F 930) and Japanese destroyer JS Ariake (DD 109), a French SSN and an Atlantic 2 maritime patrol aircraft. Exercises like this allow participating naval forces to effectively develop the necessary skills to address threats to freedom of navigation.

An F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 164 (reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, takes off from the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) in support of Group Arabian Sea Warfare Exercise (GASWEX) 21 in the Arabian Sea, March 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael J. Lieberknecht)

“Partnership is fundamental to everything we do, and those partnerships are our asymmetrical advantage,” said Vice Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command (NAVCENT), U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces. “Integrating processes, systems, and command and control functions strengthen relationships and trust – neither of which can be surged in time of crisis.”

“GASWEX was a unique opportunity for our combined forces to practice the full breadth of our mutual combat capabilities,” said Brig. Gen. Farrell Sullivan, commanding general of Commander Task Force 51/5. “Our Marines and Sailors gained invaluable maritime security experience operating alongside their French, Belgian and Japanese counterparts.”

Two F-35B Lightning II fighter aircraft, attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 164 (reinforced), 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly over amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) in support of Group Arabian Sea Warfare Exercise (GASWEX) 21 in the Arabian Sea, March 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael J. Lieberknecht)

“We conducted a multilateral exercise with the French Navy, the Belgian Navy, and the U.S. Navy in the Gulf of Aden, an important area for Japan’s sea lines of communications,” said Cmdr. EZAWA Naritaka, commanding officer of JS Ariake. “We believe this exercise was a significant effort to protect the maritime order of the Indian Ocean, while deepening cooperation and trust with the participating navies.”

“The capability to train in such conditions of realism and complexity certainly represented a challenge but also and above all a real opportunity. It put the capabilities of the Charles de Gaulle carrier strike group with its American, Belgian and Japanese partners into high-end operations to ensure the security in any strategic area where our shared values would be at stake,” said Admiral Marc Aussedat, commander of TF473, French carrier strike group.

During the French carrier strike group mission CLEMENCEAU 21, exercise GASWEX (Group Arabian Sea Warfare Exercise) brings together American, Belgian, French and Japanese naval assets, in a combined, multilateral surface, air and sub-surface training. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ethan Jaymes Morrow)

During the exercise, participating forces focused on the full spectrum of maritime warfare operations, practicing anti-air warfare (AAW), anti-surface warfare (ASUW), and anti-submarine warfare (ASW) tactics and procedures. Participating forces exercised the ability to operate aircraft from different partner nation ships, hunt enemy submarines, provide layered defense against air and surface threats, and conduct long range maritime strikes against simulated adversarial forces. U.S. forces participating in the exercise included the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) with F-35B Lightning II joint strike fighters and MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft from the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), guided-missile cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), P-8A Poseidon multimission aircraft, and U.S. Air Force E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system aircraft. Exercises like GASWEX 21 improve operational effectiveness and enhance interoperability of our combined and joint force.

U.S. Navy Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), left, French Navy aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91), center, Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ariake (DD 109), right, and the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8) transit the Arabian Sea in support of Gulf Arabian Sea Warfare Exercise (GASWEX) 21. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ethan Jaymes Morrow)