The U.S. Marine Corps and Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) completed their largest ever bilateral field training exercise in Japan as Resolute Dragon 21 came to a close on Dec. 17, 2021. More than 4,000 troops from the 3d Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary Force, and the JGSDF’s 9th Division, North Eastern Army combined to rehearse tactics, techniques, and procedures for conducting Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO). Hundreds more from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) and the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army, and Space Force supported the bilateral exercise, executing integrated operations across more than 1,800 miles of the Japanese archipelago and incorporating 12 expeditionary advanced bases (EABs).
Confronting freezing rain and snow, U.S. Marines and Japanese soldiers executed aerial and foot insertions into multiple training areas to seize and secure key terrain, often in contested environments replicated through force-on-force and live-fire training scenarios. These forces rapidly established EABs featuring a variety of capabilities to include a Bilateral Ground Tactical Coordination Center (BGTCC) responsible for synchronizing simulated strikes against maritime targets. The BGTCC coordinated multi-domain effects by leveraging sensor network interoperability, bilateral ground-based precision fires, U.S. Marine Corps and JASDF aircraft, and the USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) at sea.
“This training is important to enhance interoperability between the U.S. and Japan – deepening mutual understanding of capabilities, equipment, and fighting methods to mutually improve tactical skills,” said Col. Akira Kuroha, Chief of Staff of the JGSDF 9th Division.
“In Resolute Dragon, we are building the plan together, we are sharing the targeting data, we are choosing the asset we will use to engage that target together, and then we are going after it,” said Maj. Ben Reading, fire support coordination officer for 4th Marines.
“The United States Military and the Japan Self-Defense Force are a powerful team – equipped to integrate and operate across the spectrum of warfare and in all domains to ensure the defense of every piece of sovereign Japanese territory and defeat any threat to regional peace and security,” said Col. Matthew Tracy, commanding officer of 4th Marine Regiment.
“We’re both learning a lot from each other, and we’re both bringing unique capabilities to this fight that reinforce our ability to prosecute targets anytime, anywhere. The JGSDF is professional, knowledgeable, and they’re good at what they do,” said Capt. Jacob Amon, a field artillery officer, and fires EAB commander for the U.S. troops in the exercise.
Simultaneously, U.S. Marines and JGSDF members are nearly 200 miles away from established bilateral fire direction centers and long-range precision fire capabilities. This capability enabled the execution of simulated strikes against maritime targets and provided support to counter-landing operations through the employment of both the JGSDF Surface-to-Ship Missile (SSM) systems and the U.S. Marine Corps High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS). Operations during Resolute Dragon 21 culminated in a comprehensive multi-domain maritime strike exercise in which JGSDF SSMs and U.S. Marine Corps HIMARS were successfully employed as part of an integrated kill web executing real-time simulated fire missions against maritime targets. Land, air, and sea-based sensing from U.S. and Japanese assets expanded battlefield awareness and provided data to confirm targets at sea, which the BGTCC processed to coordinate fire missions with assets operating across domains in support of sea denial.