Military

US, Japan Naval Forces Complete Exercises In South China Sea with Seahawks

By Rich Abott | May 23, 2017
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170518-N-PD309-322 SOUTH CHINA SEA (May 18, 2017) Sailors assigned to littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) prepare to board an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter back to Coronado after completing a personnel exchange and tour aboard Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force ship JS Izumo (DDH 183) as part of a bilateral passing exercise at sea. Coronado is on a rotational deployment in U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility, patrolling the region's littorals and working hull-to-hull with partner navies to provide 7th Fleet with the flexible capabilities it needs now and in the future. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Deven Leigh Ellis/Released)

Sailors assigned to littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) prepare to board a Sikorsky MH-60S Seahawk. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Navy

The U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces completed a passing exercise (PASSEX) in the South China Sea last week, the Navy said. Personnel exchanges were conducted via cross-deck helicopter operations using the USS Coronado’s Sikorsky MH-60S and the JS Izumo’s Mitsubishi SH-60K.

A PASSEX includes personnel exchanges, cross-deck flight operations, communications exercised, division tactics, a tracking exercise and photo exercise. The Navy said the event aims to enhance interoperability between the forces and emphasizes how important coordination and communications are while operating together.

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The South China Sea contains numerous contested islands, with China claiming most of them while several Southeast Asian countries have overlapping claims based on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea boundaries.

“This was another great opportunity for the U.S. Navy to work closely with [the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces] at sea. Integrating the crews through personnel exchanges allows our Sailors to build and strengthen the personal relationships that are the foundation of our naval partnership,” Capt. Alexis Walker, deputy commodore of Destroyer Squadron 7, said in a statement.

The Izumo is the largest ship in the JMSDF and, although classified as a helicopter destroyer by Japan, it is closer to a helicopter carrier. It was commissioned in 2015 and is the largest Japanese naval vessel since World War II.

“The U.S.-Japan alliance is stronger than it has ever been, and it is growing stronger. Conducting bilateral exercises with U.S. Navy regularly, JS Izumo and JS Sazanami will contribute to regional peace and stability in this Indo-Asia-Pacific region,” Rear Adm. Yoshihiro Goka, commander of Escort Flotilla One, added.

The U.S. Navy said a PASSEX is unique because it allows the navies to operate closely in ways shore exercises do not allow and it provides crews with real-life situations to practice watchstanding and communication skills with foreign vessels.

Before conducting the PASSEX, the ships participated in the International Maritime Defense Exhibition (IMDEX) in Singapore. IMDEX is one of the largest maritime exhibitions in the region.

This article was originally published on DefenseDaily.com. It has been edited for style.

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