USS America (LHA 6), the Navy’s only forward-deployed amphibious assault ship, took another critical step in strengthening Indo-Pacific alliances and partnerships this month, conducting bilateral integration with Japan.
USS America conducted integrated flight operations with a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF), 1st Helicopter Brigade based in Chiba, supporting amphibious cooperation and training between the JGSDF’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
This week’s operations continue a tradition of joint partnership between USS America and the Japan Self-Defense Force. The ship conducted a bilateral exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force last January, as well as integrated air defense operations with F-35A Lightning II aircraft from the Japan Air Self-Defense Force in October.
USS America has now operated with the JSDF’s maritime, air and ground elements.
“Very pleased to be working with our Japanese partners at sea again,” said Capt. Ken Ward, America’s commanding officer. “It’s been several months since our last opportunity, and the entire crew was looking forward to this interaction; every time we get to operate together is an honor and privilege. Learning from one another helps our two nations become greater together, far more than the sum of our parts, prepared to compete and win the high-end fight.”
Working alongside like-minded nations is a key strategic advantage to developing all-domain interoperable capabilities for future combined operations and theater security cooperation, ultimately enabling a more competitive, more lethal joint force.
“This training held much significance and served to improve JGSDF tactical proficiency in amphibious operations as well as the ability to conduct bilateral operations with U.S. forces,” said Gen. Goro Yuasa, JGSDF chief of staff.
U.S. forces last worked with JGSDF CH-47s in December, when Marines assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 8th Marines from Camp Lejeune, N.C., collaborated with the 30th Japanese Infantry Regiment for Exercise Forest Light on Japan’s main island, during which a Japanese CH-47 transported Marines, and a Marine MV-22B Osprey transported Japanese troops.
America, flagship of Expeditionary Strike Group 7, along with the ships of Amphibious Squadron 11 and embarked Marines from the 31st MEU, is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners, and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and stability in the Indo-Pacific region.