Keen Sword is getting rave reviews
November 19, 2004
YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan — With Keen Sword 2005 drawing to a close, organizers praised the exercise’s planning and execution Wednesday, saying the United States and Japan have carried out mission objectives flawlessly and are fully prepared to confront a regional crisis.
About 14,400 participants — including 4,400 from the Air Force, Navy and Marines — trained at U.S. and Japanese military installations across Japan. The drill — which began Nov. 10 and ends Friday — simulates the defense of Japan, incorporating air, ground and sea operations driven by exercise scenarios.
“The planning is nearly a yearlong [effort] to bring together this robust number of aircraft,” Col. Bob Harvey, who served as the exercise director, said at a media briefing Wednesday.
“We have aircraft flying with each other and against one another all over the country today,” said Harvey, the 605th Air Operations Group commander at Yokota. “That speaks well of the execution and design of the plan.
“So far, the only problems we’ve had were a little challenging weather, particularly up north. We had some high winds and high seas for a few days.”
This year’s Keen Sword is the eighth joint/bilateral field-training session since 1986 involving U.S. Forces Japan and its coalition partner. A joint session involves two or more services from one country, officials said, while bilateral refers to the participation of two nations.
“We frequently do one or the other, but rarely both,” said Navy Reserve Cmdr. Mike Mahan, who represented the 7th Fleet as a member of Detachment 111, based at Naval Air Station, Fort Worth, Texas. “That’s the significance of this. We crossed service lines and national lines to all come together for one combined effort, and that’s the defense of Japan.”
Effective command and control of bilateral and joint air operations was stressed throughout Keen Sword, officials said.
Last week, the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force plucked U.S. survivors from the water in a “rescue” mission. The two nations also rehearsed deployment, supply and resupply of troops.
During the first week, officials pitted different types of aircraft against one another in 2 vs. 2 and 4 vs. 4 air-combat maneuvers, said Air Force Maj. Jeff Doyle, the 605th Air Operations Squadron’s chief of exercises who acted as lead planner for Keen Sword.
“During normal training, you know the aircraft’s capabilities,” he said. “But when you put them up against different aircraft — for instance, an F-16 going up against an F-15, and F-2s against F-15s — you really don’t know what they’re going to do. That’s where the good training comes in.”
This week, U.S. and Japanese pilots practiced suppressing enemy air defenses, tactical airdrops and reconnaissance, Doyle said. Visual identification of aircraft, safe passage and search-and-rescue missions also were part of the training.
On Wednesday, a KC-135 crew refueled F-15s assigned to Japan and the United States.
While the United States and Japan successfully overcame communication barriers, Harvey said other obstacles had to be addressed on the U.S. side.
“Language can be a challenge for our different sister services,” he said. “The Navy, Air Force and Marines have different meanings for the same words. Communication is very, very important, so we practiced that with the forces in the field, to make sure they understood things and then carried them out.”
Harvey praised the performances of both nations in Keen Sword, saying the exercise fortified the security alliance.
“From our perspective, we’re equal partners who will be here to defend whatever is required,” he said. “Whatever we do today is a foundation for what we’ll do in the future.”
In today’s military, huge emphasis is put on services’ and national militaries’ ability to work together, Mahan said, adding that Keen Sword offered the perfect stage.
“Any chance we can get together and do something like this, we take advantage of it,” he added. “We work together to find solutions. It’s all part of our services’ ability to sing off the same sheet of music.”