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Australia joins US and Japan for annual minesweeping exercise

Lt. Cmdr. William Russell and Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Larsen of the mine-countermeasures ship USS Chief demonstrate the ship's sonar capabilities to Lt. Cmdr. Akihiko Morita of the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force during July drills off Aomori prefecture.

ANDREW HOLMES/U.S. NAVY PHOTO

By CARLOS M. VAZQUEZ II | STARS AND STRIPES Published: November 16, 2018

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Australia is for the first time joining the United States and Japan for mine-countermeasure training off the southern Japanese coast.

During the 3JA mine warfare exercise, which was expected to kick off Saturday and run through the following week — the U.S. Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Navy will practice sweeping, hunting and detecting underwater mines, a Navy statement said.

A variety of mine-countermeasures aircraft and vessels from all three nations — including the USS Chief, JS Bungo, JS Uraga, HMAS Huron and HMAS Gascoyne — will also work together in a simulated minefield to clear a route for other ships, the statement said.

Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of 7th Fleet’s amphibious forces, lauded Australia’s participation in the annual exercise.

The fleet's work with the JMSDF, as well as the addition of Australian troops "gives exercise 3JA a much more vibrant impact and allows for greater richness of training,” he said in the statement.

In July, India practiced mine-countermeasure techniques with the United States and Japan off Aomori prefecture.

The annual 2JA mine-countermeasure exercise traditionally involves only the U.S. Navy and JMSDF, but this year the Indian Navy sent four explosive ordnance disposal divers to participate with 20 others sent by the U.S. and Japan, according to the JMSDF.

Participants used sonar equipment to detect mines hidden in the water, a Navy statement said. Those assigned to explosive ordnance disposal units all practiced diving operations.

vazquez.carlos@stripes.com
Twitter: @StripesCarlos

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