Japan, US mine warfare specialists work together during 3JA drill

Japanese minesweeper JDS Chichijima (MSC-605) sails in the distance during the U.S.-Japan bilateral mine countermeasures exercise 3JA. Photo: US Navy

Sailors aboard the U.S. Navy’s Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Chief (MCM 14) and members of mine countermeasures squadron (MCMRON) 7 staff joined Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) MCM units for combined operations in the final phases of the bilateral mine countermeasures exercise 3JA.

MCMEX 3JA is part of an annual series of bilateral exercises held between the U.S. and Japan to increase proficiency and interoperability in mine countermeasure operations.

For the first time, 3JA incorporated a U.S. mine sweeper and a U.S. mine warfare staff to increase the complexity and combined nature of the culminating phase of the exercise which took place between November 24-28.

JMSDF forces and the U.S. Navy’s explosive ordinance disposal mobile unit (EODMU) 5 began the initial phases of the exercise on November 20.

EODMU 5 personnel, embarked on the mine sweeper tender JS Uraga (MST-463), focused on limpet mine neutralization, improvised explosive device (IED) tactics training, and helicopter casting with JMSDF counterparts.

“With each joint exercise, we enhance our ability to support each other and operate together as a unified force that is prepared when and where we are needed,” said Capt. James Miller, Commodore, MCMRON 7. “We are grateful for every opportunity to operate with the JMSDF and strengthen our combined mine countermeasure capabilities.”

Chief sailed from its forward-deployed berth in Sasebo to participate in the exercise. The staff of MCMRON 7, headquartered in Sasebo, embarked on the mine sweeper tender JS Bungo (MST-464).

Throughout the exercise, forces have practiced unit-level mine countermeasures tactics to include sweeping, hunting, and mine detection. The exercise culminated in a combined phase in which U.S. and JMSDF coordinated and communicated to clear a route for ships through a simulated minefield in one of the designated exercise areas.

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