Japan, U.S. Hold Joint Drills in Kagoshima Prefecture

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Ground Self-Defense Force personnel conduct a landing drill in Tokunoshima, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Friday.

A joint exercise by the Self-Defense Forces and the U.S. Marine Corps was shown to the press in Kagoshima Prefecture on Friday, amid efforts to strengthen the defense of the Nansei island chain.

The exercise, which was held on the islands of Tokunoshima and Kikaijima, included parachute training and landings with amphibious assault and airborne units.

The SDF and U.S. forces are holding an Iron Fist exercise in Japan for the first time. The exercise, which has been conducted in the United States in the past, started on Feb. 16 and is set to continue to March 12.

Vessels of the Maritime Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Navy were deployed off Tokunoshima island during Friday’s exercise. First, the Ground Self-Defense Force’s Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade landed on Manda Beach, followed by U.S. Navy boats and GSDF amphibious vehicles, as three Japanese and U.S. Osprey transporter aircraft circled over the area.

Meanwhile, three transport planes of the Air Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Air Force were in action above Kikaijima Island. About 100 personnel from the GSDF’s 1st Airborne Brigade parachuted from an altitude of about 330 meters onto targets in sugarcane fields.

At a press conference on Tokunoshima Island, Maj. Gen. Shingo Nashinoki, commander of the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, said, “The exercises were meaningful because we were able to conduct them on remote islands.”

The press was also shown the interior of USS America, a U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship anchored about 100 kilometers off Tokunoshima.

U.S. personnel aboard the ship were observed conducting maintenance work on F-35B stealth fighters, which a U.S. sergeant described as excellent fighter planes that can take off and land on short decks.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
GSDF personnel parachute onto Kikaijima island, Kagoshima Prefecture, on Friday.