WASHINGTON, Nov. 16 (UPI) -- The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike group began its annual exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force on Monday.
The training event, known as AE16, involves sailors and units from both the United States and Japanese navies, and is designed to allow both forces to practice and evaluate coordination and tactics to improve combat readiness while building on bilateral relationships.
"The Annual Exercise underscores the strength of the close, long-standing relationship the United States has with Japan and the JMSDF," Rear Adm. John Alexander said in a statement. "This exercise demonstrates our continuing commitment to deepen our mutual support and friendship."
During the training, units will conduct maritime operations through the air, surface, and subsurface, honing warfare tactics for each platform. The U.S. Navy committed Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, the Navy's only forward-deployed aircraft carrier, in addition to guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam and USS Chancellorsville, guided-missile destroyers USS Benfold and USS Mustin, and additional aircraft and strike crews.
"The U.S., Japan relationship remains the most important key to the security, stability, peace and prosperity of the Pacific region in the 21st century," Alexander added.
Planning for AE16 began in 2014. Since that time, the Japanese Self Defense Force has been through key policy changes as the legislature voted to allow the force to be used in overseas operations. In another step to make the military more active, the Japanese Ministry of Defense launched a defense procurement agency in September.