July 20 (UPI) -- Anti-mine units from the U.S. Navy, the Japan Maritime Self Defense Forces and the Indian navy began mine countermeasure exercises near Ominato, Japan, this week.
The U.S. and its allies conduct the exercise, known as 2JA, on an annual basis to increase interoperability between forces and capabilities in mine countermeasure operations.
"This exercise allows us to flex our mine countermeasure muscles and improve interoperability with our JMSDF and Indian Navy teammates," commander of Amphibious Force 7th Fleet Rear Adm. Brad Cooper said.
"The mine countermeasure mission is hugely important to both military and civilian shipping from all nations in the Indo-Pacific region and keeping waterways clear of mine threats is fundamental to national security and the free flow of trade," Cooper said.
The allies will practice unit-level mine countermeasures including using sonar equipment to detect mines. Explosive ordnance-disposal practices will include dive operations.
The exercise will conclude with U.S. and Japanese forces doing a simulated clearing of a mine-infested strait.
U.S. Navy units participating include the USS Chief, the Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5, the Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 14 and members of Mine Countermeasures Squadron 7.
Japanese units include Mine Warfare Force Commander, Mine Division 2, minesweeper tender JS Uraga, two mine-sweep ocean ships, fifteen minesweeper coastal ships, Helicopter Mine Warfare Squadron 111, four P-3C patrol aircraft and one P-1 patrol aircraft.