Jan. 28 (UPI) -- Armed forces from Japan and the United States have kicked off a new iteration of the training exercise Northern Viper in the Hokkaido Prefecture of Japan, the Marine Corps announced.
According to the Marine Corps, forces will conduct a combined arms exercise and live-fire training with ground and aviation units in the Hokudaien and Yausubetsu Training Areas in Hokkaido.
This year's exercise, which began Sunday and ends Feb. 8, involves 2,300 Marines, 650 members of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and 500 soldiers from the U.S. Army's 5th Field Artillery Unit.
The combined force will focus on winter combat training, bilateral marksmanship integrated with firepower and maneuver, helicopter diving fire, sniper training, combined arms integration and a Japan and U.S. comprehensive attack.
"This is an opportunity for us to improve our own tactics, techniques, and procedures in cold weather and also an opportunity for us to improve our interoperability with our Ground Self-Defense Force counterparts," said Col. Jason S.D. Perry, commander of the Marine Air-Ground Task Force, who is currently participating in Northern Viper.
Northern Viper is an annual joint exercise that kicked off in 2017 to test the interoperability and bilateral capability of the JSDF and U.S. Marine Corps forces to work together across a variety of areas including peacekeeping operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.
More than 2,000 Marines joined forces with about 1,500 service members with the Japan Self-Defense Force for the 2017 iteration of Northern Viper.