Oct. 26 (UPI) -- U.S. Indo-Pacific Command forces and Japan Self-Defense Force units on Monday began the exercise Keen Sword 21 on military installations in mainland Japan.
The joint biennial field training exercise for U.S military and Japan Self-Defense Force units is designed to strengthen Japan-U.S. bilateral relationships and combat readiness, the U.S. Navy announced.
The exercise runs throughout the mainland, Okinawa prefecture and surrounding territorial waters, through Nov. 5.
KS21 includes a comprehensive scenario set up to test critical capabilities needed to support the defense of Japan and response to a crisis or contingency in the Indo-Pacific region, the Navy said.
"As we develop new and better ways to operate and integrate, exercises like this clearly demonstrate the growing strength of the U.S.-Japan Alliance," U.S. Forces Japan Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider said in a statement.
"In spite of the immense global impact from COVID-19, the U.S.-Japan Alliance did not falter and we have remained ready to fight and win," Schneider said.
Participants in KS21 include an estimated 9,000 personnel from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army and Marine Corps, including ships from the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group and more than 100 aircraft from Carrier Air Wing 5, USS Ashland, HMCS Winnipeg, Commander Task Force 72 and 5th Air Force.
The exercise will be continually assessed to ensure appropriate COVID-19 mitigation measures are taken, the Navy said.