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USS Blue Ridge participates in joint exercise with Japan's JS Kongo

The USS Blue Ridge participated in an exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s JS Kongo this week. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy
The USS Blue Ridge participated in an exercise with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force’s JS Kongo this week. Photo courtesy of U.S. Navy

March 30 (UPI) -- The USS Blue Ridge and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's JS Kongo this week held an exercise testing their combined maritime skills and intercommunication capabilities, the latest in a stream of recent training events between the partner nations.

According to a Navy press release, the exercise consisted of multiple ships sailing in formation while practicing maneuvering and communications.

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Aircraft assigned to Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 12 also flew in formation with the ships and transferred the ship's captain, Tim Waits, from Blue Ridge to Kongo to visit the ship's crew and leadership.

"This bilateral exercise was an excellent display of solidarity with our host nation and the JMSDF," Waits said in the Navy's release. "It provided important training and experience that enables both crews to operate and communicate safely and effectively while working closely together."

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"In addition to improving the JMSDF's tactical capabilities, we have deepened interoperability with the U.S. Navy," Capt. Fujisaki Masaru, commanding officer of JS Kongo, said in the release.

"I am convinced that we can improve deterrence and interoperability in response to possible contingencies through regular bilateral exercises such as the one we conducted," Masaru said.

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Blue Ridge, the oldest operational ship in the Navy, has been forward-deployed and operating in the 7th Fleet Area of Responsibility for more than 40 years.

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The 7th Fleet is the Navy's largest forward deployed fleet, generally operates 50 to 70 ships and submarines and 140 aircraft with approximately 20,000 sailors.

Earlier in March, members of the U.S. Air Force's 374th Airlift Wing conducted an airborne parachute exercise with Japan Ground Self-Defense Force's 1st Airborne Brigade.

More than 500 Japanese paratroopers participated, making it the largest joint parachuting event in the history of the U.S.-Japanese alliance.

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The two nations also conducted the computer-based naval drill Resilient Shield 2021 in February.

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