U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Conduct Joint Exercises With Japan
A recent naval integration exercise between the three forces showcased how they would team up during an Indo-Pacific conflict.
The U.S. Navy, the U.S. Marine Corps (USMC), and the Japanese Self-Defense Force (JSDF) combined forces in the South China Sea to test the USMC’s new Force Design 2030, a plan that revamps and retools the Marine Corps to counter a revanchist China.
The exercise saw the three groups conduct aerial refueling, both during the day and at night. The teams also worked with allied helicopters, conducted airstrikes at night, came ashore in small boats, and simulated an Expeditionary Advance Base.
“Noble Fusion allowed us to showcase our interoperability and to validate Force Design 2030 initiatives in our Corps’ main-effort theatre at a scale not seen since 2018,” Col. Michael Nakonieczny, commanding officer of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, explained to reporters, as per USNI News.
He added that the exercise “set conditions for the next large-scale exercise that will allow us to rehearse our response to any crisis or conflict, at an ever increasing scale.”
One of the exercise's most important aspects was improving familiarity with the three forces and building interoperability.
“Today, our joint and naval expeditionary forces conducted lethal sea-control operations by seamlessly integrating surface, air, and fires assets day and night across the physical, electromagnetic, and information domains,” Col. Charles Readinger, chief of staff of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, explained in a statement covering the event.
Readinger added that “coordinating maneuver and employment of Japanese and American aviation, fires assets from the MEUs, transitions between our amphibious platforms to and from the beaches, and especially our night air-to-air refueling all spotlight a superior level of integration and sustain our ability to quickly respond to whatever our nations ask of us in the Indo-Pacific region.”
The Nobel Fusion exercise previews larger-scale naval integration exercises between American and Japanese forces that are scheduled for later this year.
An Important Ally
Prompted by concern over China’s intentions in the region, the United States and Japan see a robust interoperations ability as crucial. Although Japan’s armed forces are constitutionally bound to only play a self-defense role, the JSDF is increasingly becoming a more capable force, particularly in the maritime and air domains.
Though the country does not operate an aircraft carrier, the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force worked closely with the United States Marine Corps last year to retool the country’s two helicopter destroyers for launching and recovering F-35Bs. The move essentially provides Japan with a mobile sea platform for the American-designed fifth-generation stealth fighter.
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.