Japan, U.S., Australia, Canada in joint maritime exercise Keen Sword 2023

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) along with units from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), Royal Australian Navy (RAN) and Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) are conducting exercise Keen Sword 23 (KS23) in Japan’s surrounding territorial and international waters.

Keen Sword is a biennial, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command-scheduled, and U.S. Pacific Fleet-sponsored field training exercise (FTX). The two week-long exercise consists of several anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and surface gunnery events designed to advance multilateral tactics between Pacific partners.

Emphasizing regional priorities, each event stresses the critical capabilities required to respond to crisis or contingency in the Indo-Pacific region.

“Regional security is a team effort now more than ever,” said Cmdr. Marcus Seeger, commanding officer of USS Benfold. “We share a sense of collective resolve. The first wave of crisis response will share the same allies present in this year’s Keen Sword.”

Recurring biennially since 1986, Keen Sword has become routine between the U.S. and Japan Self-Defense Forces, however, this year drew robust participation from international deployers from the Australian and Canadian Royal Navies helping to enhance readiness and interoperability to support the security interests of allies and partners in the region.

Comprehensive scenarios were designed to challenge the critical capabilities required to support the defense of Japan and stability of the Indo-Pacific region.

Benfold participated in various anti-submarine warfare exercises alongside Japanese, Australian, and Canadian allied units during KS23.

“I truly believe that we are an unstoppable force when united under a common goal,” said Sonar Technician (Surface) 1st Class Sydnee Cullum-Parker, assigned to Benfold. “We were challenged as an allied force to localize, track, and simulate attacks on multiple sub-surface contacts. It’s always really satisfying to see how tactics can transcend language and cultural barriers. Sharing assets and tactics, perfecting our craft as a force, these are all things that sound great in conversation, but are so much more impactful and important in practice.”

Key players at sea included the JMSDF guided-missile destroyer JS Atago (DDG 177), Asagiri-class destroyer JS Setogiri (DD 156), Atago-class guided-missile destroyer JS Ashigara (DDG 178), RCN Halifax-class frigates HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331), HMCS Winnipeg (FFH 338), and RAN guided-missile destroyer HMAS Hobart (DDG 39).

Benfold also conducted a live-fire gun shoot Nov. 13.

“Firing our 5-inch gun demonstrates one of our most impressive and intimidating capabilities,” said Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Christopher Brown, assigned to Benfold.

Additionally, the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) and U.S. Marine Corps are conducting multiple side-by-side amphibious landings on Japanese islands to demonstrate the capabilities of forward-deployed forces swiftly countering aggression against regional allies and partners.

Benfold is currently operating as part of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5, and is permanently assigned to Commander, Task Force 71/Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, the Navy’s largest forward-deployed DESRON and the U.S. 7th fleet’s principal surface force.

Seventh Fleet is the largest numbered fleet in the world. With the help of 35 other maritime-nation allies and partners, the U.S. Navy has operated in the Indo-Pacific region for more than 70 years, providing credible, ready forces to help preserve peace and prevent conflict.

Text credit: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Arthur Rosen

Photo credit: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Arthur Rosen. PHILIPPINE SEA (Nov. 8, 2022). Lt. j.g. Niles VanTassell (left), from Marietta, Georgia, and Operations Specialist 1st Class Alexander Polk, from Nashville, Tennessee, monitor surface contacts from the combat information center (CIC) aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) during a joint bilateral anti-submarine exercise, part of Keen Sword in the Philippine Sea. 

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