Ships of the Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group and JS Shimokita steam in formation, April 9. (U.S Navy/MC3 Taylor King)

EAST CHINA SEA - Ships of the Wasp Expeditionary Strike Group, with embarked 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, sailed together with the amphibious transport dock JS Shimokita (LST 4002) in a bilateral formation, April 9.

The navigational maneuvers were held as part of an enduring commitment of both sea services to operate together to demonstrate commitment to the U.S.-Japan alliance and security of the region.

Coordinating rendezvous points and using universal tactical signals provided opportunities for building understanding and interoperability.

"Our two navies sailing side-by-side like this signifies the strong relationship we have with the Kaijo Jieitai as allies," said Rear Adm. Brad Cooper, Expeditionary Strike Group 7. "We work together on a continuum of activities and are committed to expanding combined amphibious capability."

As an example of the continued commitment to working together, LCACs from Naval Beach Unit 7 had embarked on JS Ōsumi (LST 4001) in September 2017 to participate in the annual emergency drill Big Rescue.

This was the first time that Wasp had operated with the Japan Self-Defense Force since arriving in Sasebo, Japan, in January to replace USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) as the flagship for Amphibious Force 7th Fleet.

"For the JMSDF, this is the first time to conduct exercise with Wasp ESG and 31st MEU. I am sure this exercise is a valuable experience for JMSDF,” said Rear Adm. Tsutomu Shirane, Commander, commander, Mine Warfare Force. “We welcome the deployment of USS Wasp in this region, and I hope we continue to work together with Wasp.”

At the tactical level, unit commanding officers and personnel expressed sentiments to the value of operating together.

"Conducting bilateral maneuvers with U.S. Navy is a good opportunity to improve sailor's skill of my ship and to strengthen our partnership," from Capt. Atsushi Yoshino, Commanding Officer, JS Shimokita (LST 4002).

Senior U.S. military leaders, including Cooper, recently attended the establishment of the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade at Camp Ainoura, near Sasebo. The establishment of the ARDB signifies a new era of JMSDF-JGSDF unity in operating from the sea and the U.S. will continue to build combined capability alongside the Japan Self Defense Forces, say leaders.

The Wasp ESG is deployed in the region in order to strengthen regional alliances, provide rapid-response capability and advance the Up-Gunned ESG concept.