PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) - Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel and their U.S. counterparts aboard USS George Washington (CVN 73) work side-by-side Dec. 5 to increase interoperability and improve the alliance during Keen Sword 2011.

Keen Sword officially kicked off on Dec. 3 with dozens of ships from the U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) taking part. The exercise places a major focus on integrated air and missile defense as a key component in the defense of Japan.

"We have already gained ground in terms of increasing our interoperability," said Adm. Umio Otsuka of the JMSDF. "This exercise does a good job of preparing us to work as one entity although we are two individual nations."

Nearly 30 Sailors from the JMSDF are aboard USS George Washington working side-by-side with their U.S. Navy counterparts. From monitoring the waters for enemy contacts to being fully integrated with the Commander Task Force 70 (CTF 70) staff, these Japanese Sailors have overnight, merged their skill sets with the U.S. Navy with both nationalities learning from each other.

"With the cooperation from the crew of GW, this exercise has allowed us to learn about new tactics and technology," said Capt. Atsushi Tanaka of the JMSDF.

From the flight deck of USS George Washington, one doesn't have to look far to observe the interoperability of the U.S. Navy and the JMSDF. The USNS Tippecanoe conducted a Fueling at Sea (FAS) Dec. 5 with the Japanese ships, JS Hyuga, JS Ikazuchi and the JS Kongo. Shortly thereafter, the JS Ikazuchi pulled alongside GW to practice the always challenging maneuver of sailing next to a carrier while conducting a FAS. The two ships successfully maintained their course less than 150 yards apart.

"Today's successful FAS is a testament to the excellent Sailors from both of our navies. Both the JMSDF and the U.S. Navy train very hard to maintain a high safety standard and this part of the exercise demonstrated our professionalism and ability to get the job done together," said Capt. David Lausman, George Washington's commanding officer.

Keen Sword 2011 is the tenth joint-bilateral field training exercise since 1986 involving Japan Self-Defense Forces (JSDF) and the United States military. The timing of this exercise also coincides with the 50th anniversary of the signing of the US-Japan Cooperation and Security Treaty.

The exercise runs until Dec.10 and involves more than 10,500 military personnel from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps at military bases throughout mainland Japan, Okinawa and in the waters surrounding Japan.

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