USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), right, and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) approach USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8) in the Philippine Sea Nov. 15 before a replenishment at sea. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Raymond D. Diaz III)

WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN - Sailors and units with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (RRCSG) along with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) began their Annual Exercise (AE) 16, Nov. 16.

AE16 is a bilateral field-training exercise to increase interoperability between the United States Navy (USN) and JMSDF. AE16 is designed to allow the USN and JMSDF to practice and evaluate the coordination and tactics s required to mutually respond to the defense of Japan or to a regional contingency, while building bilateral relationships.

“The Annual Exercise underscores the strength of the close, long-standing relationship the United States has with Japan and the JMSDF,” said Rear Adm. John Alexander, commander of RRCSG. “This exercise demonstrates our continuing commitment to deepen our mutual support and friendship.”

USN and JMSDF units will conduct maritime training in the air, surface and subsurface warfare areas.

Participating U.S. Navy units include: Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), with embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers USS Antietam (CG 54) and USS Chancellorsville (CG 62) the guided-missile destroyers USS Benfold (DDG 65) and USS Mustin (DDG 89), maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft and a U.S. submarine.

“The U.S.-Japan relationship remains the most important key to the security, stability, peace and prosperity of the Pacific region in the 21st century,” said Alexander. “Our two navies and nations working together demonstrate our combined resolve to ensure a bright future.”

Planning for AE16 began more than a year ago. Annual Exercise training between the United States and Japan is a routine and has a history of more than 20 years.