PHILIPPINE SEA –
Military Sealift Command’s (MSC) Henry J. Kaiser-class replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn (T-AO198) conducted underway replenishments with partners and allies as part of Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX), in the Philippine Sea, Nov. 21-30.
Naval forces from Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan and the United States took part in the multilateral, multinational exercise, led by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF). The exercise helps strengthen enduring relationships while sharpening naval proficiencies. As part of the exercise, participants engaged in various events to include enhanced maritime communication tactics, anti-submarine warfare operations, air warfare operations, replenishments-at-sea (RAS), cross-deck flight operations and maritime maneuvers.
During ANNUALEX, the combat logistics force ship resupplied JMSDF ships Takanami-class destroyer JS Ohnami (DD 111) and Kongō-class guided missile destroyer JS Kirishima (DDG-174), the German Navy’s Brandenburg-class frigate FGS Bayern (F217), the Royal Canadian Navy’s Halifax-class Frigate HMC Winnipeg (FFH 338), and the Royal Australian Navy’s Hobart-class air warfare destroyer HMAS Brisbane (DDG 41) and Anzac-class frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH 152). Although recent underway replenishments took place as part of the exercise, many of the countries work together frequently in the U.S. 7th Fleet Area of Operations – and beyond.
“JMSDF vessels have the capability to work with the USN at any time and in any sea area,” said Capt. Yoshihuku Toshihiko, commanding officer of JMSDF's replenishment ship JS Oumi (AOE 426).
He explains that when operating together, both countries place the “highest priority” on operating safely, making sure each event is carried out carefully and without fail.
“Although there may be subtle differences between Japan and the U.S. in the way these operations are carried out, I hope that the JMSDF ships will be watched with trust as they carry out their operations,” Yoshihuku added.
During RAS events, Big Horn’s involvement gave all participants opportunities to make approaches, connect hoses, take fuel and hone ship-handling skills, all while maintaining a lateral distance of 48-60 meters while alongside.
“Helping international partners and allies integrate equipment and resources helps coalition forces to react well to adversity and scale up our responsiveness when needed,” said Big Horn’s Chief Mate Matthew Twomey. “Exercises like this validate our compatibility and verify that our NATO gear is standardized and can be operated safely by all involved. They also allow us to explore how we can scale our operations so that we can collectively respond successfully to any tasking, in any theater – worldwide.”
ANNUALEX and other exercises and operations allow partners and allies and MSC crews to enhance interoperability.
“The greatest advantage of working with the USNS is that we can confirm the operation and equipment of the USNS underway replenishment ships in the field,” Yoshihuku said. “In addition, it is possible to directly ask questions about the slight differences in the way Japanese and U.S. underway replenishment ships conduct their operations, which will further deepen the mutual understanding between the U.S. and Japanese underway replenishment ship units.”
Military Sealift Command Far East ensures approximately 50 U.S. ships in the Indo-Pacific region, are manned, trained and equipped to deliver essential supplies, fuel, cargo, and equipment to warfighters, both at sea and on shore. MSC ships also routinely resupply partners’ and allies’ ships. U.S. Navy combat logistics force ships, like Big Horn, have resupplied JMSDF ships and vice versa.
“In the event that the USNS is unable to respond, the JMSDF underway replenishment ships will deploy whenever and wherever possible to provide logistical support to U.S. Navy operations and activities,” Yoshihuku said.