JGSDF, Marines train with MV-22B Osprey during Exercise Iron Fist 2013

14 Feb 2013 | SSgt. Matt Orr 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit

Japanese troops with the Western Army Infantry Regiment took their first flights aboard an Osprey aircraft here Feb. 13, during the culminating event of Exercise Iron Fist. 

For the past four weeks Marines and Sailors from the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, I Marine Expeditionary Force and members of the WAIR, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force have been training side-by-side during Exercise Iron Fist 2013, a theater security cooperation exercise, focused on bilateral amphibious operations.

Theater Security Cooperation Exercises, like Exercise Iron Fist, are annually increasing in scope and sophistication, in order to maintain and promote positive military-to-military relationships based on common interests related to maritime security, counter terrorism, defense trade and security of the global commons.

Exercise Iron Fist 2013 is an annual exercise which promotes military readiness, by fostering interoperability and cooperation between the JGSDF and U.S. Marine forces and providing an opportunity to improve skill sets necessary for effective and efficient contingency response.

The culminating event showcased an amphibious and heliborne ship-to-shore movement. After three weeks of bilateral operations, training steadily increased in complexity from small unit skills to company-sized maneuvers. 

While U.S. Marines from 1st Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment boarded amphibious assault vehicles, a force of nearly 50 WAIR troops took to the air, loaded on four MV-22B Ospreys, departing from the USS Boxer (LHD-4).

Upon landing, they exited the aircraft and formed a tactical perimeter to secure the area for follow-on operations through an urban combat town and mechanized assault course. 

The heliborne movement marked the first transport of WAIR personnel in the MV-22B Osprey, an aircraft of significant interest to the JGSDF.

“The Japan Ground Self-Defense Force members showed an eager interest in the MV-22B and learning more about it,” said Maj. Frank Garner, air officer, 13th MEU, I MEF. “The aviation combat element [of the 13th MEU] hosted static displays for the general officers, which went extremely well, while their staff and soldiers were very excited about flying in it during execution.”

Beyond the positive reception of the aircraft’s role in the execution of Exercise Iron Fist 2013, the MV-22B Osprey is a highly capable aircraft, providing twice the speed, three times the payload, and four times the range compared to the platform that they replace.

“The MV-22B Osprey is undoubtedly a force enhancer for Marine Expeditionary Unit operations,” concluded Garner. “It allows the MAGTF [Marine Air Ground Task Force] commander to mass force more quickly and at greater distances than ever before. During Exercise Iron Fist 2013, the 13th MEU and its ACE, VMM-166, effectively employed the aircraft to demonstrate this capability.”

For more than 50 years, the U.S.-Japan alliance has been the foundation of peace and security in Northeast Asia and the cornerstone of U.S. engagement in the region. Exercise Iron Fist 2013, enhancing the ability of the U.S. Marines and JGSDF to train and operate together, was further improved this year with the introduction of the MV-22B Osprey in training operations.

“The Osprey will enable us to more effectively perform humanitarian assistance, disaster relief operations, and fulfill other roles critical to the U.S.-Japan alliance,” said Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, during a Joint Press Conference with Japanese Minister of Defense Morimoto from Tokyo, Japan, Sept. 17, 2012.


13th Marine Expeditionary Unit