Chinese Navy Ship Operating Off of Australia, Canberra Says

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) intelligence ship is currently operating off the north-west shelf of Australia, the Australian Department of Defence said Friday. Australia’s DoD identified the vessel as China’s Dongdiao-class auxiliary intelligence ship Haiwangxing (792) and released imagery and video of the ship. A graphic of Haiwangxing’s voyage showed […]

People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Intelligence Collection Vessel Haiwangxing operating off the north-west shelf of Australia. Australian Department of Defence Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) intelligence ship is currently operating off the north-west shelf of Australia, the Australian Department of Defence said Friday.

Australia’s DoD identified the vessel as China’s Dongdiao-class auxiliary intelligence ship Haiwangxing (792) and released imagery and video of the ship.

A graphic of Haiwangxing’s voyage showed the ship crossed Australia’s exclusive economic zone on the morning of May 6. On Sunday, it was approximately 70 nautical miles off the Harold E. Holt Communications Station, in Exmouth, Western Australia, while a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft monitored the ship.

Harold E. Holt Communications Station provides Very Low Frequency (VLF) communication transmission services for Australian, the United States and Australian-allied submarines.

The Chinese ship continued sailing southwards, and on Monday, it was 150 nautical miles off Exmouth while an RAAF P-8 tracked the intelligence ship. At the same time, HMAS Perth (FFH157) sailed out from port to monitor Haiwangxing but subsequently turned back because the Chinese ship changed its sailing direction on Tuesday morning. Haiwangxing turned north, sailing at a speed of six knots, 125 nautical miles from Exmouth. An RAAF P-8 and an Australian Border Force (ABF) Dash-8 maritime surveillance aircraft monitored the ship.

On Wednesday, Haiwangxing sailed northeast at 12 knots, with the ship approaching as close as 50 nautical miles of the of Harold E. Holt Communication Station, while an RAAF P-8, ABF Dash-8 and ABF patrol vessel ABFC Cape Sorell monitored. Haiwangxing was last spotted on Friday at 6 a.m. local time, approximately 250 nautical miles northwest of Broome Western Australia. An RAAF P-8 and a Maritime Border Command Dash-8 maritime surveillance aircraft monitored the ship on Thursday.

“Australia respects the right of all states to exercise freedom of navigation and overflight in international waters and airspace, just as we expect others to respect our right to do the same. Defence will continue to monitor the ship’s operation in our maritime approaches,” the Australian DoD said in the news release.

Movements of PLAN Dongdiao AGI-792 near Australia May 8-13 2022. Australian Department of Defence Photo

Meanwhile, over in the Philippine Sea, the PLAN’s CNS Liaoning (16) carrier strike group continues flight operations, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense’s daily news releases this week. Liaoning; Type 055 destroyer CNS Nanchang (101); Type 052D destroyers CNS Xining (117), CNS Urumqi (118) and CNS Chengdu (120); Type 052C destroyer CNS Zhengzhou (151); Type 054A frigate CNS Xiangtan (531); and Type 901 fast combat support ship CNS Hulunhu (901) sailed into the Pacific Ocean via the Miyako Strait earlier this month.

The carrier and ships in its CSG performed a series of flight operations four days in a row this week. On 9 a.m. Sunday local time, Liaoning, the two Type 052D destroyers and Hulunhu were sighted 160 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island conducting flight operations with its embarked J-15 fighter aircraft and Z-18 helicopters from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m., according to news releases from Japan’s Joint Staff Office.

On Monday, the same ships were seen at 10 a.m. sailing 200 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island, performing flight operations from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Tuesday at 9 a.m., the group was sailing 310 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island, performing flight operations from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. On Wednesday at 9 a.m., Liaoning and two Type 052D destroyers were seen 160 kilometers south of Ishigaki Island, again performing flight operations from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) has tracked the Liaoning carrier strike group since May 2. Japanese destroyer JS Suzutsuki (DD-117) took over the task of tracking the Liaoning carrier group on Tuesday.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) on May 7, 2022. Japanese MoD Photo

Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) fighter aircraft scrambled each day in response to the J-15 launches, according to the news release. In a Tuesday press conference, Japan Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said the Chinese carried out a total of 100 sorties with its J-15s and Z-18s from Liaoning between May 3 and May 8.

While the activities of the PLAN carrier group were likely aimed at improving its aircraft carriers’ operational capabilities and its ability to carry out operations away from home, Kishi said Japan is concerned about the operations given that they were happening close to the Ryuku Islands and Taiwan. The Japanese Ministry of Defense will continue to monitor such activities, he said.

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is also operating in the Philippine Sea. Earlier this week, the CSG conducted deterrence missions in the Philippine Sea by performing long-range maritime strike with refueling help from Pacific Air Forces KC-135 Stratotankers, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release issued Friday.

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the “Tophatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14, prepares to make an arrested landing on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) in the Philippine Sea on May 12, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), destroyers USS Spruance (DDG-111) and USS Dewey (DDG-105), and cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) also performed multi-domain training to defend the carrier, according to the news release.

“Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is a powerful presence in the Philippine Sea that serves as a deterrent to aggressive or malign actors and supports a free and open Indo-Pacific,” Rear Adm. J.T. Anderson, the commander of carrier strike group Three, said in the release. “There is no better way to strengthen our combat-credible capabilities than to work alongside other joint forces to demonstrate our commitment to sovereignty, the region, and a rules-based international order.”

Chinese Carrier Strike Group Continues Drills Near Japan

China’s aircraft carrier CNS Liaoning (16) has been launching fighters near Japan since last week all the while being shadowed by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183), according to Japanese forces.Liaoning, together with the Type 055 destroyer CNS Nanchang (101), Type 052D destroyers CNS Xining (117), CNS Urumqi (118) and […]

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) on May 7, 2022. Japanese MoD Photo

China’s aircraft carrier CNS Liaoning (16) has been launching fighters near Japan since last week all the while being shadowed by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183), according to Japanese forces.Liaoning, together with the Type 055 destroyer CNS Nanchang (101), Type 052D destroyers CNS Xining (117), CNS Urumqi (118) and CNS Chengdu (120), Type 052C destroyer CNS Zhengzhou (151), Type 054A frigate CNS Xiangtan (531) and Type 901 fast combat support ship CNS Hulunhu (901), sailed into the Pacific Ocean via the Miyako Strait on May 2.

Chinese officials said the Liaoning Carrier Strike Group was training in the western Pacific Ocean and that it was a routine training event organized by the Chinese navy, according to its annual plan and in line with relevant international law and international practice, and not targeting any party.

The JSO has issued daily releases on the PLAN carrier group activities since May 4. The Japanese say Liaoning, along with destroyers Xining, Urumqi, Chengdu, Zhengzhou, frigate Xiangtan and combat support ship Hulunhu were sighted at noon on May 3 sailing around 160 km southwest of Oki Daito island, and flight operations of embarked J-15 fighters and Z-18 helicopters had been carried out from noon until 6 p.m. Liaoning together with destroyers Nanchang, Xining, Urumqi and Chengdu were then seen at noon on May 4 sailing around 230km Southwest of Okinawa. Flight operations were carried out from noon until 6 p.m. that day.

On May 5, Liaoning sailed with destroyers Nanchang, Xining, Urumqi and Chengdu and combat support ship Hulunhu 320 km southeast of Miyako Island, and flight operations were conducted from 2-8 p.m.

Chinese Carrier Strike Group Operations on May 7, 2022. Japanese MoD Image

The six ships sailed 170 km south of Ishigaki Island at 9 a.m May 6 with flight operations from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. On Saturday, Liaoning was sighted with two of the Type 052D destroyers and Hulunhu 150km south of Ishigaki Island at 9 a.m. with flight operations carried out from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.

The Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) fighter aircraft scrambled in response to the launches of the J-15s.

In December last year, the Liaoning, along with other PLAN ships, conducted flight operations in the vicinities of Kita Daito and Oki Daito islands in the Pacific Ocean.

While these activities are permissible under international norms, the Japanese government have raised concerns about the proximity of the activities in Pacific to Japan, as well as North Korea’s launch of ballistic missiles and the Russian and Chinese separate and joint naval and air activities near the country.

The Japanese government plans to increase its military capabilities as part of its response to increased concerns.

The Russian Pacific Fleet announced //when?// that the corvette RFS Gremyashchy (337) carried out a successful firing of the Otvet anti-submarine missile system at an underwater training target in the Sea of Japan. The Russians deployed 15 other ships to support the firing.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) during a December 2021 deployment. PLAN Photo

Moscow has been holding a number of live firing from the Sea of Japan in recent months, the last being on April 14 where submarines RFS Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (B-274) and RFS Volkhov 3M14K Calibre (SS-N-30A) cruise missiles (B-603)

Japanese Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi and U.S Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin held a meeting at the Pentagon on May 4 where both defense chiefs reaffirmed their commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific and pledged to promote the norms, values, and institutions that underpin the rules-based international order, according to a statement released by the Japan Defense Ministry.

Austin and Kishi discussed China’s behavior in the Indo-Pacific region and its coercive actions in the East and South China Seas. They both affirmed that that any change to the status quo by force in the Indo-Pacific region cannot be condoned, and that both countries would continue to strengthen cooperation to deter and, if necessary, respond to such actions.

Austin affirmed that the Senkaku Islands are under the administration of Japan, and that Article V of the Japan-U.S. Security Treaty applies to the Senkaku Islands. Austin also expressed his opposition to any unilateral attempts to undermine the administration of Japan. Both defense chiefs also reiterated the importance of peace and stability of the Taiwan Strait.

Along with condemning Russia’s aggression towards Ukraine, both leaders stated that the U.S and Japan will work together to support Ukraine as much as possible. Austin and Kishi agreed that North Korea’s repeated missile launches and nuclear development are a serious threat against peace and stability of the region and the international community, and that such actions cannot be tolerated. Both pledged to advance close bilateral and trilateral cooperation among Japan, the United States, and the Republic of Korea in response to North Korean provocations.

Chinese Carrier Liaoning Strike Group Steaming Near Japan, Says MoD

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) dispatched an eight-ship carrier group, led by the carrier CNS Liaoning (16) and accompanied by five destroyers, a frigate and a replenishment ship, into the Pacific Ocean via transit of the Miyako Strait Monday, marking the first time since December 2021 that the carrier has operated in the area. […]

Chinese ships operate off the coast of Japan on May 2, 2022. Japanese MoD Images

The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) dispatched an eight-ship carrier group, led by the carrier CNS Liaoning (16) and accompanied by five destroyers, a frigate and a replenishment ship, into the Pacific Ocean via transit of the Miyako Strait Monday, marking the first time since December 2021 that the carrier has operated in the area.

The Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) issued a release Monday on the group’s passage along with photographs of the ships in the group, identifying them by class and pennant number.

Along with Liaoning, the ships in the group are the Type 055 destroyer CNS Nanchang (101), Type 052D destroyers CNS Xining (117), CNS Urumqi (118) and CNS Chengdu (120), Type 052C destroyer CNS Zhengzhou (151), Type 054A frigate CNS Xiangtan (531) and Type 901 fast combat support ship CNS Hulunhu (901).

Liaoning together with Nanchang, Xining, Urumqi, Chengdu and Hulunhu were sighted sailing south in an area 350km west on the uninhabited Danjo Islands in the East China Sea around midnight Sunday, according to the Joint Staff Office’s release. At 6 p.m. Sunday, Xiangtan was sighted sailing eastward in an area 480km northwest of Okinawa. On Monday, Zhengzhou was sighted traveling south, 160km north of Taisho Island. The PLAN ships subsequently sailed south together through the Miyako Strait.

The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) together with JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 4, based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Honshu, and P-3C Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 5, based out of Naha Air Base, Okinawa, conducted monitoring of the PLAN ships, according to the release. Liaoning conducted helicopter operations while in the East China Sea.

Chinese naval spokesperson Gao Xiucheng said the Liaoning group is conducting training in the western Pacific Ocean and that it was a routine training organized by the Chinese navy, according to its annual plan and in line with relevant international law and international practice, China’s Xinhua news agency reported Tuesday.In December last year, Liaoning along with other PLAN ships conducted flight operations in the vicinities of Kita Daito and Oki Daito islands in the Pacific Ocean. Japan now plans to have a mobile radar station based on Kita Daito Island and is considering moving towards permanent radar stations on the Daito Islands to monitor foreign naval activities and transits in the area.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) during a December 2021 deployment. PLAN Photo

Littoral Combat Ship USS Jackson (LCS-6) is now in Singapore at Changi Naval Base, arriving on Tuesday to carry out a planned maintenance availability (PMAV) period while in Singapore, according to a 7th Fleet release

“Having Jackson once again using Changi Naval Base as the site for maintenance is a significant milestone and gives operational commanders increased adaptability for maintaining and operating ships,” said Rear Adm. Chris Engdahl, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7/Task Force 76 in the release. “We are thankful for our defense relationship with the Republic of Singapore and their willingness to host our ships as we strive toward a common goal of ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessel HMS Spey (P234) arrived in Singapore Friday at Sembawang Naval Installation to join sister ship HMS Tamar (P233). Both Royal Navy vessels are on a five-year deployment to the Indo-Pacific region as part of an overall UK policy to strengthen its presence in the region.

Japan’s Ruling Party Calls for ‘Counter Attack’ Capability, Increased Defense Budget

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presented its national security strategy proposals Wednesday to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, calling to increase in Japan’s defense budget to 2 percent or more of GDP along with the development of “counterattack” capabilities able to strike at not only at missile launch sites but also the command and control capabilities […]

Soldiers from the 1st Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) conduct individual and small-unit maneuver exercises during Iron Fist at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, February 6, 2019. US Marine Corps Photo

Japan’s ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) presented its national security strategy proposals Wednesday to Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, calling to increase in Japan’s defense budget to 2 percent or more of GDP along with the development of “counterattack” capabilities able to strike at not only at missile launch sites but also the command and control capabilities of the opposing nation which would serve as both a pre-emptive measure and deterrence capability for Japan.

The proposals are not unexpected given that Kishida’s government has pledged to strengthen Japan’s defense. Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi told Kyodo News this month his ministry would ask for a larger budget and was discussing the potential of acquiring capabilities to pre-emptively strike at enemy bases.

Kishida’s government plans to put forward a new national security strategy by the end of this year, replacing the one formulated in 2013. The Japanese government will also release a new national security strategy, a new national defense strategy and a new defense capability plan, all covering a period of 10 years.

The development of counterattack capabilities is controversial, given the self-defense stance that Japan has had since its pacifist constitution was created and the LDP’s coalition partner, Komeito, has shown reluctance for increasing the defense budget and acquiring counterattack capabilities.

The LDP’s proposal identifies the threat posed to Japan by Russia, China and North Korea, noting the three countries built-up of their military capabilities along with increased military activities in East Asia.

It also noted that North Korea’s continuing ballistic missile and nuclear weapons developments, the willingness of Russia to use force in Ukraine and China not ruling out the use of force on Taiwan as reasons for Japan to improve its defense. The China Coast Guard continuing to violate Japanese waters around the Senkaku Islands and Chinese and Russian aircraft and ships conducting joint flights and sails around Japan were additional concerns.

Japan’s Defense Ministry issued a release this week that a Peoples Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Shupang-class survey vessel entered Japanese waters west of Kuchinoerabu Island, at 11 p.m. Tuesday before sailing out of Japan’s territorial waters south of Yakushima Island at 2:10 am on Wednesday. Kuchinoerabu Island lies 130 kilometers (70 nautical miles) south of Kagoshima, Kyushu.

The Defense Ministry release stated that the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer JS Onami (DD-111) and a Japan Coast Guard patrol boat had monitored the PLAN ship. Japan has lodged a protest with China via diplomatic channels on the incident.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) issued a release stating that a PLAN frigate and amphibious ship had been spotted that day traveling northwest in the area about 100 km east-northeast of Miyako Island in Okinawa Prefecture. The ships subsequently proceeded northwest in the sea area between Okinawa and Miyako Island to the East China Sea. Photos and pennant numbers in the release identified the ships as the frigate CNS Zhoushan (529) and landing platform dock CNS Yimeng Shan (988).

The PLAN ships were monitored by the JMSDF replenishment ship JS Hanama (AOE-424) and JMSDF P-3C maritime patrol aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 5 operating from Naha Air Base, Okinawa.

On Tuesday, during a press conference, Kishi stated that his ministry would soon call for bids to survey a suitable site for a mobile radar station on Kita Daito Island, adding that Japan would likely move towards permanent radar stations around the Daito islands as these areas form a surveillance gap in regard to military activities and transits to and from the Pacific Ocean. A Chinese carrier task group conducted an exercise around Kita Daito Island last year, USNI News previously reported.

The LDP proposal also called for the loosening of Japan’s export and transfer restrictions, allowing not only the Japanese defense industry base to sustain itself but to strengthen the defense capabilities of partner nations in the region.

It also called for Japan to further raise awareness and support for the Free and Open Indo-Pacific concept and in collaboration with the E.U., European countries, NATO, AUKUS and others, to further strengthen partnerships in the region along with further enhancing current efforts such as the Quad. At the same time emphasis was also placed on the U.S-Japan alliance, stating that the two countries would strengthen their military and security cooperation and interoperability.

Kishi announced on Thursday that he will travel to the United States from May 3-6 and hold a meeting with Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin on May 4. Items on the agenda include Ukraine, China, and North Korea, the Japan-US “2 + 2” discussion held in January this year and the formulation of a new national security strategy being implemented in Japan along with concrete efforts to strengthen the deterrence and resilience capability of the Japan-US alliance. Kishi also stated his delegation will visit the Missile Defense Agency and U.S. Cyber ​​Command to exchange views on ballistic missile defense and cyber cooperation.

African Forces Used U.S. Seabase Woody Williams to Combat Local Threats

The deployment of USS Hershel “Woody” Williams’ (ESB-4) deployment off the West Coast of Africa allowed forces from Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and Senegal to the U.S. ship as a base of operations for local missions. Using Williams allowed the forces to develop their own solutions to the maritime security problems that they faced, Capt. […]

Sailors assigned to the Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (ESB-4) lower approximately 6,000 kilograms of seized contraband into a rigid-hull inflatable boat for transport to the Cabo Verdean law enforcement authorities on April 6, 2022. US Navy Photo

The deployment of USS Hershel “Woody” Williams’ (ESB-4) deployment off the West Coast of Africa allowed forces from Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and Senegal to the U.S. ship as a base of operations for local missions.

Using Williams allowed the forces to develop their own solutions to the maritime security problems that they faced, Capt. John Tully, the director of African Engagements for U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF), and Capt. Michael Concannon, the commanding officer of Williams, said in a media call.

“Our priority when we’re working with African countries is to assist our partners in helping them develop African-led solutions to the security challenges that they face, and we’re very conscious that we do not put our partners in the position that requires them to choose between working with the United States and other external actors when determining the best way to protect their own sovereign and economic interest,” Tully said.

Maritime security operations conducted by Williams during its recent deployment were all partner-led operations, Concannon told reporters.

“We gave them a lot of support that they needed to conduct the operation but it was their operation, it was their law enforcement process that went through the determination of the scope of the problem and what to do with it, judicially, legally and we were happy to be a part of that support,” he said.

From March to April, Williams completed maritime security operations with African partners Sierra Leone, Cape Verde and Senegal. In March, the joint U.S. and African maritime team interdicted an illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing vessel operating in Sierra Leone’s Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ).

On April 1, as part of the African Maritime Law Enforcement Partnership, the joint team, led by Cape Verde, worked in coordination with the Maritime Analysis and Operations Centre – Narcotics, INTERPOL and Cape Verde’s national Maritime Operations Center to conduct a compliant boarding of a Brazilian-flagged fishing vessel, which led to the seizure of approximately 6,000 kilograms of suspected cocaine with an estimated street value of more than $350 million.

The flexibility and capabilities of Williams makes it ideal for maritime security operations in Africa, said Concannon, pointing to the ship’s ability to operate helicopters and store small craft on its mission decks. The ESB also has extensive logistic transport capabilities, personnel embarkation capabilities and endurance in conducting operations for a long period before requiring refueling.

U.S. Service members and Cabo Verdean maritime forces embarked aboard the Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (ESB-4) seized approximately 6,000 kilograms of contraband during a maritime security patrol, April 1, 2022. US Navy Photo

Concannon added that the deployment allowed representatives of three African countries to participate and collaborate with Williams and that he hoped future deployments would have a more expanded number of countries embarked on the ESB.

Williams operating in the region allows African nations to overcome the difficulty of using surface vessels to patrol their EEZs and enforce their laws, Tully said.

“By having the African partners onboard the Hershel “Woody” Williams as we did this time, we can help them overcome that challenge,” he added.

Tully said that a key aspect in assisting African partners in enforcing their laws in the maritime domain has been the bilateral law enforcement agreements that the U.S. has with African countries. These agreements allow the U.S Coast Guard to have a direct and concrete effect in the rule of law in the maritime domain of the countries that have agreements with the U.S.

Efforts supporting partners in the region span a wide gamut, ranging from various maritime security exercises and operations, the provision of equipment such as radars and automatic identification systems, supporting and assisting countries with their maritime enforcement centers, and institutional capacity building, Tully said. The initiatives are geared toward the end goal of allowing African partners to improve their capabilities and build maritime security relationships with other African countries through U.S.-supported joint engagement and exercise activities, he noted.

A pilot boat approaches the Expeditionary Sea Base USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams (ESB-4) as it pulls into port in Maputo, Mozambique on Oct. 15, 2021. US Navy Photo

Although Williams is now currently back at Rota, Spain, Tully said the U.S. Coast Guard is expected to deploy a cutter to Africa later this year and noted the ESB’s departure from the region does not mean it won’t return soon.

He acknowledged the limitations of having one ESB assigned to Africa include the ship’s inability to be everywhere at once, especially since there are regions competing with Africa, like the Mediterranean Sea and the Indian Ocean, for operations. But the deployment choice was always determined based on discussions with African partner nations.

Russian, Chinese Ships Steaming Near Japan as Carrier Lincoln Operates Near Korea

KULA LUMPUR – Three Russian warships and three Russian civilian vessels transited the Tsushima Straits on Tuesday, while a Chinese surveillance ship sailed from the East China Sea into the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, according to releases posted on Wednesday by the Joint Staff Office of the Japan Self-Defense Force. The three Russian Navy ships […]

An E-2D Advanced Hawkeye landing aboard USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72). US Navy Photo

KULA LUMPUR – Three Russian warships and three Russian civilian vessels transited the Tsushima Straits on Tuesday, while a Chinese surveillance ship sailed from the East China Sea into the Pacific Ocean on Wednesday, according to releases posted on Wednesday by the Joint Staff Office of the Japan Self-Defense Force.

The three Russian Navy ships are destroyer RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548), an Altay-class replenishment ship and rescue tug SB-408. The JSDF identified the civilian ships as pipe-laying ship Akademik Cherskiy, offshore supply ship Ivan Sidorenko and offshore supply ship Ostap Sheremeta. All three Russian civilian ships are sanctioned by the United States over to their involvement in the Russian Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline under the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) Specially Designated Foreign Nationals (SDN) list. Work on the pipeline had been completed in September last year and it’s likely the civilian ships are now in the Pacific for new assignments by their owners.

The Russian ships were sighted 80 kilometers west of the Danjo Islands at 9 a.m. on Tuesday by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and subsequently went north through the Tsushima Strait and sailed toward the Sea of Japan, according to the news release. The JSDF added that Admiral Panteleyev had previously been sighted on March 24 going southwest through the Tsushima Strait. P-1 maritime patrol aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 4 based at Naval Air Station Atsugi and fast attack craft JS Shirataka (PG-829) monitored the Russian ships.

In a second news release, the JSO said People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Dongdiao-class surveillance ship 795 had been sighted traveling southeast in the sea, 160 kilometers northwest of Amami Oshima island, Kagoshima Prefecture and subsequently sailed east between Amami Oshima and Yokoate island before traveling into the Pacific Ocean. P-1 maritime patrol aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 1 based at Kanoya Air Field and the replenishment ship JS Hamana (AOE-424) monitored the PLAN ship, according to the release.

Meanwhile, U.S. aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) is now operating in the Philippine Sea after finishing exercises with all three arms of the JSDF that began on April 8. Abraham Lincoln, cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-52) and destroyer USS Spruance (DDG-111), with JMSDF destroyers JS Inazuma (DD-105) and JS Kongo (DDG-173), conducted joint drills ranging from air warfare exercises to maritime communication operations, according to a U.S. 7th Fleet news release issued Monday.

Chinese Dongdiao surveillance ship (AGI) 794 path through the Tsushima Strait on April 11, 2022. Japanese MoD Images

“Our enduring commitments to our relationships in the Indo-Pacific region continue to grow and blossom through integrated and bilateral at-sea exercises including the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force,” Rear Adm. J. T. Anderson, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 3, said in the release. “These exercises demonstrate our collective combat-credible capabilities while safeguarding our shared interests and values.”

During the exercise, Japan Ground Self-Defense Force CH-47s and troops from the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) operated off Abraham Lincoln, while a JGSDF AH-64 helicopter conducted deck landing operations on Inazuma.

As the security environment surrounding Japan becomes even more severe, Japan and the United States are always working closely together to ensure the defense of Japan and the peace and security of the region,” Japan Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi said of the exercises during his regularly scheduled press conference on Tuesday. “Through this training, we believe that Japan and the United States have always been fully prepared to prevent unilateral attempts to change the status quo in the region and destabilize it by force.”

Landing platform dock USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) is also operating in the Philippine Sea to perform routine operations, according to a Pentagon news release. Meanwhile, expeditionary support base USS Miguel Keith (ESB-5) is on a scheduled visit to Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni and submarine USS Alexandria (SSN-757) arrived at Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka on Monday for a scheduled port visit.

Japan Monitoring Russian and Chinese Military Activity in Sea of Japan, Defense Minister Says

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Japan is monitoring the increased Russian and Chinese military activity around its country, the Japanese defense minister said Friday. The Japanese Ministry of Defense and Japanese Self-Defense Force will handle all measures taken against Japanese territory, territorial waters and airspace in accordance with international law and the JSDF law, said Defense […]

Boatswain’s Mate 3rd Class Arthur Renteria, from Carson, California, stands starboard life buoy watch on the fantail aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) as Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Murasame-class destroyer JS Inazuma (DD 105) sails in formation during a U.S.-Japan bilateral exercise in the Sea of Japan on April 12, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Japan is monitoring the increased Russian and Chinese military activity around its country, the Japanese defense minister said Friday.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense and Japanese Self-Defense Force will handle all measures taken against Japanese territory, territorial waters and airspace in accordance with international law and the JSDF law, said Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi.

Kishi spoke during the regularly held post-Cabinet press conference at the Japanese Ministry of Defense, where he said the Japan Air Self-Defense Force scrambled against foreign aircraft 1,004 times in 2021, a record high since 2016, when it carried out 1,168 scrambles.

Out of last year’s figures, 722 of them involved Chinese aircraft, while 266 involved Russian aircraft. Kishi did not disclose which other countries made up the balance, but said the number of scrambles against Chinese aircraft had increased by 260 in comparison with the 2020 figures, while scrambles against Russia were about the same, with 258 in 2020.

The increasing number of China’s activities, coupled with the lack of transparency regarding its defense policy and military, has become a strong concern for the security of the region, including Japan and the international community, Kishi said.

Kishi told the media that he would not make a definitive statement on Russia’s intentions in launching 3M14K Calibre (SS-N-30A) cruise missiles from submarines in the Sea of Japan, but noted that the two submarines conducting the launch were suspected to be operating in the Far East since November of last year. He said the launches were an “intention to show the modernization of naval power domestically and internationally even in the current situation.”

“In any case, in recent years, the activities of the Russian military, including the deployment of the latest equipment and exercises/training, have tended to become more active around Japan,” Kishi added.

On Thursday, the Russian Ministry of Defense announced the launching of the cruise missiles from submarines RFS Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky (B-274) and RFS Volkhov (B-603) in the Sea of Japan and said the missiles successfully hit their target, a mock surface ship, though it did not disclose the location of the target. Fifteen warships and support ships, along with aircraft with the Russian Pacific Fleet, took part in the exercise, according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.

Volkhov previously fired a of 3M14K Calibre (SS-N-30A) cruise missile from the Sea of Japan against a coastal target 1,000 kilometers away in January. Both Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky and Volkhov, together with the corvette RFS Gremyashchiy (337), joined the Russian Pacific Fleet in November 2021, having previously been assigned to the Russian Baltic Fleet.

Asked whether North Korea would conduct additional ballistic missile launches and nuclear tests, Kishi said Pyongyang has been launching ballistic missiles frequently since the beginning of this year, and that since North Korea has turned its back on the international community, it’s possible it will take further provocative actions in the future. But the Japan Ministry of Defense will continue to work closely with the United States and other countries in regard to North Korea’s military activities, he added.

The U.S. currently has the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group operating in the Sea of Japan as a deterrence against North Korea. The strike group conducted bilateral training with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and the JASDF on Tuesday.

Cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) and destroyer USS Spruance (DDG-111), from the Lincoln CSG, conducted additional exercises on Wednesday and Thursday with JMSDF destroyer JS Kongō (DDG-173). The training included ballistic missile information sharing, according to a JMSDF Friday news release and a social media post.

China has been monitoring the Lincoln CSG’s activities in the Sea of Japan with its Dongdiao-class surveillance vessel number 794. The surveillance ship was seen traveling southwest, about 160 kilometers north-northeast of Tsushima, at 8 a.m. on Wednesday, according to a JSDF and Joint Staff Office news release issued Friday.

After that, the ship sailed southward in the Tsushima Strait toward the East China Sea. The ship was the same one reported traveling north in the Tsushima Strait on Monday, the JSO said, adding that Japanese destroyer JS Inazuma (DD-105) and P-1 maritime patrol aircraft from Naval Air Station Atsugi had monitored the Chinese ship. Inazuma had taken part in the exercise with the Lincoln CSG on Tuesday.

Carrier USS Abraham Lincoln in Sea of Japan Ahead of Key North Korean Anniversaries

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) is in the Sea of Japan, in time to coincide with key North Korean anniversaries like the 110th birthday of its late founding leader Kim Il-sung on April 15 and the founding anniversary of the North Korean People’s Revolutionary Army on April 25. The carrier’s […]

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) transits the South China Sea on April 1, 2022. US Navy Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – Aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) is in the Sea of Japan, in time to coincide with key North Korean anniversaries like the 110th birthday of its late founding leader Kim Il-sung on April 15 and the founding anniversary of the North Korean People’s Revolutionary Army on April 25.

The carrier’s recent move is the second time this year Lincoln has been employed to conduct a presence operation to deter North Korea, with an earlier one carried out on March 15 in the Yellow Sea as a response to North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile launches on Feb. 27 and March 5. Lincoln was previously operating in the South China Sea off the coast of the Philippines.

At the same time Lincoln is operating in the Sea of Japan, Japan on Monday tracked a People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) surveillance vessel as it transited the Tsushima Strait and entered the Sea of Japan, trailing the carrier. The Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Japan Self-Defense Force on Monday issued a news release stating that a Dongdiao-class surveillance vessel number 794 was sighted 80 miles southwest of Tsushima at noon on Monday and heading northeast.

The surveillance ship then went north into the Tsushima Strait and sailed into the Sea of Japan. A photo of the ship in the release shows it carrying the pennant number 794, though the ship’s name could not be ascertained, as the PLAN has been renumbering the pennants of its surveillance vessel fleet. Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force fast attack craft JS Otaka (PG-826) and JMSDF P-1 maritime surveillance aircrafts of Fleet Air Wing 1 – stationed at Kanoya Air Field and Fleet Air Wing 4 station at Naval Air Station Atsugi – monitored the PLAN ship, officials said.

Chinese Dongdiao surveillance ship (AGI) 794’s path through the Tsushima Strait on April 11, 2022. Japanese MoD Images

North Korea’s actions and concerns about China’s increasing assertiveness has led Japan’s Defense Ministry to consider a large budget request for the next fiscal year, in addition to acquiring abilities to strike enemy bases. In an interview with Kyodo News on April 5, Defense Minister Nobuo Kishi stated that the Defense Ministry wanted a budget that was enough to strengthen Japan’s defense capabilities drastically through March 2024, adding that Japan needed to quickly bolster those capabilities given the increasingly severe regional security environment.

While it’s important to work together with the international community to deter China and keep military emergencies in the Taiwan Strait from occurring, Japan should have the ability to strike an enemy base to beef up deterrence, so potential enemies believe they will have to “pay a price for attacking” the country, Kishi said. The move to acquire such strike capabilities is controversial given Japan’s long adherence to a defensively orientated policy based on its pacifist constitution. Kishi argued in the interview that it would be costly only to pursue bolstering capabilities to intercept missiles due to North Korea’s “rapidly advancing technologies” in that area.

Meanwhile, nuclear attack boat USS Annapolis (SSN-760) arrived March 28 at Naval Base Guam from Naval Base Point Loma, San Diego, Calif., shifting its homeport as part of the U.S. Navy’s strategic laydown plan for naval forces in the Indo-Pacific region, the service announced on Sunday. In accordance with the strategic laydown plan of 2021, Annapolis is the fifth Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine to be homeported in Guam alongside USS Asheville (SSN-722), USS Key West (SSN-758), USS Jefferson City (SSN-759) and USS Springfield (SSN-761). Springfield arrived in Guam one week before Annapolis.

Further south, the Australian Department of Defense issued a news release stating that the Indian Navy is deploying a P-8I maritime patrol aircraft to Darwin from April 11 through 15 to conduct coordinated exercises with a Royal Australian Air Force P-8A Poseidon aircraft.

This is the first time an Indian Navy P-8I aircraft has deployed to Australia outside of a routine military exercise and reflects the strength of the India-Australia defense and security partnership, according to the release.

Carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, USS Miguel Keith Operating in South China Sea

Aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) is on a Manila port visit in Manila after operating in the South China Sea while Expeditionary Support Base USS Miguel Keith (ESB-6) is in the Philippines for the upcoming U.S-Philippines joint exercise Balikatan 2022, while U.S destroyers conducted firing exercises in the Philippine Sea on Thursday. Balikatan 2022 […]

Operations Specialist 2nd Class Nicholas Gonzales, from Lotulla, Texas, stands port lookout watch as the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) pulls into Manila bay, Philippines, for a port visit on March 25, 2022. US Navy Photo

Aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) is on a Manila port visit in Manila after operating in the South China Sea while Expeditionary Support Base USS Miguel Keith (ESB-6) is in the Philippines for the upcoming U.S-Philippines joint exercise Balikatan 2022, while U.S destroyers conducted firing exercises in the Philippine Sea on Thursday.

Balikatan 2022 will run from March 28 until April 8 across Luzon, Philippines and involve 3,800 Armed Forces of the Philippines personnel and 5,100 U.S military personnel according to a U.S Embassy Philippines release issued on Tuesday. “During Balikatan, the U.S. military and AFP will train together to expand and advance shared tactics, techniques, and procedures that strengthen our response capabilities and readiness for real-world challenges,” said Maj. Gen. Jay Bargeron, 3rd Marine Division Commanding General in the release.

U.S military aircraft have been arriving in the Philippines over the past week with V-22 Ospreys of VMM-363 and KC-130Js of VGMR-152 arriving at Subic Bay International Airport on March 19 and Pacific Air Force (PACAF) C-17s and C-130s flying in to the airport to deliver equipment and material for the exercise. Miguel Keith is currently operating with CH-53E Super Stallions of HMH-466 and AH-1Z Vipers and UH-1Ys of HMLA-369 embarked.

Abraham Lincoln pulled into Manila Bay for a port visit on Friday after Wednesday’s operations in the South China Sea. Before that, the carrier was operating in the Philippine Sea. A number of U.S surface ships are also operating in the region on independent patrols. Navy released photos showed destroyers USS Dewey (DDG-105) and USS Milius (DDG-69) conducting live firing exercises on Thursday in the Philippine Sea, with Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) Block 3As. Earlier Dewey, Milius, USS Barry (DDG-52), and USS Higgins (DDG-76) were shown by 7th Fleet social media to be operating together on March 15 in the Pacific Ocean. All four destroyers are part of DESRON 15, which is based in Japan. The U.S, Australia and Japan conducted a trilateral exercise in the South China Sea which concluded on March 15. The exercise participants were destroyers USS Momsen (DDG-92) and JS Yudachi (DD-103), frigate HMAS Arunta (FFH-151) and a P-8A Maritime Patrol Aircraft from VP-26. A photo of the exercise with all three ships and the P-8 showed a Chinese warship observing in the background. Yudachi was homeward bound after a deployment to the Gulf of Aden on anti-piracy patrols.

Nearby in the South China Sea region of Peninsular Malaysia and Singapore, the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) exercise Bersama Shield is ongoing from 19 March to April 22. The joint exercise involves 36 aircraft and three ships, Republic of Singapore Navy Corvette RSS Valour (89), Royal Malaysian Navy Next Generation Patrol Vessel KD Selangor (F176) and Royal Navy Offshore Patrol Vessel HMS Tamar (P233) operating together as a combined task group. 

Marines and sailors aboard the USS Miguel Keith (ESB-5) conduct flight operations ahead of Balikatan 22 Mar. 19, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

Japan reported the sighting of a Russian intelligence gathering ship on Sunday and a Russian destroyer on Tuesday in the Tsushima Strait. In a release on Tuesday, the Joint Staff Office of the Japan Self Defense Force stated that a Russian Navy Vishnya-class intelligence ship was sighted traveling southwest 40 km east-northeast of Tsushima. Then the ship went southward in the Tsushima Strait and was spotted around 70 km southwest of Tsushima. The ship then sailed northward in the Tsushima Strait towards the Sea of Japan. Photos of the ship show the pennant number corresponding to RFS Kareliya (535), which is assigned to Russia’s Pacific Fleet. The release stated that the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force multi-purpose support ship JS Amakusa (AMS-4303) and JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 4 based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi conducted monitoring on the Russian ship.

On Friday, the JSO issued a release stating that a Russian Navy destroyer was sighted at 2 p.m. Thursday traveling south-southwest 210 km northeast of Tsushima.Subsequently the ship sailed southward in the Tsushima Strait toward the East China Sea. The photo of the ship in the release shows the destroyer as RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548) and the release stated missile patrol boat JS Otaka (PG-826) and P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 4 observed the Russian ship.

The French Navy frigate FNS Vendémiaire (F734) is currently operating in the Sea of Japan as part of a deployment to Southeast and Northeast Asia. The ship recently concluded a port call to Busan, Republic of Korea from March 19 to 24. Before that it conducted monitoring surveillance missions in the East China Sea on ships violating the United Nations Security Council sanctions on North Korea.

Meanwhile the last of the ships involved in relief operations in Tonga have returned home. The People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) Landing Platform Dock CNS Wuzhishan (987) and replenishment ship CNS Chaganhu (967) arrived home on Monday at Zhanjiang, Guangdong while over in Australia, the Landing Helicopter Dock HMAS Canberra (L02) arrived in Townsville on Thursday. Canberra will return to her homeport of Fleet Base East next week, stated an Royal Australia Navy release.

U.S. Carrier Fighters Overfly Yellow Sea in Response to North Korean Missile Launch

The U.S. Navy conducted an air demonstration with carrier aircraft on Tuesday in the Yellow Sea following the recent launches of North Korea intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to U.S. 7th Fleet. The demonstration was carried out in international airspace by Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and Marine F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters aircraft from USS […]

An F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the ‘Black Knights’ of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on March 15, 2022. US Navy Photo

The U.S. Navy conducted an air demonstration with carrier aircraft on Tuesday in the Yellow Sea following the recent launches of North Korea intercontinental ballistic missiles, according to U.S. 7th Fleet.

The demonstration was carried out in international airspace by Navy F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and Marine F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters aircraft from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), along with regionally-based U.S. Air Force aircraft.

The statement said the launches of the ICBM North Korea on Feb. 27 and March 5 are a brazen violation of multiple U.N. Security Council resolutions as well as its international commitments and pose a threat to regional neighbors and the international community.

The U.S., “ will continue to take all necessary measures to ensure the security of the United States and our allies. We remain in close coordination with our allies and partners to address the threats posed by the DPRK. Our commitment to the defense of the Republic of Korea and Japan remains ironclad,” reads the statement.

Lincoln deployed from San Diego, Calif., on Jan. 22., and has largely been operating in the Western Pacific.

Further south, the Philippines Department of Foreign Affairs on Monday issued a release summoning the Chinese ambassador over the People’s Liberation Army Navy’s (PLAN) illegal incursion in the Sulu Sea from Jan. 29 to Feb. 1. According to Manilla, a PLAN ship, said to be a Dongdiao-class electronic reconnaissance ship with bow number 792, entered Philippine waters without permission, reaching the waters of Palawan’s Cuyo Group of Islands and Apo Island in Mindoro.

The Philippine Navy frigate BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) challenged the PLAN ship, which alleged that it was exercising innocent passage and added that the PLAN ship’s movements did not follow a track that can be considered as continuous and expeditious, as it was lingering in the Sulu Sea for three days and that the PLAN ship also continued its activities in Philippine waters despite being repeatedly directed by Antonio Luna to leave Philippine waters immediately.

BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151) Frigate and the BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS-17) Vessel escorting the BRP Tarlac (LD-601) Landing Dock (LD) during the 2021 Dagat, Langit at Lupa (DAGIT-PA) Joint Exercise of the Armed Forces of the Philippines on Nov. 16, 2021. Armed Forces of the Philippines Photo

“As a country that abides by its international commitments, the Philippines recognizes the right of innocent passage in accordance with Article 52 of the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). However, the actions of PLAN 792 did not constitute innocent passage and violated Philippine sovereignty,” according to the statement.

Meanwhile in Australia, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Tuesday announced that he has directed Australia’s Department of Defence to commence studies into what infrastructure and services are needed in Western Australia to support the more frequent presence of United States and United Kingdom nuclear-powered submarines there.

Speaking at a press conference in Henderson, Western Australia, Morrison stated that his government expects that the study’s result later in the year and that “the ability of US and UK nuclear-powered submarines to be here on the west coast, and ultimately we’d like to see them on the east coast as well, is all part of what our plan is as we continue to push forward our AUKUS (Austalia-United Kingdom-United States) partnership.”

Morrison also added that his government plans to invest further in developing naval support facilities and infrastructure in Australia in order to enable ships from partner nations to operate out of Australia for extended periods, “but another part is to ensure that we can bring more of our partners’ vessels here to Australia, have them here for extended periods of time, and ensure that they can maintain and perform operations out of Australia,” he said.

Additional Russian ships have been spotted traveling past Japan from the Pacific Ocean into the Sea of Japan on Monday following the passage of a 10-ship group on March 10.

The latest transit had a group of three surface ships and three Kilo-class submarines transiting La Pérouse Strait while a single ship made a transit in the Tsugaru Strait.

Japanese MoD images

Japan’s Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Japan Self Defense Force (JSDF) stated in a release on Monday that at midnight three surface ships and three Kilo-class submarines were sighted traveling northwest in the waters about 130km southeast of Cape Soya. The surface ships were only identified by pennant numbers and correspond to destroyer RFS Marshal Shaposhnikov (543), missile range instrumentation ship RFS Marshal Krylov (331) and rescue tug SB-522.

The group then traveled west in La Pérouse Strait which divides the southern part of the Russian island of Sakhalin from the northern part of the Japanese island of Hokkaido and is an international waterway with Japan’s territorial waters extending to only three nautical miles in it. The release stated that monitoring of the group was carried out by the destroyer JS Makinami (DD-112).

A second release on Monday stated that a Russian weapons transport ship was sighted at 9 a.m. Monday moving westward in the sea area about 70 km east northeast of Shiriyazaki, Honshu and subsequently traveled west in the Tsugaru Strait and sailed toward the Sea of Japan. The release also stated the minesweeper JS Izushima (MSC- 687) monitored the Russian ship’s passage.

The picture provided in the release shows the ship as the weapons transport ship RFS Akademik Kovalev.

The Tsugaru Strait divides Honshu and Hokkaido and like La Pérouse Strait, Japan’s territorial waters extend to only three nautical miles in it. The Tsugaru Strait was the location of where the earlier 10-ship group transited on March 10.

The Russian ships were part of the Russian Pacific Fleet’s elements taking part in the global, large-scale naval exercises carried out by the Russian Navy from January to February and are likely to be heading to their home ports following the conclusion of the exercise.

Two F-35A Lightning IIs from the 354th Fighter Wing, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, depart from a KC-135 Stratotanker assigned to the 117th Air Refueling Squadron, Forbes Field Air National Guard Base, Kansas, over the Indo-Pacific, March 10, 2022. US Air Force Photo

Japan also released on Tuesday that F-35As of the Japan Air Self Defense Force (JASDF) had conducted the first-ever air-to-air training between JASDF F-35As and United States Air Force (USAF) F-35As on March 10 over the Sea of Japan west of Misawa.

The JASDF release stated that 4 JASDF F-35As of the 3rd Air Wing based at Misawa Air Base and four USAF F-35As took part in the training. It did not identify which unit the USAF F-35As belong to, but Pacific Air Forces issued a release on Feb. 23 stating that U.S. Air Force F-35As from the 354th Fighter Wing, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, had deployed to Kadena Air Base, Japan, on Feb. 20 to conduct integrated air operations. Japan currently has two squadrons operating the F-35A, the 301st Tactical Fighter Squadron and 302nd Tactical Fighter Squadron.