US military vessel embarks JGSDF vehicles

Embarkation for the first ever point-to-point shipment of Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) vehicles aboard a U.S. military vessel took place at Commander, U.S. Fleet Activities Sasebo, July 27.

The embarkation was both practical and a training opportunity to build interoperability between the U.S. Army and JGSDF.

“We are always trying to build on interoperability, allowing us to understand their capabilities and to test and train our own capabilities,” said Maj. Jacqueline Hearne, U.S. Army liaison officer at Camp Kengun, Kumamoto.

Six JGSDF 8th Division vehicles, a mixture of Type 87 armored reconnaissance vehicles and light armored vehicles, were moved from shore aboard U.S. Army Runnymede-class landing craft utility USAV Coamo (LCU-2014). Coamo will transport the vehicles from Sasebo on the island of Kyushu to Yokohama on the island of Honshu. Kearns said this demonstrates the U.S. Army’s ability to move forces long distances between islands.

The ability to move Japanese vehicles and other assets to respond to an emergency, such as the recent use of U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft during the Kumamoto earthquake relief, was a primary reason embarkation training was needed.

“Right now we’re trying to help the Japanese develop their own capabilities to maneuver and allow them to move equipment from one region to another,” said Kearns. “Allowing our watercraft to do that helps show them how they might be able to expand their own capabilities to maneuver.”

Currently JGSDF possesses no water transportation assets, but relies on their counterparts in the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the U.S. military.

Once at Yokohama, the vehicles will join other JGSDF vehicles and be shipped via commercial vessel to the United States where they will take part in Rising Thunder, an annual bilateral Japan-U.S. live-fire training exercise held at Yakima Training Center, Washington.