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In a first, US Navy drops torpedo in Japanese waters on joint drill

US Navy JMSDF torpedo training
An MH-60R Seahawk drops a practice torpedo during the first torpedo exercise conducted by a US Navy squadron alongside the JMSDF. Photo: US Navy

The navies of United States and Japan recently completed a torpedo training drill in Tokyo Bay, which saw the US Navy launch an inert training torpedo into Japanese waters for the first time ever.

US Navy aircrews from the “Saberhawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77, the “Warlords” of HSM 51, and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) “Mighty 59” of Air Development Squadron (VX) 51 completed the anti-submarine warfare (ASW) torpedo training between March 8 and 10.

The launched torpedo was subsequently recovered by JMSDF Utility Landing Ship JS Yusotei 2-go (LCU 2002).

Prior to this event, every torpedo exercise conducted by a forward-deployed squadron was conducted in San Diego. The benefit of this particular ASW exercise is that the forward-deployed squadron was able to practice within the region they operate in, while also strengthening bilateral capabilities between US Navy and JMSDF.

“This is the first step in an effort that started with the establishment of the first FDNF squadron, ‘The Warlords’, back in 1991,” said Cmdr. Nicholas Cunningham, HSM-77’s commanding officer. “This exercise demonstrates the US Navy’s and JMSDF’s continued partnership and commitment to protecting the waterways of a free and open Indo-Pacific. The ‘Saberhawks’ are incredibly grateful for all of the multi-agency support we received from Naval Munitions Command, Commander Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Commander Carrier Strike Group 5, and Commander US 7th Fleet.”

The exercise involved a inert torpedo being launched from an MH-60R Seahawk attached to HSM-77. The torpedo was recovered by a small boat team from the JMSDF Utility Landing Ship JS LCU 2002. An SH-60K assigned to VX-51 provided air support for the small boat team.

“Continuing to grow interoperability with our JMSDF partners is a priority for the ‘Warlords’,” said Cmdr. Timothy E. Rogers, HSM-51 commanding officer. “This ASW exercise enabled us to take a collective step forward in that regard, but more importantly assess how effective we are in bilateral ASW prosecution.”

HSM-77 and HSM-51 are forward-deployed to Naval Air Facility Atsugi and embark aboard multiple ships in the 7th Fleet area of operations.

VX-51 is a squadron in the Fleet Air Force of the JMSDF based in Atsugi, Japan. This event builds on the first of its kind bilateral anti-submarine warfare tracking exercise that HSM-51 and VX-51 flew together in October.