U.S. carrier leads warships in biggest ever Japan defense war game

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U.S. carrier leads warships in biggest ever Japan defense war game

U.S. fighter jets darted over the Western Pacific on Saturday as the nuclear powered USS Ronald Reagan aircraft carrier joined Japanese destroyers and a Canadian warship for the biggest combat readiness war game ever staged in and around Japan.

U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan conducts military drills during Keen Sword, a joint field-training exercise involving U.S. military, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force personnel and Royal Canadian Navy, at sea November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Tim Kelly

Japan and the United States have mobilized 57,000 sailors, marines and airmen for the biennial Keen Sword exercise, 11,000 more than in 2016, with simulated air combat, amphibious landings and ballistic missile defense drills. Japan’s contingent of 47,000 personnel represents a fifth of the nation’s armed forces.

“We are here to stabilize, and preserve our capability should it be needed. Exercises like Keen Sword are exactly the kind of thing we need to do,” Rear Admiral Karl Thomas, the commander of the carrier strike group, said during a press briefing in the Reagan’s focsle as F-18 fighter jets catapulted off the flight deck above him.

Eight other ships joined the carrier for anti-submarine warfare drills in a show of force in waters that Washington and Tokyo fear will increasingly come under Beijing’s influence.

“The U.S.-Japan alliance is essential for stability in this region and the wider Indo Pacific,” Rear Admiral Hiroshi Egawa, the commander of the Japanese ships said aboard the Reagan

Based in Yokosuka near Tokyo, it is the biggest U.S. warship in Asia, with a crew of 5,000 sailors and around 90 F-18 Super Hornets fighters.

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