Naval forces from Australia, Canada, Japan, and the U.S. have joined together to conduct multilateral exercise Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX) 2023 in the Philippine Sea, Nov. 11, 2023.

Throughout the exercise, the four international navies, including the Royal Australian Navy (RAN), Royal Canadian Navy (RCN), Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), and U.S. Navy, will engage in various events comprising of enhanced maritime communication tactics, anti-submarine warfare operations, air warfare operations, and replenishments-at-sea, among others.

“As maritime security threats including attempts to change the status quo by force are increasing, cooperation among navies is critical to the stability of the Indo-Pacific region and the peace and security of the world,’’ said Vice Adm. SAITO Akira, Commander in Chief, Self Defense Fleet, JMSDF. “The Self Defense Fleet will continue working closely with the U.S. Seventh Fleet and the armed forces of like-minded countries such as Australia, Canada, and the Philippines in order to defend Japan, ensure regional peace and stability, and realize a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.’’

ANNUALEX is a biannual naval training event led by JMSDF. Invited naval and air forces participate to strengthen enduring relationships while sharpening naval and air proficiencies at all levels.

“Once again we have the special opportunity this year to sail with our Royal Australian Navy and Royal Canadian Navy partners to expand this exercise into a multilateral event,” said Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet.  “Demonstrating a keen understanding among likeminded nations the importance of being able to communicate and operate together in one combined team in the maritime commons.”

“The Royal Australian Navy is pleased to again join with our regional allies and partners to deepen our longstanding relationships, further enhance our ability to operate together at sea and to support our region’s security and prosperity,” said Australia’s Director General Maritime Operations, Commodore Michael Harris.

Participating naval forces will operate in a complex maritime environment with integrated surface and air engagements designed to further increase collective war-fighting readiness, maritime superiority, and power projection in the Indo-Pacific.

“Canada is a Pacific nation, and we are proud to work with our neighbors through our consistent deployments in the region,’’ said Captain Robert Watt, Canadian Defence Attaché to Japan. “Major exercises like ANNUALEX sharpen our collective skills, while forging a trust that can only be built at sea. Together with our partners, we will continue to build a free and open Indo-Pacific.’’

Every two years, JMSDF leads ANNUALEX and provides partner and ally navies an opportunity to return and build upon existing combat interoperability capabilities in order to enhance readiness across all platforms as a deterrent against regional instability and aggression.

“The U.S. Navy is once again honored to be invited by the JMSDF to participate in this year’s event,” said Rear Adm. Carlos Sardiello, Commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 1. “ANNUALEX presents an opportunity to strategically collaborate with our allies and partners to meet shared challenges and interests such as strengthening existing relationships and sharpening our collective defense readiness, maritime security, and demonstrating unity and resolve in contested environments.”

Since arriving in the U.S. 7th Fleet region, and prior to ANNUALEX, CSG-1 units participated in a Multi-Large Deck Event (MLDE) to strengthen interoperability with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region.

Canadian ships participating are HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331), HMCS Ottawa (FFH 341), and MV Asterix.

Led by CSG-1, U.S. Navy units participating in ANNUALEX include aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Jefferson City (SSN 759), Ticonderoga class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 1’s Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Hopper (DDG 70), USS Sterett (DDG 104) of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 1, Henry J. Kaiser-class Fleet replenishment ship USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199), motor tanker ship MT SLNC Goodwill (T-AOT 5419); and nine squadrons of embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2.

CVW-2 consists of the F-35C Lightning II squadron, “Warhawks” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 97, the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet squadrons, “Bounty Hunters” of (VFA) 2, “Stingers” of (VFA) 113, “Golden Dragons” of (VFA) 192, the “Gauntlets” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 136, the “Black Eagles” of Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 113, the “Blue Hawks” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 78, the “Black Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4, and the “Titans” of Fleet Logistics Multi-mission Squadron (VRM) 30.

CSG-1 is deployed to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of global maritime operations and a free and open Indo-Pacific region.

By Editor