First combined NATO/Japan counter-piracy exercise in Gulf of Aden


NATO and Japanese maritime forces conducted the first-ever exercise between the two forces in the Gulf of Aden last week.

The participants were the destroyer JS Takanami, operating as part of Combined Task Force 151 and HDMS Esbern Snare, Task Force 508 flagship of NATO’s counter-piracy Operation Ocean Shield.

Japan and NATO counter-piracy forces have met at sea for discussions and briefings on several previous occasions but last week saw the first time the two forces jointly conducted an exercise.

The exercise focused squarely on the skill sets required for counter piracy operations. The forces demonstrated the full spectrum of communications inter-operability, exercising tactical data links, satellite communications, voice communications and visual signalling. Building on this framework, the forces then focused upon tactical operations. Boarding teams from Esbern Snare and Takanami conducted integrated training for several hours, refining communications, tactical movements and procedures together.

This culminated in the combined Japanese and NATO boarding team conducting a compliant boarding of Takanami simulating a suspicious motor vessel. The team demonstrated procedures and tactics they had trained to earlier, conducting a comprehensive search of the vessel while maintaining security of the crew and ship. These skills are the foundation of maintaining security of the maritime community within the counter piracy area of operations.

Commander of the NATO Task Force 508, Commodore Aage Buur Jensen, visited Takanami during the exercise and saw the action on both ships. He was delighted to again be working with Japanese colleagues.
“Last time I was in the region was in December 2013 till February 2014 as Commander of Combined Task Force 15. Then it was my pleasure to be the first foreign commander to have Japanese units under my command in the counter-piracy effort in this region. I experienced some highly skilled and professional officers. On a personal level, I am pleased we now have practical co-operation between NATO and the Japan Maritime Self Defence Forces (JMSDF).”

The Commodore also emphasised the importance of co-ordination between the international counter piracy forces operating in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.
“By co-ordinating activities and sharing information, we stand a much better chance of securing the waters in the region and keeping sea lanes safe and secure. For this reason, a successful exercise such as the one performed today is both pleasing and valuable. There is no doubt the JMSDF is an important and capable actor in the region and I look forward to expanding the co-operation NATO has with Japan.”

This exercise was conducted in line with the Individual Partnership and Co-operation Programme (IPCP) between Japan and NATO on which NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen and Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reached basic agreement during PM Abe’s visit to NATO Headquarters in May 2014.