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Keen Sword: One team, one fight

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For four days, the U.S. and Japan Air Self-Defense Force pilots went through countless briefings and motivational speeches. On Nov. 8, 2012, more than 30 pilots sat in their jets, side-by-side, and waited for the crew chiefs to give them the signal to taxi-out. It was time to take to the skies.

Keen Sword 2013 is the 12th exercise of its kind held since 1986. It is designed to give service members the opportunity to evaluate coordination procedures and practice working together as one team. With U.S. forces and JASDF working closely together, the goal is to increase the skills needed to effectively defend Japan, or respond to a regional crisis.

"The overall objective of this exercise is to increase interoperability," said Capt. Bryan Zumbro, 14th Fighter Squadron Keen Sword participant.

One of the first scenarios was to protect and defend an area from a simulated enemy air attack.

U.S. and JASDF pilots were split into mixed groups called "blue air" and "red air." Blue air's objective was to defend the area, and red air's mission, as the rival team, was to simulate an attack.

To simulate an aircraft being "hit", the pilot relies on the jet's built-in air combat maneuvering instrumentation. The ACMI system records aircraft's in-flight data and is used for aerial combat training and analysis.

During the next hour, "blue air" held their ground while their adversary used every means necessary to strategically break their defenses and bomb the area.

Both air forces used their experiences from the exercise to strengthen their relationship with each other.

"I want to learn everything I can to be a better pilot," said Capt. Toshiaki Hasei, JASDF pilot.

Hasei, who is participating in his first Keen Sword exercise, said his experience was fun and hasn't left him overwhelmed.

"I think it went very well," said Capt. Matthew Hoyt, 13th FS Keen Sword planning officer. "There were no major issues and lessons were learned."

Some lessons learned were due to dissimilar training, engagements and how we communicate, added Hoyt. However, he stated these lessons will be used to improve our mutual understanding of how our forces can effectively operate together to get the job done.

"By openly working together with our partners, we have a better chance of improving," said Zumbro.

"Overall, [today's] exercise went well," said Hoyt. "We were able to execute the primary mission. I think we proved our current bilateral capabilities are outstanding and provide a great defense for Japan."

Article by Airman 1st Class Kenna Jackson, 35th Fighter Wing Public Affairs