A military exercise named Dawn Blitz 2013 started on June 11 and will conclude June 28. The multi-national exercise will include the United States, Canada, New Zealand, and Japan in simulating an amphibious landing on an island staged off the coast of California.
|V-22 Ospreys approaching JS Shimokita while underway. DoD photo.|
The exercise is useful for all nations participating, but for Japan it bears a striking resemblance to one of Tokyo’s current strategic environment threats. Retaking an island alongside an American battle group will be a useful skill to practice in case the security situation in the East and South China Seas boils over. China and Japan have experienced significant tensions regarding the possession of multiple islands in those seas.
Practising to retake an island from an enemy force will not be directly relevant to either New Zealand or Canada, but both the United States and Japan are potentially looking at employing this skill in the near future. If everything goes to plan, they won’t have to. But preparing for this type of conflict is prudent and fits with present Japanese remilitarisation efforts.
With Japan growing in strength and putting more military resources into countering Beijing in Japan’s territorial waters, their inclusion in Dawn Blitz 2013 is keeping in line with their drive for greater interoperability with the US Navy. Importantly, the exercise will test the cohesion of the entire Japanese armed forces, a skill set that is presently lacking in Japanese efforts in their maritime sphere.
Japan is looking at a number of years before it can boast a comprehensive military force which can interact seamlessly across the different branches and project sufficient force into its near-abroad. The new government is pushing to bolster the Japanese navy with the purchase of modern ships and advanced defence systems.
Participating in practical exercises like Dawn Blitz 2013 will add crucial skills for Japan’s commanders and also foster a working knowledge of interacting with the US Navy in preparation for potential joint Japan-US patrols in the future.