Photo/IllutrationMembers of Japan’s Air Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Air Force carry a stretcher holding a dummy pilot that was assumed to have crashed into the sea during a joint search-and-rescue operation on the beaches of Uruma, Okinawa Prefecture, on Nov. 7. (Yusuke Fukui)

  • Photo/Illustraion
  • Photo/Illustraion

URUMA, Okinawa Prefecture--Japan’s Self-Defense Forces on Nov. 7 conducted their first training with U.S. forces in waters here under the national security legislation that came into force this year.

The drill, which was observed by reporters, was based on a scenario in which a U.S. military aircraft had crashed into the sea. A team of 12 rescuers, including U.S. Air Force members, jumped into the water from an Air SDF CH-47 helicopter to search for and assist the missing crew members.

The SDF now is allowed to provide logistical support globally to U.S. and other foreign forces if the Japanese government acknowledges a “grave situation” that would affect the nation’s peace and security.

Exercises similar to the Nov. 7 session had been held under the law restricting such operations with U.S. forces to areas surrounding Japan.

Geographical limitations, however, were lifted under the new legislation, which was enacted in September last year and took effect in March.

The search-and-rescue training is part of Keen Sword, the largest joint drill by all three branches of the SDF and the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines, which is conducted every other year.

The exercise, which began Oct. 30 and continues through Nov. 11, involves 36,000 SDF and U.S. forces members. The U.S. participants are not only those assigned to U.S. bases in Japan but also those stationed in Hawaii and California.

The training is designed to respond to a possible contingency on the Korean Peninsula and in the Nansei islands, a chain of islands located between the southern tip of the main island of Kyushu and Taiwan.

Participants conduct drills for responding to ballistic missile launches and recapturing Japan's outlying islands.

Keen Sword will be held at locations including the waters near Okinawa Prefecture and the islands of Guam and Tinian.

The Defense Ministry did not include training related to Japan’s exercise of collective self-defense, which was also approved under the national security legislation, in the joint drills.

“Negotiations are still under way between Japan and the United States," a ministry official said regarding such training.