For The 1st Time, Japan’s AH-64 Apache Helicopters Train To Escort US Marine Corps MV-22B Tiltrotors

For the first time, Japanese AH-64 Apache attack helicopters provided escort support to a US Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft during a training exercise, marking a notable collaboration between the two military forces. 

In a press statement on October 16, the United States military detailed the participation of aviation units from the United States Marine Corps and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force in the field training exercise component of Resolute Dragon 23, which began on October 14 and will end on October 31. 

The military explained that in collaboration with the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing’s Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262, the Western Army Aviation Group, and the 1st Helicopter Brigade, efforts were made to enhance interoperability between the two nations by experimenting with new tactics. 

Furthermore, this exercise marked the first instance where Japanese AH-64 Apache attack helicopters provided close escort to a US Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft conducted in the Hijyudai Range of Northern Kyushu.

Resolute Dragon 23 FTX | VMM 262, JGSDF Bilateral Flight
Photo By Cpl. Kyle Chan | A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262, Marine Aircraft Group 36, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, conducts a bilateral formation flight alongside Japan Ground Self-Defense Force AH-64 Apaches with 1st Squadron, 1st Combat Helicopter Battalion, Western Army Aviation Group, during the field training exercise portion of Resolute Dragon 23 over Kumamoto, Japan, Oct. 18, 2023.

Maj. David Vanrooy, the operations officer for VMM-262, highlighted the strong bonds cultivated through years of joint training and exercises. He noted how this long-standing collaboration underscored the capacity of both US and Japanese rotary aviation units to function as cooperative forces seamlessly. 

Moreover, during Resolute Dragon 23, the bilateral maintenance efforts carried out by the US and Japanese Osprey squadrons enhanced joint operations and showcased the mutual advantages derived from the strategic partnership.

According to the US military, this collaborative effort conveys a strong message about the commitment of the United States and Japan to advancing regional security, underscoring the growing cooperation between the US military and Japanese Self-Defense Force in combined operations.

This exercise further advances prior cooperative initiatives. During Exercise Iron Fist 23, which took place earlier in the year, VMM-262 (Reinforced), serving as the Aviation Combat Element of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, worked in conjunction with their Japanese counterparts to facilitate attached escort missions involving US Marine Corps AH-1 attack helicopters and Japanese CH-47 Chinook helicopters. 

The success of this operation illustrated the mutually beneficial partnership between the United States and Japan in developing combined tactics, techniques, and procedures, showcasing their shared dedication to upholding regional security and stability.

Exercise Resolute Dragon 2023

Resolute Dragon 23 (RD23) represents a critical bilateral field training exercise jointly conducted by the Japan Self-Defense Force (JSDF) and the US Marine Corps.

The exercise involves the deployment of approximately 3,300 US Marines and 4,000 JSDF members across eight training areas spanning from Camp Yonaguni in Okinawa to the Yausubetsu Training Area in Hokkaido.

Rahm Emanuel, the US Ambassador to Japan, said that Resolute Dragon 23 serves as a compelling symbol, demonstrating the commitment of US military forces and their Japanese allies to uphold a free and open Indo-Pacific. 

The exercise’s scale, comprehensive nature, and expertise in its execution underscore the dedication to preserving peace and stability in the region through credible deterrence. 

Every participant’s professionalism and unity further underscore the enduring strength and bond of the US-Japan Alliance.

Exercise Resolute Dragon 23: U.S. Army Soldiers conduct field training at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
U.S. Army Spc. Carlton Weyenberg, a Patriot launching station enhanced operator with Delta Battery, 1st Battalion, 1st Air Defense Artillery Regiment, secures a launcher beam on a Heavy Expanded Mobility Tactical Truck A4 Guided Missile Transporter during the field training exercise portion of Resolute Dragon 23 at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, Oct. 24, 2023.

The Resolute Dragon series enters its third iteration with Resolute Dragon 23, succeeding the previous Resolute Dragon 21 and 22 exercises in northern Japan, involving the Northeastern and Northern Army units of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF), respectively. 

In partnership with the JGSDF Western Army, Resolute Dragon 23 marks the largest and most comprehensive exercise of its kind.

RD23 is strategically designed to enhance defense capabilities and promote interoperability between the US Marine Corps and JSDF, focusing on air-ground integration and combined arms live-fire training. 

AH-64 Apache
AH-64 Apache/Wikipedia

The exercise forces in RD23 will practice bilateral command, control, and multi-domain maneuver capabilities while serving as part of the Stand-In Force within the First Island Chain.

US Marine Corps Colonel Peter Eltringham, Commanding Officer of the 12th Marine Regiment based in Okinawa, expressed his appreciation for the opportunity to train alongside allies in Yausubetsu. 

He emphasized how such training experiences strengthen a robust partnership, allowing for close coordination and complementary capabilities.

This, in turn, enables a unified response to any crisis as an integrated and cohesive team, showcasing the principle that strength is found in unity.