The navies of the US, Japan and the Philippines have started the third iteration of the maritime training activity (MTA) Sama Sama in Puerto Princesa, Philippines.

Joined by the US Navy, Philippine Navy, and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, the joint maritime exercise is intended to promote regional security cooperation.

MTA Sama Sama also seeks to improve maritime relationships and increase interoperability.

This is the first time that Japan is joining the maritime drills between the US and the Philippines.

Logistics Group Western Pacific commander US Navy rear admiral Joey Tynch said: “MTA Sama Sama gives us a great chance to work shoulder-to-shoulder with our friends, partners, and allies, the Philippine Navy and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. We train together so that together we can face threats to maritime security.”

During the exercise, the personnel and assets will engage in shore-based and at-sea activities.

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The scenarios will involve maritime training using naval platforms and operating areas.

The shore phase of Sama Sama will see the navies conducting exchanges in areas such as maritime domain awareness, force protection, humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and medical care.

In addition, the sessions will focus on sharing best practices related to visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS) operations.

The navies will conduct division tactics, VBSS drills, helicopter deck landing qualifications, anti-air and surface warfare tracking, as well as vessel of interest tracking in the at-sea phase.

Destroyer Squadron 7 deputy commodore captain Ann McCann said: “Any time we can execute realistic, combined scenarios with our partners, it goes a long to make us better and more effective together.

“MTA gives use the perfect opportunity to conduct knowledge exchanges, then take that knowledge to sea, where we can put it into practice together.”

The US is represented by Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Montgomery (LCS 8), Whidbey Island-class dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), and Spearhead-class expeditionary fast transport USNS Millinocket (T-EPF 3).

Other US Navy assets taking part in the exercise include Legend-class cutter USCG Stratton (VMSL 752), Safeguard-class salvage ship USNS Salvor (ARS 52), and P-8A Poseidon aircraft.