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Press Release | Feb. 16, 2023

U.S. Coast Guard cutter departs Japan following joint training with Japan Coast Guard

KAGOSHIMA, Japan – The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Kimball (WMSL 756) departed Kagoshima Thursday following a multi-day visit where the crew conducted a joint training exercise and professional exchanges with Japan Coast Guard members.

Crewmembers from the Kimball and the Japan Coast Guard conducted combined operations and search-and-rescue exercises in Kagoshima Bay Tuesday with multiple sea and air assets. The crews performed collaborative mission planning, boat handling and helicopter operations, and demonstrated techniques for locating, recovering and hoisting a simulated distressed swimmer.  These activities enhance the partnership and interoperability between the services in cooperative safety and security missions, including search-and-rescue operations.

While in port, Kimball’s command visited the Japan Coast Guard’s 10th Regional Headquarters and provided tours of the cutter to multiple groups of Japan Coast Guard servicemembers and community members.

The professional engagements expanded on a recently signed memorandum of cooperation between the two sea services.

The U.S. Coast Guard and the Japan Coast Guard signed an expanded memorandum of cooperation in May 2022, which added annexes to include standard operating procedures for combined operations, training and capacity building, and information sharing. The two services established a new perpetual operation to strengthen relationships, increase bilateral engagements, and focus on maintaining a free and open Indo-Pacific.

The new operation’s name, SAPPHIRE, is an acronym for Solid Alliance for Peace and Prosperity with Humanity and Integrity on the Rule of law-based Engagement. It honors the gem regarded as an emblem of integrity and affection found throughout the Indo-Pacific.

Since signing the SAPPHIRE memorandum of cooperation, the two services have conducted multiple joint training exercises and operations across the Pacific Ocean.

"The U.S. Coast Guard endeavors to continue strengthening our relationships with the Japan Coast Guard through engagements like ours in Kagoshima that build on the foundation laid out in SAPPHIRE,” said Capt. Thomas D’Arcy, Kimball’s commanding officer. “Our oceans are global maritime superhighways facilitating commerce, food security, and transportation. Collaborative engagement with the Japan Coast Guard, who also value strong maritime governance, enables greater connection and a more open and secure Indo-Pacific.”

By partnering with like-minded nations, the U.S. Coast Guard seeks to strengthen global maritime governance to preserve sovereignty, share information to facilitate force-multiplying partnerships, and demonstrate professional standards of behavior to reinforce the rule of law at sea through the global deployment of cutters and personnel.

Recent U.S. Coast Guard cutter deployments to the Western Pacific include the Coast Guard Cutters Bertholf (WMSL 750) in 2019, Stratton (WMSL 752) in 2019, Waesche (751) in 2020, Munro (WMSL 755) in 2021 and the Midgett (WMSL 757) in 2022.

“Expanded U.S. Coast Guard presence in the Western Pacific facilitates professional coast guard exchanges like our crews conducted in Kagoshima with the Japan Coast Guard,” said D’Arcy. “Presence and human-to-human interactions like we experienced this past week builds the connective tissue that embodies durable networks, strengthens the safety and security of all countries and fosters a committed network of partners with shared principles and norms in the maritime domain.”

Commissioned in 2019, Kimball is one of nine Legend-class national security cutters in service and one of two homeported in Honolulu. National security cutters are 418-feet long, 54-feet wide, and have a 4,600 long-ton displacement. They have a top speed of more than 28 knots, a range of 12,000 nautical miles, endurance of up to 90 days, and can hold a crew of up to 170. These cutters are the centerpiece of the U.S. Coast Guard's fleet, capable of executing the most challenging operations, including supporting maritime homeland security and defense missions at home and abroad.