US, Belgium, France and Japan hold naval exercise in the Arabian Sea

According to information published by Associated Press on March 22, 2021, the U.S. Navy said it will hold a major naval exercise alongside Belgium, France and Japan in the Mideast amid tensions over Iran’s nuclear program in the region.
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Russian Vyborg Shipyard laid the Purga ice class coastguard ship of project 23550 925 001 U.S. Navy Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Port Royal (CG 73), French Navy aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91), Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Ariake (DD 109) and the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island LHD 8 (Picture source)

The Group Arabian Sea Warfare Exercise will see ships from the four countries conduct drills in the Arabian Sea and the Gulf of Oman. Ships involved include the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, as well as the amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island.

The Belgian frigate HNLMS Leopold I and the Japanese destroyer JS Ariake also will take part, as well as aircraft from the four nations.

The drill comes as Iran has abandoned all limits of its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers in the wake of then-President Donald Trump’s 2018 decision to unilaterally withdraw from the accord.

President Joe Biden has expressed a desire to return to the deal if Iran honors the deal’s limits on its nuclear program. However, tensions remain high after militias in Iraq — likely backed by Iran — continue to target American interests.

Biden last month launched an airstrike just over the border into Syria in retaliation, joining every American president from Ronald Reagan onward who has ordered a bombardment of countries in the Middle East.

There was no immediate reaction from Iran to the naval drill.

The Leopold I (F930) is a Karel Doorman-class frigate of the Marine Component (Belgian Navy) of the Belgian Armed Forces. It is one of the two frigates of this class purchased from the Royal Netherlands Navy on 22 December 2005.

The Leopold I frigate is armed with 16 × RIM-7 Sea Sparrow anti-air VLS (Vertical Launching System), eight Boeing Harpoon anti-ship missile, 2 to FN MAG 7.62 mm machine gun, 2 to 4 Browning M2 12.7 mm machine gun, two Twin-Mark 46 torpedo tubes, one OTO Melara 76 mm naval gun and 1 Goalkeeper CIWS Close-In Weapon System.

The Leopold I ship carries one NH90 NFH NATO frigate helicopter for autonomous anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and anti-surface ship warfare (AsuW) role.

Weighing 4,550 metric tons, the JS Ariake is 151 meters long and 17.4 meters wide and is a Murasame class destroyer, launched in October 2000. She has a semi stealth design, powered by gas turbines which give her a speed of 30kts. Her helicopter is a Mitsubishi SH-60, similar to the Sikorski S-70 design.

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