US test fire HIMARS in Japan during the Orient Shield exercise |  Taiwan News

HIMARS launcher in firing position (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

HIMARS launcher in firing position (Photo by Lockheed Martin)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – The US Army announced on Wednesday, July 7th, that it had fired a Highly Mobile Artillery Missile System (HIMARS) in Japan for the first time.

The Marine Corps, a separate branch of the U.S. military, previously fired a HIMARS in 2020 during bilateral exercise Northern Viper with Japanese troops in Hokkaido, Stars and Stripes reported.

Army soldiers fired the weapon between June 28 and 30 as part of Exercise Orient Shield, which ends Thursday, according to Japanese Army spokesman Major Elias Chelala. He added that HIMARS had been taken to Marine Corps Air Station in Iwakuni, Japan on the USNS Fisher logistics ship.

The US approved the potential sale of 11 HIMARS launch vehicles and 64 M57 unitary rockets to Taiwan in October 2020. These missile systems will help the East Asian nation upgrade its military capabilities while further enhancing interoperability with the United States and other allies, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency said.

This year’s Orient Shield is the 36th iteration of an exercise aimed at “improving interoperability and testing and refining cross-domain and cross-domain operations,” according to Orient Shield’s Facebook page. Training so far has covered cyber and space skills, but has mainly focused on “long-range fire, aviation, ground operations and moving equipment by sea,” Chelala said.

The exercise takes place amid growing Chinese aggression against Taiwan, which has caused great concern in Washington and Tokyo. State Department spokesman Ned Price said Wednesday that Washington has “repeatedly urged Beijing to end its military, diplomatic and economic pressure on Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue with Taiwan.”

Meanwhile, Japan’s Deputy Prime Minister Aso Taro said Tuesday that Tokyo must “defend Taiwan” should China invade. He later went back to his testimony and said Japan is “watching the situation closely.”