World’s largest naval drill kicks off in Hawaii

Ships of the U.S., Chilean, Peruvian, French and Canadian navies participate in a photo exercise in the Pacific Ocean, Jun. 24, 2018. Photo: US Navy

Over fifty ships and submarines from 26 nations gathered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam for the start of the world’s largest naval drill – RIMPAC 2018 – which kicked off June 27.

Taking place in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California, the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise is scheduled to conclude on August 2, after well over a month of professional interactions.

This is the first time Brazil, Israel, Sri Lanka and Vietnam are participating in RIMPAC. Brazil was expected to join RIMPAC 2016 but canceled shortly before the exercise started, citing “unforeseen scheduling commitments”.

This year’s exercise includes forces from 26 nations but among the navies contributing vessels to the drill are Australia (with ships headlined by LHD HMAS Adelaide), Canada (with two frigates, two patrol vessels and the brand new AOR Asterix), Chile (with frigate Almirante Lynch), France (with frigate Prairial which was also part of RIMPAC 2016), India (with frigate INS Sahyadri), Indonesia (with recently-commissioned KRI Raden Eddy Martadinata), Japan (represented by helicopter carrier JS Ise), Malaysia (with frigate KD Lekiu), Mexico (with tank landing ship ARM Usumacinta), the Netherlands, New Zealand (with HMNZS Te Mana), Peru (with BAP Ferré), the Republic of Korea (with Chang Bogo-class submarine ROKS Park Wi and destroyers), the Republic of the Philippines (with frigate BRP Andres Bonifacio and amphibious landing dock Davao del Sur), Singapore (with RSS Tenacious) and the US Navy with a number of ships and submarines with aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson at the helm.

This year’s edition of the exercise will be the first time a non-founding RIMPAC nation (Chile) will hold a component commander leadership position. This year will also feature live firing of a Long Range Anti-Ship Missile (LRASM) from a U.S. Air Force aircraft, surface to ship missiles by the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force, and a Naval Strike Missile (NSM) from a launcher on the back of a Palletized Load System (PLS) by the U.S. Army.

This marks the first time a land based unit will participate in the live fire event during RIMPAC. RIMPAC 18 will also include international band engagements and highlight fleet innovation during an Innovation Fair.

Additionally, for the first time since RIMPAC 2002, US 3rd Fleet’s Command Center will relocate from San Diego to Pearl Harbor to support command and control of all 3rd Fleet forces in 3rd Fleet’s area of responsibility to include forces operating forward in the Western Pacific. The Fleet Command Center will be established at a deployable joint command and control on Hospital Point for the first part of the exercise and then transition to USS Portland (LPD 27) for the remainder of the exercise.

Hosted by Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, RIMPAC 2018 will be led by Commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, Vice Adm. John D. Alexander, who will serve as combined task force (CTF) commander.

Royal Canadian Navy Rear Adm. Bob Auchterlonie will serve as CTF deputy commander, and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force Rear Adm. Hideyuki Oban as CTF vice commander.

Fleet Marine Force will be led by U.S. Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Mark Hashimoto. Other key leaders of the multinational force will include Commodore Pablo Niemann of Armada de Chile, who will command the maritime component, and Air Commodore Craig Heap of the Royal Australian Air Force, who will command the air component.

RIMPAC 2018 is the 26th exercise in the series that began in 1971.

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