Australia, Japan, Korea, US launch inaugural naval drill Pacific Vanguard

U.S. 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), arrives in Apra Harbor, Guam, on May 20, ahead of exercise Pacific Vanguard. Photo: US Navy

Ships from the navies of Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea and the United States arrived in Guam, May 22, to take part in the first ever cooperative maritime training exercise called Pacific Vanguard.

Pacific Vanguard brings together more than 3,000 sailors from four Indo-Pacific nations to sharpen skills and strengthen practical cooperation at sea.

The exercise takes place on Guam and around the Marianas Island Range Complex.

“Pacific Vanguard joins forces from four, like-minded maritime nations that provide security throughout the Indo-Pacific based on shared values and common interests,” said Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, commander of US 7th Fleet. “This exercise advances the integration of our forces, and enables an effective collaborative response to a range of events that might occur in the region.”

During the exercise, forces will combine to practice a wide range of naval competencies, including combined maneuvers, live fire exercises, defensive counter-air operations, anti-submarine warfare, and replenishment at sea.

Representing Australia are Royal Australian Navy frigates HMAS Melbourne (FFG 05) and HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154).

“Australia is committed to the security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific and is proud to be part of this important initiative with our regional partners”, said Rear Adm. Jonathan Mead, the Royal Australian Navy’s Fleet Commander. “By working together as a multilateral task group, we deepen interoperability and enable success when our navies cooperate in future exercises and operations.”

The Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force sent destroyers JS Ariake (DD 109) and JS Asahi (DD 119).

“I am grateful for Vice Adm. Sawyer’s strong leadership toward this exercise,” said Vice Adm. Hiroyuki Kasui, commander-in-chief, Self Defense Fleet. “It is a very valuable opportunity for the four countries to conduct a high-end exercise in the Western Pacific region and I have high expectations of this very first Pacific Vanguard.”

The Republic of Korea Navy sent destroyer ROKS Wang Geon (DDH 978).

“It is both meaningful and significant that we are here together to further strengthen our friendship,” said Vice Adm. Park Ki-kyung, commander, Republic of Korea Fleet. “I believe that this exercise is a golden opportunity to enhance the interoperability among the four nations and take our operational and tactical capabilities to the next level.”

Representing US 7th Fleet are its flagship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) and dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4). Aircraft from the “Scorpions” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ 132) and the “Mad Foxes” of Patrol Squadron (VP 5) will also participate.

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