All 25 nations that were invited to participate with the United States in Rim of the Pacific in 2018 have been formally asked to return to Hawaii in mid-August for a version of the exercise that’s truncated and mainly at sea due to coronavirus concerns, the Navy said.
The Navy’s Third Fleet in San Diego, which plans RIMPAC, added details including the invitee list after announcing April 29 that the big maritime interoperability exercise held every two years was still on, but has been pushed back from late June and trimmed from over a month to two weeks.
The exercise is scheduled Aug. 17 to 31, and is only being held in Hawaii and not also in Southern California as was the case two years ago.
“Since the new exercise design at-sea was recently announced, we are still receiving notifications from invited nations,” Lt. Rochelle Rieger, deputy public affairs officer for Third Fleet, said in an email Thursday.
Twenty-five nations, 46 surface ships, five submarines, 17 land forces, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in 2018.
The exercise included forces from Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, South Korea, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam. Brazil dropped out but has been reinvited.
Israel will not participate this year due to COVID-19, The Jerusalem Post reported.
Most ships refuel and replenish at sea during RIMPAC, Rieger said. Some nations do not have that capability and will be handled on a case-by-case basis, she said.
There will be no partner nation aircraft in Hawaii, Rieger added. “Any U.S. aircraft participating in RIMPAC will operate out of Hickam just as the base is operating today,” she said.
U.S. Pacific Fleet said it crafted the at-sea RIMPAC “as a way to conduct a meaningful exercise with maximum training value and minimum risk to the force, allies and partners, and the people of Hawaii.” No social events will be held ashore.
U.S. Rep Ed Case of Hawaii said in a Hawaii Public Radio interview that the military “did the right thing” with this year’s RIMPAC and that he disagreed with those calling for cancellation.
“RIMPAC is an incredibly important joint exercise between us and our allies that is absolutely necessary to our country’s national defense” in the region, he said.
Aiming to get needed training “in terms of really, more of an onshore virtual RIMPAC with an active offshore component with very, very little contact back with Hawaii — I think was entirely appropriate,” Case said.