More than 20 nations and 25,000 personnel are expected to participate in RIMPAC maritime exercises in Hawaii from late June to early August, the Navy said today.
Despite ongoing COVID-19 and a reduced 2020 effort, the planning marks a return to the grand scale of the interoperability and combat drills of 2018. The prestigious Rim of the Pacific exercises are held every two years.
Ten nations, 22 ships, one submarine and approximately 5,300 personnel participated in an at-sea-only version of the exercise two years ago that was cut in half to about two weeks.
“While RIMPAC 2020 featured at-sea-only training events conducted around the Hawaiian Islands as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 exercise is expected to more closely resemble the 2018 iteration, though still with COVID mitigation measures in place, with more than four dozen units and approximately 25,000 personnel participating both afloat and ashore,” the 3rd Fleet in San Diego, which plans RIMPAC, said today in a release.
Among the participating ships expected for the drills is a 610-foot Zumwalt-class destroyer that has a unique wave-piercing “tumblehome” bow. The three Zumwalt destroyers being delivered to the Navy are planned to have a key role firing hypersonic and other missiles in the Pacific in years to come.
This week, 3rd Fleet hosted the mid-planning conference for RIMPAC 2022 at Naval Base Point Loma. Participants from all countries scheduled for RIMPAC 2022 were in attendance at the weeklong conference that affords attendees the opportunity to share information and integrate planning efforts, the Navy said.
“This planning conference represents a planning and integration effort occurring between more than 20 nations,” RIMPAC 2022 coordinator Australian Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Dobson said in a release. “It reflects our ability to develop the relationships and partnerships required to meet the needs of each nation’s training and interoperability objectives and ensure we can operate successfully now and into the future.”
The Navy has not revealed which countries are expected to take part in the drills next summer.
3rd Fleet commander Vice Adm. Steve Koehler said the conference “is a much-needed touchpoint during a RIMPAC year that allows us to continue to develop strong relationships with both longstanding partners and newly participating nations.”
Twenty-five nations, 46 surface ships, five submarines, 18 national land forces, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel gathered mainly in Hawaii but also in Southern California for RIMPAC in 2018.
China was disinvited from RIMPAC before the exercise began, but it made an appearance anyway — dispatching a spy ship to international waters off Hawaii.
In 2020, forces from Australia, Brunei, Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of the Philippines, Republic of Korea, Singapore, and the United States participated.
As a COVID-19 precaution, visiting sailors were not allowed off their ships or the adjacent pier during food and fuel stops in Pearl Harbor.
Th exercise included 53 replenishment-at-sea events, 101 pallets of cargo distributed, over 16,000 rounds of small arms munitions shot, over 1,000 large caliber weapons fired, 13 missiles launched, and 1,100 pounds of mail delivered, the Navy previously said.
RIMPAC provides a venue for like-minded nations to fire some of their most advanced missiles, and even though far fewer countries participated, that emphasis was still clear, reflecting strategic competition with China and Russia.
The Pearl Harbor destroyer Chung-Hoon and cruiser Lake Erie out of San Diego, along with the Australian destroyer Hobart, fired SM-2 missiles against BQM-74 drones that replicated enemy cruise missile threats.
The frigate Regina out of Canada was among nations participating in a “sink exercise” or SINKEX, involving the former USS Durham, a 575-foot amphibious cargo ship that saw service in the Vietnam War and participated in the evacuation of Saigon in 1975.
Live fire from ships and aircraft from the United States, Australia, Canada and Brunei sent the ship to the bottom in waters at least 15,000 feet deep about 70 miles northwest of Kauai.