The exercise encourages partnership and understanding but also shows off important new capabilities.
RIMPAC 2016: Bringing China Closer while Displaying Combat Prowess
The U.S. Pacific Fleet-sponsored Rim of the Pacific Exercise, the world’s largest international naval exercise known as “RIMPAC,” wraps up this week off the coasts of Hawaii and Southern California. For the last five weeks, 45 surface ships, five submarines, over 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel from 26 countrieshave conducted drills and exercises ranging from disaster response and maritime security operations to sea control and complex warfighting. Several participants, like Denmark, Germany, Italy, and Norway, are not traditional Pacific nations, while others like France, the Netherlands, and the U.K. have colonial legacies in the region and exercised alongside former subjects who are now naval powers themselves. For all participants, RIMPAC is an opportunity to hone planning, operational, and combat skills while building interoperability, understanding, and partnerships with other nations. U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift said the exercise helps participants cement “the norms, standards, rules, and laws that have provided the great stability and security, the foundation for prosperity, that we all enjoy the last 70 years.” For the United States, it also provided a platform to showcase new warfighting and support capabilities, while expanding non-combat cooperation with China.
RIMPAC saw the demonstration of a wide collection of new combat capabilities and interoperability with partners, from multinational integrated theater missile defense, a coordinated, multinational amphibious assault beach landing, and the use of drones to spot Marine artillery and air support. But two U.S. capabilities stand out in their importance and signaling to potential adversaries in the Pacific: a credible anti-ship capability for the Littoral Combat Ship and the ability for U.S. Navy refueling ships to replenish themselves at sea without having to return to port.
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