The largest maritime security exercise in the world wrapped up last week with 25 nations, five submarines and 46 ships collaborating for a variety of drills around Southern California and Hawaii.
The Rim of the Pacific exercise, hosted by the U.S. Pacific Fleet, started in 1971 and occurs every two years. More than 25,000 personnel participated this year under commanders from the U.S., Canada, Japan, Chile and Australia.
Canadian Navy Rear Adm. Bob Auchterlonie, deputy commander of the combined task force, noted that unexpected snafus including the weather and a target ship being sunk earlier than it should have “impacted our ability to complete all our training according to the plan, but that is also the great part about RIMPAC — our motto is ‘Capable, Adaptive, Partners,’ and all the participating nations demonstrated this.”
“We adjusted plans and drafted new ones in order to ensure each nation got the training value they expected from RIMPAC 2018,” he said.
In addition to military ops, the RIMPAC participants — Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, Republic of Korea, Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam — conducted counter-piracy training, salvage operations, mine clearance and explosive ordnance disposal.
For the first time, the Coast Guard’s Maritime Security Response Team West joined RIMPAC exercises, training off the coast of San Diego with Royal Canadian Navy explosive ordnance disposal technicians from British Columbia’s Fleet Diving Unit Pacific.
“We work closely with a variety of federal law enforcement and other government agencies on a regular basis,” said Coast Guard Senior Chief Petty Officer Richard Young, operations chief for Maritime Security Response Team West. “Routinely, we get aboard the vessel, gain positive control and ensure the vessel is safe prior to turning over custody to another agency or technical unit like EOD techs. Our training today helped us observe and integrate with our Canadian EOD partners to make sure our tactics, techniques, and procedures are aligned before we move into the next phase of the RIMPAC exercise.”
Training under mine warfare Commander Task Force 177, the forces practiced interdicting a high-value, high-threat vessel determined to be carrying improvised explosive devices.
Counter-mine teams were busy during RIMPAC, including the Royal New Zealand Navy serving for the first time as the undersea mine countermeasures commander in the Southern California area of operations. The team conducting the dangerous clearance diving and underwater unmanned vehicle operations was rounded out by Japan, the U.S., Canada and the Netherlands.
In a separate exercise, the U.S. Navy’s Marine Mammal Systems Program deployed its bottlenose dolphins to place markers next to training mines in return for a tasty fish reward.
RIMPAC also included disaster response training, with a simulated earthquake and tsunami scenario and a heavy focus on coordinating military, government and nongovernmental organization response. The Military Sealift Command hospital ship USNS Mercy also conducted a humanitarian assistance and disaster relief exercise.
“A lot of people unfortunately think RIMPAC is just a war exercise and that’s not all it does. It does so much more. The humanitarian assistance disaster relief part is big,” said Chris Crabtree, Hawaii Healthcare Emergency Management Coalition director. “This gives us a chance to practice as a statewide organization to work with our partners and assets that we really don’t have access to outside of RIMPAC.”
U.S. Vice Adm. John D. Alexander, commander of the U.S. 3rd Fleet who served as the combined task force for RIMPAC, said the successful completion of the exercises by the international team “is a true testament to the talent and lasting partnerships we built through RIMPACs past and present, and will continue to build for the foreseeable future.”
“Multinational operations are complicated,” he said. “It takes skill to assemble an international team and have it be successful. Throughout the duration of the exercise, from the planning conferences to the ships returning to port, this team proved they work great together and can adapt quickly to a dynamic environment.”