PEARL HARBOR – The growing security environment in the Pacific demands now more than ever that like-minded nations join forces to build trust and collective strength to ensure a continuing free and open Pacific for all nations. It is my honor to be standing side-by-side with capable, adaptive partners hosting Rim of the Pacific 2020 exercise (RIMPAC).
Ten nations will be participating in this year’s RIMPAC, the world’s largest international maritime warfare exercise held biennially in the waters surrounding Hawaii. This marks the 27th iteration hosted by the United States in the series that began in 1971.
In partnership with the state of Hawaii, 22 surface ships, one submarine, multiple aircraft and approximately 5,300 personnel from Australia, Brunei, Canada, France, Japan, Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, and the United States will join forces August 17 to August 31. This year’s RIMPAC exercise will include several realistic, high-end warfighting training events including live gunnery and missile firings, a sinking exercise, multinational anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare, air defense, replenishment at sea, maneuvering and maritime interdictions operations where all nations will function as interoperable task forces.
RIMPAC 2020 welcomes naval leadership from Australia and Republic of Korea to serve as task forces commanders responsible for directing, monitoring and safety of assigned force while executing the RIMPAC schedule of events, and report directly to the RIMPAC lead, commander, U.S. 3rd Fleet, Vice Adm. Scott D. Conn.
Although not all nations invited were able to participate due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic that began in the region, I am confident that all RIMPAC participants are committed to applying lessons’ learned from this year’s exercise and work with all like-minded nations throughout the year.
The at-sea-only construct for RIMPAC 2020 is an innovative solution to hold the exercise while ensuring the safety of all military forces participating by minimizing shore-based contingents. This modified plan allows us to conduct a meaningful exercise with maximum training value and minimum risk to the force, allies and partners, and the people of Hawaii.
While COVID-19 presents some challenges, we restructured every element of RIMPAC this year to ensure that the people of Hawai‘i and our international partners remain healthy. This year’s exercise is an at-sea-only iteration and additional mitigations are put in place to ensure there will be no interaction between the exercise and the people of Hawai‘i.
Aquilino is the commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet.