RIMPAC 2018 Ends on a High Note
By Felipe Lagos/Diálogo August 28, 2018The world’s largest multinational maritime exercise, held June 27th-August 2nd, concluded after a month of rigorous training within the Hawaiian Islands and its waters. Hosted by the U.S. Navy’s Pacific Fleet, Rim of the Pacific 2018 (RIMPAC) gathered more than 25,000 service members, 45 surface ships, five submarines, and more than 200 aircraft from 25 countries.
Under the slogan Capable, Adaptive, Partners, RIMPAC 2018 focused on natural disaster, maritime security and control operations, as well as complex warfare exercises. International military forces demonstrated their skills through artillery, missiles, antisubmarine and air defense exercises, counter-piracy missions, mine clearance, explosive ordnance disposal, and amphibious operations, among others.
Service members from Australia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, France, Germany, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, South Korea, the United Kingdom, and the United States, among others, combined efforts for RIMPAC 2018. Israel, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam participated for the first time.
Another first for the exercise was the nomination of the Chilean Navy as the Combined Force Maritime Component Commander (CFMCC), under the command of Chilean Navy Rear Admiral Pablo Niemann Figari. For the first time in RIMPAC’s 40-plus years, a non-English speaking navy spearheaded CFMCC.
“Nearly all goals of each participating nation were met,” Rear Adm. Niemann said. “Likewise, instructions or requirements of the command [U.S. Navy Vice Admiral John Alexander, Combined Task Force commander for RIMPAC 2018] were also fulfilled.”
Disaster response and naval warfare
Participants of RIMPAC 2018 responded to a simulated natural disaster at Pearl Harbor-Hickam Joint Base, on Oahu island, Hawaii. According to the scenario, a large-scale earthquake and tsunami hit the island, causing structural damage to infrastructure, death, and many injuries. The natural disaster prompted the U.S. government to request international military help.
Services members from 10 countries took part in the humanitarian assistance simulation to rescue hundreds of patients—300 civilian volunteers—provide first aid, and transport victims by helicopter and ambulance to hospitals in Hawaii. Organizations such as the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, and the U.S. Agency for International Development, among others, took part in the civil-military exercise.
Five submarines—the U.S. Navy’s USS Hawaii, USS Illinois, and USS Olympia; the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Rankin; and the South Korean Navy’s ROKS Park Wi—also carried out various operations The submarines performed three missions: amphibious, antisubmarine warfare, and support for special operations forces.
Submarines supported a multinational special operations force—with units from seven countries—as it conducted an amphibious landing on the coast of Oahu. Submarine crew members also participated in detection and evasion exercises with surface ships and various aircraft. Another event that stood out: the live shot from USS Olympia of a Harpoon anti-ship cruise missile. The missile successfully hit its target, a retired ship sunk for that purpose. Through the exercises, participants demonstrated tactical maneuvering capabilities and interoperability among participating nations.
“Multinational operations are complicated,” Vice Adm. Alexander said. “It takes skill to assemble an international team and have it be successful […]. This team proved they work great together and can adapt quickly to a dynamic environment.”
The U.S Navy’s Third Fleet (C3F) debuted the Innovation Fair, held June 29th-30th. Twenty-two countries took part in the exhibition that featured sonar equipment, unmanned submarine vehicles, virtual reality technology, and advances in the medical and space fields.
The fair served as a forum for technology exchange among partner nations. C3F expects to increase the reach of the fair for RIMPAC 2020.
The Chilean Marine Corps’ participation was also unprecedented, with 25 service members joining landing forces at RIMPAC 2018. Chilean marines trained with their international counterparts and performed tasks successfully.
“It’s a great honor to represent our Marine Corps in marking its 200 years of history,” Chilean Marine Corps Second Lieutenant Ernesto Iribarne said. “Some of our personnel expected to meet highly superior units in terms of equipment and capabilities, and actually I feel we brought about the surprise. Many marines from different countries were surprised with our equipment and readiness.”
Held since 1971, the biannual exercise seeks to strengthen interoperability among the armed forces of the Pacific basin—as well as other countries—to promote stability and ensure the safety of maritime routes in the region. The exercise helps strengthen bonds of friendship among partner nations.
“I couldn’t be more proud of our international teams’ ability to successfully complete an exercise of this nature,” Vice Adm. Alexander said. “We were able to conclude the exercise safely and to reach the national training goals. This is a true testament to the talent and lasting partnerships we built through RIMPAC.”