RIMPAC 2018: Chilean Navy Leads Maritime Component

For the first time, a non-English speaking navy will lead the maritime component of the multinational exercise.
Felipe Lagos/Diálogo | 17 May 2018

International Relations

The Chilean Navy frigate Almirante Lynch (PFG-07) will participate in RIMPAC 2018. Chile will command the Combined Forces Maritime Component. (Photo: Chilean Navy)

The Chilean Navy will take on the role of Combined Force Maritime Component Commander (CFMCC) in the 26th Rim of the Pacific 2018 (RIMPAC) exercise. The world’s largest multinational maritime exercise, hosted by the U.S. Pacific Fleet, will take place June 27th–August 2nd, around the Hawaiian Islands and its waters.

With the designation of CFMCC, the Chilean Navy becomes the first non-English speaking navy to head a component of the combined RIMPAC task forces—an important milestone for Chile and Latin America. U.S., Canadian, and Australian navies previously filled the role.

“Leading RIMPAC 2018 means being part of the group of officers responsible for commanding the task groups that constitute the multinational force, said to Diálogo Chilean Navy Rear Admiral Pablo Niemann Figari, head of the Navy Training Center located in Valparaíso. “In my case, being commander of the maritime component [of RIMPAC] means properly responding to [U.S. Navy] Vice Admiral [John] Alexander, [Combined Tasked Force commander,] during maritime training activities and military operations in the course of the exercise.”

Large-scale exercise

The goal of the biennial exercise, first held in 1971, is to improve the interoperability among the armed forces of countries in the Pacific basin—as well as others outside of the region—to foster stability in the vast expanse of water. The exercise also promotes cooperation among participating countries, strengthens capabilities, and establishes trust and friendship to ensure the safety of maritime routes.

The large-scale mock scenarios include maritime interdiction, ship boarding, and inspection operations, as well as antisubmarine and aerial defense exercises. Participants also increase their diving capabilities and practice rescue tasks and humanitarian disaster relief operations. They also conduct live-fire maneuvers, amphibious landings and attacks, free-fall parachuting, and test cutting-edge technology, among many other activities.

“RIMPAC is an exercise with a long history,” said Rear Adm. Niemann. “In this context, preparations for the exercise are made following a very extensive and complex schedule of planning activities, given the size and number of participants.”

Equipment and troops

The Chilean Navy frigate Almirante Lynch (PFG-07) will participate in the exercise and join the task group of nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson. The crew aboard the Almirante Lynch—the ship is 133 meters long and has a beam of 16.1 meters and antisubmarine and anti-surface capabilities—will account for the majority of the hundreds of members of the Chilean Navy to be mobilized for RIMPAC 2018.

“More than 300 men and women from the Chilean Navy will participate,” said Rear Adm. Niemann. “We will also have a platoon of marines performing amphibious operations and 52 members as part of the General Staff of the CFMCC. Twelve service members from the Army and two from the Air Force will also participate.”

The Chilean Navy Marine Corps will participate in RIMPAC alongside their peers in the U.S. Marine Corps. The U.S. Marine Corps conducted amphibious assault and other exercises during RIMPAC 2016. (Photo: U.S. Navy Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Katarzyna Kobiljak)

Under the command of Chilean Marine Corps Second Lieutenant Ernesto Iribarne, 36 troops from the 21st Marine Corps Battalion Miller will join RIMPAC landing forces. For the first time, Chilean marines, who previously participated as observers, will play an active role in the exercise.

“To have the opportunity to operate alongside the [U.S.] marines meant completing an intense training process to have the capacity to carry out the necessary actions involving land and amphibious combat in war and peace operations,” said 2nd Lt. Iribarne. “It fills us with pride.”

Professional execution

The members of the Chilean Navy to be deployed for RIMPAC were selected based on their professional backgrounds and English proficiency. The service members will put the capabilities gained during regular training to the test and increase interoperability with the navies and marines of world powers.

The anticipation of the Chilean service members is almost palpable—and perhaps more so for those participating in the exercise for the first time. Such is the case for Chilean Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade Cristian Rodríguez, an officer aboard the frigate Lynch, who told Chilean Navy magazine Vigía that he felt “very eager to stand out in the eyes of other countries.”

For Chilean Navy Petty Officer Third Class Danysa Ortiz, head of transmissions on the frigate Lynch, optimizing her English skills is essential. The officer prepared by studying the ship’s procedures manuals, which are in English. “I also watch films without subtitles in my spare time,” said Petty Officer Third Class Ortiz.

Great pride and responsibility

Chile first participated in RIMPAC in 1996 and has participated in every exercise since, only abstaining in 2010. In 2014 and 2016, the country served as second-in-command of the maritime component—first under the Royal Canadian Navy, then the Royal Australian Navy.

“In 2016, at the end of the 25th RIMPAC exercise, the Chilean Navy expressed its interest to the organizing committee in taking on the role of CFMCC in 2018,” concluded Rear Adm. Niemann. “The Chilean Navy receives this designation with great pride and responsibility. We have prepared in advance and with professionalism, knowing that the success of the exercise depends in great measure on how well we run the operations.”

More than 25,000 navy and marine troops from 29 countries will participate in RIMPAC 2018. The exercise will involve around 50 ships, five submarines, more than 200 aircraft, and some 17 land forces. Brazil, Israel, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam will take part in RIMPAC 2018 for the first time.

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