In total, the exercises, based in Honolulu and San Diego, will see military units from 26 countries participating from June 29 to August 4. They’ll employ 38 surface ships, four submarines and 170 aircraft in the exercises, the US Navy’s 3rd Fleet said in a statement on Tuesday. Around 25,000 personnel will participate, including ground troops from nine countries.
A “free and open Indo-Pacific” has been a US mantra as China has been building up its forces and expanding its reach in the region, including militarizing islands in the South China Sea, almost all of which it claims as its sovereign territory.
Three nations with competing claims to China’s — the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei — will take part in RIMPAC 2022. Indonesia, which borders the South China Sea and has seen recent maritime tensions with China, will also take part, as will Singapore, which sits at the southwestern entrance to the 1.3 million-square-mile sea.
Meanwhile, the Quad countries — the United States, India, Japan and Australia — have been deepening military cooperation as all have seen increasing competition with China around the region.
The exercises will include drills focusing on “amphibious operations, gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defense exercises, as well as counter-piracy operations, mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal, and diving and salvage operations,” the US Navy said.
“RIMPAC 2022 contributes to the increased interoperability, resiliency and agility needed … to deter and defeat aggression by major powers across all domains and levels of conflict.
“During RIMPAC, a network of capable, adaptive partners train and operate together in order to strengthen their collective forces and promote a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Carl Schuster, a former director of operations at the US Pacific Command’s Joint Intelligence Center, said besides the military value, the RIMPAC lineup shows the political clout Washington maintains worldwide.
“It signifies the strength and breadth of America’s global maritime partnerships, a very important deterrent signal to any potential aggressors who may believe Washington’s influence and strategic position, especially that of its navy, is in decline.
“RIMPAC’s broad international participation proves that is not the case,” Schuster said.
The upcoming exercises will be the 28th edition of RIMPAC, which began in 1971.