Locklear: RIMPAC Exemplifies Pacom’s Multilateral Focus
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
CANBERRA, Australia, July 12, 2012 The militaries of 22 nations are participating in the largest-ever Rim of the Pacific exercise that the top U.S. commander in the region said exemplifies the type of multilateral cooperation U.S. Pacific Command is working to promote.
Sailors man the rails aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz as it passes the USS Arizona Memorial in Pearl Harbor to participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific 2012 exercise, the world’s largest international maritime exercise, July 2, 2012. Twenty-two nations, more than 40 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 military personnel are participating in RIMPAC exercise from June 29 to Aug. 3, in and around the Hawaiian Islands. U.S. Navy photo by Navy Mass Communications Specialist Keith W. DeVinney
(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.
This year’s RIMPAC kicked off in Hawaii and its surrounding waters June 29 and continues through Aug. 3. It includes 40 ships, six submarines and more than 200 aircraft from militaries throughout the region, as well as about 25,000 military forces.
The biennial exercise, with the theme, “Capable, Adaptive Partners,” is focused on enhancing the interoperability of participating forces and improving their ability to work together in missions ranging from maritime security operations to disaster relief.
“This is probably one of the best examples of the large, multilateral support cooperation that you can find in the military today,” Navy Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, the Pacom commander, said of the exercise.
While most of the participating nations are from the Pacific Rim, including Australia, Indonesia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, South Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Tonga, and Japan, nations such as Mexico and India are also taking part.
Regional countries participating in the exercise, the admiral told American Forces Press Service, recognize themselves as Asia-Pacific nations with a shared interest in ensuring a secure, stable region. “You have countries that operate together in a peaceful way that are cooperating, working on interconnecting and exchanging information,” he said.
Navy Adm. Cecil Haney, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, emphasized the importance of that cooperation during a news conference kicking off the exercise. “Roughly 70 percent of the world is covered by water. Eighty percent of the world’s population lives on or near the coast, and 90 percent of our international commerce moves by sea,” he said. “So it requires capable maritime forces to help ensure that stability and economic prosperity around the world. RIMPAC helps partnering nations prove that capability.”
Between training opportunities, exercise participants are getting to know each other personally through receptions, picnics and softball games. “They are learning each other’s cultures within the context of the world’s largest maritime exercise,” Locklear said. “These are the types of vehicles that allow multilateral viewpoints to merge.”
Multilateral cooperation is a cornerstone of Pacom’s rebalancing efforts in the region, the admiral said.
He noted the United States’ national policies that fostered close bilateral ties in the wake of World War II, which then evolved over time to encourage more trilateral relationships. Now, in light of challenges that impact the entire region -- from natural disasters to proliferation to trafficking -- Pacom is promoting multilateral cooperation.
“RIMPAC is an excellent example of the large, multilateral efforts we are working to achieve,” Locklear said. “And we are getting traction from other countries in Asia and the Pacific who want to do more of these.”
Although RIMPAC originated in 1971 with a maritime focus and remains the world’s largest international maritime exercise, it has expanded to also incorporate Air Force, Army, special operations and amphibious components. “It’s no longer just a maritime exercise. It has grown in scope and become a joint exercise, and we would like to see it continue to grow in that regard,” Locklear said.
This year’s exercise includes another first, with the United States extending command responsibility to partner militaries. The commander of the Royal Australian Navy is serving as naval commander, and the commander of the Royal Canadian Air Force is overseeing air force operations. An admiral from the Japan Maritime Defense Force is serving as deputy commander of the exercises.
Locklear called this transition a clear recognition of allies’ and partners’ leadership capabilities and an opportunity for them to exercise them in a large-scale combined exercise. “Many of our allies in the Asia-Pacific have had leadership roles in Afghanistan and Iraq,” he noted. “This provides another opportunity for them to demonstrate that proficiency and for us to learn from that.”
Australian Commodore Stuart Mayer, who is leading the Australian forces during the exercise, said RIMPAC provides unique opportunities for everyone involved.
“The global maritime environment is too large and too complex for any one nation to safeguard,” he said. “RIMPAC helps all of us foster and sustain the cooperative relationships that are so critical to safeguarding sea lanes and security on the world’s oceans.”
RIMPAC 2012 also features the first demonstration of a U.S. Navy “Great Green Fleet,” a major milestone toward the Navy’s energy goals. During the exercise, U.S. surface combatants and carrier-based aircraft are testing, evaluating and demonstrating the utility and functionality of biofuels across various platforms, officials said.