‘RIMPAC’ naval presence underlines Indo-Pacific/Euro-Atlantic strategic linkage

USS Carl Vinson
The USN’s Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson transits US 3rd Fleet’s area of operations in the Pacific, en route to ‘RIMPAC 24’. The exercise will feature a focus on integrated CSG warfighting operations.

The US Navy’s (USN’s) major biennial ‘Rim of the Pacific’ (‘RIMPAC’) exercise got underway off Hawaii on 27 June, with the exercise’s routine multinational presence including navies ‘homeported’ in both the Indo-Pacific and Euro-Atlantic theatres.

This mix of participating navies underlines the increased interlinking between the strategic-level security and stability matters persisting within and across these two theatres. Conventional war in Europe and the international focus on deterring further conflict there and in the Indo-Pacific underline this linkage.

‘RIMPAC’ is hosted by US Pacific Fleet, with ‘RIMPAC 24’ led by US 3rd Fleet. 29 countries are participating. The ‘RIMPAC 24’ naval ‘orbat’ includes 40 surface ships, three submarines, over 150 aircraft, and 14 landing force units. While exercise vignettes continue ‘RIMPAC’ focus on high-end, multi-domain, complex naval warfare disciplines like amphibious, anti-submarine, and surface warfare, notable within a Commander Pacific Fleet press statement, released on 24 June, was that the vignettes will include multi-axis carrier strike group (CSG) defence against live forces.

This mirrors the continuing evolution across Western naval exercises of building complexity relating to integrated tactical-level warfighting development.

Western navies across the Indo-Pacific and Euro-Atlantic theatres are focused on complex, high-level warfighting, including integrated CSG operations. In the latter context, this includes not only CSG-operating navies, but their close partners that contribute surface ships to CSG deployments.

One such navy is the Royal Netherlands Navy (RNLN), which often contributes its De Zeven Provincien-class air-defence and command frigates to work with NATO allies’ CSGs. For example, HNLMS Evertsen deployed with the UK Royal Navy’s HMS Queen Elizabeth CSG for its CSG21 deployment that, between May and December 2021, sailed from the North Atlantic to the North Pacific and back.

For ‘RIMPAC 24’, Evertsen’s sister frigate HNLMS Tromp is present, as part of an extended Indo-Pacific deployment. Tromp sailed first for the Red Sea, where the ship supported both the USN-led ‘Prosperity Guardian’ and the European Union Naval Force-led ‘Aspides’ operations, which are both designed to deter Yemen-based Houthi rebel attacks on commercial and naval shipping transiting the Red Sea/Bab-al-Mandeb/Gulf of Aden corridor. It then sailed across the Indian Ocean and into the Pacific for a port visit in Busan, South Korea, prior to heading out to conduct maritime security patrols in the North Pacific and then heading on to ‘RIMPAC’.

At ‘RIMPAC’, CSG presence will be provided by the USN’s Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson.

Alongside Tromp, European naval presence includes the French Navy’s FREMM frigate FS Bretagne, the German Navy’s Type 125 frigate FGS Baden-Wurttemberg and Type 702 tanker FGS Frankfurt Am Main, and the Italian Navy’s (ITN’s) PPA offshore patrol vessel ITS Raimondo Montecuccoli.

Three other European countries – Belgium, Denmark, and the UK – are participating.

The ITN’s Raimondo Montecuccoli is deployed to the Indo-Pacific on a five-month patrol. The ITN has also just sent the ITS Cavour CSG to the region.

France and the UK have territorial interests in the Indo-Pacific theatre. The UK and the Netherlands have previously announced plans to conduct regular naval deployments there.

by Dr. Lee Willett