(BIVN) – The 27th Rim of the Pacific military exercise, RIMPAC 2020, is now being held at sea around the Hawaiian Islands. Ten nations, 22 ships, 1 submarine, and more than 5,300 personnel are participating in the event from August 17 to August 31.
This year’s RIMPAC – a biennial exercise “designed to foster and sustain cooperative relationships, critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region”, according to the U.S. military – is being held at-sea-only due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Among the videos released to the public showing naval ships sailing in formation and launches from guided-missile destroyers, was a message from Commander of the U.S. 3rd Fleet, Vice Adm. Scott D. Conn. Here is a transcript of his statement:
Before I get begin, I want to thank the State of Hawaiʻi and local communities for the continued support of the Navy and allowing us to conduct this training. It is so critical to ensuring a free and open IndoPacific region.
I want to say up front that everything we are doing for impact has been carefully and deliberately planned to ensure everyone’s safety. As you may know, RIMPAC 2020 will be an at-sea-only exercise due to the ongoing cove in 19 pandemic. This construct was developed to ensure the safety of the citizens of Hawaiʻi and all the sailors embarked on the shifts participating this year.
I want to quickly highlight some of the COVID-19 measures we have put in place for RIMPAC 2020, an at-sea-only exercise, to help safeguard against COVID-19.
A 14-day quarantine and negative COVID-19 test were required for all US ships who traveled to Hawaiʻi. If needed, US ships will be able to conduct COVID-19 tests at sea. Similarly, some of our partner nation ships will have testing capability. There is no plan to bring COVID-19 specimens ashore. If an emergency medical situation arises that exceeds a ship’s ability to resolve, on-island military facilities have sufficient capability to medically support RIMPAC 2020. We did not plan to use any local healthcare resources.
When you see shifts pier side at Pearl, it’s because they’re taking on fuel, food or other supplies. Their sailors will not leave those piers, nor will they have any contact with anyone on those piers.
We have limited number of personnel supporting RIMPAC ashore. In 2018, our exercise control group was made up of roughly 600 people. For Rimpac 2020, we’ve pared that down to less than 100 people and all those 100 people completed a 14-day quarantine at a military installation and all have presented a negative COVID-19 test.
Originally, RIMPAC 2020 had planned to include up 30 countries, more than 50 ships and submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel – 4000 of those which we’re gonna operate ashore. That would have been the largest RIMPAC to date. We obviously have scaled that down to 10 nations, 22 ships, one submarine and approximately 5300 personnel, all who remained at sea or on ships.
Now that I’ve discussed how we’re tackling to the challenge of COVID-19, I want to talk a little bit about the exercise itself.
The flags you see behind me represent a formidable team of 10 navies from Australia, Brunei, Canada, France, Japan, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Republic of the Philippines, Singapore and United States, all of whom will spend the next two weeks training through a serious events designed to improve our ability to operate together. This year, we will focus solely on war fighting in the maritime domain to include anti surface warfare, anti submarine warfare and maritime interdiction operations, as well as some robust live fire events.
During all the at-sea events, all important partner nations understand the importance of preserving and protecting the unique maritime environment that makes it so special.
RIMPAC represents a unique opportunity to strengthen relationships and build trust. The work we’ll do here will make us more capable and adaptive, ready to meet any challenge – being a threat to international commerce and prosperity, or a natural disaster that requires a response from the sea.
In spite of COVID-19, the world has not stopped, nor have the demands for the free flow of commerce across the world’s oceans. Our collective prosperity depends on this, and we need to continue safe guarding it.
While we have the ability to surge ships and people, we cannot surge trust. In times of crisis, whether man-made or natural disasters, the time to establish interoperability and forge key relationships is not in the midst of a crisis response. We went to have those personal relationships and trust already well established. That is why we continue to conduct RIMPAC exercises every two years. That is why we made the calculated decision to proceed with RIMPAC 2020. To demonstrate to ourselves and the world that are navies and nations have the resolve to come together in times of crisis.
I can speak on everyone’s behalf and saying that we will certainly miss the interactions we typically have with a community. However, we’re not going to be able to do that this year. The health and safety of the citizens of Hawaiʻi, well as our US and partner nations sailors, is our priority. I am honored to leave this exercise, and I’m proud of all the men and women who are at sea as I speak, ready to make RIMPAC 2020 a success. We received several questions from the press, which I will answers separately in written form.
I again want the fact the state of Hawaiiʻ for the continuous support. Without it , we wouldn’t have this opportunity to train together as partners and allies. Thank you.