Aerial view of U.S. Naval Base Guam shows US Navy, Royal Australian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Republic of Korea Navy vessels moored in Apra Harbor, in support of Pacific Vanguard, May 22, 2019. Image: Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jasen Moreno-Garcia/US Navy
The naval exercise in the region, Pacific Vanguard, kicked off this week.
Pacific Vanguard is bringing naval forces from Australia, Japan, Korea and the United States to Guam waters and the Marianas Island Range Complex to train together, ensuring readiness to respond to threats in the Indo-Pacific.
“Pacific Vanguard joins forces from four like-minded maritime nations that provide security throughout the Indo-Pacific, based on shared values and common interests,” said Vice Adm. Phil Sawyer, U.S. Seventh Fleet commander spearheading the operation. “The exercise advances the integration of our forces, and enables an effective collaborative response to a range of events that might occur in the region.”
According to a press release, the multilateral exercise has gathered more than 3,000 sailors from these countries around the Pacific rim “to sharpen their skills and strengthen practical cooperation at sea; (practicing) a wide range of naval competencies, including combined maneuvers, live fire exercises, defensive counter-air operations, anti-submarine warfare, and replenishment at sea.”
Royal Australian Navy frigates HMAS Melbourne (FFG 05) and HMAS Parramatta (FFH 154) are representing Australia in the exercise, while destroyers JS Ariake (DD 109) and JS Asahi (DD 119) represent the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force. Destroyer ROKS Wang Geon (DDH 978) is sent by the Republic of Korea Navy.
“Representing U.S. 7th Fleet,” the release also stated, “are its flagship, USS Blue Ridge (LCC 19), guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54), fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) and dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4).
“Aircraft from the ‘Scorpions’ of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ 132) and the ‘Mad Foxes’ of Patrol Squadron (VP 5) will also participate.”
"Australia is committed to the security and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific and is proud to be part of this important initiative with our regional partners. By working together as a multilateral task group, we deepen inter-operability and enable success when our navies cooperate in future exercises and operations," said Rear Adm. Jonathan Mead, Royal Australian Navy's Fleet Commander. Japanese Vice Adm. Hiroyuki Kasui, commander-in-chief, Self Defense Fleet, added: "I am grateful for Vice Adm. Sawyer's strong leadership toward this exercise. It is a very valuable opportunity for the four countries to conduct a high-end exercise in the Western Pacific region, and I have high expectations of this very first Pacific Vanguard."
"It is both meaningful and significant that we are here together to further strengthen our friendship,” said Vice Adm. Park Ki-kyung, commander of the Republic of Korea Fleet. “I believe that this exercise is a golden opportunity to enhance the inter-operability among the four nations and take our operational and tactical capabilities to the next level."
According to its website, Seventh Fleet is the largest forward deployed fleet in the U.S. Navy. Its area of operation (roughly 48 million square miles) stretches from the International Date Line to the India/Pakistan border; and from Kuril Islands in the North to the Antarctic in the South, encompassing 36 maritime countries and 50 percent of the world’s population.
Seven Fleet is home to roughly 50-70 ships and submarines and 140 aircraft with approximately 20,000 sailors. Over 70, it has provided security and stability to the region alongside allies and partners in the area.