Over Coffee #1: October 2019 in Naval Exercises

I’ve decided to split the Thoughts & Coffee column. Previously, the column was intended to contain my commentaries, but I’d like to have a place to organize a weekly curated feed of news based on my interests. To kick off the column, I decided to begin by going through the naval exercises that happened in October.

The start of the month saw three prominent naval exercises.

The 23rd Malabar Exercise, a trilateral naval exercise involving India, United States, and Japan, commenced on 26 September to 4 October. Participating in the exercise covered surface, anti-air, and anti-submarine warfare operations, and also included interdiction operations and protocol visits. Participating vessels: India (FFG Sahyadri and ASW corvette Kiltan); US (USS McCampbell and a Los Angeles-class submarine); and Japan (the Izumo-class JS Kaga, the Murasame-class JS Samidare, and the Kongou-class JS Choukai). 

From 24 September to 11 October, the United States and Singapore carried out their “Pacific Griffin” exercise at the Guam naval base. Participating in the “full spectrum exercises”, covering anti-air, anti-surface, and anti-submarine warfare, were two Singaporean frigates—the RSS Formidable and Intrepid—along with two S-70B Seahawks. From the American side: the USS Gabrielle Giffords (a Littoral Combat Ship), the USS Momsen (destroyer), USNS Amelia Earhart, and a Los Angeles-class submarine supported by P-8 Poseidon aircraft and Hawker Hunter fighter jets. 

Over in NATO waters, Dynamic Mariner/Flotex-19 ran from 7-18 October. Involving 18 NATO allies (lbania, Bulgaria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, and United States), the exercise held off the coast of Spain aims to increase interoperability between NATO members. The exercise saw the deployment of 32 surface vessels, 2 submarines, and 18 air assets.

Though not technically counting as a naval exercise, China sent the Taiyuan  131, a Type 052D destroyer, to Sagami Bay to participate in an international naval review held by Japan on 15 October. This is actually a first for China, since it has never joined such reviews held by Japan in the past. It also came at the same time when South Korea wasn’t invited. The gesture was intended to “promote the sound development of China-Japan relations”. From a US perspective however, the move was considered part of China’s growing ‘charm offensive’ through military diplomacy.

Towards the middle and end of the month, there were two notable exercises in the Indo-Pacific.

On 21 October, the 5th Fleet hosted the International Maritime Exercise 2019 (IMX 19) in which more than 50 partner nations and 7 international organizations participated. The exercise spans from the Suez Canal to the Northern Arabian Gulf, and includes staff training, table-top exercises, fleet training exercises, and force redeployment. VADM Jim Malloy, Commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command, said, “I’m proud that we have participation from nations all over the world, especially in leadership positions of multiple task forces. Stability and security in the maritime domain is a shared goal of all nations.”

On 22 October, Brunei and the United States held their annual CARAT exercise. Represented by the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, the United States along with Brunei simulated securing a beachhead and jungle warfare. According to Cmdr Janice Pollard, the exercises “shows the United States’ commitment to the region and strengthens longstanding maritime partnerships with our allies.”

So that pretty much covers this October in naval exercises. Many of these naval exercises serve operational and strategic purposes for the countries involved, especially for the United States. Most importantly, these exercises help keep navies in shape while at the same time, affirming security commitments to partners.

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