This post has been updated to correct the hull number of the former USS St. Louis. It’s LKA-116, not LKA-117.
The high-end biennial Valiant Shield exercise kicked off in Guam and the Northern Mariana Islands on Sunday, with some of the Navy’s and Marine Corps’ most advanced platforms participating in the weeklong event.
The exercise – a high-end, U.S.-only follow-up to the large-scale multi-national Rim of the Pacific exercise every other year – features more than a dozen ships, 160 aircraft and 15,000 personnel from all four military branches. This is the seventh iteration of the exercise, which began in 2006.
“We are excited to be here for exercise Valiant Shield as Guam gives us a world-class joint-training opportunity,” exercise director Rear Adm. Daniel Dwyer said in a news release.
“The Marianas Island Range Complex is a premier training environment that allows the joint force a unique opportunity to come together and train side-by-side at the high end.”
To support that high-end warfighting training, the exercise will feature the Marines’ new F-35B Joint Strike Fighter for the first time ever; two P-8A Poseidon maritime multi-mission aircraft squadrons; and guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG-69), the most recent ship to go through a combat system upgrade and be rotated into the forward-deployed naval forces in U.S. 7th Fleet.
Participating forces will conduct missions that include maritime interdiction; defensive counter-air operations; personnel recovery; intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; anti-submarine warfare; and command and control, U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Tim Gorman told USNI News.
Valiant Shield will also include a sinking exercise (SINKEX), in which ships and aircraft will shoot at and sink decommissioned USS St. Louis (LKA-116). PACFLT did not comment on the specifics of the SINKEX, but two SINKEXs at RIMPAC in July included multiple Harpoon missile shots, as well as the U.S. Army firing a Naval Strike Missile from a Palletized Load System ashore.
So far, according to captions from photos of the exercise, USS Shoup (DDG-86) has launched Tomahawk cruise missiles, and Milius and guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) launched Standard Missile-2s.
Not included in the exercise are any amphibious ships. Amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD-1) had been hosting the F-35Bs from Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons (VMFA) 121 but is currently supporting disaster relief efforts following Typhoon Mangkhut, along with dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD-48) and Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.
Naval forces participating in Valiant Shield 2018 include:
- Aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and Carrier Air Wing 5
- Guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62)
- Guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG-54)
- Guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG-69)
- Guided-missile destroyer USS Shoup (DDG-86)
- Guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65)
- Guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73)
- Dry cargo ship USNS Cesar Chavez (T-AKE-14)
- Maritime prepositioning ship USNS 2ND LT John P. Bobo (T-AK-3008)
- Large, medium-speed, roll-on/roll-off ship USNS Dahl (T-AKR-312)
- Fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204)
- Aviation Logistics Support (Roll-on/Roll-off) Container Ship SS Curtiss (T-AVB-4)
- P-8A Poseidons from Patrol Squadron (VP) 8 and VP-26, out of Jacksonville, Fla.
- P-3C Orion anti-submarine and maritime patrol aircraft from VP-40 and VP-46 and EP-3E Aries II from Fleet Air Reconnaissance Squadron (VQ) 1, all under Patrol and Reconnaissance Wing 10 in Whidbey Island, Wash.; along with personnel from the air wing and Task Force 72
- MH-60S Knighthawk helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat (HSC) Squadron 25, the Navy’s only forward-deployed expeditionary squadron of MH-60Ss, which operates out of Andersen Air Force Base in Guam
- F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters from Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons (VMFA) 121
- F/A-18D Hornets from VMFA (all weather) 225
- MV-22 Ospreys from Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 265
- A detachment from Marine Air Control Group 18
- KC-130J Hercules tankers from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 152
- Marine Wing Support Squadron (MWSS) 171
- Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron (MALS) 12
- Marine Air Command Squadron (MACS) 4
- Personnel from 1st Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), and Marine Aircraft Group 12
- Personnel from and Task Force 75
- Coastal Riverine Squadron 2
- Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit 5
- 30th Naval Construction Regiment
- Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 4
- Naval Mobile Construction Battalion (NMCB) 11
- Underwater Construction Team 2
- Mobile Dive and Salvage Unit 1
- Construction Battalion Maintenance Unit 303
- Navy Expeditionary Intelligence Command