Valiant Shield 2020 Kicks Off Today As Joint Force Assembles in Mariana Islands

September 14, 2020 10:01 AM
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) leads a formation of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5 ships as U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft and U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornets pass overhead for a photo exercise during Valiant Shield 2018 on Sept. 17. US Navy photo

Joint forces are assembling around Guam and the Mariana Islands Range Complex for high-end Pacific exercise Valiant Shield 2020, which kicks off today.

The exercise, which takes place every other year following the Rim of the Pacific international exercise, is U.S.-only and typically covers more sophisticated warfighting tactics and systems than does RIMPAC, which is meant to be more inclusive for all partners and allies. Valiant Shield 2020 will run from Sept. 14 through 25.

Participants include aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6), amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD-18), dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD-42) – all of which are forward-based in Japan – as well as other surface ships, approximately 100 aircraft and an estimated 11,000 personnel from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps, according to a Navy news release.

“Exercises such as Valiant Shield allow U.S. forces the opportunity to integrate warfighting concepts such as all-domain strike group operations in a joint high-end warfare training environment to continuously improve joint lethality,” Rear Adm. Michael Boyle, director of maritime operations at U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in the news release.
“It is vitally important that we demonstrate to our allies and partners our strong commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The event will focus on open-ocean operations and help the joint force become better at detecting, locating, tracking, and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land, and in cyberspace, according to the release. Events will include maritime security operations, anti-submarine and air-defense exercises, amphibious operations, and other elements of complex warfighting.

Though RIMPAC 2020 was significantly scaled down due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Valiant Shield is taking place at about the same scale as the last iteration. In 2018, the exercise spanned one week and included about 15,000 personnel.

“In coordination with military medical personnel and public health personnel, every aspect of Valiant Shield 2020 has been analyzed to ensure the appropriate mitigation measures are taken against COVID-19. The planning focused on protecting service members and their families; preventing the spread of the virus to U.S. forces, local residents, allies, or partners; and ensuring warfighting readiness in order to accomplish assigned missions,” reads the news release.

Valiant Shield began in 2006 and takes place every other summer, with this being the eighth iteration of the event.

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein

Megan Eckstein is the former deputy editor for USNI News.

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