American Carrier Strike Groups in Philippine Sea Ahead of RIMPAC 2022

June 14, 2022 4:52 PM
USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) sails alongside amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA-7) during a photo exercise for Valiant Shield 2022 on June 12, 2022. Exercises like VS22 allow forces across the Indo-Pacific the opportunity to integrate Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force and Space Force to train in precise, lethal, and overwhelming multi-axis, multi-domain effects that demonstrate the strength and versatility of the Joint Force. Tripoli is operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with allies and partners and serve as a ready response force to defend peace and maintain stability in the Indo-Pacific region on June 12, 2022. US Navy Photo

Two carrier strike groups, along with an amphibious assault ship, are drilling together in the Philippine Sea ahead of the Rim of the Pacific 2022 (RIMPAC).

The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force and Royal Australian Navy are also preparing their ships for Indo-Pacific deployments ahead of the exercise, set to be held in Hawaii from June 29 until August 4.

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group, the only CSGs currently deployed in the eastern Pacific, together with amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7), are conducting the drills as part of the Valiant Shield 2022 exercise being carried out from June 6 -17 in Guam, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau and at sea around the Mariana Island Range Complex.

Also taking part are the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command (AAMDC), I and III Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) and the Air Force’s 36th Wing. Altogether, there are a total of 15 surface ships, more than 200 aircraft and an estimated 13,000 personnel from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, and Space Force.

The Abraham Lincoln CSG ships taking part in the exercise are carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) and destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and USS Spruance (DDG-111) while the Ronald Reagan CSG ships are carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), cruiser USS Antietam (CG-54) and destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65).

Guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65), right, and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) sail in formation alongside USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) during Valiant Shield 2022 on June 12, 2022. US Navy Photo

Cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62), homeported at Yokosuka, Japan, conducted a weapon onload exercise at Santa Rita Guam on Monday as part of the Valiant Shield exercise,

Marine Corps F-35Bs from VMFA-121 landed at Andersan Air Force Base, Guam, Monday to conduct Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations together with F-18Cs of VMFA(AW)-533 in support of exercise Valiant Shield 2022. Aircraft of VMFA-121 have been embarked on Tripoli since June 3.

Meanwhile Air Force F-35As of 356th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, 354th Air Expeditionary Wing, together with Navy E/A-18 Growlers of Electronic Attack Squadron VAQ-138, are operating out of Palau International Airport as part of Valiant Shield 2022.

On Monday, the JMSDF began its Indo-Pacific Deployment 2022 (IPD2022), an over four month deployment throughout the Indo-Pacific region from June 13 until Oct. 28, with the departure of the destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) and destroyer JS Takanami (DD-110) from Yokosuka for the deployment.

IPD has been an annual deployment by the JMSDF since 2019, and IPD 2022 will involve two surface units – one comprising of Izumo and Takanami while a second surface unit comprises of the destroyer JS Kirisame (DD-104), which will depart later. An unnamed submarine will also be deployed.

The two ships are expected to take part in RIMPAC 2022, as Rear Adm. Toshiyuki Hirata, who commands the surface group, was announced in a 7th Fleet release as being the vice commander for the Combined Task Force at the exercise.

As Japan begins the exercise, it is also monitoring ships from Russia and China sailing around the country.

On Monday, the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Japan Ministry of Defense issued two releases in relation to the movements of Russian and Chinese surveillance ships.

The first release stated that the Russian surveillance ship RFS Pribaltica (80) was sighted traveling westward in the sea area about 50 km east of Cape Soya 7 a.m. Sunday. The ship then sailed west through La Pérouse Strait.

The release noted that the Russian surveillance ship had been previously sighted traveling through the Tsugaru Strait, which lies between Hokkaido and Honshu in the Pacific Ocean, on Thursday. JMSDF fast attack craft JS Wakataka (PG-825), along with a JMSDF P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 2, based at JMSDF’s Hachinohe Air Base, Aomori, monitored the Russian ship.

Pribaltica previously transited westwards through La Pérouse Strait on June 7, and its second transit on Sunday marked a complete circuit of the Japanese island of Hokkaido

The second release stated that at 1 p.m. Sunday, a People’s Liberation Army Navy Dongdiao class surveillance ship, hull number 794, was sighted sailing eastward about 280 km south-west of Tsushima and subsequently sailed through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan. The release stated that the JMSDF fast attack craft JS Otaka (PG-826) and a P-1 MPA of Fleet Air Wing 4 based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi monitored the PLAN ship.

In a Monday release, Australia’s Department of Defence announced the deployment of five Royal Australian Navy ships to the Indo-Pacific.

Landing Platform Dock HMAS Canberra (L02), frigate HMS Warramunga (FFH152) and replenishment ship HMAS Supply (A195) will participate in RIMPAC 2022, along with two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8A Poseidon MPAs, according to the release. Destroyer HMAS Sydney (DDG42) and frigate HMAS Perth (FFH157), supported by Supply, will work with regional partners and participate in Exercises Pacific Vanguard and Pacific Dragon.

The Pacific Dragon exercise is a ballistic missile search and tracking exercise normally conducted by the United States, Japan and the Republic of Korea every two years. The Korean Herald, citing ROK military officials, reported that the exercise will take place around Aug. 1 -14 around Hawaii while RIMPAC 2022 is being carried out.

Pacific Vanguard is an exercise involving the navies of Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea and the United States though no details about the date or location have been released.

Various media have reported that Canada will also join Pacific Dragon, but Canada’s Department of National Defence has not issued any statements though Canadian Defence Minister Anita Anand announced on Sunday at the Shangri-La Dialogue that frigates HMCS Vancouver (FFH331) and HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338) will participate in RIMPAC 2022 and will depart soon.

Meanwhile on Monday, Royal New Zealand Navy replenishment ship HMNZS Aotearoa (A11) left Devonport Naval Base to begin a five-and-a-half month deployment to the Asia Pacific region, which includes participation in RIMPAC 2022.

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir

Dzirhan Mahadzir is a freelance defense journalist and analyst based in Kuala Lumpur Malaysia. Among the publications he has written for and currently writes for since 1998 includes Defence Review Asia, Jane’s Defence Weekly, Navy International, International Defence Review, Asian Defence Journal, Defence Helicopter, Asian Military Review and the Asia-Pacific Defence Reporter.

Get USNI News updates delivered to your inbox