U.S. Sinks Ship in Valiant Shield Live Fire Exercise

June 17, 2024 4:28 PM - Updated: June 18, 2024 2:05 PM
Lt. David Escalera from Davidsonville, Md., stands watch in the combat information center (CIC) of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Higgins (DDG-76) during a training exercise in support of Valiant Shield 2024. US Navy Photo

U.S forces held a sinking exercise as part of exercise Valiant Shield 2024, while 7th Fleet flagship USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) conducted drills with a French warship in the Philippine Sea. Meanwhile, the U.S. Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), Philippines Navy and Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) conducted drills in the South China Sea from Sunday to Monday as part of ongoing efforts to demonstrate resolve and willingness to uphold freedom of navigation and overflight in the area. In other developments, Australia’s first of four MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) arrived on Sunday.

The Pacific Fleet on Monday issued a release stating that Valiant Shield 2024 participants conducted a sinking exercise of the amphibious transport dock ex-USS Cleveland (LPD-7) more than 40 nautical miles from land in the North Pacific Ocean. The release included Navy images of carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), which is participating in Valiant Shield 2024, stated that F/A-18 Super Hornets fighters of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27 “Royal Maces” and Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 115 “Eagles” conducted conduct carrier-based air strikes and strike force escort missions, as well as ship, battle group and intelligence collection operations. Marine Corps image releases show F-18C Hornet fighters of Marine All-Weather Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA(AW)) 224 “Fighting Bengals” undergoing preflight checks at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, on Sunday prior to a sinking exercise, according to the caption.

As part of Valiant Shield 2024, 7th Fleet flagship Blue Ridge conducted a manoeuvring exercise with the French Navy frigate FS Bretagne (D655) in the Philippine Sea on Friday. According to a 7th Fleet release on Saturday, the exercise demonstrated partnership capabilities using operational and tactical procedures requiring cooperation, communication and interoperability among two or more navies, affording the opportunity to develop greater trust and understanding.

“Sailing alongside our nation’s oldest friend and ally while underway together in the western Pacific is a testament to our strong and lasting partnership with the French Navy,” said Vice Adm. Fred Kacher, commander, U.S. 7th Fleet in the release. “It was great to see FS Bretagne and USS Blue Ridge operating together and no matter where we are, our allies and partners are with us, demonstrating the power of presence and teamwork in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.” Bretagne is currently deployed to the Indo-Pacific and making its way to Hawaii to take part in the Rim of the Pacific 2024 (RIMPAC 2024), which will be held June 27–Aug. 1.

From Sunday to Monday, the U.S. Navy, JMSDF, Philippines Navy and RCN conducted a maritime cooperative activity (MCA) in the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ). “The MCA demonstrates our collective commitment to strengthen regional and international cooperation in the maritime domain,” stated a Pacific Fleet release on Monday.

The MCA in the South China Sea involved U.S. Navy destroyer USS Ralph Johnson (DDG-114), JMSDF destroyer JS Kirisame (DD-104), Philippine Navy offshore patrol vessel BRP Andres Bonifacio (PS-17) (ex-USCGC Boutwell [WHEC-719]) and RCN frigate HMCS Montreal (FFH-336), according to the release; “The MCA involved a series of activities and maritime maneuvers to test and validate the interoperability of our armed forces’ doctrines, tactics, techniques, and procedures. It also provided an opportunity to demonstrate professional interactions among naval and air forces rooted in long-standing military traditions and customs,” read the release. A JMSDF release on the MCA stated that a U.S. Navy P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft also took part in the drill.

In JMSDF release, the commanding officer of Kirisame, Cdr. Naoki Saito, stated, “The Maritime Cooperative Activity (MCA) is an effort to strengthen regional and international cooperation towards realizing a ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ that upholds rights such as ‘freedom of navigation’ and respects maritime rights under international law.” He added that “Japan, the United States, Canada, and the Philippines share strong concerns over unilateral attempts to change the status quo by force and coercion, and are important partners that support an international order based on the rule of law.”

The last MCA was in April this year and while this latest iteration was likely planned earlier, it comes about as the Philippines and China continue to clash around the Philippines’ holdings in the disputed Spratly Islands, where China claims complete sovereignty. The U.S. and partner nations have been conducting drills in the Philippines’ EEZ with the Philippines military to deter China from aggressive actions, though these drills appear to have no effect on Chinese actions.

In Australia on Sunday, the first of four MQ-4C Triton unmanned aerial vehicles arrived in at Royal Australian Air Force Base Tindal in the Northern Territory of Australia, which will be its home base. The Triton will be operated by Royal Australian Air Force aircrew of No. 9 Squadron based at RAAF Base Edinburgh, South Australia, from where the UAVs will be controlled and monitored., “Once in service, the MQ-4C Triton and the P-8A Poseidon aircraft will operate as a ‘family of systems’ to provide Defence’s Maritime Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) capability,”,stated an image release by Australia’s Department of Defence. Initial operational capability is to be in June 2025, according to an Australian National Audit Office (ANAO) report.

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.

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