The world’s largest naval exercise, Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) was officially opened Monday 30 June in Hawaii, with three Australian Defence Force officers in senior command positions.
Royal Australian Navy Rear Admiral Simon Cullen is the Deputy Commander of the Combined Task Force, Royal Australian Air Force Air Commodore Chris Westwood is the Combined Forces Air Component Commander and Royal Australian Navy Commodore Peter Leavy is the Expeditionary Strike Group Commander. This is the first time that Australians have been appointed to these command positions.
Rear Admiral Cullen said Australia’s appointment to senior positions within the exercise Command structure highlighted the strength of Australia’s alliance with the United States and positive bilateral relationships with other participating nations.
“Australia is focusing on increasing bilateral and multilateral cooperation with the US and other regional partners to build deeper regional defence cooperation and foster a strong community built on shared interests,” Rear Admiral Cullen said.
“This exercise is a major undertaking which reflects the closeness of our alliance with the United States and the strength of our military relationships with other regional defence partners.
Air Commodore Westwood said that being appointed as the Combined Forces Air Component Commander was an honour and a privilege and he was looking forward to the challenge.
“The Royal Australian Air Force have four contributing roles in RIMPAC; the Combined Forces Air Component Commander role (my role); a team of about 50 RAAF members in the AOC - those who orchestrate the air campaign; 3 AP-3C Orions contributing directly to the maritime patrol during the anti-submarine warfare phase and a number of 41 Wing Air Combat Officers stationed with the Hawaiian Regional Operations Centre conducting air battle management operations for the exercise. ”
With 22 nations participating, RIMPAC 2014 will be the biggest iteration of the maritime exercise ever conducted. Participating nations include Australia, Canada, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Republic of Korea, Singapore, the Philippines, Tonga, UK and the USA. China and Brunei will also take part in RIMPAC this year, for the first time.
Forty nine surface ships, six submarines and more than 200 aircraft will be manned and crewed by 25,000 personnel from across the Pacific Rim over the course of the exercise.
The Australian Defence Force will be represented by approximately 950 Navy, Army and Air Force personnel, HMAS Sheean, HMAS Success, the Maritime Clearance Diving Task Group with diving elements, a rifle company from 5th Battalion - The Royal Australian Regiment (5RAR) and three AP-3C Orion aircraft will participate in RIMPAC 14.
During the exercise, participating personnel and assets will conduct gunnery, missile, anti-submarine, and air-defence exercises, as well as maritime interdiction and vessel boardings, explosive ordnance disposal, diving and salvage operations, mine clearance operations and an amphibious landing.
RIMPAC 14 will conclude on 31 July, after the international Fleet completes an extensive list of warfare and humanitarian disaster relief serials at sea.
The first RIMPAC was held in 1971 making this the 24th RIMPAC exercise and Australia has participated in every one.