[Photos] RIMPAC 2016 Naval Exercise Concludes

The culminating "close formation exercise" of RIMPAC 2016 (all images courtesy Dept. of Defense)

By MarEx 2016-08-05 20:51:34

On Thursday, the biennial Rim of the Pacific naval exercise (RIMPAC) wrapped up with a closing reception, concluding over a month of collaborative exchange for 26 partner nations. 

The 2016 RIMPAC was the largest ever in the series, with over 40 vessels, 200 aircraft and 25,000 participating personnel. 

"RIMPAC 2016 was an unqualified success," said the commander of the U.S. Third Fleet, Vice Adm. Nora Tyson. "The collaboration and cohesiveness between participants proved that we can operate effectively with our partner nations and that we will be ready in the Pacific if or when we're called upon."

Participants this year included China, the Philippines, Norway, the UK and Australia, among many others returning for this round, plus first-time attendees Denmark, Germany and Italy. Operations ranged from underway replenishments to amphibious assault to live-fire exercises.

Hovercraft participating in final amphibious assault exercise of RIMPAC 2016

Multinational EOD dive team deploying from Australian helicopter

"We had a very successful exercise on the back of ensuring safety, including a brief pause in the exercise program to deal with Hurricane Darby," said Commodore Malcolm Wise of the Royal Australian Navy. "For me, the impact of the hurricane on July 25 showed how adaptive both the ships at sea and the staff in the relevant headquarters could be."

The hurricane was not the only disruption in the proceedings. The Chinese naval delegation pointedly snubbed the Japanese participants, prohibiting some of the Japanese sailors from coming aboard Chinese vessels and were reportedly reluctant to host Japanese representatives at a PLA Navy reception. Military relations between Japan and China are strained over a sovereignty dispute in the South China Sea. In public remarks, Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the Pacific Fleet, and Vice Adm. Tyson stressed the inclusive nature of the exercises, emphasizing cooperation, trust and partnership. 

In addition, Russia (which did not participate in this year's exercise) deployed a surveillance ship off the coast of Hawaii during RIMPAC. Her presence was unusual only in that Russian signals intelligence assets had been absent from areas so close to U.S. naval bases for many years, said analyst Bryan Clark, speaking to USNI. In 2014, China sent an uninvited surveillance ship, in addition to its complement of participating vessels, but it did not repeat the move this year.

Chinese frigate Hengshui fires its main gun in a live fire exercise