WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG SEAPOWER / MAY 2016
example, the U.S. Navy has to figure out how to communicate with them since they do not have the same
Certain subjects in such a diverse group of countries
are taboo — for example, you would not want to have a
scenario with an island dispute considering that participants from Japan and China are at each other’s throats
on that very issue today.
“We stay away from any of those taboo topics that
might ruffle the feathers,” Smith said, without naming
any specific scenarios. “We’re very mindful of that.”
Instead, the exercise focuses on the operations that
tend to unify nations with an interest in the Pacific,
like dealing with piracy, providing humanitarian assis-
tance in disaster situations and maneuvering safely in
a maritime environment.
“That’s what we’re trying to foster here,” Smith said.
He recently had a conference in San Diego with all
the countries involved. That is where the final plan was
delivered for the exercise and the countries weighed in
on whether it meets all their objectives.
It will be quite a busy few weeks. A total of 3,500
major events are planned, and that likely will increase
to about 4,000, Smith said. Major events include live-
fire exercises, boarding scenarios, amphibious move-
ments, medical triage and others.
“Because it’s so large and complicated, it’s scripted,”
Michael O’Hanlon, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution, called RIMPAC a “relatively
harmless” exercise that allows the United States to build
relationships with important nations in the Pacific.
“I don’t know if we could invite China into a full
warfighting exercise, nor do I think we should,”
O’Hanlon said. “RIMPAC exercises are not likely to be
overly intense in terms of an exchange of data on Aegis
radars or other targeting systems.”
He said the benefits in terms of relationships are
“modest but useful, so I would definitely do it.”
The United States should be mindful about what kind
of secrets it could be divulging, however, and that limits
the usefulness of the exercise to a significant degree.
Although ostensibly the exercise is about better
collaborating with other countries on military operations, in reality it is more about the relationship aspect,
Service members from partner nations steer amphibious assault vehicles toward shore during a simulated beach assault
at Marine Corps Base Hawaii during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) Exercise 2014. Twenty-two nations, 49 ships, six submarines, more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel participated in RIMPAC 2014, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and
Southern California. Twenty-seven nations will participate in RIMPAC 2016, which will start June 30.