Navy Busy in INDO-PACOM with Multinational Exercises, Freedom of Navigation Operations

The Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) steams alongside the French FREMM-class frigate FS Provence during a photo opportunity while conducting a bilateral anti-submarine warfare exercise in the Indian Ocean on May 13, 2019. Photo courtesy of the French Navy.

Several multinational exercises focused on interoperability have taken place in the Indo-Pacific region recently, including two involving French Navy aircraft carrier FS Charles de Gaulle (R 91) on its first deployment since 2016.

Late last week, Charles de Gaulle – back on international patrol after coming out of an 18-month mid-life refit – led ships from the U.S., Australia and Japan during the La Perouse exercises in the Bay of Bengal. The French carrier was supported by U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer USS William P. Lawrence (DDG-110), Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Toowoomba (FFH 156) and submarine HMAS Collins (SSG 73), and Japan Maritime Self Defense Force helicopter-destroyer JS Izumo (DDH 183) and destroyer JS Murasame (DD 101).

The group rehearsed live fires, sailing in formation, communications, search and rescue, damage control and personnel transfers, according to a Navy news release.

“La Perouse is an opportunity to develop strong links, work habits and mutual knowledge essential for best practices between our navies operating in the same regions of interest,” Rear Adm. Olivier Lebas, commanding officer of the French Carrier Strike Group, said in the news release.
“These exercises reflect our common involvement in maritime security in the Indian Ocean and Asia-Pacific area.”

Prior to the La Perouse exercise, Charles de Gaulle conducted an anti-submarine warfare exercise with its French strike group escorts and a U.S. attack submarine.

In an exercise that wrapped up on May 14, F70AA-class air defense destroyer FS Forbin (D 620), Durance-class tanker FS Marne (A 630) and F-70 type anti-submarine vessels FS Latouche-Treville (D 646) and FS Provence (D 652) hunted Virginia-class sub USS Hawaii (SSN-776) in the Indian Ocean.

“My crew and I enjoyed the opportunity to tactically employ Hawaii with the Charles de Gaulle Strike Group in the Indian Ocean. The exercise allowed my team to test itself against their highly proficient crews manning capable modern surface warships and helicopters. We sharpened our warfighting skills and strengthened our joint partnerships in the Indo-Pacific [area of responsibility],” Cmdr. Sterling Jordan, commanding officer of USS Hawaii, said in the news release.

The Virginia-class fast attack submarine USS Hawaii (SSN 776) steams alongside the French FREMM-class frigate FS Provence during a photo opportunity while conducting a bilateral anti-submarine warfare exercise in the Indian Ocean on May 13, 2019. Photo courtesy of the French Navy.

After exercising with Charles de Gaulle, U.S. destroyer William P. Lawrence and Japanese Izumo and Murasame peeled off to conduct a cooperative deployment in the Strait of Malacca over the weekend. The event focused on communication at sea and interoperability between the two navies.

“By operating, training, and exchanging with the JMSDF we are building upon our interoperability and our vital alliance,” Cmdr. Andrew Klug, the William P. Lawrence commanding officer, said of the May 18 event in a separate news release.
“Seamless coordination between regional allies deters aggression and promotes regional peace, stability and prosperity.”

William P. Lawrence spent a week earlier this month sailing with ships from Japan, India and the Philippines in a similar effort to practice multinational command and control and communication and to boost relationships.

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Preble (DDG 88) and the Royal Australian Navy Adelaide-class guided-missile frigate HMAS Melbourne (FFG 05) transit in formation during a cooperative deployment on April 18, 2019. US Navy photo.

Separately in U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, USS Preble (DDG-88) conducted a freedom of navigation operation (FONOP) near the Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea to push back against excessive Chinese maritime claims.

This FONOP mission follows several others earlier this year, as the Navy and Pentagon seek to make FONOPs more routine. Earlier this month, Preble and USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93) steamed within 12 nautical miles of the Gaven and Johnson Reefs in the South China Sea. In February, Preble and USS Spruance (DDG-111) steamed within 12 nautical miles of Mischief Reef, an artificial island China built up in the Spratly Islands chain. In January, USS McCampbell (DDG-85) steamed past the Paracel Islands.

The amphibious force in INDO-PACOM also saw a change in leadership, with Rear Adm. Fred Kacher assuming command of Amphibious Force 7th Fleet from Rear Adm. Brad Cooper during a change of command ceremony on May 17.

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