MANILA—The Philippines and 25 other countries have begun the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) drills, deemed the “world’s largest international maritime exercise.”
The US Navy, the RIMPAC 2022 host, said in a statement on Thursday (Manila time) that participating countries will be sending "38 surface ships, four submarines, nine national land forces, more than 30 unmanned systems, approximately 170 aircraft and more than 25,000 personnel" to the exercises.
The BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151), a guided-missile frigate, will be participating on behalf of the Philippine Navy.
The maritime drills will be conducted in and around the Hawaiian islands and southern California until August 4.
Other participating countries are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, South Korea, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, and the United Kingdom.
Vice Admiral Michael Boyle of the US Navy's Third Fleet and the RIMPAC 2022 commander welcomed participants during the kick-off gathering of Navy leaders taking part in the exercises.
“By coming together as capable, adaptive partners, and in the scale that we are, we are making a statement about our commitment to work together, to foster and sustain those relationships that are critical to ensuring the safety of the sea lanes and the security of the world’s interconnected oceans,” Boyle said.
“This is also how we find the areas where our national objectives overlap, where we can practice the procedures that will help to enable our interchangeability –the nexus of national will and interoperability.”
The US Navy said this year's RIMPAC will conduct a "wide range of capabilities, projecting the inherent flexibility of maritime forces and helping to promote a free and open Indo-Pacific."
The drills will "include gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defense exercises, as well as amphibious, counter-piracy, mine clearance, explosive ordnance disposal, diving and salvage operations."
"Additionally, the exercise will also introduce space and cyber operations for all partner nations," the US Navy said.
Rear Admiral Christopher Robinson of the Royal Canadian Navy, the RIMPAC CTF deputy commander, said the drills provide "us with the opportunity to grow and refine our individual and combined abilities, and our joint capacity to contribute to security in the Indo-Pacific region."
The extensive naval drills are being held amid China's rising influence and aggression in the Indo-Pacific, particularly in the South China Sea.
The Philippines and other Southeast Asian nations have disputes with Beijing due to its claims of sovereignty over the hotly-contested waters.
Self-ruled democratic Taiwan is also under constant threat of invasion by China, which views the island as its territory and has vowed to seize it one day, "by force if necessary."
The United States, Japan, India and Australia – all of which are RIMPAC 2022 participants and members of the Quad bloc – are attempting to build their loose grouping into a more substantive counterweight to China's growing military and economic power in the Indo-Pacific.