Ken Pole's picture
RIMPAC wraps with a bang
Posted on Sep 02, 2020

This year’s biennial two-week Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) has finished off with a bang. In fact, lots of bangs that resulted in the sinking of a ship.

29 Aug – HMCS Regina fires Harpoon Surface to Surface missiles while participating in Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2020. (Photo: MS Dan Bard, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) frigates HMCS Regina and Winnipeg were among 22 surface vessels from around the world, one submarine, and several aircraft, all conducting interdiction and anti-submarine warfare exercises as well as live-fire training for two weeks off Hawaii.

Each RCN ship deployed its Sikorsky CH-148 Cyclone helicopter several times, the first time they have been used in the unique training exercise, the largest of its kind in the world.

Unlike previous RIMPACs, the 2020 edition, with 500 Canadians among the approximately 5,300 personnel, was conducted entirely at sea due to concerns about COVID-19. It was the 27th RIMPAC for Canadian Armed Forces personnel, who were involved in the inaugural exercise in 1971 along with Australian and U.S. forces.

In addition to the Canadians and host U.S. Pacific Fleet ships and personnel, the other participants were Australia, Brunei, France, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, the Philippines and Singapore.

21 August – Multinational navy ships and submarine steam in formation during a group sail off the coast of Hawaii during RIMPAC 2020. (Photo: MS Dan Bard, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

The RCN Commander, VAdm Art McDonald, pointed out that “Canadian security and prosperity rely increasingly on our relations in the Asia-Pacific,” adding that Canada’s long-standing participation “highlights our ongoing commitment to […] peace and stability in the region.”

An operational highlight, two days before RIMPAC 2020 concluded on 31 August, was the sinking under heavy fire of a decommissioned US Navy amphibious cargo ship, USS Durham, which was rendered environmentally safe for the SINKEX event.

The SINKEX ended shortly after midnight, courtesy of a Mk-48 torpedo fired by USS Jefferson, a Los Angeles-class attack submarine, as well as an AGM-114 Hellfire missile fired by a USN helicopter and two Harpoon AGM-84 surface-to-surface missiles, one of them from HMCS Regina.

29 August – HMCS Regina fires two Harpoon Surface to Surface missiles during RIMPAC 2020. (Photo: MS Dan Bard, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

“We gained invaluable training experience, improved our ability to operate in a coalition environment, proved key combat capabilities and fostered trust amongst allies and partner navies while ensuring the health and well-being of our sailors and aviators,” said the RCN Task Force Commander, Capt (N) Scott Robinson.

HMCS Regina’s weapons officer, Lt(N) Mike Vanderveer, said the SINKEX not only proved the frigate’s technical readiness but also was “an opportunity to focus on the application of force in coordinated kinetic action with partner nations.”

Harpoons are designed to travel at high subsonic speed, skimming the ocean’s surface to reduce the chance of interception by air defence systems. Using the over-the-horizon missile, which is widely deployed within NATO, is “a difficult and perishable skill,” Vanderveer said. “Any opportunity to plan and execute exercises with combined forces increases our skills, proficiency, and overall capability.”

Ordinary Seaman Alexander McCormick performs corrective maintenance onboard HMSC Regina during Exercise RIMPAC 2020. (Photo: MS Dan Bard, Canadian Forces Combat Camera)

RIMPAC provides a wide range of unique training opportunities that allow participating naval personnel to put their respective skill sets to the test. 

Having completed RIMPAC 2020, the next phase of HMCS Winnipeg’s deployment will be participation in Operation Projection Asia-Pacific, which demonstrates Canada’s ongoing commitment to global peace and shows how the RCN is ready to defend Canada’s interests in the region.

– Ken Pole
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