Vice Adm. Steve Koehler
U.S. 3rd Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Steve Koehler opens the RIMPAC 2022 planning conference. Navy photo

Third Fleet headquarters in San Diego has begun planning for next summer’s RIMPAC, the giant exercise that brings together allied navies every two years for training across the Pacific Ocean.

Vice Adm. Steve Koehler, commander of the Third Fleet, opened a week-long planning conference at Naval Base Point Loma Friday for representatives of more than 20 navies in the Indo-Pacific region.

“This conference is a much-needed touchpoint during a RIMPAC year that allows us to continue to develop strong relationships with both longstanding partners and newly participating nations,” said Koehler.

While RIMPAC 2020 featured only limited sea exercises around the Hawaiian Islands as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2022 exercise in June and July will mark a return to normal, involving four dozen units with 25,000 personnel both afloat and ashore.

At a time of growing tension with China in the region, the exercise demonstrates the coordinated defensive power of the United States and its allies. Larger navies participating in RIMPAC include those of Japan, Australia, Canada and India, and the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill calling for Taiwan to be invited to join.

“This planning conference represents a planning and integration effort occurring between more than 20 nations,” said Australian Navy Lt. Cmdr. James Dobson, coordinator of RIMPAC 2022.

“It reflects our ability to develop the relationships and partnerships required to meet the needs of each nation’s training and interoperability objectives and ensure we can operate successfully now and into the future,” he added.

RIMPAC began in 1971 and was held annually until 1974, when it became a biennial exercise due to its scale. The founding nations were the United States, Australia, and Canada. This will be the 28th RIMPAC.

Five surface ships and a submarine assemble off Hawaii during RIMPAC 2018. Navy photo

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.