Pentagon: Chinese Navy to Expand to 400 Ships by 2025, Growth Focused on Surface Combatants

China is building more modern surface combatants and expanding its aircraft carrier and logistics force to grow its naval influence further from shore, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power. By 2025, the People’s Liberation Army Navy is expected to grow to 400 hulls, up from its fleet of 340, according to […]

People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier Shandong berths at a naval port in Sanya, China. PLAN Photo

China is building more modern surface combatants and expanding its aircraft carrier and logistics force to grow its naval influence further from shore, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power.

By 2025, the People’s Liberation Army Navy is expected to grow to 400 hulls, up from its fleet of 340, according to the Pentagon’s annual China military report estimates released on Tuesday.

“The PLAN is an increasingly modern and flexible force that has focused on replacing its previous generations of platforms that had limited capabilities in favor of larger, modern multi-role combatants,” reads the report.
“As of 2021, the PLAN is largely composed of modern multi-role platforms featuring advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors.”

The report, which sums up Chinese military developments in 2021, pegs the growth to the PLAN adding more major surface combatants. The ship total dipped last year from 355 due to a transfer of more than 20 older corvettes to the China Coast Guard.

“At the close of 2021, the PLAN was building an aircraft carrier, a new batch of guided-missile destroyers (DDG), and a new batch of guided missile frigates (FFG),” reads the report.

The bulk of the surface expansion is contained in two programs, the 7,500-ton Luyang III guided-missile Type-52D destroyers and the larger 13,000-ton Type-55 Renhai-class guided-missile cruisers, according to the report.

Renhai-class cruiser

The Luyang III destroyers are built around a dual-band active electronically scanned array (AESA) air search radar and a 64-cell vertical launch system for multiple missiles similar to the Mk-41 VLS on U.S. surface ships.

The Renhais are much larger with a similar radar and 112 cell VLS cells “and can carry a large load out of weapons including [anti-ship cruise missiles], surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), torpedoes, and anti-submarine weapons along with likely [land-attack cruise missiles] and anti-ship ballistic missiles when those become operational,” according to the report.

As of May, the Chinese have five of the Renhai-class cruisers in commission, according to the South China Morning Post.

The newer classes of ships, with a variety of anti-surface and anti-air missiles, allow the PLAN better protection as its task groups venture farther from the protective umbrella of its shore-based air defense systems and mimic the basic construct of the American Aegis Combat System.

The emphasis on the platforms are anti-surface weapons, according to the report.
“The PLAN recognizes that long-range ASCMs require a robust, over-the-horizon (OTH) targeting capability to realize their full potential. To fill this capability gap, the PLA is investing in joint reconnaissance, surveillance, command, control, and communications systems at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels to provide high-fidelity targeting information to surface and subsurface launch platforms,” reads the report.

The PLAN is developing new submarines more slowly than it’s developing surface ships, “as it works to mature its force, integrate new technologies, and expand its shipyards,” reads the report.
“The PLAN currently operates six nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN), and 44 diesel-powered/air-independent powered attack submarines (SS/SSP). The PLAN will likely maintain between 65 and 70 submarines through the 2020s, replacing older units with more capable units on a near one-to-one basis.”

The Pentagon speculated in the report that China is developing a nuclear guided-missile submarine that would field both anti-surface and land-attack cruise missiles, a new addition this year.

Type-093A Shang-class attack submarine

“By the mid-2020s, China will likely build the SHANG class (Type 093B) guided-missile nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSGN). This new SHANG class variant will enhance the PLAN’s anti-surface warfare capability and could provide a clandestine land-attack option if equipped with land-attack cruise missiles,” reads the report.

In terms of amphibious ships, the report highlighted not only the rapid development of the Yushen-class of big-deck amphibious warships, but also the increased use of civilian roll-on/roll-off car carriers that can go into service for military operations.

“This flexibility decreases the requirement to build additional PLAN amphibious ships to successfully assault Taiwan. This operational flexibility also provides operational and logistics units within the [PLAN Marine Corps] the training and proficiency to move between military and civilian vessels not just in a Taiwan scenario, but in any maritime environment where civilian transport vessels are available to the PLANMC and PLAN amphibious ships are not,” reads the report.

In late August, the PLAN held a major amphibious drill using civilian ferries to launch landing craft from sea, USNI News reported.

The PLAN has two operational aircraft carriers, Liaoning and Shandong, based on the Soviet Kuzenetzov, a short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR). Both carriers have been active in the Western Pacific. A third carrier, Fujian, will feature a catapult launch and arrested landing and is expected to be operational by 2024.

“This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations and thus extend the reach and effectiveness of its carrier-based strike aircraft,” reads the report.

The PLAN continues to refine its carrier aircraft – primarily the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, which is an unlicensed copy of the Russian Sukhoi Su-33 fighter.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) during a December 2021 deployment. PLAN Photo

“In addition to the standard J-15 fighter that currently operates from PLAN carriers, there is a catapult-capable J-15 variant in development,” reads the report.
“The aircraft is currently testing from land-based steam and electromagnetic catapults. A third J-15 variant, the J-15D, is a two-seat aircraft equipped with wingtip electronic support measures/electronic intelligence gathering pods as well as several conformal antennas. The aircraft is intended to fill a dedicated electronic attack role. China is also developing a carrier capable variant of the fifth-generation J-31 fighter.”

All told, the report concludes that the PLAN is working toward deploying an operational carrier battle group in the next several years beyond the first island chain that doesn’t need the shore-based defenses of the rest of the PLA.

“The PLAN’s ability to perform missions beyond the First Island Chain is modest but growing as it gains more experience operating in distant waters and acquires larger and more advanced platforms,” reads the report.

Japanese MoD Report on Chinese Gray Zone, Influence Operations

The following is the Nov. 25, report from the Japanese National Institute For Defense Studies, China Security Report 2023: China’s Quest for Control of the Cognitive Domain and Gray Zone Situations. From the report The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the Party’s army. It follows the Party’s command and defines its most important role as […]

The following is the Nov. 25, report from the Japanese National Institute For Defense Studies, China Security Report 2023: China’s Quest for Control of the Cognitive Domain and Gray Zone Situations.

From the report

The People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is the Party’s army. It follows the Party’s command and defines its most important role as protecting the Party’s regime. Until President Xi Jinping’s military reforms, the Party exercised control over the military mainly through the PLA’s political work organizations, including the General Political Department, and political commissars. Such indirect control, however, was susceptible to communication issues and hindering the execution of joint operations, and caused widespread bribery and corruption in the PLA.

Xi Jinping’s military reforms drove the restructuring of Chinese military organizations, and in this context, the leadership of the Party has been strengthened. More emphasis is placed on direct control by the Chinese Communist Party, with focus especially on the implementation of the chairman responsibility system of the Central Military Commission (CMC) and the Party committees in the military. Furthermore, military governance through laws and rules is underscored. The Party’s leadership has been reinforced not only over the PLA but also over other military organizations, and mechanisms are being developed for coordination between
the military and other governmental actors. These measures were developed also as a response to modern forms of conflict that actively use non-military means.

For influence operations, the Strategic Support Force (SSF) was established. The SSF appears not only to integrate functions related to cyber, electromagnetic spectrum, and outer space, but also to be deeply engaged in the struggle for the psychological and cognitive domain.

For gray zone operations, the People’s Armed Police (PAP) and the CCG were reorganized. The PAP was placed under the sole leadership of the CMC, while the CCG became subordinate to the PAP and in turn was also placed under the leadership of the PLA. As a result of the reorganization, the PAP specializes in maintaining public security in peacetime and contributes more easily to PLA joint operations in a contingency.

Download the document here.

Chinese, Russian Surface Action Groups Operating Near Japan; U.S., Japan Ships Exercise Nearby

Chinese and Russian surface action groups have transited past Japan on their voyage home, while Chinese aircraft have transited in an out of the Pacific Ocean through the Miyako Strait, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense. Meanwhile, the U.S. and Japan are in the midst of conducting multinational exercises around Japan, with one exercise […]

Russian Navy ships transiting near Japan.

Chinese and Russian surface action groups have transited past Japan on their voyage home, while Chinese aircraft have transited in an out of the Pacific Ocean through the Miyako Strait, according to the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

Meanwhile, the U.S. and Japan are in the midst of conducting multinational exercises around Japan, with one exercise ending today.

On Friday, a People’s Liberation Army Navy destroyer, frigate and replenishment were sighted sailing northeast in an area 220 kilometers southwest of Miyako Island, Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Ministry of Defense said in a news release issued Monday. Images and pennant numbers identified the PLAN ships as destroyer CNS Suzhou (132), frigate CNS Nantong (533) and replenishment ship CNS Chaohu (890), which form the 41st Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce previously assigned to the Gulf of Aden to conduct anti-piracy escort missions there. On Saturday, the PLAN ships transited the Miyako Strait into the East China Sea, according to the release, which noted that the ships were previously sighted north of the Miyako Strait on May 19. The Japanese said Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force minesweeper JS Kuroshima (MSC-692) and JMSDF P-3C Orions Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 5 based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa, shadowed the PLAN ships.

The ships of the PLAN 41st Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce left their homebase of Zhoushan, Zhejiang on May 18 and returned on Tuesday, with the 42nd Chinese Naval Escort Taskforce of destroyer CNS Huainan (123), frigate CNS Rizhao (598) and replenishment ship CNS Kekexilihu (968) now on station in the Gulf of Aden carrying out the PLAN anti-piracy deployment that has been ongoing since the end of 2008.

Meanwhile, Japan sighted five Russian Navy ships – a cruiser, destroyer, two replenishment ships and a rescue tugboat – on Sunday sailing northeast in an area 80 kilometers south of Yonaguni Island, the JSO said in a second news release issued Monday. Images and information in the release identified the cruiser as RFS Varyag (011), the destroyer as RFS Admiral Tributs (564) and one of the replenishment ships as Boris Butoma and an unidentified Dubna-class replenishment ship. Varyag, Admiral Tributs and Boris Butoma left their homeport of Vladivostok on Dec. 29, 2021 for an extended deployment. The ships conducted a trilateral exercise with the PLAN and Iranian Navy in the Gulf of Oman in January before proceeding to the Mediterranean, where they operated until late October.

Chinese warships underway off Japan

The five Russian ships subsequently sailed northeast between Yonaguni Island and Iriomote Island into the East China Sea while JMSDF replenishment ship JS Towada (AOE-422) and a P-3C Orion MPA of Fleet Air Wing 5 monitored the Russian ships, according to the JSO. Varyag, Admiral Tributs and Boris Butoma had been sighted traveling southwest through the Tsushima Strait on Dec. 29 last year, the release noted.

From morning until afternoon on Monday, a Chinese BZK-005 unmanned air vehicle, a Y-9 electronic intelligence aircraft and a Y-9 maritime patrol aircraft flew in separately from the East China Sea and passed through the Miyako Strait into the Pacific Ocean, the JSO said in a third news release. After reaching an area east of Nawamoto Island, the aircraft turned around and flew back through the Miyako Strait into the East China Sea. Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) fighter aircraft scrambled in response to monitor these flights.

Meanwhile the nations of the Quad grouping – Australia, India, Japan and the United States – wrapped up Exercise Malabar on Tuesday. The drills started on Nov. 8 and took place in the sea and airspace south of Japan’s Kanto region on the main island of Honshu. Japan sent destroyer helicopter carrier JS Hyuga (DDH-181); destroyers JS Takanami (DD-110) and JS Shiranui (DD-120); landing ship tank JS Kunisaki (LST-4003); replenishment ship JS Oumi (AOE-426) and a submarine; along with a JMSDF P-1 MPA, a UP-3D Electronic Warfare trainer and the JMSDF Special Boarding Unit. The Indian Navy sent frigate INS Shivalik (F47) and corvette INS Kamorta (P28), along with a P-8I MPA and the Marine Commandoes unit. The U.S. sent carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62), destroyer USS Milius (DDG-69), a P-8A Poseidon MPA and Navy Special Warfare forces. Australia sent HMAS Arunta (FFH151), replenishment ship HMAS Stalwart (A304) and submarine HMAS Farncomb (SSG74), along with a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8A Poseidon.

Reagan and Chancellorsville are now participating in Exercise Keen Sword 23, which began on Thursday and will continue in Japan through Saturday. A total of 36,000 personnel, 30 ships and 270 aircraft from Japan and the United States, along with the crews of four ships and three aircraft from Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom are involved in the drills. A complete list of ships taking part in the exercise has not been released, but the following ships from the countries involved are known to be taking part based on released images and reports:

USS Milius (DDG-69), front, steams in formation with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) ship, JS Takanami (DDG-110), Royal Australian Navy (RAN) ship HMAS Arunta (FFH 151) and Indian Navy ship INS Kamorta (P 28) during Exercise Malabar 2022, in the Philippine Sea on Nov. 11, 2022. US Navy Photo

Royal Australian Navy (RAN):
Destroyer

  • HMAS Hobart (DDG39)

Royal Canadian Navy (RCN):
Frigates

  • HMCS Vancouver (FFH331)
  • HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338)

JMSDF:
Destroyer helicopter carrier

  • JS Izumo (DDH-183)

Destroyers

  • JS Atago (DDG-177)
  • JS Ashigara (DDG-178)
  • JS Setogiri (DD-156)
  • JS Yamagiri (DD-152)

Landing ship tanks

  • JS Shimokita (LST-4002)
  • JS Kunisaki (LST-4003)

Unidentified Submarine

U.K. Royal Navy (RN):
Offshore patrol vessel

  • HMS Spey (P234)

U.S. Navy:
Carrier

  • USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76)

Cruiser

  • USS Chancellorsville (CG-62)

Destroyer

  • USS Benfold (DDG-65)

Amphibious transport dock ship

  • USS New Orleans (LPD-18)

Replenishment ship

  • USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204)

Report to Congress on Chinese Naval Modernization

The following is the Nov. 10, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress. From the report China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is the top focus of U.S. defense planning and budgeting. China’s naval modernization effort has been underway for […]

The following is the Nov. 10, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, China Naval Modernization: Implications for U.S. Navy Capabilities — Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is the top focus of U.S. defense planning and budgeting. China’s naval modernization effort has been underway for more than 25 years, since the early to mid-1990s, and has transformed China’s navy into a much more modern and capable force. China’s navy is a formidable military force within China’s near-seas region, and it is conducting a growing number of operations in the broader waters of the Western Pacific, the Indian Ocean, and waters around Europe.

China’s navy is, by far, the largest of any country in East Asia, and sometime between 2015 and 2020 it surpassed the U.S. Navy in numbers of battle force ships (meaning the types of ships that count toward the quoted size of the U.S. Navy). DOD states that China’s navy “is the largest navy in the world with a battle force of approximately 355 platforms, including major surface combatants, submarines, aircraft carriers, ocean-going amphibious ships, mine warfare ships, and fleet auxiliaries. This figure does not include 85 patrol combatants and craft that carry anti-ship cruise missiles (ASCMs). The… overall battle force [of China’s navy] is expected to grow to 420 ships by 2025 and 460 ships by 2030.” The U.S. Navy, by comparison, included 294 battle force ships at the end of FY2021, and the Navy’s FY2023 budget submission projects that the Navy will include 290 or 291 battle force ships by the end of FY2030. U.S. military officials and other observers are expressing concern or alarm regarding the pace of China’s naval shipbuilding effort and resulting trend lines regarding the relative sizes and capabilities of China’s navy and the U.S. Navy.

China’s naval modernization effort encompasses a wide array of ship, aircraft, weapon, and C4ISR (command and control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) acquisition programs, as well as improvements in logistics, doctrine, personnel quality, education and training, and exercises. China’s navy has currently has certain limitations and weaknesses, which it is working to overcome.

China’s military modernization effort, including its naval modernization effort, is assessed as being aimed at developing capabilities for, among other things, addressing the situation with Taiwan militarily, if need be; achieving a greater degree of control or domination over China’s near-seas region, particularly the South China Sea; defending China’s commercial sea lines of communication (SLOCs), particularly those linking China to the Persian Gulf; displacing U.S. influence in the Western Pacific; and asserting China’s status as the leading regional power and a major world power. Observers believe China wants its navy to be capable of acting as part of an anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) force—a force that can deter U.S. intervention in a conflict in China’s near-seas region over Taiwan or some other issue, or failing that, delay the arrival or reduce the effectiveness of intervening U.S. forces.

The U.S. Navy has taken a number of actions to counter China’s naval modernization effort. Among other things, the U.S. Navy has shifted a greater percentage of its fleet to the Pacific; assigned its most-capable new ships and aircraft to the Pacific; maintained or increased general presence operations, training and developmental exercises, and engagement and cooperation with allied and other navies in the Indo-Pacific; increased the planned future size of the Navy; initiated, increased, or accelerated numerous programs for developing new military technologies and acquiring new ships, aircraft, unmanned vehicles, and weapons; developed new operational concepts for countering Chinese maritime A2/AD forces; and signaled that the Navy in coming years will shift to a more-distributed fleet architecture that will feature a substantially greater use of unmanned vehicles. The issue for Congress is whether to approve, reject, or modify the Biden Administration’s proposed U.S. Navy plans, budgets, and programs for responding to China’s naval modernization effort.

Download the document here.

Navy Expanding Attack Submarine Presence on Guam as a Hedge Against Growing Chinese Fleet

ARLINGTON, Va. — Amid strategic competition with China, the United States plans to augment its ability to operate submarines out of Guam, the commander of U.S. submarine forces in the Pacific said today. After sending Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine USS Springfield (SSN-761) to Guam earlier this year, the Navy will spend the next five […]

The Los Angeles-class fast-attack submarine USS Springfield (SSN-761) moors at Naval Base Guam from Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam for a homeport shift, March 21, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

ARLINGTON, Va. — Amid strategic competition with China, the United States plans to augment its ability to operate submarines out of Guam, the commander of U.S. submarine forces in the Pacific said today.

After sending Los Angeles-class nuclear attack submarine USS Springfield (SSN-761) to Guam earlier this year, the Navy will spend the next five to 10 years building out both its maintenance capacity and training capabilities on the U.S. territory.

“Looking to the future, we are going to expand our submarine operating capability from Guam to optimize our presence and warfighting capacity in the Western Pacific,” Rear Adm. Jeffrey Jablon, the commander of Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, said Wednesday at the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium.

“This is going to include augmenting our maintenance capacity with the necessary facilities, infrastructure and personnel; building additional pier facilities and services; and expanding the capabilities of our shore-based training facilities in Guam,” he added.

That timeline to expand submarine capacity and capabilities out of the U.S. island territory corresponds with what Jablon described as the “decade of maximum danger,” as it relates to China’s desire to reunify Taiwan with the mainland.

“And that specifically refers to the [People’s Republic of China]. You know, we’ve heard we’re at an inflection point. It’s a critical decade. It’s a decisive decade. And it’s true. That is my number one concern as the Pacific Fleet force commander for the submarine force. We are in the decade of maximum danger,” Jablon said.

Sailors assigned to the Australian navy Collins-class submarine HMAS Sheean (SSG 77) prepare to receive hotel services and supplies during a bilateral training event with the submarine tender USS Emory S. Land (AS 39), Sept. 13, 2019. US Navy photo.

“China has fielded the largest navy in the world, guaranteeing its numerical advantage in the south and east China Seas. And as the [People’s Liberation Army Navy] surface fleet and undersea force improves their capabilities, we will intensify our efforts to prepare our undersea force to deter, and if necessary, defeat the PLAN.”

After forward-deploying Springfield to Guam, the U.S. Navy now has five attack boats operating from the island. Both of the Navy’s submarine tenders – USS Frank Cable (AS-40) and USS Emory S. Land (AS-39) – are also stationed in Guam.

Jablon pointed to a rearming and reloading exercise that Frank Cable performed earlier this year in Australia with Springfield and Royal Australian Navy Collins-class attack boat HMAS Farncomb (SSG-74) as an example of the U.S. Navy’s undersea capability in the region.

The admiral said he expects to have a replacement for the 1970s-era submarine tenders by the late 2020s.

“Both the Emory S. Land and the Frank Cable will be in operation until that tender turnover, so there will not be a gap in our tender capabilities,” he said.

Jablon also pointed to Ohio-class ballistic missile submarine USS Nevada’s (SSBN-733) visit to Guam at the start of this year. The Navy rarely announces where its boomers are operating.

“It reflected our commitment to the Indo-Pacific region and complimented the many exercises, operations, training and military cooperation activities conducted by our strategic forces throughout the world,” Jablon said of the port visit.

Dry Dock in Chinese Aircraft Carrier Repair Complex Suffers Fire, Satellite Photos Show

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy’s new dry dock appears to have suffered damage from a fire, according to satellite imagery provided to USNI News by Maxar Technologies. Signs of fire damage are visible at the new dry dock in Sanya on Hainan Island, according to satellite imagery. The dry dock is specially designed for […]

H I Sutton Illustration for USNI News Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies Used with Permission

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy’s new dry dock appears to have suffered damage from a fire, according to satellite imagery provided to USNI News by Maxar Technologies.

Signs of fire damage are visible at the new dry dock in Sanya on Hainan Island, according to satellite imagery. The dry dock is specially designed for China’s aircraft carriers.

Soot covers two ships, which were recently sailed into the smaller of the two docks at the facility. It is one of the first times that the facility has been used.

Another vessel in the dry dock does not appear to have been burned, Damien Symon, an independent defense analyst who has been following the construction of this facility, told USNI News.

“The undamaged small passenger ferry in the dock shows that the black deposits are from a fire,” Symon said. “If it was sediment carried in when the dock was flooded, it would extend throughout the dock.”

Dry docks are strategic assets, allowing the growing Chinese Navy to better maintain its warships. This site has been under construction for years and was first reported in 2020. It has only finished recently and may not be fully operational yet.

The facility is close to the home berth of one of the Chinese aircraft carriers, Shandong (CV-17). The larger of the two docks at the site is large enough to accommodate that carrier or the larger Type-003 Fujian-class that is currently under construction. The smaller dock, where the fire occurred, can accommodate warships, which may include destroyers, submarines and even amphibious warfare ships.

H I Sutton Image

There are several other surface warships piers and two submarine bases nearby. One of these is Yulin, where the majority of China’s ballistic missile submarines are based. The other is for diesel-electric boats. There is also a new research program for China’s answer to the U.S. Navy’s extra-large uncrewed underwater vehicles (XLUUV).

The vessels affected by the fire appear to be two PLAN tugs, according to the satellite images. The full extent of the damage is difficult to gauge in satellite imagery, but the smoke damage seems extensive and both ships are heavily blackened.

The incident does not appear to have been reported in local media, which is not unusual in China, where censorship is heavy.

Navy Tests Reloading Missiles on Destroyer in San Diego Bay, Open Ocean Tests Tougher Task

A pairing of a guided-missile destroyer and a supply ship in San Diego Bay last week was the Navy’s latest test to learn how to resupply its warships with missiles during a high-end conflict. The Military Sealift Command-sponsored reloading test matched USS Spruance (DDG-111) with the offshore support vessel MV Ocean as a test platform to support logistics experimentation […]

Sailors aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG-111) guide training ordnance into the ship’s forward vertical launch system (VLS) cells during a proof-of-concept test in San Diego, Oct. 4, 2022. US Navy Photo

A pairing of a guided-missile destroyer and a supply ship in San Diego Bay last week was the Navy’s latest test to learn how to resupply its warships with missiles during a high-end conflict.

The Military Sealift Command-sponsored reloading test matched USS Spruance (DDG-111) with the offshore support vessel MV Ocean as a test platform to support logistics experimentation for fuel, stores, passengers and ordnance delivery.

The test marked the first time the Navy has used an offshore support vessel to test the reloading of the vertical launch system aboard a warship, officials announced.

The experiment, which ran Oct. 4-7, involved only training loads and was held pierside at Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado, Calif., and in San Diego Bay, Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a 3rd Fleet spokesman told USNI News. Crews maneuvered training canisters – some empty, some weighted – but none had live ordnance during the tests, Robertson told USNI News.

“There was an open-ocean work scheduled. They did not do it. They had some safety concerns,” he said. “Because of excessive roll, they didn’t do the open-ocean transfer.”

It’s unclear if the Navy would conduct an open ocean, at-sea reloading of a ship’s VLS. “They’re working out the after-action reports, and there will be a determination” at some point, Robertson said. He declined to speculate when that might occur or with which mix of ships and support vessels.

Concept Tested Earlier

Military Sealift Command fleet experimentation ship MV Ocean Valor maneuvers alongside Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) in order to conduct a proof-of-concept evolution in San Diego, Oct. 5, 2022. US Navy PhotoThe Navy, in recent years, has been pursuing the capability to reload a warship’s VLS while at sea and, presumably, closer to the maritime fight. The recent years’ VLS reloading experimentation has involved a number of Pacific Fleet ships.

In 2021, the dry cargo ship USNS Amelia Earhart (T-AKE-6) and guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56) experimented with VLS reloading at sea, Robertson said. That was preceded in 2019 by two separate VLS-reloading tests, which “were pierside and protected harbor only. There were no open ocean events.”

The first one that year was in May 2019 and involved the guided-missile destroyer USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG-54) and the dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE-4). Both ships had participated that month in the combined maritime exercise Pacific Vanguard off Guam. The second, held in August 2019, involved the dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE-11) and guided-missile destroyer USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108).

Three years earlier, in 2016, the Navy put VLS reloading to the test with initial experimentation with the auxiliary ship USNS Bob Hope (T-AKR-300) and the guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52).

Also in March 2019, Navy cargo handling and Navy Munitions Command crews did an expeditionary ordnance reload demonstration at Seal Beach Naval Weapons Station, Calif., with the guided-missile destroyer USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112). The crews used forklifts and cranes to load Standard Missiles 2s into the ship’s VLS cells, according to a Navy news story about the event, held during exercise Pacific Horizon 2019.

Options for the Pacific Fight 

An SM-2 missile launches and destroys an airborne training target during a successful first test of the updated AEGIS Baseline 9 weapons system aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) on Oct. 24, 2017. US Navy Photo

The ship-to-ship transfer of missiles, especially in the open ocean, is no small feat. Missiles in the Navy’s fleet of cruisers and destroyers are stowed in individual cells of the MK-41 Vertical Launch System, but they can’t be reloaded while the ship is underway. The missiles must be loaded by cranes — which would be difficult to do at sea.

A ship today needs to return to a port or reach a safe, calm harbor where it can reload its VLS from a support ship – and be a safe distance from threats from adversaries, like China or Russia. That also means that ships, especially in the vast Pacific region, will be out of the fight for days or weeks, with time lost to transit but also with the added potential enemy threats from air or space.

The loss of a warship that needs to travel far to a safe harbor to get its resupply of missiles is a problem for the surface fleet.

“Those ships are gone for a month, basically. If the fight is only going to last a month or two, that means you get one use out of them and that means they’re out of action for the remainder of the war,” naval analyst Bryan Clark told USNI News.

What’s needed is a reload capability closer to the front, “maybe a few days away, maybe in the Third Island Chain or Second Island Chain islands,” in the case of conflict with China, said Clark, a senior fellow and director of the Center for Defense Concepts and Technology at the Washington, D.C.-based Hudson Institute. “Or you can even do it alongside a really big ship, like an [mobile landing platform] or an ESD, that allows you to make it so there are more locations to reload and, more importantly, you can reload closer to the area of action.” Those larger ships, like the expeditionary sea bases, also could offer protection in calm seas.

Auxiliary ships like the fleet of T-AKEs and LMSR vessels, if tasked, could be positioned “outside the fight. The whole purpose is to make it so it’s only a few days away, as opposed to it being two weeks to a month away to reload,” he said. “You’ve got a shrinking surface fleet, so we need every ship to contribute as much as possible.” Clark had authored a 2017 paper – Commanding the Seas: The U.S. Navy and the Future of Surface Warfare – that noted the shortfall in VLS reloading capability and early experimentation.

Challenge of the Open Ocean

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65) on June 24, 2022

Navy officials “probably need to figure out a way to reload surface combatants with air defense missiles to get them to get back in the fight so they can continue to protect the carriers and protect places like Guam. That’s probably why you’re seeing a renewed interest in this idea. That’s why this hasn’t been fixed a long time ago,” Clark said. The surface fleet “would like to see itself as very much this strike contributor, where reloading makes a big difference. But it’s really just not been in practice a major element of their contribution to these war fights, at least as how they’re played out in war games.”

A reload ship tasked to support might be 1,000 miles or three days’ travel away – “that’s far enough away where the PLA would have to decide, do I want to expend a really expensive and scarce intermediate-range ballistic missile on this ship, which may not be something that they’re willing to do,” he said. “You can put the reload ship far enough away and still get benefit from it, because it’s still going to be a lot closer than having to drive the DDG all the way to Guam, potentially, but more likely Yokosuka or Hawaii or maybe Australia. But having the reload ship in the second or third island chain is going to be a lot closer than any of those other options.”

The main obstacle to doing this, he said, “is the willingness of the Navy to outfit some of those auxiliary ships with some of this capability.” The Navy has auxiliary ships in the maritime prepositioning force – although that may take it out of the fleet that supports the Marine Corps – as well as the MSC surge fleet that could be repurposed, as seen in some of the reloading experiments.

“It’s certainly doable,” he added if the Navy “wants to spend the money to buy the gear and then outfit these ships and position them out in the Pacific. I would think that from INDO-PACOM’s perspective, I think that investment makes a lot of sense from a deterrence point of view.”

“The question is,” Clark said, “does the Navy share that idea or does the Navy say, ‘I’d rather spend that money on buying more missiles to fill up my existing magazines or spend it on making sure that we get all the upgrades done to the existing DDG fleet’?”

Japan Monitoring Russian, Chinese Ships Operating Near Japan

A Russian Navy Kilo-class submarine, along with two Russian Navy ships, transited La Pérouse Strait on Friday, according to a Friday Japanese Joint Staff Office release. A Russian Navy destroyer, submarine and submarine rescue ship were sighted 40 km northeast of Cape Soya, Hokkaido, 6 p.m. Thursday, according to the release. Hull numbers and images […]

Destroyer RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548), Kilo class submarine and submarine rescue vessel Igor Belousov. Japanese Joint Staff Office Photo

A Russian Navy Kilo-class submarine, along with two Russian Navy ships, transited La Pérouse Strait on Friday, according to a Friday Japanese Joint Staff Office release.

A Russian Navy destroyer, submarine and submarine rescue ship were sighted 40 km northeast of Cape Soya, Hokkaido, 6 p.m. Thursday, according to the release. Hull numbers and images identified them as destroyer RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548), a Kilo class submarine and the submarine rescue vessel Igor Belousov.

The Russian ships and submarine sailed westward through La Pérouse Strait into the Sea of Japan. The Russian vessels were monitored by fast attack craft JS Kumataka (PG-827) and JMSDF P-3C Orion MPAs of Fleet Air Wing 2, based at at JMSDF Hachinohe Air Base, Honshu, according to the release.

La Pérouse Strait is an international waterway which divides the Russian island of Sakhalin and Japan’s island of Hokkaido. The strait is routinely transited by Russian Pacific Fleet ships moving between the Sea of Japan and Sea of Okhotsk as both seas form part of the fleet’s operational areas.

People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) ships also continued to operate around Japan this week, although at a lower number and tempo.

A PLAN Dongdiao class surveillance ship carrying hull number 796 was spotted 100 km west from the coast of Aomori Prefecture, Honshu, around 5 a.m. Sunday, and sailed northeast towards the Tsugaru Strait between Honshu and Hokkaido, according to a Monday release from the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of Japan’s Ministry of Defense.

However, the ship turned around in an area 20km west of Cape Tappi and sailed southwest into the Sea of Japan. Multipurpose support ship JS Suo (AMS-4302) monitored the PLAN ship, according to the release.

A PLAN frigate was sighted sailing east in an area 50km north of Aguni Island, which is located northwest of Okinawa, around 8 a.m. Sunday, according to a second JSO release.

CNS Hengshui (572) Japanese Joint Staff Office Photo

Hull number and image provided identified the frigate as CNS Hengshui (572). The frigate then sailed north along the western side of the Nansei Islands, and on Monday, was sighted 90km southwest off Kusagaki Island where it turned west to sail into the East China Sea.

Destroyers JS Sazanami (DD-113) and JS Yugiri (DD-153) along with a JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) of Fleet Air Wing 1 stationed at JMSDF Kanoya Air Base, Kyushu, and a P-3C Orion MPA of Fleet Air Wing 5 stationed at Naha Air Base, Okinawa, conducted surveillance on the PLAN frigate.

On Tuesday the JSO issued a release updating the movements of Dongdiao 796, stating that at 5 p.m. Monday, the PLAN ship was spotted sailing southwest in an area 120 km north of the Oki Islands. On Tuesday, it sailed southwest through the Tsushima Strait into the East China Sea.

Dongdiao 796 Japanese Joint Staff Office Photo

Multipurpose support ship JS Hiuchi (AMS-4301) and fast attack craft JS Otaka (PG-826) ,along with JMSDF P-1 MPAs of Fleet Air Wing 4 stationed at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, monitored the PLAN ship.

Navy, Marines Set Up Experimental Task Force

A temporary joint Navy and Marine Corps command, Task Force 76/3, is carrying out an experimental period of operations in the Indo-Pacific region to determine the best way forward for an integrated Navy and Marines Corps command.

Task Force 76/3 was recently formed as a result of merging the staffs of the Navy’s Task Force 76, 7th Fleet, and 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force, according to an Oct. 1 Marine Corps release. It started operations during Noble Fusion 22.2, which began Oct. 1.

“Merging the two staffs simply makes sense. It’s an idea that’s really well-suited to this region,” said Rear Adm. Derek Trinque, commander, Task Force 76/3, in the release. “A command that is truly a Navy and Marine Corps team provides the most capable and most ready force to commanders in the key maritime terrain of the Indo-Pacific.”

Task Force 76/3 is an experiment for proof of concept, and following the experimentation period, feedback will be provided back to senior Navy, Marine Corps and defense leaders with lessons learned and in order to determine the way forward.

Under Noble Fusion 22.2, Task Force will be experimenting, operating and evaluating naval integration concepts through operations at-sea and ashore and will concurrently participate in operations and exercises throughout the Indo-Pacific. TF 76/3 will support the 3rd Marine Division during Exercise Kamandag 6, which began Monday in the Philippines and will additionally participate in exercises and operations throughout the fall, according to the release.

There are currently 1,900 U.S. Marines in the Philippines conducting Exercise Kamandag 6 with 530 Philippine Marines and 100 personnel from the Philippine Navy and Air Force. The Republic of Korea sent 120 Marines for the exercise, joining 30 personnel from the Japan Ground Self Defense Force (JGSDF) Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade who will participate in some portions of the exercise, including parts that involve coastal defense, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, maritime security, combined arms, amphibious operations and special operations, according to a Marine Corps release .

Also participating in the exercise are a number of personnel from the JGSDF Central Nuclear Biological Chemical Defense Unit and JGSDF NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) Counter Medical Unit, who together with the U.S. Marine Corps and Philippines Marine Corps will conduct knowledge exchanges on Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear defense tactics, procedures and medical treatment.

U.S. Marine Corps units participating in Kamandag 6 include the 3rd Marine Division; 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU); elements of the 11th MEU; elements of 4th Marine Regiment; Combat Logistics Regiment 3; and 1st Battalion, 2nd Marines.

U.S. Marine Corps aircraft involved in Kamandag 6 will be primarily sourced from the 31st MEU and include the F-35B Lightning, MV-22B Osprey, CH-53E Super Stallion, AH-1Z Viper, UH-1Y Venom, and KC-130J Super Hercules.

Amphibious assault ship Tripoli (LHA-7) and amphibious transport dock USS New Orleans (LPD-18) are participating in the exercise. Both ships have 31st MEU units embarked, while Tripoli also has Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) embarked on it with the squadron operating a mix of F-35Bs,MV-22B Ospreys and CH-53E Super Stallions.

The exercise is being across Luzon, Batanes and Palawan in the Philippines and includes a combined arms live-fire exercise in central Luzon featuring aircraft and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS), as well as amphibious operations along the eastern and northern coasts of the Philippines. Exercise Kamandag 6 ends Oct. 14.

In Hokkaido, Japan, 1,400 JGSDF personnel from the 2nd Division, Northern Army and 1,600 U.S. Marines from across III Marine Expeditionary Force are conducting Exercise Resolute Dragon 22 which began on Oct. 1 and ends on Oct. 14.

“Today, as the security environment surrounding Japan becomes more turbulent, there is a need to further strengthen the deterrence and response capabilities of the Japan-U.S. Alliance,” said Gen. Yuichi Togashi, the JGSDF 2nd Division Commanding General in a Marine Corps release. “For this reason, we recognize that Resolute Dragon, the largest field training exercise with the U.S. Marine Corps in Japan, is extremely important in terms of further strengthening the cooperation between the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force and the U.S. Marine Corps. It is my hope that through this training, the Japanese and U.S. Forces will deepen mutual understanding, improve their tactical skills and joint response capabilities to the operational level, and, in turn, further strengthen the Japan-U.S. Alliance”.

U.S. Marine Corps units participating in Resolute Dragon 22 include the 12th Marine Regiment; 3rd Battalion, 12th Marines; 3rd Battalion, 3rd Marines; 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion and 3rd Transportation Battalion; and multiple squadrons from 1st Marine Aircraft Wing with MV-22B Ospreys, CH-53E Super Stallions, AH-1Z Vipers, UH-1Y Venoms, KC-130J Super Hercules and F/A-18 Hornets. A JGSDF release stated that USAF CV-22 Ospreys stationed in Japan at Yokota Air Base will also participate in the exercise.

Chinese Launch Assault Craft from Civilian Car Ferries in Mass Amphibious Invasion Drill, Satellite Photos Show

The Chinese military held a major exercise to prove how the People’s Liberation Army Navy could use large civilian ferries to launch a massive amphibious invasion of Taiwan. The PLAN brought amphibious landing craft to a Chinese beach near the Taiwan Strait, according to Aug. 31 satellite imagery reviewed by USNI News. Offshore, the PLAN […]

H I Sutton Illustration for USNI News Satellite image ©2022 Maxar Technologies Used with Permission

The Chinese military held a major exercise to prove how the People’s Liberation Army Navy could use large civilian ferries to launch a massive amphibious invasion of Taiwan.

The PLAN brought amphibious landing craft to a Chinese beach near the Taiwan Strait, according to Aug. 31 satellite imagery reviewed by USNI News. Offshore, the PLAN arrayed several large civilian ferries and warships. The PLA landing craft left the beach, swam to the car ferries and loaded amphibious assault craft aboard at sea via a specially-constructed ramp. The landing craft then left the ferries and returned to their starting point.

Defense analyst Tom Shugart, who monitors Chinese military exercises, followed the drills and tracked seven of the civilian dual-use amphibious ferries during the exercise. Additionally, satellite imagery company Maxar Technologies has provided USNI News with high-resolution images of the August drills, revealing key details.

Chinese Type 05 amphibious fighting vehicle in 2021. CGTN Image

“They ended up parked off the coast in areas that were near other areas where we’ve seen them do amphibious assault training before with commercial ferries,” Shugart told USNI News.
“The numbers were bigger than we’ve seen before.”

The roll-on roll-off (RoRo) ferry has been identified as Bo Hai Heng Tong, a 15,000-ton multipurpose cargo ship. The ferry’s internal parking ‘lane’ is 1.6 miles long and three meters wide, spread across three decks. This translates into a vehicle cargo capacity that’s almost three times that of a San Antonio-class amphibious warship (LPD-17), Shugart said.

“AN LHA or LPD spends a lot of cubic feet [on] Marines able to operate for weeks or months at sea. That’s a lot of wasted space if all you’re doing is making a quick trip across the strait,” he said.

Bo Hai Heng Tong launched in 2020.

This ship is not unique. Her sister ship, Bo Hai Heng Da, was built at the same time with the same specifications. As the name implies, they normally operate in the Bohai Sea. But for the exercise Bo Hai Heng Tong sailed over 1,000 miles south to be opposite Taiwan.

The concept of augmenting amphibious warfare ships with civilian vessels, and ships taken up from trade (STUFT), are not new to the PLAN. The Chinese Navy has been practicing it for years. Many are used for transport, while some carry artillery pieces on their decks for shore bombardment.

However, launching craft – like the 26-ton ZTD-05, an amphibious armored vehicle used by the PLA – at sea is a new development, Shugart said.

“Everybody assumed that you had to seize a port first. That those [ferries] were second echelon forces… Somebody else has got to seize the port,” he said.
“2021 was the first time we saw them dump amphibious assault vehicles right into the water, which means now those ferries can be the first echelon sending assault units straight to the beach.“

Bo Hai Heng Tong

The new RoRo ships – launched in 2020 – are significant in a few ways. They are larger than most other ships in their class. When launched at the CIMC Raffles shipyard in Yantai, the yard described the ships as the largest multi-purpose RoRos Asia. They are multipurpose ships designed from the outset to carry a range of vehicle types and containers and are built with a large helicopter landing deck.

The amphibious exercise came less than a month after U.S. House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited Taiwan. The visit drew a massive show of force from China as Beijing ramped up military sea and air activity around the island.

Previous norms, such as not sailing warships beyond the median line in the Taiwan Strait, were ignored during the exercise. The new normal sees increased activity, including flying drones over Taiwanese islands. One notable drone incident occurred the same day as the amphibious exercise.

Several Chinese Navy ships were also involved in the exercise. The Type 071 class landing platform dock (LPD), Wuzhishan (987), was present with an older landing ship tank (LST). These also practiced swimming with armored vehicles.

A Chinese amphibious armored vehicle leaving the car ferry Bang Chui Dao in 2020. CCTV image

Shugart said, “China’s roll-on/roll-off ferries are very well-suited to support” any invasion of Taiwan. “Civilian augmentation will be essential, if not providing the majority of the required sealift capacity.”

Since the exercise, RoRo ships have returned to their normal routes, ferrying civilian vehicles across the entrance to the Bohai Sea. But their capability would allow China to switch to invasion mode at short notice.

“What can you come up with that’s better than a ferry? That’s what they do. That’s what they’re designed for, is to quickly move vehicles and people, drop them off and go back and work as efficiently as humanly possible,” Shugart told USNI News.

USS Tripoli Arrives in Singapore as Chinese Warships Continue to Operate Near Japan

Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) is now docked in Singapore for a port call, having arrived at Changi Naval Base on Wednesday following an underway in the South China Sea. Tripoli‘s stop in Singapore marks its first port visit since it pulled into Naval Base White Beach, Okinawa and embarked the 31st Marine Expeditionary […]

Marines assigned to the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) board an MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) operating from amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA-7) on Aug. 12, 2022. US Navy Photo

Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) is now docked in Singapore for a port call, having arrived at Changi Naval Base on Wednesday following an underway in the South China Sea.

Tripoli‘s stop in Singapore marks its first port visit since it pulled into Naval Base White Beach, Okinawa and embarked the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit on July 25.

Prior to embarking the 31st MEU, Tripoli had been operating under the “lightning carrier” concept, in which it had more than a dozen F-35Bs aboard during its Pacific deployment. The ship is underway with Marine MV-22B Ospreys and CH-53E Super Stallions for the remainder of its Indo-Pacific deployment. Tripoli took part in the June Valiant Shield exercise, but has transitioned to an amphibious ready force with the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) embarked. Since it began its deployment in May, Tripoli has also had a detachment of MH-60S Knight Hawks embarked from the “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23.

In April, Tripoli’s then commanding officer, Capt. Joel Lang, told USNI News that for its upcoming deployment the big deck could operate either as a lightning carrier or an amphibious assault platform.

While Tripoli was in the South China Sea, closer to Japan, a Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) surface action group transited the Tsushima Strait on Tuesday into the Sea of Japan. A PLAN intelligence ship and PLAN destroyer separately transited the Miyako Strait into the Pacific on Sunday and Wednesday, according to Japan Ministry of Defense releases.

On Sunday, PLAN Dongdiao-class intelligence ship sailed southeast through the waters between Okinawa and Miyako Island into the Pacific Ocean, according to a Monday news release from the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Ministry of Defense. The MoD said that Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force destroyer JS Fuyuzuki (DD-118) and a JMSDF P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 5 operating from Naha Air Base, Okinawa, monitored the PLAN ship.

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft attached to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA 211) launches off from the flight deck aboard amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) on April 2, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

On Tuesday, the JSO issued another news release stating that on Monday at 1 p.m., three PLAN ships – a destroyer, frigate and replenishment ship – were sighted 240 kilometers southwest of Tsushima. Images and hull numbers provided identified the ships as destroyer CNS Nanchang (101), frigate CNS Yancheng and replenishment ship CNS Dongpinghu (902). On Tuesday, the three ships sailed northeast through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan, the release said. JMSDF fast attack crafts JS Otaka (PG-826) and JS Umitaka (PG-828), along with a JMSDF P-1 MPA of Fleet Air Wing 4 operating from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Honshu, monitored the PLAN ships.

On Wednesday, the JSO said a PLAN destroyer was sighted that morning sailing southeast in an area 93 miles north-northeast of Miyako Island. Imagery and hull number provided in the news release identified the destroyer as CNS Zibo (156), which then subsequently sailed southeast through the Miyako Strait into the Pacific Ocean. The PLAN ship was also monitored by a JMSDF P-3C Orion MPA of Fleet Air Wing 5.

Meanwhile, in Guam, the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, the JMSDF, the Republic of Korea Navy and the United States Navy concluded exercise Pacific Vanguard 2022 on Monday. The exercise took place from Aug. 21 until Aug. 29, according to a JMSDF news release.
A U.S. 7th Fleet release said the exercise was “designed to provide training that emphasizes integrated task group maritime training and maneuver in a challenging exercise environment. It allows the U.S. and its allies to be equipped and ready to respond to crises and contingencies in a changing Indo-Pacific.”

Rear Adm. Toshiyuki Hirata, the commander of the JMSDF Indo-Pacific Deployment 2022 (IPD22) and commander of Japanese forces in the exercise said “Pacific Vanguard 2022 is a high-end exercise to operate together in high threat, complex situations in order to maintain stability and freedom of access to the oceans, and global commons. I hope this exercise will further strengthen the strong partnership among the participating countries and contribute to the peace and stability of the Indo-Pacific region in order to realize a free and Open Indo-Pacific.”

Japanese forces taking part in the exercise included helicopter destroyer JS Izumo (DDH-183), destroyer JS Takanami (DD-110), a submarine, a P-1 MPA, a UP-3D Electronic Intelligence training aircraft, and elements of the Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade (ARDB) of the Japanese Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF).

ARDB members, together with their U.S Marines counterparts, directed naval gunfire support from ships in the exercise, according to a JGSDF news release. U.S units in the exercise included destroyer USS Barry (DDG-52), dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Alan Shepard (T-AKE-3), an attack submarine, the 5th Air Naval Gun Liaison Company (ANGLICO) of 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF), a P-8 from the “Mad Foxes” of Patrol Squadron (VP) 5 and EA-18Gs from the “Start Warriors” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 209.

Destroyer HMAS Sydney (DDG42), frigate HMAS Perth (FFH157) and replenishment ship HMAS Supply (A195), participated for the RAN, while Canadian participation included frigate HMCS Vancouver (FFH331). The ROKN participated with destroyers ROKS Munmu the Great (DDH-976) and ROKS Sejong the Great (DDG-991).

CNS Zibo (156). JMSDF MoD

Japan’s Izumo and Takanami form the first surface unit of the JMSDF’s IPD22 deployment, with the submarine and aircraft in Pacific Vanguard forming independent sub-units of IPD22 that would participate in some of the engagements involving the two surface units. The second surface unit is destroyer JS Kirisame (DD-104), which is completed a port visit on Tuesday in Noumea, French New Caledonia. Earlier, Kirisame conducted exercise Oguri-Verny 22-5 near French New Caledonia from Aug. 25-26 with French Navy offshore patrol vessel FS D’Entrecasteaux (A621) and a French Air Force Falcon 200.

Izumo, Takanami, Supply, Vancouver, Munmu the Great and Sejong the Great all took part in the Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise, which concluded on Aug. 4. Other ships from the Indo-Pacific region are now home or headed home from RIMPAC. Philippine Navy frigate BRP Antonio Luna (FF151) arrived in Manila on Thursday, while Indonesian Navy frigate KRI I Gusti Ngurah Rai (332) arrived home on Aug. 22. Royal Malaysian Navy corvette KD Lekir (FSG26) arrived at RMN Kota Kinabalu, East Malaysia on Friday, but will leave for her homeport at RMN Lumut Naval Base. Meanwhile, Singapore frigate RSS Intrepid (69) is on its way home after departing Japan on Saturday.