The big biennial maritime exercise Rim of the Pacific will be held later than usual and be an at-sea-only event due to COVID-19 concerns, U.S. Pacific Fleet said Wednesday.
The 27th RIMPAC off Hawaii will be held Aug. 17-31. Typically, the world's largest international maritime exercise starts at the end of June and runs through July.
"The at-sea-only construct for RIMPAC 2020 was developed to ensure the safety of all military forces participating by minimizing shore-based contingents, " Pacific Fleet said in a release. "Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, crafted the modified RIMPAC plan as a way to conduct a meaningful exercise with maximum training value and minimum risk to the force, allies and partners, and the people of Hawaii."
The Navy said RIMPAC is designed to foster and sustain cooperative relationships, critical to ensuring the safety of sea lanes and security in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region.
The exercise, which takes place in the waters surrounding the Hawaiian islands, "is a unique training platform designed to enhance interoperability and strategic maritime partnerships, " according to the release.
RIMPAC in 2018 drew 25 nations, 46 surface ships, five submarines, 17 land forces and more than 200 aircraft and 25, 000 personnel to Hawaii and Southern California.
"In these challenging times, it is more important than ever that our maritime forces work together to protect vital shipping lanes and ensure freedom of navigation through international waters, " said U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. John Aquilino. "And we will operate safely, using prudent mitigation measures."
As the U.S. Navy continues to limit the spread of COVID-19, RIMPAC 2020 is not scheduled to include social events ashore, the Navy said.
Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam will be accessible for logistics support, with a "minimal footprint of staff ashore " for command and control, logistics, and other support functions, the service said.
The Navy said this year's exercise will include multinational anti-submarine warfare, maritime intercept operations, and live-fire training events, among other cooperative training opportunities. Continued planning will remain flexible as Navy leaders monitor and assess evolving circumstances.
"We remain committed to and capable of safeguarding allies and partners throughout the Indo-Pacific region, " Aquilino said. "The flexible approach to RIMPAC 2020 strikes the right balance between combating future adversaries and the COVID-19 threat."
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