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Friday, July 19, 2002




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COURTESY U.S. NAVY
The Japanese Maritime Self Defense Force ship JDS Murasame was in formation with ships and submarines participating in Rim of the Pacific exercises recently as they formed up for an exercise photo off the coast of Kauai.



Navy deems RIMPAC a success


By Gregg K. Kakesako
gkakesako@starbulletin.com

Despite its reduced numbers, this year's multinational Pacific maritime naval war games were successful because of the emphasis on anti-submarine warfare, the Navy says.

Rear Adm. Mark Edwards, commander of the 36-ship naval force, said that of the 206 diesel submarines that belong to nations in the Pacific Rim, 190 can be considered not to be aligned with the United States.

"We need to know how to challenge that," said Edwards, who normally commands the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier battlegroup. Edwards said that until the end of the Cold War, most of the Navy's focus was on the threat of nuclear submarines operated by the Soviet Union.

"As the Cold War wound down, we are in a different world," Edwards said yesterday as the warships returned to Pearl Harbor, signaling the end of the war games until 2004. "This new submarine threat poses a challenge to us."

This year's Rim of the Pacific exercise was marred by the first fatality in its 31-year history. Peruvian sailor Gilbert Niceforo Flores Castro was killed July 5 during a gunnery exercise while clearing a 6-inch gun on the BAP Montero, a 336-foot frigate.

Billed as the largest peacetime naval exercise, RIMPAC played host to eight countries, which sent 36 warships and 11,000 sailors who spent nearly four weeks in island waters. Most of the warships will begin leaving this weekend. The war on terrorism saw a decline in U.S. participation with the absence of a nuclear aircraft carrier and its array of fighter planes and 5,000 sailors, aviators and Marines.

Two years ago, 52 vessels participated in RIMPAC. Initially, the Japanese planned to send nine vessels, but trimmed their participation to five.

Canada and Australia two years ago sent five warships. This year, there were five from Canada and a submarine from Australia. Australia, South Korea and Japan supplied diesel submarines. "We don't get the opportunity to operate against diesel submarines in the Navy all the time," Edwards said. "The opportunity to do so was the highlight of the RIMPAC exercise. This is the challenge since they are proliferating and we are not getting less of them."

This year's exercise was also the first time a South Korean warship and submarine fired Harpoon missiles, during a ship-sinking exercise last week off the coast of Kauai.

Edwards said the South Korean warship Wonju scored a direct hit on the decommissioned supply vessel USS White Plains.

But the exercise was more than ships firing missiles and guns, Edwards said.

"There was leadership, friendship and partnership," he said. "That adds a unique flavor to an exercise like RIMPAC. Any time we get to operate with our coalition partners, we get to know them a little bit more. ... It shows that we are more alike than there are differences."



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