By Capt. Homer Denius
Commander, Amphibious Squadron 3
Amphibious warfare is a complex set of capabilities shared between the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps that projects an adaptable and versatile force from the sea. During every Rim of the Pacific exercise, these capabilities are practiced and then tested with our partners throughout the Pacific. RIMPAC 2016 has been no exception. This year, we have not only practiced and honed our skills with our partners, but also increased amphibious interoperability through a series of landing craft exchanges during real-world scenarios.
Typically, an amphibious squadron will be responsible for three ships that make up an amphibious ready group. These three ships –normally an amphibious assault ship, dock landing ship and amphibious transport dock – each bring unique capabilities that complement each other and also provide flexibility in case we need to separate the amphibious ready group ships for special mission requirements. During RIMPAC, we not only are conducting the movement, logistics and daily operations of the U.S. ships, USS America (LHA 6) and USS San Diego (LPD 22), but the third ship of the amphibious ready group includes the Royal Australian Navy’s HMAS Canberra (LHD 02). These three ships operate as a combined task group and are able to project forces ashore, combining complex aviation and surface ship-to-shore operations. Within these operations, surface craft from San Diego and aircraft from America have operated on board Canberra, while Canberra’s helicopters and boats have operated aboard San Diego and America.
The unique interoperability events between San Diego and Canberra have been a highlight of the exercise. Navy landing craft air cushions and Marine Corps amphibious assault vehicles have operated flawlessly from the Canberra’s well deck, while Australia’s assault boats entered and exited San Diego’s well deck like clockwork. All of these operations occurred while MV-22 Ospreys, CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters and MH-60 Sea Hawk helicopters conducted their first landings aboard Canberra. This proof of interoperability expands both the United States’ and Australia’s capabilities, which opens several new opportunities to deter simulated threats and adversaries during the “War At Sea” exercise.
RIMPAC 2016 brings 26 nations together to train in a fast-paced maritime environment and provides exceptional training for U.S. and partner forces. Whether it’s Marines going ashore or destroyers working alongside amphibious ships, RIMPAC collectively demonstrates the importance of adapting to an evolving environment, the increased capability amphibious forces bring to that environment, and how to best capitalize on the resources provided by the amphibious force. It has been an exceptional experience working with the many nations of RIMPAC. It is a unique opportunity to significantly expand our interoperability and thus our capability in amphibious warfare.
Editor’s note: For more information on RIMPAC 2016, visit the following links:
Be a part of the conversation on social media using #RIMPAC and #PacificPartners.