Twenty-six nations, 38 ships, and more than 25,000 military personnel have been in and around Hawaiʻi the last couple of weeks for this year’s Rim of the Pacific maritime exercises.
Back in full force after a downsized version in 2020, U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Michael Boyle said these amphibious exercises are a way of connecting and training allied nations.
“I talk about not just interoperability but interchangeability,” he said last week. “I defined interchangeability as that place where our national interests and our ability to be interoperable overlap. That’s something that we will intend to further during RIMPAC.”
Nations have brought together four submarines, 30 unmanned systems, and more than 170 aircraft to train on land and sea in anti-submarine warfare; air defense missions; missile and target practice; and mock-rescue operations.
Organizers say that typically, RIMPAC brings in more than $50 million to the local economy.
Jason Chung, vice president for the Military Affairs Council of the Chamber of Commerce Hawaiʻi, said the global implications play a role in both the state’s local economy and quality of life.
“The whole purpose of the Rim of the Pacific Exercise, which is to maintain the free and open Indo-Pacific, which really gets after maintaining our way of life and, and the quality of life that we enjoy within this region as well as in Hawaiʻi.”
But some want to get away from just that reliance.
Ellen Rae Cachola with Women’s Voices Women Speak teaches about, and advocates for, demilitarization. Cachola said that “genuine security” provides a more humanitarian viewpoint.
“Genuine security is really about having our countries prioritize human needs, such as affordable housing, food, health care, education, so that it is about human needs,” Cachola said. “It’s about peace and security, taking care of people. Genuine security counters the popular idea of national security, which is usually equated with military security.”
Part of genuine security is accountability.
The Red Hill water crisis looms over this year’s events.
Fuel from the bulk storage facility has been used in past exercises. U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Samuel Paparo said that’s not the case this year.
“We have absolutely operated seamlessly without the use of Red Hill during this time, either with tankers that bring fuel and logistics here … into the port of Honolulu, as well as that on island logistical capability that’s inherent to Honolulu itself,” Paparo said.
In its 28th iteration, in addition to U.S. forces, participating countries include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Republic of the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, and the United Kingdom.
This year’s exercises, aptly themed “Capable, Adaptive, Partners” started June 29, and will run until Aug. 4.