The US armed forces have sunk another retired Oliver Hazard Perry frigate as part of the ninth iteration of exercise Valiant Shield, which included 12 days of joint operations at sea, in the air, on land, and in cyberspace.
The pinnacle event was the sinking exercise (SINKEX) on the ex-USS Vandegrift (FFG 48), which was retired in 2015 after 31 years of service.
As described by the US Navy, SINKEX features a “tightly synchronized sequence of live-fire events, demonstrating the joint forces’ capability to deliver fires and effects in the maritime environment.”
Exercises like these provide an opportunity for participants to test new weapons and communications technologies and rehearse the integration of cyber effects to conduct long-range, precise, lethal, and overwhelming multi-domain strikes against a surface target at sea.
SINKEX participants included Carrier Air Wing 5 embarked aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), who conducted long-range maritime strikes from fixed and rotary-wing aircraft. One of the Carrier Strike Group’s destroyers, USS Benfold (DDG 65), launched a targeted SM-6 surface-to-surface missile, which was a significant impact in the sinking of the Vandegrift.
Seventh Fleet, embarked aboard the USS Tripoli (LHA 7), directed the task forces in the execution of a complete live-fire process.
Submarine USS Key West (SSN 722) – which likely tested a torpedo against the target, along with B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing, and F-18s & F-35Bs from the Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons (VMFA-533 and VMFA-121) also participated in the SINKEX.
Valiant Shield 2022 is a biennial, US-only, joint field training exercise (FTX) focused on integration between US forces in relation to current operational plans. This training enables real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces through detecting, locating, tracking, and engaging adversary units.
“This exercise was the perfect opportunity to conduct integrated deterrence, which was the cornerstone of our approach,” said Rear Admiral Robb Chadwick, Valiant Shield 22 Joint Exercise Control Group Director. “We combined our efforts across all warfighting domains and the spectrum of conflict to ensure that the United States, alongside our allies and partners, could dissuade or defeat aggression in any form or domain.”
The exercise took place in the Joint Region Marianas area of operations including Palau, Naval Base Guam, Andersen Air Force Base, and in the off-shore Mariana Island Range Complex, with some training events also occurring in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
“Forward presence matters,” said US Navy Cmdr. Logan Ridley, lead planner for Valiant Shield 22. “Conducting Valiant Shield in the Western Pacific provided precise opportunities to exercise the Joint Task Force’s real-world tactical mission, execute long-range fires, and visualize those successes.”
Marines from the III MEF brought the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to perform a HIMARS Rapid Infiltration (HI-RAIN), where the Air Force National Guard provided a quick landing of their C-130 Hercules on the Republic of Palau. The inclusion of the HI-RAIN mission significantly increases the lethality of precision fires and survivability of the HIMARS launcher, crew, and aircraft due to the reduced exposure to hostile fires.
The 94th AAMDC conducted a Patriot missile live-fire exercise on Palau, a first for the island nation, as the US Department of Defense continues to intensify its focus on the Indo-Pacific region. The Patriot is capable of defeating both high-performance aircraft and tactical ballistic missiles.
“One hundred percent successful,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Holler, commanding general of the 94th Army, Air and Missile Defense Command. “Everything went according to plan.”
The US 7th Fleet said planning for Valiant Shield 2024 has already begun, incorporating the lessons learned over the past two weeks.