JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR-HICKAM (HawaiiNewsNow) - RIMPAC 2018, which took place in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California, has drawn to a close.
The world's largest international maritime exercise wrapped up Thursday, bringing an end to over a month of training exercises involving 25 naval forces from across the Indo-Pacific region.
"I couldn't be more proud of our international team's ability to successfully complete an exercise of this nature," said U.S. Vice Adm. John Alexander, commander of the U.S. 3rd Fleet. "Most importantly, we completed the exercise safely while still achieving national training objectives."
This year's RIMPAC, or Rim Of The Pacific exercise, saw the participation of 46 surface ships, five submarines, 17 land forces, and more than 200 aircraft and 25,000 personnel.
"This is a true testament to the talent and lasting partnerships we built through RIMPACs past and present, and will continue to build for the foreseeable future," Alexander said.
But one familiar face was missing from this year's exercises.
China, a participant in the last two RIMPACs, was originally slated to participate in the event, but the nation was uninvited after militarizing contested islands in the South China Sea.
"China's actions in the South China Sea in regard to providing offensive weapons in a contested area is exactly contradictory to the entire purpose for this exercise. So therefore it was decided at very high levels that they would be disinvited," said U.S. Adm. John Aquilino said at this year's opening ceremony in June.
Even without an invitation, China reportedly sent a spy ship to watch over this year's event from a distance.
Aquilino said the exercise is about nations cooperating for peace, stability, security, and a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Alexander said the involvement of so many different countries working together to accomplish RIMPAC was a strong reminder of the unity that can be exhibited in a real-world situation.
"Multinational operations are complicated," he said. "It takes skill to assemble an international team and have it be successful."
This year's event didn't entirely go according to plan. During a sinking exercise, a target ship was sunk earlier than expected.
"But that is also the great part about RIMPAC," said Royal Canadian Navy Rear Adm. Bob Auchterlonie. "We adjusted plans and drafted new ones in order to ensure each nation got the training value they expected from RIMPAC 2018."
RIMPAC exercises include amphibious operations, gunnery, missile, anti-submarine and air defense exercises, as well as counter-piracy operations, mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal, and diving and salvage operations.
This year's RIMPAC marked the 26th in a series that began in 1971 and is now held every two years in and around Hawaii. Officials estimate this year's event pumped about $50 million into the local economy.
The next RIMPAC is expected will take place in the summer of 2020.