Hawaii to host RIMPAC naval maneuvers this summer
By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer
A naval exercise that brings to Hawai'i's shores thousands of service members from the U.S. and foreign nations, an aircraft carrier, beach landings — and millions in Waikīkī tourist dollars — is returning between late June and early August.
The U.S. Navy hasn't yet released all the details for the 2010 Rim of the Pacific war games, but the last time the biennial exercise was held in 2008, there were 10 countries, 35 ships, six submarines and 150 aircraft involved.
A total of 20,000 sailors, airmen, Marines, soldiers and Coast Guardsmen participated.
"The reason that we do it is to make sure that there's stability throughout the Pacific Rim," said Chief Petty Officer Terry Rhedin, a Navy spokesperson in San Diego.
RIMPAC, one of the world's largest maritime exercises, also provides an opportunity for allied nations to improve interoperability and communications.
The U.S., Japan, South Korea, Canada, Australia, Singapore and the Netherlands will be among participants this year, Rhedin said.
Chile will be an observer and Russia "was given an invitation (to be an observer )," Rhedin said. "I don't know if they've accepted."
SHIPS TO BE SUNK
A U.S. aircraft carrier and amphibious assault ship — as yet unidentified — will be two of the biggest ships involved.
The former USS Coronado, an amphibious transport dock ship that was commissioned in 1970, used as a command ship and was decommissioned in 2006, will be one of several warships that will be sunk as part of the training, Rhedin said.
Rhedin said yesterday she didn't have the approximate number of foreign and U.S. service members taking part in RIMPAC, but it is in the "thousands." The Navy said the exercise timeframe is from about June 23 to Aug. 2.
In 2004 and 2006, the RIMPAC exercise was estimated to have brought in more than $20 million in spending in Honolulu, Rhedin said.
Lucy Lau, marketing coordinator for the Hale Koa Hotel, said the exercise provides an extra summertime boost in Waikīkī.
"It helps us a lot. In RIMPAC years our hotel is a little more bustling" and food and beverage sales increase, she said.
The Hale Koa is one of five U.S. armed forces recreation centers around the world and is operated by the Army, Lau said.
Lau said some families fly in to be with relatives taking part in the exercise. Service members have some free time at the beginning and end of RIMPAC, she said.
"Normally, that break is good for everyone in Waikīkī because all of those sailors are going to come in from all different countries," Lau said. "So Waikīkī bustles at that time."
Four ships were sunk in the 2008 war games off Kaua'i including the destroyers Fletcher, David R. Ray and Cushing; and the cruiser Horne.
Heavyweight Mk-48 torpedoes and Harpoon missiles were among the armaments used in the "sinkex" drills.
This year's exercise is the 22nd in a series of RIMPAC exercises conducted since 1971.