Hosted by the United States – in particular the US Third Fleet - and lately based every even numbered year in Hawaii and San Diego, RIMPAC has been running since 1971 and can involve up to 30 countries, 50 ships and 25,000 personnel on land and sea.
The purpose of RIMPAC is to engage in mutual, large-scale military exercises to foster familiarity, trust, interoperability and collective strength among Pacific nations. This means the navies of friendly nations get used to working together.
New Zealand typically sends a warship to Hawaii to participate in maritime warfighting exercises, while junior and senior officers get the opportunity to command or be part of the workings of a military task force engaging an ‘enemy’. Alongside this, our divers and hydrographers from Littoral Warfare Unit HMNZS Matataua travel to California for a subset exercise involving mine detection and clearance.
In this environment, New Zealand assets and personnel can test themselves alongside some of the best in the world. The scale of the organisation means live-firing of guns, torpedoes and missiles can be carried out in a controlled environment, providing valuable insight into our capability. The crews will be pitted against aircraft, and will witness large-scale amphibious operations.
In 2018 New Zealand made history when frigate HMNZS Te Mana was crowned the winner of RIMPAC’s Naval Surface Fire Support Rodeo competition, with the ship landing her shells closer to the target than any other ship – from over 6km away.
The exercise is also a sharing of cultures. All ships host open days and functions for the participating nations, and there is a hotly contested sports competition among nations.