This summer 49 surface ships, 6 submarines, more than 200 aircraft, and 25,000 personnel from more than 20 nations took part in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2014. Hosted by the U.S. Navy every other year, RIMPAC is the world’s largest multinational maritime exercise. This year’s event turned out to be even more unique because it involved a powerful contingent of forces from the People’s Republic of China. This was the first time the People’s Liberation Army Navy was invited to attend. China sent its modern Luyang II–class (Project 052C) guided-missile destroyer Haikou, the Jiangkai II–class (Project 054A) guided-missile frigate Yeuyang, the Fuchi-class replenishment ship Qiandaohu, and the hospital ship Daishandao (also called the Peace Ark, pictured here pierside), as well as Z-8 and Z-9 maritime helicopters and a maritime dive unit. Rumor has it that China will be invited back for future RIMPACs, although previous attendees have included Russia and Thailand, both of which were noticeably absent this year in light of ongoing political and military issues.
Brunei also took part in its first RIMPAC this year, sending a duo of offshore-patrol vessels to sail in the international naval exercises off the coast of Hawaii. These German-built sisters from the Royal Brunei Navy, the KDB Darulaman (pictured here) and Darussalam, each displace 1,625 tons, and measure 262 feet long, with a beam of 43 feet and a draft of 11 feet. Able to travel at 22 knots and cruise for 7,500 nautical miles at 12 knots, the class is armed with a forward 57-mm gun and has provision to carry Exocet antiship missiles. The ships were built by Lürssen Werft in Bremen and form part of Brunei’s four-ship Darussalam class, along with sister Darulehsan and youngest member of the family Daruttaqwa, which was delivered in May.
Concurrent with RIMPAC, the U.S. Navy was involved in another major series of exercises known as Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) in Southeast Asia. CARAT 2014 runs from May through November and involves forces from the United States, Bangladesh, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and East Timor. U.S. CARAT exercises off the Philippines included extensive training and activities in the South China Sea and featured the first-ever landing of a Philippine naval helicopter on a U.S. Navy warship, as a newly delivered AW109 conducted qualifications on the destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG-56). The Philippine Navy operates three Italian-built AW109 helicopters and has two additional units on order. They are optimized for maritime support missions including economic-zone protection, naval surveillance, search-and-rescue, and maritime security. The Philippine Navy frigates Gregorio Del Pilar and Ramon Alcaraz, both retired U.S. Coast Guard Hamilton-class high-endurance cutters, also took part in the CARAT 2014 activities.