Though the U.S. Navy-led Rim of the Pacific exercise has concluded, practicing defense techniques is still at the forefront of some Pacific nations’ defense priorities in the Pacific Dragon 2022 exercises.
Pacific Dragon is a biennial exercise focused on improving defensive capabilities. U.S. Indo-Pacific Command explained that Pacific Dragon is “designed to improve tactical and technical coordination and interoperability concerning regional air and missile defense capability,” according to a statement.
This year’s Pacific Dragon exercise was unique since it “included a live fire intercept of a short range ballistic missile using a Standard Missile 3 (SM-3) Block IA,” U.S. Indo-Pacific Command said.
Pacific Dragon comes on the heels of Rim of the Pacific, a multinational naval exercise that is also the largest of its kind in the world. Though the exercise has occurred every two years since the 1970s, recent iterations have become much more significant due to threat perceptions by Pacific nations.
Particularly concerning is China’s rhetoric—and increasingly Beijing’s actions—toward its neighbors. With the flames of war in Ukraine still raging, many countries in the Pacific are fearful of the specter of conflict in their region.
Pacific Dragon was also highly multinational in scope. “Forces from the Royal Australian Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, Republic of Korea Navy, U.S. Missile Defense Agency, and U.S. Navy successfully conducted Pacific Dragon 2022 (PD22), a recurring biennial multinational air and missile defense exercise, from August 5-15, 2022, in Hawaii at Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands (PMRF) and off the coast of Kauai,” the statement noted.
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command highlighted that participating vessels “included HMAS Sydney (DDG 42), HMAS Supply (A 195), HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331), JS Haguro (DDG 180), ROKS Sejong the Great (DDG 991), USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS William P. Lawrence (DDG 110), and Pacific Missile Range Facility Barking Sands, Kauai.”
While the United States leads a number of multinational exercises in the Pacific each year, those exercises have increased in both size and number of participants as of late. This year’s Rim of the Pacific exercise, for example, included twenty-six different countries for the first time—and it is clear why.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine showed definitively that the rules-based international order of the last eight decades can no longer be counted on to maintain peace and stability. Combined with China’s rhetoric over Taiwan and clear desire to take back the island democracy by force, it is better to be a safe Pacific nation than a sorry one.
Caleb Larson is a multimedia journalist and defense writer with the National Interest. A graduate of UCLA, he also holds a Master of Public Policy and lives in Berlin. He covers the intersection of conflict, security, and technology, focusing on American foreign policy, European security, and German society for both print and radio. Follow him on Twitter @calebmlarson.
Image: Flickr/U.S. Navy.