The ninth iteration of exercise Valiant Shield concluded June 17, 2022, following 12 days of joint operations at sea, in the air, on land, and in cyberspace.
Valiant Shield 2022 is a biennial, U.S.-only, joint Field Training Exercise (FTX) focused on integration between U.S. forces in relation to current operational plans. This training enables real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces through detecting, locating, tracking, and engaging adversary units.
The pinnacle event was the sinking exercise (SINKEX) on the decommissioned ex-USS Vandegrift (FFG 48). SINKEX featured a tightly synchronized sequence of live-fire events, demonstrating the joint forces’ capability to deliver fires and effects in the maritime environment. This SINKEX provided the Joint Task Force the opportunity to test new weapons and communications technologies and rehearse the integration of cyber effects to conduct long-range, precise, lethal, and overwhelming multi-domain strikes against a surface target at sea.
“This exercise was the perfect opportunity to conduct integrated deterrence, which was the cornerstone of our approach,” said Rear Admiral Robb Chadwick, Valiant Shield 22 Joint Exercise Control Group Director. “We combined our efforts across all warfighting domains and the spectrum of conflict to ensure that the United States, alongside our allies and partners, could dissuade or defeat aggression in any form or domain.”
The exercise took place in the Joint Region Marianas area of operations including Palau, Naval Base Guam, Andersen Air Force Base, and in the off-shore Mariana Island Range Complex, with some training events also occurring in the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.
“Forward presence matters,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Logan Ridley, lead planner for Valiant Shield 22. “Conducting Valiant Shield in the Western Pacific provided precise opportunities to exercise the Joint Task Force’s real-world tactical mission, execute long-range fires, and visualize those successes.”
Valiant Shield provides a venue to test current and new technologies and platforms, such as “multi-intelligence source artificial intelligence experiments,” which reinforce the military’s current position as the supreme joint force. It also provides feedback used to guide the budget and acquisition process future fiscal years.
Marines from the III MEF brought the M142 High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) to perform a HIMARS Rapid Infiltration (HI-RAIN), where the Air Force National Guard provided a quick landing of their C-130 Hercules on the Republic of Palau. The inclusion of the HI-RAIN mission significantly increases the lethality of precision fires and survivability of the HIMARS launcher, crew, and aircraft due to the reduced exposure to hostile fires.
The 94th AAMDC conducted a Patriot missile live-fire exercise on Palau, a first for the island nation, as the U.S. Department of Defense continues to intensify its focus on the Indo-Pacific region. The Patriot is capable of defeating both high-performance aircraft and tactical ballistic missiles.
“One hundred percent successful,” said Brig. Gen. Mark Holler, commanding general of the 94th Army, Air and Missile Defense Command. “Everything went according to plan.”
Live-fire exercises are one of the most valuable ways for air defenders to train their craft. The ability to defend U.S. allies and partners is a part of the mission, and conducting training in different locations across the region allows the U.S. military to learn and improve their proficiency to support a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) demonstrated a myriad of its capabilities: expeditionary diving, maritime and port security, logistics support, construction, coastal patrol, explosive ordnance disposal, and Automated Construction of Expeditionary Structures (ACES). The unique capability of ACES included the operational demonstration of providing a concrete 3D printing capability, which is specifically designed for expeditionary environments.
The NECC exercised abilities to enable freedom of movement for the fleet and joint force by removing physical, manmade, and explosive threats that impede the joint force’s ability to maneuver, on land and sea.
All of this built to the dramatic conclusion of the Valiant Shield 2022 SINKEX. The military employs obsolete U.S. Navy ships for sinking exercises to train joint forces and to test the effectiveness of modern weaponry on ship design and aircraft.
SINKEX participants included Carrier Air Wing 5 embarked aboard the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), who conducted long-range maritime strikes from fixed and rotary-wing aircraft. Seventh Fleet, embarked aboard the USS Tripoli (LHA 7), directed the task forces in the execution of a complete live-fire process. USS Benfold (DDG 65) launched a targeted surface-to-surface missile, which was a significant impact in the sinking of the Vandegrift. USS Key West (SSN 722), along with B-1B Lancers from the 28th Bomb Wing, and F-18s & F-35Bs from the Marine Fighter Attack Squadrons (VMFA-533 and VMFA-121) also participated in the SINKEX.
The planning for Valiant Shield 2024 has already begun, incorporating the lessons learned over the past two weeks so the Indo-Pacific joint forces can continue to ensure a Free and Open Indo-Pacific.