U.S. military exercise ‘Valiant Shield’ continues until Friday; upcoming sinking scenario near Guam

Andersen AFB hosts exercise Valiant Shield 2020. Photo by Senior Airman Helena Owens (Courtesy of DVIDS)

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command forces are participating in exercise Valiant Shield (VS) from Sept. 14-25, on Guam and around the Mariana Islands Range Complex.

Participants include USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS America (LHA 6), USS New Orleans (LPD 18), USS Germantown (LSD 42) and multiple surface ships — approximately 100 aircraft and an estimated 11,000 personnel from the U.S. Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps.

Valiant Shield focuses on integration of training in a blue-water environment. This training enables real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces through detecting, locating, tracking, and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land, and cyberspace in response to a range of mission areas.

“Exercises such as Valiant Shield allow U.S. forces the opportunity to integrate warfighting concepts such as all-domain strike group operations in a joint high end warfare training environment to continuously improve joint lethality,” said Rear Adm. Michael Boyle, director maritime operations, U.S. Pacific Fleet. “It is vitally important that we demonstrate to our allies and partners our strong commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

Valiant Shield 2020 is slated to include one sinking exercise (SINKEX) with the environmentally clean decommissioned hulk of the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate, ex-USS Curts (FFG 38).

A SINKEX generally involves air, surface, and undersea military units conducting live-fire training at sea against a physical target.

SINKEXs give participants an opportunity to gain proficiency and confidence in their weapons and systems through realistic training that cannot be duplicated in simulators.

Each SINKEX is conducted in strict compliance with applicable U.S. environmental laws, regulations, and permit requirements to minimize potential harm to the environment. In addition, each SINKEX vessel undergoes a rigorous cleaning process, in accordance with Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards, that includes removal of all liquid polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) from transformers, large capacitors, and small capacitors to the greatest extent practical, and all trash, floatable materials, mercury or fluorocarbon containing materials, and readily detachable solid PCB items.

Petroleum is cleaned from the vessel’s tanks, pipes and reservoirs. The Navy also complies with documentation requirements to track components containing liquid PCBs and solid shipboard materials potentially containing PCBs.

SINKEXs are conducted in water at least 1,000 fathoms (6,000 feet) deep and at least 50 nautical miles from land, only after the area has been surveyed for the presence of people, marine vessels, aircraft, and marine species.

SINKEXs are fully compliant with the National Environmental Policy Act, Marine Mammal Protection Act, Endangered Species Act, and a general permit under the Marine Protection, Research, and Sanctuaries Act.

When conducted within waters surrounding Guam and Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, SINKEXs are positioned outside the footprint of the Mariana Trench National Monument.

This training event will enhance the Joint Force’s combat readiness and lethal capability, enabling forces to respond to operational missions throughout the region to ensure a stable, free, and open Indo-Pacific.

In addition to the SINKEX exercise, U.S. military officials say participating forces will be utilizing a wide range of warfighting capabilities and demonstrate the inherent flexibility and capability of U.S. naval fleet operations and integration of joint forces. The range of capabilities include maritime security operations, anti-submarine and air-defense exercises, amphibious operations, and other elements of complex warfighting.

In coordination with military medical personnel and public health personnel, every aspect of Valiant Shield 2020 has been analyzed to ensure the appropriate mitigation measures are taken against COVID-19. The planning focused on protecting service members and their families; preventing the spread of the virus to U.S. forces, local residents, allies, or partners; and ensuring warfighting readiness in order to accomplish assigned missions.

The lessons learned from exercises like Valiant Shield assists U.S. forces in developing regional and global power projection capabilities by integrating warfighting concepts that provide a full range of options to succeed in defense of U.S. interests and those of its allies and partners around the world.

Valiant Shield is a series of military exercises that promote integration among joint forces. Each successive exercise builds on lessons learned from the previous training to enhance complementary capabilities and develop new tactics, techniques, and procedures. This training will provide the deterrence and stabilizing effects of a force-in-being, ready at the outset of a contingency, without the need for force buildup or extensive mission rehearsal.

This is the eighth exercise in the Valiant Shield series that began in 2006.