Real purpose of US military's intensive exercises in Pacific

China Military Online
Li Wei
2021-08-27 17:29:54

By Wang Peng

From the beginning of this year, the US military has conducted multiple military exercises centered on the Pacific region one after another, represented by the Northern Edge 21 and Large Scale Exercise (LSE) 2021. The major scenario of these exercises is to get prepared for large-scale operations with China and Russia as potential targets.

From May 3 to 14, the joint exercise Northern Edge 21 took place in Alaska. Organized by United States Indo-Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM) and led by the Air Force in cooperation with the Army, Marines and Navy, this exercise has involved a total of 15,000 troops, more than 240 combat aircraft including stealth fighter F-35A, combat fighter F-15, strategic bomber B-52 and UAV MQ-9 Reapers, as well as 6 warships including the USS Theodore Roosevelt.

In this exercise, the US military focused on representative subjects in high-intensity warfare, such as the employment of hypersonic kill chain, anti-jam and anti-decoy capabilities of the GPS, and integration of fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft . In particular, the Agile Combat Employment (ACE), a newly proposed operational concept by the US Air Force, has been tested in the exercise, and markedly targeted "high-end opponents".

The LSE 2021, which has been held from August 3 to 16, also highlighted the US Navy and Marine Corps’ strategic intention on the large-scale operations. It involved multiple US military bases deployed in the US, Africa, Europe, and the Pacific, with the second, third, sixth, seventh, and tenth fleets of the US Navy and 3 expeditionary strike groups of the US Marine Corps included, totaling approximately 36 live units and over 50 virtual units joining the exercise. The exercise covers 25,000 participants across 17 time zones, as well as aircraft carriers, submarines, fighters, unmanned vessels that can rank top both in terms of the scale and scope in the history of the US Navy.

In the LSE 2021, the verification of several new operational concepts was conducted for the first time through the combination of virtual systems and real forces in this actual combat exercise, especially aiming to test the long-range operations of the US Navy in conflicts with Russia or other major powers. The US military plans to hold the LSE every three years in the future as scheduled, and continue to expand the scale of the exercise to get more US allies and partner countries involved.

The core purpose of these frequent large-scale exercises conducted by the US military is but to make strategic adjustments to the deployment of US troops in resisting China, which has been reflected in the exercises of the US Navy, Army and Air Forces.

According to the report from the US Pacific Fleet website on June 4 that a third of the US Pacific Submarine Force was dispatched to participate in the Exercise Agile Dagger 2021. The submarines involved quickly left the Joint Base Pearl Harbor–Hickam (JBPHH) in a short period, demonstrating its agility and lethality in maneuvering deployment.

The US Army held the Exercise Forager 21 in Guam from July 11 to August 6. This exercise involving about 4,000 participants aims to test and improve the US Army’s ability in deploying ground forces to the Pacific, implementing command and control, and conducting multi-domain warfare with high efficiency.

According to the Stars and Stripes' website, in mid-July, the United States National Guard of Air Force based in Hawaii held Pacific Iron 2021. The exercise involved a total of more than 35 combat aircraft and 800 troops, including 25 F-22 fighter jets from Hawaii and Alaska, and centered on 3 airports in Guam and 1 airport in Tinian. The US media believed that Pacific Iron 2021 is a PACAF dynamic force employment operation to project forces to the Area of Responsibility (AOR) of USINDOPACOM.

Strategic deterrence against China has been the top priority in the US strategic actions. Joint exercises and joint training based on military alliances act as an important form in the US military's strategic deterrence against China in the Pacific region. This is especially in the current unfavorable situation where the US military has withdrawn from Afghanistan in a hurry and strategic image get severely ruined. Relying on its military alliances of multiple countries is an important method for its strategic game with "potential opponents" in the Pacific.

Editor's note: This article is originally published on China Youth Daily, and is translated from Chinese into English and edited by the China Military Online. The information, ideas or opinions appearing in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of


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