Situation Report: Russia conducts ‘unprecedented’ naval exercise in the central Pacific

Vostok 18 Source Russian Defense Ministry
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As Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President Joe Biden met in Geneva, the Russian Navy is conducting a naval exercise 300-500 miles off the coast of Hawaii.

It is the first time at least since the Cold War that Russia has conducted naval exercises in the central Pacific Ocean, according to Russian officials. Zvezda, a state-owned network run by the Russian Ministry of Defense published footage of the exercise.

The exercise included surface ships, submarines, anti-submarine aircraft, and long-range bombers that practiced tracking “submarines and ship groupings of mock enemy,” according to the Russian Ministry of Defense.

“To my experience, and knowledge with consultation with other naval intelligence officers a generation older than me, the Soviet/Russian Navy never conducted such a large-scale naval exercise in waters 300-500 miles east of Hawaii,” retired Navy Capt. Jim Fanell, the former Pacific Fleet intelligence director said.

“Simply put, it is unprecedented,” Fanell continued.

On Sunday, June 13, two F-22s  were launched from Joint-Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii, followed by a third an hour later. Hawaii’s F-22s intercept potential threats approaching the air defense identification zone (ADIZ) around the island. A local outlet reported that incident was done at the FAA’s request.

Generally, U.S. officials are quick to detail these incidents. On Monday, June 14, the FAA and Pacific Air Forces would not explain why the jets were scrambled.

On June 15, U.S. defense officials confirmed to CBS the F-22s had been in response to Russian bomber flights, but that the bombers did not enter the ADIZ.

U.S. Indo-Pacific Command spokesman told CBS they were monitoring the Russian exercise, and that a U.S. carrier strike group was conducting an exercise 200 miles east of Hawaii.

“While the Soviet Navy, during the Cold War, conducted ‘Yankee Patrols” off the U.S. West (and East) Coast with ballistic missile equipped nuclear submarines and the occasional intelligence ship operating off Oahu, as recently as RIMPAC 2016, the Soviet/Russian Navy has never deployed this number of surface combatants to the Hawaiian OPAREA,” Fanell said.

At the end of May, a missile test off the coast of Kauai was delayed by a Russian spy ship that stayed just off the cost of U.S. territorial waters for several days. Spy ships near Hawaii are not unheard of. Fanell said that during the Cold war, the Soviet Navy would send patrols off the continental, and send an occasional intelligence ship near Oahu.

“[But] the Soviet/Russian Navy has never deployed this number of surface combatants to the Hawaiian OPAREA,” Fanell said.

“What is most worrisome is that this activity seems to expand upon similar PLA Navy operations in 2020 that occurred east of the international dateline, closer to Hawaii than to Guam.  The concern is that the U.S. is not prepared to defend Hawaii as were their counterparts in 1941,” Fanell said.

On June 1, Russia deployed battlecruiser Pyotr Velikly, the largest surface combat ship in the world, and the missile cruiser Marshal Ustinov to the Barents Sea for several days of exercises. On June 15, TASS reported Russian destroyer Vice Admiral Kulakov practiced attacking an enemy submarine with torpedoes in the Barents Sea.

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