The Secretary of the United States Navy has called for the establishment of a new fleet at the intersection of the Indian and Pacific Oceans. “We can’t just rely on the Seventh Fleet in Japan,” Kenneth Braithwaite said while addressing the Naval Submarine League’s annual symposium, which was held virtually this year.
His remarks were reported in USNI News, the journal of the US Naval Institute. “We want to stand up a new numbered fleet,” he said. “And we want to put that numbered fleet in the crossroads between the Indian and the Pacific Oceans, and we’re really going to have an Indo-Pacom footprint.”
In 2018, the United States Pacific Command (USPACOM) changed its name to Indo-Pacific Command or Indo-Pacom (USINDOPACOM). Currently, the US Navy’s Seventh Fleet, operating out of Japan, covers a vast oceanic expanse, all the way to the India-Pakistan border. An additional new fleet in the area would have obvious merits, analysts say.
The plan also comes as the US Navy embarks on an aggressive expansion of its ship and submarine strength over a 30-year horizon.
“We have to look to our other allies and partners like Singapore, like India, and actually put a numbered fleet where it would be extremely relevant if, God forbid, we were to ever get in any kind of a dust-up,” Mr Braithwaite said.
“More importantly, it can provide a much more formidable deterrence,” he added.
“So we’re going to create the First Fleet,” he said. “And we’re going to put it, if not Singapore right out of the chocks, we’re going to look to make it more expeditionary-oriented and move it across the Pacific until it is where our allies and partners see that it could best assist them as well as to assist us.”
Nations around the Pacific and around the globe need to assist in pushing back Beijing militarily and economically for deterrence to work, he stressed.
Mr Braithwaite, who was appointed by President Donald Trump in March and took office in May, said he would be travelling to India in the coming weeks to discuss security challenges.
His remarks came as on Nov 17, the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group joined phase two of annual Malabar naval exercises in the northern Arabian Sea alongside the navies of Australia, India and Japan – who together comprise the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue, or Quad for short.