Valiant Shield 2014: 18,000 servicemembers gathering for Guam joint exercise
By ERIK SLAVIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: September 12, 2014
An estimated 18,000 servicemembers are arriving in Guam for the Valiant Shield, which remained on track despite the crash of two fighter jets scheduled to participate.
The biennial maneuvers, which begin Monday and continue through Sept. 23, will include personnel from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, according to a statement from the U.S. Pacific Fleet.
As of Friday night, Navy 7th Fleet officials said plans for the exercise were still in place, pending further announcements. The two aircraft were believed to have collided. One pilot was quickly recovered, while rescue crews continue searching for a second in waters near Guam, Navy officials said.
The exercise will feature the Air-Sea Battle concept, which aims to overcome an enemy force’s attempt to deny access and maneuverability within sea lanes and air space.
The Air-Sea Battle concept isn’t officially directed toward any particular country, but China and Iran have emphasized anti-access strategies in their military doctrines in recent years.
China is investing heavily in advanced ballistic missiles and electronic warfare to bolster its “anti-access, area-denial” capabilities, according to the Pentagon’s annual report to Congress this year.
Although the United States is China’s largest trading partner, the two countries remain at odds over Taiwan, which the U.S. has pledged to defend.
In addition, Chinese claims over territories also claimed by neighboring countries in the East and South China seas have increased tensions in the Asia-Pacific region.
The Yokosuka-based aircraft carrier USS George Washington and the San Diego-based carrier USS Vinson will participate in Valiant Shield, along with their strike groups and air wings, the Pacific Fleet said. Six Military Sealift Command ships will also be on hand for the Navy.
Marine units will operate under control of the Iwakuni, Japan-based Marine Aircraft Group 12. The Air Force will be led by the Guam-based 36th Operations Group, including the 44th and 90th fighter squadrons.
The Army contribution will come primarily from the Fort Shafter, Hawaii-based 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command.