Revival of US Navy Formation Focused on the Indian Ocean, Partnership with India – US Official
The US Navy’s move to revive a tactical formation focused on the Indian and Pacific oceans aims to emphasize the growing importance of the region and the strategic partnership with India, a senior US defense official said.
Kenneth Braithwaite, the US Secretary of the Navy or the highest ranking civilian official in the Department of the Navy, made the remarks while testifying before the US Senate subcommittee on armed services on Wednesday.
Braithwaite had announced last month the US Navy’s plan to reestablish the First Fleet, one of the “numbered fleets” or main tactical units, and deploy it at the “crossroads between the Indian and Pacific oceans.”
When asked by a senator during his appearance before the Senate subcommittee if the measure is intended to emphasize the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific and the strategic relationship that the United States has with countries like India and members of the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or Quad, he responded: “That is exactly correct, Senator.”
Braithwaite said the First Fleet will be reconstituted to improve the United States posture in the Indo-Pacific and that the formation will have “primary responsibility for the Indo and South Asia region as an expeditionary fleet” with an “agile, mobile, in the sea command “.
“This will reassure our allies and partners of our presence and commitment to this region, while ensuring that any potential adversary knows that we are committed to a global presence to ensure the rule of law and freedom of the seas,” he added.
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The US move gains significance due to the current focus on China’s assertive actions in the Indo-Pacific, especially in the South China Sea. The United States and other Quad members (India, Australia, and Japan) have said they are committed to freedom of navigation and a rules-based order in this region.
The First Fleet, which operated from January 1947 to February 1973, is being revived as the Japan-based Seventh Fleet covers the maritime territories of 36 countries in the area between Hawaii and the India-Pakistan border. Braithwaite said this causes “formidable challenges” for the Seventh Fleet when covering a huge body of water.
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Although Braithwaite had said last month that the revived First Fleet could be based in Singapore, he told the Senate subcommittee that it would initially operate without a land based headquarters.
“We are still determining… from where that fleet would operate. But its main focus would be on the Western Pacific and Eastern Indian Ocean, “he added.
The United States Navy currently has seven active numbered fleets. Each numbered fleet has task forces and other units for specific operations.