US Navy, Marines Kick Off Global Military Exercise, Largest Since Cold War

By Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao
Nicole Hao is a Washington-based reporter focused on China-related topics. Before joining the Epoch Media Group in July 2009, she worked as a global product manager for a railway business in Paris, France.
August 5, 2021Updated: August 5, 2021

The U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps commenced a large globe-spanning military exercise on Aug. 3—the largest of its kind since the Cold War. The next day, China announced a large-scale drill in the South China Sea in response.

“LSE 2021 is the first naval and amphibious large-scale exercise conducted since the Ocean Venture NATO exercises launched in 1981 during the Cold War,” U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa/U.S. 6th Fleet said in a July 27 statement.

The command added that the maritime military exercise, named Large-Scale Exercise 2021 (LSE 2021), will involve six naval and Marine Corps component commands, five U.S. numbered fleets, and three Marine expeditionary forces across 17 time zones and run from Aug. 3 to Aug. 16.

This includes approximately 36 live ships ranging from aircraft carriers to submarines, more than 50 virtual units, and an unlimited array of constructive units, U.S. forces reported a day before commencement.

On Aug. 4, the Chinese Maritime Safety Administration announced that the Chinese military would perform a training exercise across about 38,600 square miles of the South China Sea from Aug. 6 to Aug. 10.

“It’s clearly a reaction or response to the LSE 2021, but not an aggressive one,” Tang Jingyuan, U.S.-based China affairs commentator told The Epoch Times on Aug. 4. “It’s more like a political statement to proclaim that the Beijing authorities will protect the islands it has occupied.”

Of the large U.S. exercise, Tang said, “In my eyes, the U.S. wants to show the world that it has the capability to address challenges in the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea, South China Sea, and East China Sea simultaneously by performing the LSE 2021.

“In other words, the U.S. military is strong enough to face the situation if Russia and China break the peace in Europe and Asia at the same time,” he said.

Upholding Peace, Regional Stability

A U.S. Navy hovercraft speeds past the USS Wasp, a multipurpose amphibious assault ship, during the amphibious landing exercises as part of the annual joint U.S.-Philippines military exercise on the shores of San Antonio town, facing the South China sea, Zambales Province in the Philippines, on April 11, 2019. (TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)

The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps want to “refine how we synchronize maritime operations across multiple fleets in support of the joint force,” the Navy stated on Aug. 3.

According to the statement, the exercise will be performed simultaneously across 17 time zones. The synchronized operations include “distributed maritime operations, expeditionary advanced base operations, and littoral operations in a contested environment.”

The total number of U.S. personnel who are participating in the exercise is unclear. In addition to sailors and Marines, government civilian and contract employees are also participating in the drill. Training staff are providing support.

A U.S. Marines assault amphibious vehicle (AAV) leads Philippine Marines landing ships as they simulate an amphibious landing as part of the annual joint military exercise at the beach of the Philippine navy’s training camp in San Antonio, Zambales Province northwest of Manila in the Philippines, on May 9, 2018. (TED ALJIBE/AFP via Getty Images)

“LSE is more than just training; it is leveraging the integrated fighting power of multiple naval forces to share sensors, weapons, and platforms across all domains in contested environments, globally,” said Adm. Christopher W. Grady, commander of U.S. Fleet Forces Command.

Adm. Robert P. Burke, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe, added, “LSE will test our commanders’ abilities to deliver coordinated effects, from all directions, any time or all the time. It will help us build the necessary muscle memory to do this routinely at the operational to strategic levels of war.”

The purpose of this maritime military exercise is for upholding peace and stability in the region, Adm. Samuel Paparo, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, said in the statement.

“The international rules-based order is essential to our nation, and our partners and allies for peace, security, and stability.”

Systematic Deployment

Epoch Times Photo
An F/A-18 Hornet takes off during joint military exercise Saxon Warrior aboard the USS George H.W. Bush off the northwest coast of the United Kingdom on Aug. 6, 2017. (Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

LSE 2021 is only one of the actions that the U.S. government is taking worldwide, especially in the South China Sea and East China Sea.

The Quadrilateral Security Dialogue between the United States, Japan, Australia, and India agreed in their 2021 joint statement on March 12 to be united in “a shared vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific,” and a “rules-based maritime order in the East and South China Seas,” which Quad members state is needed because China is pushing its maritime claims.

U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris plans to visit Vietnam and Singapore this month with a focus on reinforcing regional security in Southeast Asia, which is threatened by aggression from the Chinese Communist Party. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has also been participating with Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries in five virtual ministerial meetings on Aug. 2 to Aug. 6.

“With support from the United States, Taiwan, Japan, and Southeast Asian countries aren’t worried that the Beijing authorities want to invade their territories,” Tang said.