World Powers Lead Massive Show of Might in the Philippine Sea

Four aircraft carriers and all their escorts converge in a massive drill. 

Four aircraft carriers and over a dozen warships from the U.S. Navy, the U.K.’s Royal Navy, and Japan’s Self Defense Forces have converged in the Philippine Sea in what is now the largest naval exercise in the world

After their exercises in the Philippine Sea, the tripartite naval powers will move to the South China Sea where they will continue the military drills and conduct freedom of navigation operations (FONOPS). 

Photo by Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group 21.

Combat Exercises in the Philippine Sea

Four aircraft carriers—namely the U.K.’s HMS Queen Elizabeth, American carriers USS Carl Vinson and USS Ronald Reagan, and Japan’s JS Ise—were joined by at leat 14 warships from Canada, New Zealand, Japan, U.S., U.K., and the Netherlands in combat exercises in the Philippine Sea. 

Photo by Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group 21.

Although Japan’s JS Ise is officially classified as a helicopter destroyer, it also serves as a de facto aircraft carrier. The Japanese Self-Defense Force cannot possess “attack aircraft carriers” because its anti-war constitution prevents this. It can only acquire or build military equipment for defense. 

The exercises aim to smoothen interoperability between the participating countries’ warships in case war or disaster breaks out. 

The massive exercises within the Philippine Sea and the South China Sea are also meant to send a message to China: Any attempt by China to expand its military bases any further in the region will be met with a strong response. 

Photo by Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group 21.

Western powers, including the European Union, the U.S., the U.K., and NATO have all criticized China’s military expansion in the West Philippine Sea and called for sobriety and observance of international law, particularly of UNCLOS and the 2016 arbitral tribunal ruling against China in favor of the Philippines. 

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China is locked in a tense dispute over the South China Sea and the West Philippine Sea with claimants to the waters which include Vietnam and the Philippines. 

Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei’s maritime zones are also within China’s Nine-Dash Line claim, but the countries have not acknowledged the existence of a maritime or territorial dispute with China. 

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Mario Alvaro Limos
Features Editor-at-Large
Mario Alvaro Limos is features editor-at-large at Esquire Philippines, and heads the Lifestyle and Esports content of as its section editor. Email him at [email protected] and [email protected]
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