The Mexican Navy will take part in RIMPAC 2020
The Mexican Navy informed the Senate that it has been invited by the US Navy Third Fleet to take part in the biannual naval exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2020.
The announcement puts an end to speculation on the exercise’s fate, amid fears that it would be called off due to the Coronavirus emergency.
This year, however, RIMPAC will be held on the area surrounding Hawaii, for the Southern California phase will be canceled, as established by the US Navy last week.
According to the Mexican Navy, the recently commissioned ARM Benito Juárez (formerly known as ARM Reformador) Mexico’s first of class SIGMA 10514 multi-purpose frigate, will be dispatched to take part in the Hawaiian theater.
The ship’s crew will comprise up to 124 sailors and Search and Rescue (SAR) operators, alongside a Panther AS-565 helicopter.
It is worth noting that RIMPAC 2020 will be the first time that the Mexican Navy participates in an international naval exercise with a state-of-the-art combat vessel.
The Mexican Navy has participated in RIMPAC many times before, yet it remained focused on the amphibious and special operations phase.
The ARM Benito Juárez weapons and combat management systems (the Thales TACTICOS CMS) might well perform ASW, ASUW, AAW and Electronic Warfare operations during the drills, in what would be a huge operational step for the Mexican Navy.
The SIGMA-Class frigate is part of the Long-Range Patrol Vessel Program (locally known as POLA) that initially aimed for a total of eight ships.
ARM Benito Juárez finished sea trials during December 2019and joined the service just recently.
According to the Navy, RIMPAC 2020 will help the Navy to “increase its multi-agency inter-operativity and international maritime procedures.” It will also contribute to enhance the Navy’s operational doctrine towards a real-life, 21th. Century scenario.
The Mexican Constitution entitles the Senate to approve all international troop deployments, including those participating in international drills.
It is expected though that the Senate will give its approval soon.
Some remarks on RIMPAC2020 and the POLA Project
Although sending the SIGMA-Class frigate to Hawaii is a positive sign of the Mexican Navy’s doctrinal evolution, the current federal administration is yet to define what it thinks of the Navy’s future.
So far, the Navy hasn’t published its “Naval Sector Program”, where it should outline its strategic goals for the years to come.
Mexico’s current financial constraints -and a lack of a maritime culture among its political elite- might disrupt the Navy’s modernization programs, jeopardizing the POLA Project once and for all.
A worrying aspect is the very fact that the ARM Benito Juárez will be sent to Hawaii without a proper ASW helicopter, as the intended purchase of eight (one for each frigate) UH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters has been halted.
For a country with more than 3 million square kilometers of ocean domain and 11,000 kilometers of coastlines, the dream of a well-capable Navy that can fulfill its Constitutional duties is yet to become a reality.