Navy Minister Kenneth Braithwaite said the Seventh Fleet alone was not enough to deal with China in the Indo-Pacific, so the US needed to build a new fleet.

The US Navy's 7th Fleet, based in Yokosuka, Japan, is in charge of the area stretching from Hawaii to the India-Pakistan border, covering the maritime territories of 36 countries and 50% of the world's population.

The guided missile destroyer USS Barry at Yokosuka, Japan
The guided missile destroyer USS Barry at Yokosuka, Japan

It was the largest of the fleets deployed in the front of the US Navy. At any given time, the fleet manages between 50 and 70 ships (including submarines), 150 aircraft, and around 20,000 sailors.

But if the US really wants a presence in the Indo-Pacific, it needs a new "1st Fleet" in the Pacific with headquarters located closer to the Indian Ocean, possibly in Singapore, Minister of the Navy. American Kenneth Braithwaite said on November 17.

We can't just rely on the 7th Fleet

"We want to set up a new fleet. And we want to put that fleet at the crossroads between the Indian and Pacific Oceans," Braithwaite said during the Federation of Naval Submarines' webinars. "And we will have a real presence in the Indo-Pacific."

"We can't just rely on the Seventh Fleet in Japan. We have to look to other allies and partners like Singapore, like India, and actually put a fleet where it's perfectly suited if they are. We get into any war, "he said, according to USNI News, which is run by the US Naval Institute.

"More importantly, this can provide much more formidable deterrence. So we'll set up the 1st Fleet, and we'll put it, if it's not in Singapore, we'll find a way to make the ship. the team becomes more agile with the movement across the Pacific until it is where our allies and partners find it can best support them and support us. "

The 1st Fleet is a US Navy unit that existed from 1947 to 1973, in charge of the Western Pacific region as part of the Pacific Fleet. Her mission was taken over by the 3rd Fleet, based in San Diego, California, in 1973.

The US near shore combat ship USS Coronado is stationed in Changi, Singapore.
The US near shore combat ship USS Coronado is stationed in Changi, Singapore.

Although the new fleet proposed by Braithwaite would have different objectives from the original 1st Fleet, he found it appropriate to restore the former name.

The existing numbered fleets of the US Navy are 3rd Fleet in charge of the East Pacific, 4th Fleet for Central and South America, 5th Fleet in the Middle East, 6th Fleet for Europe, 7th Fleet. covers the Western Pacific and the 10th Fleet handles cyber.

Braithwaite said he had not discussed the plan with Christopher Miller, the acting Secretary of Defense, but had "studied every single hairline" of the problem.

The Rise of China

USNI News quoted a US defense official as saying that Mr. Braithwaite had come up with the idea to set up the First Fleet a few months ago and had negotiated with former Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who approved of the proposal.

Braithwaite, who became naval minister in May after serving as ambassador to Norway, said he had witnessed China's aggression globally and said this was the reason the fleet was needed. new.

"China's presence in the Arctic is unprecedented. Most recently, I took a trip to the Far East: All of our allies and partners are concerned about how aggressive China is. Come on, "he said.

"I will tell anyone that America and our sovereignty have never been under the pressure it is today since the War of 1812."

The proposal came as the United States intensified its involvement in the Indo-Pacific region. On November 17, the US joined India, Japan and Australia to begin the second phase of Malabar 2020, a four-day joint exercise in the North Arabian Sea. Earlier this month, four countries, also known as the "Quartet", held the first phase of drills in the Bay of Bengal.

If discussions about a new fleet get underway, it will be one of the last major defense policies that the Trump administration will deploy.

Michele Flournoy, former deputy defense secretary in charge of policy in the Obama administration and likely to become defense secretary in the Joe Biden administration, said the US military needed to use existing capabilities in "new ways". to discourage a rising China.

Forces of the Quartet countries exercise in the Arabian Sea on November 17
Forces of the Quartet countries exercise in the Arabian Sea on November 17

"If we simply do it now, in the next decade ... our military technological advantage will erode," she said in an interview with Defense News earlier this month.

"Our confidence in our ability to prevent a rising China, which is taking significant technological developments and strives to prevent our ability to exert strength and protect interests, and if we do nothing differently, our regional allies ... deterrence will erode. "

"Immediately, I think we have to think about using what we have on hand in new ways," she said. "How do I combine things in different ways allows me to be more efficient and exploit better ... the weaknesses of the other side or strengthen myself in a way Which one? ".