Asia Minute: Another U.S. Fleet for the Indo Asia Pacific?

Nov 27, 2020

As the incoming Biden administration continues to work on its transition, China remains one focus of foreign policy. Last week, the U.S. Navy Secretary talked about a potential shift related to that focus, which would have an impact across the Pacific — all the way to Hawaii.

The U.S. Navy Secretary says it might be time to bring back the First Fleet, and put it in the Asia Pacific. That’s a naval grouping that existed from just after World War Two until the 1970’s. 

Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite told the private U.S. Naval Institute News says that the new fleet could be “in the crossroads between the Indian and Pacific oceans” — falling under the control of Indo Pacific Command, which is headquartered in Hawaii.

Right now, the U.S. has one naval group in the region — the 7th Fleet — with its home port at Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan.

It’s the largest fleet in the navy, and according to a fact sheet supplied by the navy, at any given time it includes between 50 and 70 ships and submarines, 140 aircraft, and about 20,000 sailors.

The secretary’s comments did not get a lot of play in the U.S. media, but the story has been bouncing around the Asia Pacific.

Braithwaite mentioned Singapore as a possible base for a new fleet — which was apparently news to the Singaporeans. Singapore’s Defense Ministry told the South China Morning Post there have been no recent talks on the potential deployment of warships to the small country.

Stars and Stripes reports that following the secretary’s comments, U.S. naval officials said no decisions have been made about the establishment or location of an additional U.S. naval fleet.