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24 December 2020, Gateway House

Will 1st Fleet trump Biden’s Asia-Pacific?

The U.S. Navy Secretary, Kenneth Braithwaite, visited India on 17 Dec 2020. Will this year-end visit culminate in the reactivation of the First Fleet under the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command? The First Fleet, is likely to be an expeditionary fleet - one without a shore-based headquarters and assigned primary responsibility for the Indian Ocean and parts of Pacific Ocean bordering South Asia. Its reactivation will emphasise the strategic importance of this region. It will also relieve the burden of the U.S. Navy's 7th Fleet headquartered in Japan, that is deployed for operations in this vast oceanic space.

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On 16 Nov 2020, U.S. Navy Secretary, Kenneth Braithwaite, less than two weeks after the U.S. Presidential elections, emphasised the need for reactivating the First Fleet (deactivated in 1973) that would operate at the crossroads of Indian and Pacific Oceans. The re-activation of the First Fleet seems eminent as this infographic illustrates events linked to this announcement. Earlier, the United States’ Second Fleet responsible for the East Coast and North Atlantic Ocean established during the second World War was deactivated in September 2011, view perceived diminished Russian military threat by the U.S. government. In May 2018, Trump administration announced plans to re-establish the Second Fleet amid heightened tension between NATO and Russia. In less than four months, the second Fleet was re-activated on 24 Aug 2018. Biden’s abstinence from ‘Free and Open’ Indo-Pacific and fascination to an Asia-Pacific lens has created uncertainties for partners and allies in the region. Will Trump be able to imprint his legacy on the Indo-Pacific by reactivating the First Fleet prior Inauguration?

U.S. Navy First Fleet

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US Navy Fleet

Designed by Debarpan Das.

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