RSS Steadfast (FFS 70) and USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) sail together in the South China Sea, May 25. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Brenton Poyser)

SOUTH CHINA SEA - The Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) and the Republic of Singapore Navy Formidable-class multi-role stealth frigate RSS Steadfast (FFS 70) conducted a bilateral exercise in the South China Sea, May 24-25.

The events were an opportunity for Gabrielle Giffords and Steadfast to practice and enhance bilateral interoperability between the two navies, with emphasis on the importance of communications and coordination while sailing together.

“Meeting our partners at sea gives our navies the opportunity to practice maritime proficiencies, and further strengthen the bond between both countries,” said Capt. Ann McCann, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 7. “Engaging with our network of partners in the region is essential to maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific.”

The events included a publication exercise, flashing light exercise, maneuvering exercise, large and small caliber gun shoots, and a photo exercise. All events were planned with an emphasis on COVID-19 social distancing measures, resulting in a successful multi-event exercise, with no in-person planning.

“This was the first time that Gabrielle Giffords Blue Crew sailed alongside the Singapore Navy at sea, and they demonstrated high tactical proficiency throughout the exercise,” said Cmdr. Dustin Lonero, commanding officer of Gabrielle Giffords Blue Crew. “Working with Steadfast was an excellent learning opportunity and gave us the chance to strengthen bonds, and enhance our mutual maritime professionalism in the shared naval environment.”

Exercise Pacific Griffin, U.S.-Singapore’s most complex naval exercise to date, occurred near Guam in October 2019 and was the last time the two countries exercised at sea.

Commanding officer of RSS Steadfast, Lt. Col. Carlin Song highlighted the importance of conducting the exercise.

“This exercise at sea provides both navies the opportunity to continue to hone our professional competencies and interoperability,” Song said. “Due to COVID-19, we had to conduct the exercise planning virtually. We were able to do so and execute the evolutions smoothly because of the good understanding that we have built over the years.”

The U.S. and Republic of Singapore navies work together on a number of initiatives at sea such as ASEAN-US Maritime Exercise (AUMX), Exercise Pacific Griffin, Southeast Asia Cooperation and Training (SEACAT), and Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC), as well as combined operations such as multi-national counter-piracy.

Attached to Destroyer Squadron 7, Gabrielle Giffords is on a rotational deployment to the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Pacific.

U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy’s largest numbered fleet, 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability, and prevent conflict.

USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) and RSS Steadfast (FFS 70) sail together, May 25. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Brenton Poyser)

USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) and RSS Steadfast (FFS 70) sail in the South China Sea. (U.S. Navy/MC2 Brenton Poyser)