Amid several exercise cancellations, Navy says LSE 2020 remains on track

By Justin Katz / March 19, 2020 at 12:35 PM

Despite ongoing concerns about the coronavirus and a wave of event cancellations across the military, the Navy's plans for Large Scale Exercise 2020 will continue, according to a service spokeswoman.

There are "no changes at this time; we continue to plan and coordinate," for LSE 2020, Lt. Cmdr. Tabitha Klingensmith, spokeswoman for U.S. Fleet Forces, told Inside Defense yesterday in a written statement.

"Obviously [we're] looking closely at LSE 2020 with respect to COVID-19," she added.

The purpose of the Navy's LSE 2020 is to test the service's newest concepts of operations. Former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson first mentioned LSE 2020, which is scheduled to begin this summer, in his 2018 maritime strategy.

"LSE 2020 must include a plan to incorporate feedback and advance concepts in follow-on wargames, experiments, and exercises, and demonstrate significant advances in subsequent LSE events," Richardson wrote in his 2018 document.

A spokesman for U.S. Pacific Fleet did not immediately respond to questions about plans for Rim of the Pacific, a biennial, multinational maritime exercise in which the Navy regularly participates.

The ongoing pandemic has already affected some of the military's major exercises. U.S. European Command and the Army altered its plans for the Defender 2020 exercise scheduled for April and May, Inside Defense reported this week. The event was expected to bring 37,000 personnel from 18 countries to various parts of Europe.

The Air Force canceled its Red Flag Alaska event, according to a fact sheet the Pentagon provided to reporters today. An Air Force website describes Red Flag as "a series of Pacific Air Forces commander-directed field training exercises for U.S. forces" that "provides joint offensive counter-air, interdiction, close air support, and large force employment training in a simulated combat environment."

Meanwhile, U.S. Africa Command canceled its Phoenix Express exercise, which focuses on improving maritime law enforcement capacity and promoting security in northeastern Africa, according to a similar fact sheet.

Current CNO Adm. Michael Gilday expanded on the purpose of LSE in his first guidance to the fleet, writing that he expects the events to begin informing budget choices starting in the FY-23 request.