The US Navy is planning to re-create the First Fleet and place it between the Indian and Pacific Oceans, according to Navy Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite, says USNI News.

Braithwaite announced the plans at the conference of the Naval Submarine League on November 11. The event was covered by USNI News, a publication of the United States Naval Institute.

The navy secretary was quoted by USNI News as saying America's "allies and partners are concerned about how aggressive the Chinese have been."

'We can't rely on the 7th'

The US Navy's 7th Fleet, operating out of Japan, covers the Western Pacific, an area between the International Dateline and India's border with Pakistan, according to USNI News.

Nikkei Asia said the fleet had, at any given time, between 50 and 70 vessels at its disposal along with 150 aircraft and about 20,000 sailors.

Braithwaite was quoted by USNI News as saying "We can't just rely on the 7th Fleet... We have to look to... allies and partners like Singapore, like India..." Braithwaite also said another US fleet in the area "would be extremely relevant" if "any kind of dust-up" were to occur, according to USNI News, which noted that the additional fleet would reduce the strain on the 7th and allow each fleet to focus on a smaller space. The publication said Braithwaite had specified that the fleet should be "in the crossroads between the Indian and Pacific Oceans."

A New 'First Fleet'

Nikkei Asia recalled that the original First Fleet had been created in 1947 and had covered the Western Pacific Ocean until its elimination in 1973.

The publication reported that Braithwaite had said it was appropriate to reuse the name "First Fleet" even though the envisaged new fleet would have different objectives. USNI News said Braithwaite had yet to reveal how large the fleet would be and how responsibilities would be divided between the new fleet and the 7th Fleet.

Quoting an unnamed defense official, USNI News said Braithwaite's plans for a new First Fleet had been encouraged by Defense Secretary Mark Esper, who was fired by President Donald Trump soon after the presidential election. According to the publication, Braithwaite said he had yet to discuss the plan with Acting Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller.

Numbered Fleets in the US Navy

The US Navy has the following numbered fleets, according to Nikkei Asia:

  • The 3rd, covering the Eastern Pacific.
  • The 4th, covering the waters around Central and South America.
  • The 5th, cover the waters around the Middle East.
  • The 6th, covering Europe.
  • The 7th, covering the Western Pacific.
  • The 10th, the navy’s cyber command.