USS Abraham Lincoln Return Marks End of Second High-Tempo Carrier Deployment in WESTPAC

ABOARD AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, OFF THE COAST OF HAWAII – When aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) pulls into Naval Air Station North Island on Thursday, it will cap off a busy deployment to the Western Pacific. Lincoln’s deployment saw the carrier largely operating in U.S. 7th Fleet, where it had the chance […]

An F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the ‘Black Knights’ of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, flies over USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on July 30, 2022. US Navy Photo

ABOARD AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, OFF THE COAST OF HAWAII – When aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) pulls into Naval Air Station North Island on Thursday, it will cap off a busy deployment to the Western Pacific.

Lincoln’s deployment saw the carrier largely operating in U.S. 7th Fleet, where it had the chance to drill with both Japan and the Philippines ahead of the biennial Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise in Hawaii.

It’s the second consecutive high operational tempo aircraft carrier deployment to WESTPAC, as the U.S. Navy increases its emphasis on operating in the region to counter China.

“Our activities into the South China Sea as well as East China Sea were important to send a signal to China, North Korea, Russia of our commitment to the region, as well as our willingness to fly, sail, or operate wherever international law allows,” Rear Adm. J.T. Anderson, the commander of Carrier Strike Group Three, told USNI news in a recent interview.

While the carrier participated in a wide range of exercises, the deployment also marked the first U.S. Marine Corps F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter squadron deployment on an aircraft carrier and the second for the CMV-22B Osprey.

Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt, Lincoln’s commanding officer, told USNI News that the crew applied many of the takeaways from USS Carl Vinson‘s (CVN-70) recent deployment in the region to Lincoln’s time in WESTPAC.

“We took onboard a lot of their lessons about … where to base, and how to operate. We did build upon those lessons and learned a few of our own. We were fairly fortunate in that while we covered a vast amount of space in 7th fleet – some days it was a long flight for the CODSPREY – but we were able to remain mostly based out of one location for most of the deployment, which at least facilitated the flow of people and parts to one location,” Bauernschmidt said.

Dynamic Environment

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) sails in formation during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, July 28, 2022. US Navy Photo

The early days of Lincoln’s deployment saw the carrier operating in the South China Sea – including amid People’s Liberation Army Air Force incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone – and the Philippine Sea.

Anderson echoed remarks Vinson crew members made to USNI News during a trip earlier this year to Vinson at the tail-end of its deployment, in which sailors described a more dynamic environment in U.S. 7th Fleet compared to deployments over the last two decades in U.S. Central Command.

“We spent a lot of time maneuvering around not only the Philippine Sea, but also in the South China Sea and well as the East China Sea. And the dynamic maneuver wasn’t just exclusively maneuvering around to avoid certain things, but it was also that that’s our best way of being able to compete in that space, as well as provide a strong presence throughout the region,” Anderson said.
“If we were to just simply maintain our location in one general location, I don’t think we were necessarily doing our job, right, in terms of providing a sustained presence throughout the region.”

Bauernschmidt acknowledged the difference between operations in U.S. 7th Fleet versus U.S. 5th Fleet.

“I would say a vast majority of folks that have deployed in the Navy got very comfortable and used to 5th Fleet operations and this is obviously not 5th Fleet operations. And so it is a much larger area than we would typically operate in and … it’s not just about one entity. It’s about China, Russia, [North] Korea. It’s about multiple different actors and being able to respond to any of those,” she told USNI News.
“Because it’s a large area of operations, being able to strategically place yourself to answer whatever mission we’re called upon is very important.”

Because of the size of the Indo-Pacific region, Bauernschmidt said she had to change how she thought about the carrier’s operations.

“I personally also had to think a little differently about each and every night what the sea space looked like, what we were being tasked with, what we were being asked to accomplish, or to just think ahead about where we may want to position ourselves in the event we were tasked with a different mission,” she said.
“Because unlike operations in the 5th Fleet that you can get where you needed to be in a half a day, in a fairly short amount of time, we have a lot more sea space to cover. And so being able to think strategically, position yourself where you need to be, understand the constraints and the restraints of ourselves, our aircraft, and other forces was important.” 

Lessons Learned from Vinson

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the ‘Tophatters’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14, prepares to make an arrested landing on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on June 3, 2022. US Navy Photo

Lincoln’s deployment to the western Pacific followed a similar one last year by Vinson, which sent the first U.S. Navy F-35C squadron and CMV-22B Osprey squadron out to sea. Lincoln deployed with 10 Marine Corps F-35Cs that make up the “Black Knights” of Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 314 out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

Ahead of the deployment, Bauernschmidt said Lincoln had the authority to install a double-decker mezzanine at the back of the hangar bay.

“What that allowed us to do was get some of the material that was normally in hangar bay 3 up into that mezzanine,” she said.

“We also took a good look at all of the support equipment and really tried to optimize where maybe we had duplicates, or we had the ability to truly ensure that the support equipment for the aircraft that we had was the right quantity, the right number, and the right ability,” Bauernschmidt added.

Instead of basing out of the U.S. Air Force’s Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, like Vinson’s CMV-22B Osprey detachment, Lincoln’s detachment was based out of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. This helped with parts and maintenance because the U.S. Marine Corps’s MV-22B Ospreys were also at Futenma.

“It is always helpful when there’s extra bodies, extra parts. So there was a little bit easier flow because there was already an established flow for most of their parts,” Bauernschmidt said.

Cmdr. Daniel Hutton, an aircraft intermediate maintenance department officer aboard Lincoln, said the carrier’s crew used takeaways from the Vinson deployment to tweak what equipment Lincoln brought. This allowed the crew to make more space in the hangar bay and be more strategic with what equipment it needed or did not need. As a result, the crew placed more gear in hangar bay 3, which made for more space in the middle of the carrier and in the forward part of the ship.

“Being the second air wing ship team to go out to sea with that type of aircraft, there’s a constant learning process that takes place between the ship, the supporting entities ashore, and then being able to adjust and take into account what things break,” Hutton told USNI News.

Hutton said they will continue to make tweaks depending on what happens throughout the deployment.

Since Vinson‘s crew had the chance to test out the deck density aboard the carrier with the Navy F-35Cs and the CMV-22B Ospreys, Lincoln could take those lessons and alter what they brought to sea. As a result, Bauernschmidt said Lincoln decreased its deck density.

An CMV-22B Osprey, carrying the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Hon. Rahm Emanuel, Japan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hayashi Yoshima, Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, Commander, Navy Region Japan/Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan Rear Adm. Carl Lahti, lands on Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi following an official visit, to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on April 23, 2022. US Navy Photo

“Because we had a lot of Vinson’s lessons learned, we were able to sit down and take a very thoughtful look at how we were utilizing space in the hangar bay to try to ensure that we didn’t have anything we didn’t need, but we did have everything that we were going to need so that it opened up extra space for aircraft and a little bit of extra maneuver space to maneuver them around,” she said.
“And we got our deck density down quite a bit from where Vinson was and into a pretty good place. And then we were still able to provide a little bit more feedback for follow on carriers so that they can learn from what we kind of figured out as well.”

Bauernschmidt said she also took advice from Vinson‘s commanding officer about how to perform replenishments at sea to maximize the carrier’s ability to respond to missions if necessary.

“He talked about some of the pluses and minuses with different locations – impacts of sea space, or how flight operations worked. We try to ensure that we were postured very well to be able to react to anything that we needed to react, like we do every day,” Bauernschmidt said. “But when you’re alongside another ship, we were very careful about planning it so that we were – several times we launched aircraft while we were alongside replenishing to be able to respond as necessary and then we were able to continue about the mission.”

F-35C Operations

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Justin Mancha, from San Antonio, signals an F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the ‘Black Knights’ of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, as it takes off from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 on July 14, 2022. US Navy Photo

After employing the Navy and Marine Corps F-35Cs at sea, officials aboard both Vinson and Lincoln say they want more of the aircraft operating within a carrier strike group.

Anderson, when asked why he would like more F-35Cs, pointed to the fighter’s sensing capabilities. Both Bauernschmidt and Anderson described “seamless” integration of the F-35Cs into the carrier air wing.

“It’s the tremendous capability that the aircraft provides from an ability to generate information, the sensors that it has onboard, as well as its ability to distribute that information, not just to other aircraft but to the rest of the force,” Anderson told USNI News.
“It’s a testament to the platform and the folks that fly it too that it can integrate so well in with the rest of the air wing. We don’t have to do unique things with the schedule, the cycle lengths, etc. in order to accommodate it.”

Despite concerns ahead of the first F-35C deployments, Bauernschmidt said at-sea operations disproved some of those worries.

“I think like any new platform that’s introduced, there’s a little bit of angst about how it’s going to go. And I think what ended up happening when we got them was the realization that it was again a fairly seamless integration, regardless of whether it was Marine Corps or Navy,” she said.
“But I think in terms of the noise and some of the things they were concerned about from whether it was a deck density standpoint, or parts availability, or maintenance that they were going to be required to do, I think there were a lot more concerns that were fairly unfounded once, you know, now that we’ve gotten through this deployment [and] we’ve been able to see and operate with them.”

Government Accountability Office Study on Navy Multiyear Contracts

The following is ab Aug. 8, 2022, Government Accountability Office report, Navy Should Provide Congress More Complete Information on Budget Request Decisions. Why GAO Did This Study Congressional conferees expressed concern that recent budget requests underfunded critical Navy weapon system programs that were using multiyear procurement authority. They also questioned whether the Navy’s budget requests […]

The following is ab Aug. 8, 2022, Government Accountability Office report, Navy Should Provide Congress More Complete Information on Budget Request Decisions.

Why GAO Did This Study

Congressional conferees expressed concern that recent budget requests underfunded critical Navy weapon system programs that were using multiyear procurement authority. They also questioned whether the Navy’s budget requests in recent years for programs using multiyear procurement accurately reflected the service’s most important priorities.
The conferees included a provision for GAO to review certain activities related to Navy multiyear procurements in recent years. This report addresses (1) the extent to which Navy programs fulfilled their multiyear procurement plans in fiscal years 2021 and 2022; and (2) factors contributing to any budget requests for fiscal years 2021 and 2022 that did not include the multiyear procurement quantities stated in the contracts.

To conduct this assessment, GAO reviewed seven programs with active multiyear procurement contracts in fiscal years 2021–2022. GAO also reviewed relevant legislation, policy, and guidance; reviewed budget and contract information; and interviewed Department of Defense officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making one recommendation to the Department of Defense, that it establish a requirement to ensure that the congressional defense committees receive notification of the rationale for any budget requests that do not fund the procurement quantities stated in multiyear contracts. The Department of the Navy concurred with the recommendation.What GAO Found

The Navy used multiyear procurement—a special method to contract for multiple years of requirements in a single contract—for seven critical weapon system programs in fiscal years 2021 and 2022. This contracting method can save the government money through procurement efficiencies but can include future financial commitments. GAO reviewed the seven programs and found that the budget requests for three programs included quantity reductions when compared to their multiyear contracts or previous Navy plans. This hampered their efforts to meet warfighting needs:

  • DDG 51 destroyers. The budget request for fiscal year 2022 included funds to procure one of the two ships in the program’s multiyear contracts. Instead of requesting funding for the second ship, the Navy requested $33 million to cover the government’s cancellation liability for reducing its procurement to one ship in fiscal year 2022.
  • V-22 aircraft. The budget request for fiscal year 2022 included funds to procure eight of the 11 aircraft in the program’s multiyear contract for the budget year. The Navy used additional aircraft funded but not procured in fiscal year 2021 to offset the reduced request and meet the stated contract quantity for fiscal year 2022.
  • Virginia class submarines. The budget request in fiscal year 2021 included funding for one submarine. This met the multiyear contract quantity but departed from previous multiyear procurement plans, the steady practice of procuring two of the submarines each year, and congressional direction.

Navy officials told GAO that affordability was the primary driver leading to the reduction in quantities requested for DDG 51 and V-22 in the fiscal year 2022 budget. However, GAO found that Department of Defense financial management regulation does not require the Navy to notify the congressional defense committees of its rationale for budget decisions that do not support the procurement quantities stated in multiyear contracts. The lack of such notification can hamper the ability of the committees to oversee programs and make decisions without having to request supplemental information and explanations from the Navy.

The Navy included additional quantities for the DDG 51, V-22, and Virginia class programs in unfunded priorities lists provided to the defense committees. Congress ultimately decided to fund the procurement of additional quantities.

Download the document here.

Navy Recovers F/A-18E Super Hornet Blown off Deck of USS Harry S. Truman

The F/A-18E Super Hornet blown off the deck of an aircraft carrier was recovered 9,500 feet under the Mediterranean Sea, U.S. 6th Fleet announced on Monday. The single-seat Super Hornet assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1 aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) was knocked off the deck of the carrier in what the Navy at […]

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Zuani Batista, from the Dominican Republic, directs the pilot of an F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34, on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), April 14, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

The F/A-18E Super Hornet blown off the deck of an aircraft carrier was recovered 9,500 feet under the Mediterranean Sea, U.S. 6th Fleet announced on Monday.

The single-seat Super Hornet assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1 aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) was knocked off the deck of the carrier in what the Navy at the time called “unexpected heavy weather” during the midst of an underway replenishment.

A “team from Task Force (CTF) 68, Naval Sea Systems Command’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV), Harry S. Truman, Naval Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, and U.S. 6th Fleet embarked on the multi-purpose construction vessel MPV Everest,” oversaw the Aug. 3 recovery, according to the statement from 6th Fleet.
“The aircraft was recovered using a CURV-21 remotely operated vehicle to attach specialized rigging and lift lines to the aircraft. A lifting hook was attached to the rigging to raise the aircraft to the surface and hoist it aboard Everest.”

The recovery team included members from Phoenix International, the maritime salvage company that aided in the recovery of an F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter from the Pacific following a January crash aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). A similar team, including Navy salvage personnel, recovered the fighter from a depth of 12,500 feet using a CURV-21.

The Navy took the recovered Super Hornet to an unspecified military base in Europe and will eventually transport the jet to the U.S. While 6th Fleet did not provide details, Everest docked in Sicily, near Naval Air Station Sigonella, the day after the recovery in Augusta, according to ship tracking data.

The incident is still under investigation. The service has yet to identify the squadron to which the Super Hornet belonged.

Truman deployed from the East Coast in December and since then has been operating almost exclusively in the Mediterranean Sea. In a visit earlier this year, officials aboard Truman told USNI News the air wing was flying 60 to 90 sorties a day as part of ongoing deterrence missions along NATO’s eastern front.

USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker: Aug. 8, 2022

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Aug. 8, 2022, based on Navy and public data. In cases where a CSG or ARG is conducting disaggregated operations, the chart reflects the location of the capital ship. Ships Underway Total Battle […]

USNI News Graphic

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Aug. 8, 2022, based on Navy and public data. In cases where a CSG or ARG is conducting disaggregated operations, the chart reflects the location of the capital ship.

Ships Underway

Total Battle Force Deployed Underway
300
(USS 242, USNS 58)
114
(USS 77, USNS 37)
 81
(65 Deployed, 16 Local)

Ships Deployed by Fleet

2nd Fleet 3rd Fleet 4th Fleet 5th Fleet 6th Fleet 7th Fleet Total
2 8 3 11 28 59 111

In Sasebo, Japan

Seaman Zerquera Amaya, from Savannah, Ga., assigned to USS America (LHA-6), directs line handlers on the phone and distance line during a replenishment-at-sea with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204) in the East China Sea, on Aug. 3, 2022. US Navy Photo

USS America (LHA-6) is in port in Sasebo, Japan. The ship was underway briefly in the East China Sea last week and returned to port on Aug. 5.

In the Philippine Sea

Capt. Fred Goldhammer, commanding officer of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), escorts visitors on the bridge during a tour while underway in the Philippine Sea on Aug. 5, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is in the Philippine Sea.

Carrier Strike Group 5

Aircraft carrier

Cmdr. Nick Cunningham, commanding officer of the ‘Saberhawks’ of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77 flies over USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) in an MH-60R Sea Hawk during a change of command ceremony in the Philippine Sea on Aug. 1, 2022. US Navy Photo

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), homeported in Yokosuka, Japan.

Carrier Air Wing 5

Aviation Machinist’s Mate Airman Colby Brown, from Rising Sun, Maryland, observes as an E-2D Hawkeye attached to the ‘Tigertails’ of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125, prepares for launch on USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) in the Philippine Sea, on Aug. 2, 2022. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, is embarked aboard Ronald Reagan and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • The “Royal Maces” of VFA-27 – Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) – from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
  • The “Diamondbacks” of VFA-102 from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Eagles” of VFA-115 from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Dambusters” of VFA-195 from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Shadowhawks” of VAQ-141 – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Tiger Tails” of VAW-125 – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Providers” of VRC-30 – Detachment 5 – Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) – from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Golden Falcons” of HSC-12 – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.
  • The “Saberhawks” of HSM-77 – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

Cruisers

USS Antietam (CG-54) receives supplies from the Henry J. Kaiser-class underway replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO-199) while operating in the Philippine Sea on Aug. 2, 2022. US Navy Photo

  • USS Antietam (CG-54), homeported in Yokosuka, Japan.

Destroyer Squadron 15

Destroyer Squadron 15 is based in Yokosuka, Japan, and is embarked on the carrier.

  • USS Benfold (DDG-65), homeported in Yokosuka, Japan

Sailors refuel an AH-1Z Viper helicopter assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) aboard amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA-7) on Aug. 7, 2022. US Navy Photo

Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) is underway in the Philippine Sea.

Tripoli departed Naval Station San Diego, Calif., on an independent deployment to the Western Pacific on May 2. The 45,000-ton big-deck amphibious ship has 20 F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters embarked to evaluate the Marines’ “lightning carrier” concept. The Navy and Marine Corps are testing Tripoli’s adjunct capability to a carrier strike group, USNI News has reported.

In the Middle Pacific

Sailors assigned to Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) render honors to the USS Arizona Memorial, as seen from Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on Aug. 5, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise has concluded and the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is en route San Diego.

Carrier Strike Group 3

Sailors and embarked guests look out at USS Missouri (BB-63) museum ship from the hangar bay as USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Aug. 5, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Lincoln Carrier Strike Group has been on patrol since leaving San Diego, Calif., on Jan. 3.

Carrier

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), homeported in San Diego, Calif.

Carrier Air Wing 9

An F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the ‘Black Knights’ of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, flies over USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on July 30, 2022. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., is embarked aboard Abraham Lincoln and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • The “Black Aces” of VFA-41 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F/A-18Fs from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Tophatters” of VFA-14 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Vigilantes” of VFA-151 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Black Knights” of VMFA 314 – Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) flying F-35Cs from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.
  • The “Wizards” of VAQ-133 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Wallbangers” of VAW-117 – E-2D – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif.
  • The “Titans” of VRM-30 – CMV-22B – Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) – from Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.
  • The “Chargers” of HSC-14 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station North Island.
  • The “Raptors” of HSM-71 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station North Island.

Cruiser

Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Miguel Aragon, from Buffalo, N.Y., mans a .50 caliber mount aboard USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) on July 29, 2022. US Navy Photo

  • USS Mobile Bay (CG-53), homeported at Naval Station San Diego, Calif.

Destroyer Squadron 21

Ens. Christiane Mccabe, from Knoxville, N.Y., stands watch on the bridge wing aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG-102) as the ship transits the Pacific Ocean on July 31, 2022. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 21 is based in San Diego and is embarked on the carrier.

  • USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), homeported at Naval Station San Diego.
  • USS Gridley (DDG-101), homeported at Naval Station Everett, Wash.
  • USS Sampson (DDG-102), homeported at Naval Station Everett.
  • USS Spruance (DDG-111), homeported at Naval Station San Diego.

Amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) is underway off the coast of Hawaii after departing Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on July 10.

In the Ionian Sea

Sailors raise a jet blast deflector on USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), Aug. 4, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is underway in the Ionian Sea.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has extended the deployment of the Harry S. Truman CSG, its escorts and Carrier Air Wing 1 as a hedge against Russian aggression in Europe.

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) has been operating in the Mediterranean Sea since Austin ordered the strike group to remain on station in December as Russia massed forces along the Ukrainian border.

The George H. W. Bush Carrier Strike Group is expected to relieve the Harry S. Truman CSG in the Mediterranean.

Carrier Strike Group 8

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Shawn Whitford, from San Diego, processes damage control petty officer designation letters aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on Aug. 5, 2022. US Navy Photo

Carrier

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), homeported in Norfolk, Va.

Carrier Air Wing 1

Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Francis Manaog, from Bicol, Philippines, safety checks an E-2D Hawkeye propeller on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on Aug. 4, 2022. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., is embarked aboard Harry S. Truman and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • The “Red Rippers” of VFA-11 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F/A-18Fs from Naval Air Station Oceana.
  • The “Fighting Checkmates” of VFA-211 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
  • The “Blue Blasters” of VFA-34 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
  • The “Sunliners” of VFA-81 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
  • The “Rooks” of VAQ-137 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Seahawks” of VAW-126 – E-2D – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va.
  • The “Rawhides” of VRC-40 – Detachment – C-2A – Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Dragon Slayers” of HSC-11 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Proud Warriors” of HSM-72 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla.

Cruiser

Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Toby Greenie, left, from San Diego and Seaman Ulisses Cotamaldonado, from Tucson, Arizona, give signals to an MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter assigned to the ‘Proud Warriors’ of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 72, on the flight deck of USS San Jacinto (CG-56), in the Mediterranean Sea on July 27, 2022. US Navy Photo

  • USS San Jacinto (CG-56), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.

Destroyer Squadron 28

USS Cole (DDG-67) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the Supply-class fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE-6) in the Mediterranean Sea on July 29, 2022. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 28 is based in Norfolk and is embarked on the carrier. The following ships deployed with the strike group.

  • USS Cole (DDG-67), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Bainbridge (DDG- 96), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Gravely (DDG-107), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109), homeported at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
  • USS Gonzalez (DDG-66), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F310).

In the Baltic Sea

Pekka Haavisto, the Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs, delivers remarks to media during a key leader engagement event aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) in Helsinki, Finland on Aug. 7, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are underway in the Baltic Sea. The ARG includes USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), USS Arlington (LPD-24) and USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44).

According to U.S. 6th Fleet, the ARG “arrived in multiple Baltic Sea ports for scheduled port visits to allied and partner nations, August 5, 2022.”

Kearsarge arrived in Helsinki, Finland; Arlington arrived in Stockholm, Sweden and Gunston Hall pulled into Tallinn, Estonia.

“The ARG-MEU aggregated in the Baltic Sea for the first time on this deployment after passing through the Danish Strait on Aug. 3,” reads a statement from 6th Fleet.
“For Kearsarge and Gunston Hall, this marks a return to the Baltic Sea. Both ships participated in the Estonian-led exercise Siil 22 in May and the annual joint, multinational exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), the premier maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic region, in June. The ships also conducted previous port visits in Helsinki, Stockholm, and Tallinn earlier this year.”

Capt. Eric Kellum, right, commanding officer of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD-24), discusses navigational reference points with a Swedish tugboat pilot during a sea and anchor transit to Stockholm, Sweden on Aug. 5, 2022. US Navy Photo

Arlington‘s port visit will be the ship’s first time in the Baltic Sea since deploying from the U.S. East Coast.

“Since arriving in theater, Arlington’s Sailors and Marines have participated in a wide array of bi-lateral and multinational exercises throughout Europe and Africa, including Northern Viking with Iceland, Greece’s exercise Alexander the Great, EFES in Turkey, and African Lion off the coast of Northern Africa,” reads the Navy statement.
“All three ships recently completed near-simultaneous mid-voyage deployment repair (MDVR) and maintenance periods in Brest, France; Rijeka, Croatia; and Copenhagen and Kalundborg, Denmark.”

The ships are back underway today.

USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) enters port in Tallinn, Estonia for a scheduled port visit on Aug. 5, 2022. Estonian Navy Photo

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit is based in North Carolina and includes the command element; the aviation combat element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron, 263 (Reinforced); the ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 2/6; and the logistics combat element, Combat Logistics Battalion 26.

The MEU embarked commands with the Kearsarge ARG include Amphibious Squadron Six, Fleet Surgical Team 2, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Assault Craft Unit 2, Assault Craft Unit 4, Naval Beach Group 2 and Beach Master Unit 2.

In the Western Atlantic

Chief Hull Maintenance Technician Lovell Cooper, assigned to the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5), and midshipman Second Class Jessie Sedlock, assigned to the United States Naval Academy, test the portable exothermic as part of Readiness Evaluation 7 (READ-E 7), July 27, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are underway in the Western Atlantic off the coast of North Carolina.

In addition to these major formations, not shown are others serving in submarines, individual surface ships, aircraft squadrons, SEALs, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, Seabees, Coast Guard cutters, EOD Mobile Units, and more serving throughout the globe.

11 Chinese Ballistic Missiles Fired Near Taiwan, U.S. Embarks USS America From Japan

The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has fired 11 ballistic missiles into waters surrounding Taiwan as part of a series of military exercises, the Ministry of Defense in Taipei said in a Thursday statement. According to the MoD, the PLARF fired 11 DF-15 short-range ballistic missiles into waters to the northeast and southwest of Taiwan. […]

PLA Rocket Force fires missiles on Aug. 4, 2022. CCTV Image

The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has fired 11 ballistic missiles into waters surrounding Taiwan as part of a series of military exercises, the Ministry of Defense in Taipei said in a Thursday statement.

According to the MoD, the PLARF fired 11 DF-15 short-range ballistic missiles into waters to the northeast and southwest of Taiwan.

The Taiwan military, “have monitored the situation with various means, while our defense systems have been activated. We condemn such irrational action that has jeopardized regional peace,” read a Thursday statement from the MoD.

Additionally, the Chinese claimed to have conducted live fire drills in the Taiwan Strait.

“Long-range armed live fire precision missile strikes were carried out on selected targets in the eastern area of the Taiwan Strait,” the PLA announced, according to The Associated Press.

“The expected outcome was achieved.”

The planned drills kicked off just after U.S. House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visit to Taiwan this week. The visit was part of a larger Congressional delegation visit to the Western Pacific.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan,”manic, irresponsible and irrational,” reported the BBC.

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B aircraft mechanic Lance Cpl. William Wiggins assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, currently attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), monitors an F-35B aboard amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6), in the Philippine Sea on Aug. 18, 2021. US Marine Corps Photo

In addition, the PLA Navy has deployed both its aircraft carriers CNS Liaoning (16) and CNS Shandong (17) this week, USNI News reported.

For its part, the U.S. has positioned a carrier strike group and two big deck amphibious ships embarked with Marine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters are underway to the east of Taiwan, defense officials confirmed to USNI News on Thursday morning.

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), its escorts and Carrier Air Wing 5 and its escorts are underway in the Philippine Sea. USS Tripoli (LHA-7), which has embarked with up to 20 F-35Bs, is off Okinawa and USS America (LHA-6) has recently departed Sasebo, Japan, a defense official confirmed to USNI News on Thursday.

Neither the Chinese drills near Taiwan threatened the U.S. ships nor has the PLAN acted unprofessionally toward the deployed groups, a defense official told USNI News.

Report to Congress on Current, Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems

The following is the July 28, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Current and Potential Programs. From the report Since the dawn of military aviation, the U.S. military has been interested in remotely piloted aircraft. Present-day unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) typically consist of an unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) paired with a ground control […]

The following is the July 28, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Current and Potential Programs.

From the report

Since the dawn of military aviation, the U.S. military has been interested in remotely piloted aircraft. Present-day unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) typically consist of an unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) paired with a ground control station. UAS have become ubiquitous in U.S. military operations since the 1990s with the introduction of the MQ-1 Predator.

The U.S. military currently employs several different large UAS, including

  • the Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle,
  • the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper,
  • the Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray,
  • the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk,
  • the Navy’s MQ-4C Triton, and
  • the Air Force’s RQ-170 Sentinel.

In addition, several other reported programs are either in development or currently undergoing experimentation. These programs include the Air Force’s B-21 Raider and the Air Force’s RQ-180.

As Congress performs its oversight and authorization functions, it may consider several potential issues associated with UAS programs, including

  • the cost of manned versus unmanned aircraft,
  • a lack of acknowledged follow-on programs of record,
  • the management of UAS acquisitions across the Department of Defense,
  • the interoperation of UAS with existing force structure, and
  • export controls of UAS abroad.

Download the document here.

Carrier USS Ronald Reagan, Two F-35B Big Decks Operating Near Taiwan as Pelosi Arrives in Singapore; China Renews Threats

Three U.S. capital ships and their escorts are operating in the Western Pacific near Taiwan, USNI News has learned. Aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and big deck amphibious ships USS America (LHA-6) and USS Tripoli (LHA-7), with Marine F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters embarked, are operating in the vicinity of Taiwan, on the […]

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) conducts an archipelagic sea lane passage through the San Bernardino Strait, on July 30, 2022. US Navy Photo

Three U.S. capital ships and their escorts are operating in the Western Pacific near Taiwan, USNI News has learned.

Aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and big deck amphibious ships USS America (LHA-6) and USS Tripoli (LHA-7), with Marine F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters embarked, are operating in the vicinity of Taiwan, on the edge of the South China Sea ahead of a Western Pacific visit from U.S. House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to the region, according to the Aug. 1 edition of the USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker.

A Pentagon spokesman told USNI News on Monday that the ships were operating normally in the region and would not detail force protection measures for the visit of the third highest-ranking U.S. official to the region.

However, a senior defense official told USNI News the ships, escorts and their air wings – already in the region – were prepared to linger as a contingency option. On Monday, Beijing implied there would be a military response if Pelosi traveled to Taiwan.

China has “serious concern over Speaker Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan and our firm opposition to the visit. We have been stressing that such a visit would lead to serious consequences,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters Monday when asked about the trip.
“We want to once again make it clear to the US side that the Chinese side is fully prepared for any eventuality and that the People’s Liberation Army of China will never sit idly by, and we will make resolute response and take strong countermeasures to uphold China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Capt. Joel Lang, commanding officer of amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA-7) watches an F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 121 prepare to launch from the flight deck on July 24, 2022. US Navy Photo

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and discourages governments from dealing with Taipei directly. Pelosi would be the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.

Pelosi arrived in Singapore on Monday as part of a congressional delegation to the region after a stop in Hawaii that included a brief with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, her office said in a statement.

“In Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, our delegation will hold high-level meetings to discuss how we can further advance our shared interests and values, including peace and security, economic growth and trade, the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, human rights and democratic governance,” reads the statement.

Her official itinerary did not include Taiwan, however, officials in Washington and Taipei said a visit is expected, according to CNN.

As of Monday, Japan-based Reagan is in the Philippine Sea after transiting the San Bernadino Strait on Saturday following a port visit to Singapore and operating in the South China Sea.
Japan-based America is in the East China Sea and California-based Tripoli is in just south of Okinawa. Tripoli has been embarked with up to 20 F-35Bs, while America routinely deploys with Marine F-35Bs. Marine officials told USNI News on Friday that its F-35Bs were not grounded as part of the ongoing ejection seat problems.

Specific lots of ejection seats across the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps — including F-35s — were found to have defective components. The services are in the process of clearing the seats for service with repairs.

“Currently, Marine Corps F-35Bs are not grounded, and over 90 percent of the inspections on Marine Corps ejection seat cartridge actuating devices are now complete,” Marine Maj. Jay Hernandez told USNI News on Friday.

USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker: Aug. 1, 2022

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Aug. 1, 2022, based on Navy and public data. In cases where a CSG or ARG is conducting disaggregated operations, the chart reflects the location of the capital ship. Ships Underway Total Battle […]

USNI News Graphic

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Aug. 1, 2022, based on Navy and public data. In cases where a CSG or ARG is conducting disaggregated operations, the chart reflects the location of the capital ship.

Ships Underway

Total Battle Force Deployed Underway
300
(USS 242, USNS 58)
111
(USS 73, USNS 38)
 88
(69 Deployed, 19 Local)

Ships Deployed by Fleet

2nd Fleet 3rd Fleet 4th Fleet 5th Fleet 6th Fleet 7th Fleet Total
0 9 3 13 29 57 111

In the Philippine Sea

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) conducts an archipelagic sea lane passage through the San Bernardino Strait, on July 30, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG) got underway from Singapore on July 26, sailed through the South China Sea and is now in the Philippine Sea.

Carrier Strike Group 5

Quartermaster 2nd Class Kevin Fernandez, from Dover, New Jersey, stands watch aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) during an archipelagic sea lane passage through the San Bernardino Strait on July 30, 2022. US Navy Photo

Aircraft carrier

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), homeported in Yokosuka, Japan.

Carrier Air Wing 5

An F/A-18E Super Hornet attached to the ‘Royal Maces’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 27, and an E-2D Hawkeye attached to the ‘Tigertails’ of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125, launch from the flight deck of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) on July 28, 2022. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5, based at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan, is embarked aboard Ronald Reagan and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • The “Royal Maces” of VFA-27 – Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) – from Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni, Japan.
  • The “Diamondbacks” of VFA-102 from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Eagles” of VFA-115 from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Dambusters” of VFA-195 from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Shadowhawks” of VAQ-141 – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Tiger Tails” of VAW-125 – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Providers” of VRC-30 – Detachment 5 – Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) – from MCAS Iwakuni.
  • The “Golden Falcons” of HSC-12 – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.
  • The “Saberhawks” of HSM-77 – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Facility Atsugi.

Cruisers

Sailors aboard USS Antietam (CG-54) prepare to moor at Sembawang Naval Base on July 28, 2022. US Navy Photo

  • USS Antietam (CG-54), homeported in Yokosuka, Japan.

Destroyer Squadron 15

Hull Maintenance Technician 1st Class Benjamin Proyaseng, left, from St. Louis, simulates a class-B fire during a firefighting drill on the flight deck aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65) July 15, 2022. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 15 is based in Yokosuka, Japan, and is embarked on the carrier. Destroyers from Destroyer Squadron 15 are also assigned to the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group. USS Benfold (DDG-65) recently transited through the Taiwan Strait and performed a freedom of navigation operation in the South China Sea, USNI News reported.

  • USS Benfold (DDG-65), homeported in Yokosuka, Japan

An F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 121 launches from the flight deck aboard amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA-7) on July 29, 2022. US Navy Photo

Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) is underway in the Philippine Sea as is USS America (LHA-6).

Tripoli departed Naval Station San Diego, Calif., on an independent deployment to the Western Pacific on May 2. The 45,000-ton big-deck amphibious ship has 20 F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters embarked to evaluate the Marines’ “lightning carrier” concept. The Navy and Marine Corps are testing Tripoli’s adjunct capability to a carrier strike group, USNI News has reported.

In the Middle Pacific

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is in Hawaii participating in the Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise. The participating ships took a group photo this past week.

“Twenty-six nations, 38 surface ships, four submarines, nine national land forces, more than 170 aircraft and approximately 25,000 personnel will participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise scheduled June 29 to Aug. 4, in and around the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California,” according to the Navy.

Ships Participating in RIMPAC 2022:

Australia

  • Landing helicopter dock HMAS Canberra (L02)
  • Frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH 152)
  • Replenishment ship HMAS Supply (A195)

Canada

  • Frigate HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331)
  • Frigate HMCS Winnipeg (FFH 338)

Chile

  • Frigate CNS Almirante Lynch (FF07)

France

  • Frigate FS Prairial (F731)

India

  • Frigate INS Satpura (F48)

Indonesia

  • Frigate KRI I Gusti Ngurah Rai (332)

Japan

  • Helicopter Destroyer JS Izumo (DDH-183)
  • Destroyer JS Takanami ((DD-110)

Malaysia

  • Corvette KD Lekir (FSG26)

Mexico

  • Frigate ARM Juárez (POLA-101)
  • Landing ship tank ARM Usumacinta (A412)

New Zealand

  • Replenishment ship HMNZS Aotearoa (A11)

Peru

  • Corvette BAP Guise (CC-28)

The Philippines

  • Frigate BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151)

Republic of Korea

  • Landing helicopter platform ROKS Marado (LPH-6112)
  • Destroyer ROKS Sejong the Great (DDG-991)
  • Destroyer ROKS Munmu the Great (DDH-976)
  • Attack submarine ROKS Shin Dol-seok (SS-082)

Singapore

  • Frigate RSS Intrepid (69)

U.S.

  • USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN‑72)
  • USS Essex (LHD‑2)
  • USS Fitzgerald (DDG‑62)
  • USS Mobile Bay (CG‑53)
  • USS Gridley (DDG‑101)
  • USS Michael Monsoor (DDG‑1001)
  • USS Sampson (DDG‑102)
  • USS Spruance (DDG‑111)
  • USS William P. Lawrence (DDG‑110)
  • USS Chafee (DDG‑90)
  • USS Tulsa (LCS-16)
  • USNS Grasp (T‑ARS‑51)
  • USS Charlotte (SSN‑766)
  • USS Topeka (SSN‑754)
  • USCGC Midgett (WMSL)
  • USNS Washington Chambers (T‑AKE‑11)
  • USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T‑AO‑187)
  • USNS Pecos (T‑AO‑197)
  • USV Nomad
  • USV Ranger
  • USV Sea Hawk
  • USV Sea Hunter
    Operating off California
  • USS Portland (LPD-27)

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH 183) and U.S. Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) sail in formation during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, July 28. US Navy Photo

Countries participating include Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark, Ecuador, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Peru, the Republic of Korea, the Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tonga, the United Kingdom and the United States. Countries not represented by ships at the exercise will be represented by ground elements, along with participation either in the various combined command and staff groups or as observers.

Four countries – Australia, India, Japan and South Korea – have confirmed that their fixed wing aircraft will join, with two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) P-8 Poseidon Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA), an Indian Navy P-8I MPA, a Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) P-1 MPA and a Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) P-3 Orion MPA participating.

Large unmanned surface vessel Nomad arrives at Pearl Harbor to participate in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 on June 29, 2022. US Navy Photo

In addition to the manned ships, “four prototype unmanned surface vessels are participating in the Rim of the Pacific 2022. PMS 406, the office responsible for the participating RIMPAC prototypes, is a program office within the Program Executive Office, Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC). The PMS 406 assets participating in RIMPAC are the Overlord Unmanned Surface Vehicles called Nomad and Ranger and the Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicles called Sea Hunter and Seahawk. Though primarily operated and maintained under the control of PMS 406, personnel from Unmanned Surface Vessel Division One within Surface Development Squadron One control much of the practical execution,” according to the Navy.

Carrier Strike Group 3

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) sails in formation during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, July 28, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, on patrol since leaving San Diego, Calif., on Jan. 3.

Carrier

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), homeported in San Diego, Calif.

Carrier Air Wing 9

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) sails in formation during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, July 28, 2022. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., is embarked aboard Abraham Lincoln and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • The “Black Aces” of VFA-41 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F/A-18Fs from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Tophatters” of VFA-14 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Vigilantes” of VFA-151 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Black Knights” of VMFA 314 – Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) flying F-35Cs from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.
  • The “Wizards” of VAQ-133 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Wallbangers” of VAW-117 – E-2D – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif.
  • The “Titans” of VRM-30 – CMV-22B – Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) – from Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.
  • The “Chargers” of HSC-14 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station North Island.
  • The “Raptors” of HSM-71 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station North Island.

Cruiser

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) sails in formation during Exercise Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, July 28, 2022. US Navy Photo

  • USS Mobile Bay (CG-53), homeported at Naval Station San Diego, Calif.

Destroyer Squadron 21

USS Spruance (DDG-111) sails in formation during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, July 28, 2022. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 21 is based in San Diego and is embarked on the carrier.

  • USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62), homeported at Naval Station San Diego.
  • USS Gridley (DDG-101), homeported at Naval Station Everett, Wash.
  • USS Sampson (DDG-102), homeported at Naval Station Everett.
  • USS Spruance (DDG-111), homeported at Naval Station San Diego.

Amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) is underway off the coast of Hawaii after departing Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on July 10.

In the Ionian Sea

Landing signal officers signal an F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to the ‘Fighting Checkmates’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211, from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on July 30, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is underway in the Ionian Sea.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has extended the deployment of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, its escorts and Carrier Air Wing 1 as a hedge against Russian aggression in Europe.

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) has been operating in the Mediterranean Sea since Austin ordered the strike group to remain on station in December as Russia massed forces along the Ukrainian border.

One defense official told USNI News the carrier could remain in the region until August before returning to its homeport in Norfolk, Va. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is expected to be relieved in the Mediterranean by the George H. W. Bush Carrier Strike Group.

Carrier Strike Group 8

Carrier

Sailors pull in a phone-and-distance line on the flight deck the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) during a replenishment-at-sea with the Fast Combat Support Ship USNS Supply (T-AOE-6) on July 29, 2022. US Navy Photo

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), homeported in Norfolk, Va.

Carrier Air Wing 1

Sailors prepare to connect stores to an MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter, assigned to the ‘Dragonslayers’ of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 11, on the flight deck the of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on July 29, 2022. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., is embarked aboard Harry S. Truman and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • The “Red Rippers” of VFA-11 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F/A-18Fs from Naval Air Station Oceana.
  • The “Fighting Checkmates” of VFA-211 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
  • The “Blue Blasters” of VFA-34 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
  • The “Sunliners” of VFA-81 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
  • The “Rooks” of VAQ-137 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Seahawks” of VAW-126 – E-2D – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va.
  • The “Rawhides” of VRC-40 – Detachment – C-2A – Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Dragon Slayers” of HSC-11 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Proud Warriors” of HSM-72 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla.

Cruiser

USS San Jacinto (CG-56) transits alongside the fleet combat supply ship USNS Supply (T-AOE-6) in the Mediterranean Sea on July 28, 2022. US Navy Photo

  • USS San Jacinto (CG-56), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.

Destroyer Squadron 28

Italian Navy Bergamini-class guided-missile FREMM frigate ITS Alpino (F 594), left, and Hellenic Navy Elli-class frigate HS Kountouriotis (F 462) sail in formation with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Cole (DDG-67) in the Mediterranean Sea on July 24, 2022. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 28 is based in Norfolk and is embarked on the carrier. The following ships deployed with the strike group.

  • USS Cole (DDG-67), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Bainbridge (DDG- 96), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Gravely (DDG-107), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109), homeported at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
  • USS Gonzalez (DDG-66), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F310).

In the North Sea

Marine Corps Sgt. Andrew Schumann, left, and Lance Cpl. Ryan Helm, right, attached to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) aboard the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD-24), stand watch on the bridgewing during a Strait of Gibraltar transit, July 26, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are underway in the North Sea.

The ARG includes USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), USS Arlington (LPD-24) and USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44). Arlington transited the Strait of Gibraltar on July 26, 2022.

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit is based in North Carolina and includes the command element; the aviation combat element, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron, 263 (Reinforced); the ground combat element, Battalion Landing Team 2/6; and the logistics combat element, Combat Logistics Battalion 26.

The MEU embarked commands with the Kearsarge ARG include Amphibious Squadron Six, Fleet Surgical Team 2, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Assault Craft Unit 2, Assault Craft Unit 4, Naval Beach Group 2 and Beach Master Unit 2.

In addition to these major formations, not shown are others serving in submarines, individual surface ships, aircraft squadrons, SEALs, Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, Seabees, Coast Guard cutters, EOD Mobile Units, and more serving throughout the globe.

Marines Pitching Service as Western Pacific Recon Asset for Combined Joint Force

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII — As the Marine Corps reshapes its force for a future conflict in the Western Pacific, the service is refining how to meet the reconnaissance mission for the wider U.S. military. The Marine Corps is a year away from the initial operational capability milestone for the Stand-in Forces concept, meaning Marines […]

Marine Corps Cpl. Alexander Tran, intelligence specialist with 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, launches a RQ-20B Puma at Pōhakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 20, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

MARINE CORPS BASE HAWAII — As the Marine Corps reshapes its force for a future conflict in the Western Pacific, the service is refining how to meet the reconnaissance mission for the wider U.S. military.

The Marine Corps is a year away from the initial operational capability milestone for the Stand-in Forces concept, meaning Marines would have the capabilities needed to deploy for missions in the region.

In a recent interview with USNI News, Col. Stephen Fiscus, the assistant chief of staff for force development at Marine Corps Forces Pacific, described the vision for SIF as having nearly all of the service’s force laydown in the Indo-Pacific acting as the reconnaissance arm for the combined joint force.

“To be inside and to be able to understand and report on what the enemy is doing, basically to be able to … the wonky way of describing it is the ability to gain and maintain custody of high-value targets and hold them at risk, with our own resources or joint force resources,” Fiscus said.

“[Special Operations Forces] has the capability to do that, but certainly the Marine Corps has the capability to do that at much greater scale, and with much greater persistence. SOF can’t do it at scale and at the capacity that we can,” he added.

The Marines argue that because they’re already operating in places like Okinawa, Japan, part of the first island chain that is in the range of Chinese weapons, they are in the position to perform the reconnaissance and counter-reconnaissance missions in a potential conflict.

“As part of the Stand-in Force, what that really means to the [Marine Littoral Regiment] is, we look at it to deter malign behavior, to operate inside the enemy’s weapons engagement zone, to support sea control and sea denial operations and then ultimately … to set the conditions for joint force and combined follow-on actions as part of that Stand-in Force,” Col. Timothy Brady, the commanding officer of the recently re-designated 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment, told USNI News.

While the new 3rd MLR is a piece of the Stand-In Force, the concept would employ most of the Okinawa-based III Marine Expeditionary Force and the Marine Expeditionary Units embarked on the Navy’s amphibious ships and operating in the Pacific.

“The Stand-in Force … pretty much requires almost all of III MEF, elements of I MEF, and the transiting MEUs in order to make it fully capable. It requires almost all of the [U.S. Indo-Pacific Command]-assigned force. And the infrastructure from Marine Corps Installations Pacific that enables that is pretty key to that as well. So it requires all of it. So to focus on just, on one entity is kind of missing the totality. The whole MAGTF, or Marine Air-Ground Task Force concept, is applicable to the Stand-in-Force,” Fiscus said.

The ability to see and realize information, Fiscus said, is the cornerstone of delivering the type of lethality the Marine Corps is historically known for bringing to conflict.

Landing Craft, Air Cushion 76 assigned to Assault Craft Unit 5, prepares to land on Marine Corps Base Hawaii, during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, July 11, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

“It’s understanding what your target is, where it is, and the effect that it’s going to have on the network that you’re influencing. You can translate that directly from what we were doing in counter-insurgency operations with the effect on an insurgent network, all the way down to a peer and pacing threat,” he said.

“And what’s going to happen when you take this asset out? It’s fairly easy to be lethal, to pull a trigger – whether that trigger is the 566 from a rifle or all the way up to using a Naval Strike Missile or a [Tomahawk Land Attack Missile], or some other huge asset and you’re targeting a capital asset. The need is to understand what you’re doing and understand immediately what’s going to happen. And that’s what Stand-in Forces bring, is they bring that whole package to the naval expeditionary force that really closes a pretty significant gap,” Fiscus continued.

3rd MLR Experimentation

U.S. Marines with 3d Marine Littoral Regiment, 3d Marine Division, post security during a field training exercise at Marine Corps Training Area Bellows, Hawaii, May 30, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

After converting the 3rd Marine Regiment into the 3rd Marine Littoral Regiment in March, Brady says they now have the relevant units in place to do full-scale experimentation.

The MLR consists of a Littoral Combat Team, a Littoral Logistics Battalion, and a Littoral Anti-Air Battalion. In June, the Marine Corps converted 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines into the 3rd MLR’s Littoral Combat Team and also re-designated Combat Logistics Battalion 3 into the Littoral Logistics Battalion that is now under the 3rd MLR, Brady said. That means the 3rd MLR now has all three units operating under the new construct.

“This provides us the opportunity – as we continue to train and experiment moving forward – with all of the primary capabilities now being organic to the MLR, to be able to develop our concepts of employment for our future Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations,” Brady said.
“Because it will take portions of all those different units to provide the capabilities necessary to be able to do the sea control and sea denial operations, to be able to provide the long-range precision fires, to be able to provide the air direction, air control early warning activities, to be able to provide the sensors necessary to the joint force,” he continued. “It will take an aspect of each one of those battalions to be able to actually produce the capability for it in the battlespace. So for the very first time, we have all of those capabilities as part of this unit and that’s what we’re looking forward to training in the future with.”

The Hawaiian islands, where the 3rd MLR is based, are uniquely suited to experiment with the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations concept – which would see Marines quickly moving between islands and shorelines to set up ad-hoc bases and fire anti-ship missiles – because they are similar to the first island chain, Brady said.

“To EABO in and of itself – to be able to seize and secure key maritime terrain – is not anything new to the Marine Corps. But the purpose of EABO is a paradigm shift. The purpose now is once we do seize and secure that maritime terrain is to look outward, right, to be able to support the naval expeditionary campaign and the larger naval campaign with that battlespace awareness … along with those long-range precision fires,” Brady said.

During the biennial Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise, the Marine Corps is employing the EABO concept in two different scenarios: to enable an amphibious landing and to enable the transit of a carrier strike group.

“So specifically to RIMPAC, having an amphibious task force as well as a carrier strike group operating in the notional operating environment, we are supporting their maritime maneuver. And ultimately the MLR helps the joint and combined force achieve multi-domain integrated naval power to be able to impose asymmetric threats on the enemy,” Brady said.

Digital Interoperability

A Marine Corps AH-1 Super Cobra participates in a sink exercise (SINKEX) during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, from Marine Corps Base Hawaii on July 22, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

Brady described a layered approach to how his unit is working toward operating with the joint force and ultimately allies and partners, also known as the combined force, which the Marines have the chance to work with at RIMPAC.

But working across the various platforms means they need what the Marines have defined as digital interoperability, or a way for all of the systems from the different U.S. services and other nations’ forces to communicate with each other.

“As we build those kill webs, that digital interoperability, you know the communications and the [command and control] systems, and we’re actually applying all those sensors and eventually the long-range precision fires, is we’re doing that internally to that Stand-in Force, the MAGTF, right, the Marine Corps,” Brady said.

“At the next level we’re really doing that across the joint force and looking at how to do that better. And then what RIMPAC provides us the opportunity to do is to do that with the combined force, right, the allies and partners, because to close those kill webs requires a lot of digital interoperability across multiple different systems, to be able to do it at speed and to be able to do it with all those nations that will be together inside the first island chain,” he continued.

In the type of conflict environment the services are preparing for in the Indo-Pacific, forces need multiple avenues to share information.

“If one type of way form is shut down and we can’t use it, there needs to be other pathways that we can take advantage of to move that information along, again, to generate that tempo for the commander so he can make a timely and accurate decision,” said Maj. Adrian Solis, a fires expert at MARFORPAC.

Future Capabilities

A Marine with 1st Battalion, 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division, triages a victim during a simulated mass casualty evacuation training event at Pōhakuloa Training Area, Hawaii, July 22, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

While Fiscus said the Marine Corps has what it needs to communicate with various assets across the joint force to share targeting information and execute missions under the Stand-in Forces concept, he said the Marines need more of the platforms they’re currently experimenting with – like the MQ-9A Reaper used for intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance.

“A lot of our platforms right now, we have one or two of them. And we have a plan to get more, but we have one or two of them. So we’re fairly finite,” he said.

The service also wants to make some of their capabilities and assets lighter so Marines can move quickly and carry what they need on their backs while moving around islands and shorelines.

“Making them small, deployable forward and getting them out to where [Brady] can access them and tactical commanders can fuse all of those systems is a big part of the experimentation in the systems that we’re doing. We have answers that say yes, we can do that. We can see them. We can put them together,” Fiscus said.

“Doing it sustainably and in austere environments and amidst allies and partners – because remember, we’re standing in, chances are we’re standing in next to somebody. All of the allies and partners that we’re sailing with that he’s working with right now, they by nature of where they’re located are standing in too. So we anticipate being with them on their terrain,” he added.

With IOC a year away, Brady and Fiscus said they’re focused on getting more capabilities to experiment with, like the stern landing vessel the Marine Corps wants to use while the service continues developing the Light Amphibious Warship. LAW is meant to have a beachable capability to shuttle Marines directly to islands and shorelines without needing to pull into a pier and a leased stern landing vessel will allow the Marine Corps to experiment with the capability in the interim.

I MEF in southern California will start the experimentation with the stern landing vessel, and then it will head to Hawaii. Fiscus said the 3rd MLR should have the platform within a year.

The service also now has a platoon of several dozen Marines who will do research and development work in Norfolk, Va., on the service’s future Long Range Unmanned Surface Vehicle, or LRUSV, Brady said.

“The Long-Range Unmanned Surface Vessel … that’s something that will provide additional reach and availability of weapons and systems well out into the maritime domain,” Brady said. “All of those things are coming in the next couple of years that will further enable us to provide additional capabilities to the joint and combined force.”

Metal Shark is on contract to build several LRUSV prototypes for the Marine Corps through an other transaction authority agreement, the company announced in January 2021.

While the Marine Corps first envisioned the LRUSV to function as an ISR platform and a way to bring more fires to the fight, Fiscus said the service wants to experiment and see what else the platform could do. 

“Its principal mechanism right now, as it was conceived, was the ability to sense and bring additional firepower, organic precision firepower to the totality of the package. But that doesn’t limit it from what it’s possibilities could be once we understand – you know, right now we’re still in that concept phase. But the initial concept the way it was scratched out was for an additional surface ISR and organic precision fires platform,” he said.

While IOC is about a year away and will mean the Marines are ready to deploy under the SIF concept, Fiscus said achieving full operational capability will require the Marine Corps to remain deployed for longer and sustain the force’s operations.

“By achieving IOC of the Stand-in Force, the totality of the Stand-in Force, you will have a deployable and sustainable capability for that to go forward, supported by the full MAGTF. That includes the full sense and make sense. So we will have our Group 5 [unmanned aerial system] – the MQ-9A – up with the ability to connect the whole package and do it. IOC means we have the capability and it’s deployable,” Fiscus said.

The 3rd MLR “be forward doing it, supporting operations, activities, investments – OAIs – but you’ll see the totality of the value proposition fieldable and presentable in its full depth. It may only be for finite periods of time because … the difference between IOC and FOC is depth and sustainability and how long that presence can be forward and impactful.”

10 Navy Helicopters Suffer Major Damage, Several Blown Over in Sudden Norfolk Storm

At least 10 Navy helicopters were damaged in a sudden storm that blew through Norfolk Naval Station, Va., Tuesday afternoon, USNI News has learned. According to a Navy initial assessment reviewed by USNI News, the storm resulted in 10 Class A ground mishaps – mishaps that result in more than $2.5 million in damage or […]

Navy helicopters damaged by a sudden thunderstorm on July 26, 2022, at Chambers Field at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.

At least 10 Navy helicopters were damaged in a sudden storm that blew through Norfolk Naval Station, Va., Tuesday afternoon, USNI News has learned.

According to a Navy initial assessment reviewed by USNI News, the storm resulted in 10 Class A ground mishaps – mishaps that result in more than $2.5 million in damage or the total loss of the aircraft.

“The Navy is continuing to assess the full extent of the damages to each airframe, but there are no impacts to operational forces as a result of this incident,” Cmdr. Rob Myers with Naval Air Forces Atlantic told USNI News in a statement.
“Known damages to the aircraft span from broken tail and rotor blades to structural dents and punctures in the airframes. No personnel were injured during the storm.”

The helicopters damaged were five MH-60S Knight Hawks, one MH-60R Sea Hawk and four MH-53E Sea Dragon mine countermeasures helicopters, according to the assessment.

The Navy has about 30 of the mine hunting Sea Dragons in its inventory, according to the most recent data from Naval Air Systems Command. The service has delayed retiring aging helicopters as the Navy has been slow to develop a new airborne mine-hunting platform.

At least four of the multi-million-dollar helicopters – one MH-53E and three MH-60s – were blown over by the wind, according to images of the damage circulating on social media.

Wind velocity in Norfolk, Va., around 3:30 p.m., on July 26, 2022. National Weather Service Image

The swift-moving storm traveling toward the Atlantic hugged the southern end of the James River and blew strong, high-speed winds across Norfolk’s Chambers Field, Jeff Orrock, the meteorologist in charge of the National Weather Service Wakefield, Va., office, told USNI News on Wednesday.

On Tuesday afternoon, the NWS issued a severe thunderstorm alert at 3:30 p.m., with a warning of winds more than 60 miles per hour. According to the damage assessment, the high winds hit Chambers Field at 3:42 p.m. – 12 minutes after the initial warning.

When given enough warning, aircraft in the path of bad weather are taken into their hangars or tied down. However, the storm came at a time when aviation maintainers are usually in the midst of a shift change. It’s likely that most of the personnel were indoors and would have limited time to bring the aircraft in the hangars, USNI News understands.

MH-53E Sea Dragon blown over by a sudden thunderstorm on July 26, 2022, at Chambers Field at Naval Station Norfolk, Va.

The Tuesday damage to helicopters is under investigation, Navy officials told USNI News.

The incident at Chambers Field comes after a sudden storm in the Mediterranean Sea blew a F/A-18 Super Hornet off the deck off USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on July 8. The loss of the fighter is still under investigation.