Report to Congress on Navy Force Structure

The following is the July 28, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the […]

The following is the July 28, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the U.S. shipbuilding industry to execute the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been oversight matters for the congressional defense committees for many years.

In December 2016, the Navy released a force-structure goal that calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 ships of certain types and numbers. The 355-ship goal was made U.S. policy by Section 1025 of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810/P.L. 115-91 of December 12, 2017). The 355-ship goal predates the Trump and Biden Administrations’ national defense strategies and does not reflect the new fleet architecture (i.e., new mix of ships) that the Navy wants to shift toward in coming years. This new fleet architecture is to feature a smaller proportion of larger ships, a larger proportion of smaller ships, and a new third element of large unmanned vehicles (UVs). The Navy and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been working since 2019 to develop a successor for the 355-ship force-level goal that would reflect current national defense strategy and the new fleet architecture.

The Navy’s FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan, released on April 20, 2022, presents the results of three studies on possibilities for the Navy’s successor force-level goal. These studies call for a future Navy with 321 to 404 manned ships and 45 to 204 large UVs. A long-range Navy shipbuilding document that the Navy released on June 17, 2021, and which reflects some of these studies, outlined a future Navy that would include 321 to 372 manned ships and 77 to 140 large UVs. A congressionally mandated Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirement (BFSAR) report that reportedly was provided to Congress in July 2022 reportedly calls for a Navy with 373 battle force ships.

The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests $27.9 billion in shipbuilding funding for, among other things, the procurement of eight new ships, including two Virginia (SSN-774) class attack submarines, two Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers, one Constellation (FFG-62) class frigate, one LPD-17 Flight II class amphibious ship, one John Lewis (TAO-205) class oiler, and one Navajo (TATS-6) class towing, salvage, and rescue ship. The Navy’s FY2023 budget submission shows a ninth ship—the amphibious assault ship LHA-9—as also being requested for procurement in FY2023. Consistent with both prior-year congressional authorization and appropriation action and Section 126 of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283 of January 1, 2021), CRS reports on Navy shipbuilding programs, including this report, treat LHA-9 as a ship that Congress procured (i.e., authorized and provided procurement—not advance procurement [AP]—funding for) in FY2021. Navy officials have described the listing of LHA-9 in the Navy’s FY2023 budget submission as a ship being requested for procurement in FY2023 as an oversight. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget also proposes retiring 24 ships, including 9 relatively young Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs).

The FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan released on April 20, 2022, includes three potential 30-year shipbuilding profiles and resulting 30-year force-level projections, referred to as Alternatives 1, 2, and 3. Alternatives 1 and 2 assume no real (i.e., above-inflation) growth in shipbuilding funding beyond the level to be attained over the five-year period FY2023-FY2027, while Alternative 3 assumes some amount of real growth in shipbuilding funds after FY2027. Under Alternative 1, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 316 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 2, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 327 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 3, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2033 and grow to 367 manned ships by FY2052.

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Report on Navy Large Unmanned Surface and Undersea Vehicles

The following is the July 26, 2022 Congressional Research Service Report, Navy Large Unmanned Surface and Undersea Vehicles: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The Navy wants to develop and procure three types of large unmanned vehicles (UVs) called Large Unmanned Surface Vehicles (LUSVs), Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicles (MUSVs), and Extra-Large Unmanned Undersea […]

The following is the July 26, 2022 Congressional Research Service Report, Navy Large Unmanned Surface and Undersea Vehicles: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The Navy wants to develop and procure three types of large unmanned vehicles (UVs) called Large Unmanned Surface Vehicles (LUSVs), Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicles (MUSVs), and Extra-Large Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (XLUUVs). The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests $549.3 million in research and development funding for these large UVs and LUSV/MUSV-enabling technologies, and $60.7 million in additional funding for core technologies for XLUUV and other Navy UUVs.

The Navy wants to acquire these large UVs as part of an effort to shift the Navy to a more distributed fleet architecture, meaning a mix of ships that spreads the Navy’s capabilities over an increased number of platforms and avoids concentrating a large portion of the fleet’s overall capability into a relatively small number of high-value ships (i.e., a mix of ships that avoids “putting too many eggs into one basket”). The Navy and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been working since 2019 to develop a new Navy force-level goal reflecting this new fleet mix. The Navy’s FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan, released on April 20, 2022, includes a table summarizing the results of studies that have been conducted on the new force-level goal. These studies outline potential future fleets with 27 to 153 large USVs and 18 to 51 large UUVs.

The Navy envisions LUSVs as being 200 feet to 300 feet in length and having full load displacements of 1,000 tons to 2,000 tons, which would make them the size of a corvette. (i.e., a ship larger than a patrol craft and smaller than a frigate). The Navy wants LUSVs to be low-cost, high-endurance, reconfigurable ships with ample capacity for carrying various modular payloads—particularly anti-surface warfare (ASuW) and strike payloads, meaning principally anti-ship and land-attack missiles. Each LUSV could be equipped with a vertical launch system (VLS) with 16 to 32 missile-launching tubes. Although referred to as UVs, LUSVs might be more accurately described as optionally or lightly manned ships, because they might sometimes have a few onboard crew members, particularly in the nearer term as the Navy works out LUSV enabling technologies and operational concepts. Under the Navy’s FY2023 five-year (FY2023-FY2027) shipbuilding plan, procurement of LUSVs through the Navy’s shipbuilding account is programmed to begin in FY2025.

The Navy defines MUSVs as being 45 feet to 190 feet long, with displacements of roughly 500 tons, which would make them the size of a patrol craft. The Navy wants MUSVs, like LUSVs, to be low-cost, high-endurance, reconfigurable ships that can accommodate various payloads. Initial payloads for MUSVs are to be intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) payloads and electronic warfare (EW) systems. The Navy’s FY2023 five-year (FY2023-FY2027) shipbuilding plan does not include the procurement of any MUSVs during the period FY2023-FY2027.

XLUUVs are roughly the size of a subway car. The first five XLUUVs were funded in FY2019 and are being built by Boeing. The Navy wants to use XLUUVs to, among other things, covertly deploy the Hammerhead mine, a planned mine that would be tethered to the seabed and armed with an antisubmarine torpedo, broadly similar to the Navy’s Cold War-era CAPTOR (encapsulated torpedo) mine. Under the Navy’s FY2023 five-year (FY2023-FY2027) shipbuilding plan, procurement of additional XLUUVs through the Other Procurement, Navy (OPN) account is scheduled to begin in FY2024.

In marking up the Navy’s proposed FY2020-FY2022 budgets, the congressional defense committees expressed concerns over whether the Navy’s acquisition strategies provided enough time to adequately develop concepts of operations and key technologies for these large UVs, particularly the LUSV, and included legislative provisions intended to address these concerns. In response to these markups, the Navy has restructured its acquisition strategy for the LUSV program so as to comply with these legislative provisions and provide more time for developing operational concepts and key technologies before entering into serial production of deployable units.

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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.”

Navy Rolls Out Retention Programs for Submarine Commanders, Senior Enlisted Sailors

A new Navy program will offer $20,000 per year to members of the submarine community in a bid to increase retention. Submarine commanding officers with no less than 19 years but no more than 25 years of service are eligible to receive annual payments of $20,000 if they stay in the Navy for another three […]

Tugboats guide USS Minnesota (SSN-783) to the pier as the Virginia-class nuclear-powered fast-attack submarine returns to Naval Submarine Base New London, Conn., in 2021. US Navy Photo

A new Navy program will offer $20,000 per year to members of the submarine community in a bid to increase retention.

Submarine commanding officers with no less than 19 years but no more than 25 years of service are eligible to receive annual payments of $20,000 if they stay in the Navy for another three to five years, according to NAVADMIN 177, released Aug. 5.

Officers who apply for the retention bonus must be active duty, be serving in a commanding officer special mission billet and be at a O-5 or O-6 paygrade, according to the NAVADMIN.

Being promoted to an O-7 pay grade will make an officer ineligible and will result in unearned portions of the bonus being recouped by the Navy.

Qualifying officers must also have the 1120 designator and have nuclear training. The 1120 designator is “Unrestricted Line Officer billet requiring Submarine Warfare qualification or afloat billets leading to such qualification,” according to Navy HR.

Those who have a continuation bonus already under the nuclear officer incentive pay are not eligible.

If accepted for the retention bonus, officers will be given a service obligation between three to five years, according to the NAVADMIN. The bonus will be distributed yearly, with no option for a lump sum.

The new retaining bonus could be evidence of the Navy’s focus on retention as it faces a challenging recruiting environment. Already, the Navy has offered recruiting bonuses, with up to $50,000 for certain billets.

The Navy has been successful in meeting its retention goals, although they focus on sailors with up to 14 years of service, whereas the new program targets those with at least 19 years.

For nuclear submarine platforms, the Navy is aiming to keep 67 percent of sailors with up to six years, 77 for those with six to 10 years and 87 percent of those with 10 to 14 years, according to a NAVADMIN from January.

The Navy was on target to meet its goals and had already exceeded them for the sailors with up to six years, USNI News previously reported.

However, the Navy is also aiming to target specific billets, introducing the DMAP system to keep sailors at sea longer, USNI News previously reported. The Navy launched the pilot in March with four billets: aviation boatswain’s mate fuel, aviation boatswain’s mate – aircraft handling, gas turbine system technician – mechanical and culinary specialist.

Now the Navy is targeting senior enlisted positions with a new pilot program, according to NAVADMIN 178 published Friday.

Under the pilot program, the Navy is aiming to fill senior leadership sea billets. It will start with positions available in the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group, the Bataan Amphibious Ready Group and on USS George Washington (CVN-73).

George Washington is currently in maintenance and experienced a string of deaths by suicide, prompting the Navy to investigate manning, USNI News previously reported.

In May, the ship was 80 percent crewed, with 60 percent of its chief petty officers and 95 percent of junior sailors assigned to the ship on duty.

The SEA2P pilot program is available to eligible active-duty sailors who are not in the nuclear or special warfare communities. The pilot is limited to E8 or E9 billets considered critical, according to the NAVADMIN.

The sailors selected for the program will serve 36 months in the SEA2P billet.

The Navy is accepting sailors in two waves. The deadline for the first is Aug. 31, with sailors finding out if they will be part of the program between Sept. 26-30.

The deadline for the second wave is Oct. 17 with results released Nov. 14-18.

A list of the SEA2P billets is available on the MyNavyHR website.

George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group Deploys, Set to Relieve Harry S. Truman Strike Group in Europe

The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group left Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Wednesday afternoon and likely headed to Europe as part of the ongoing presence operations as the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches its six-month. The strike group consists of aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55) and destroyers USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119), USS Truxtun […]

Sailor kisses loved one at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., as USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) departs on Aug. 10, 2022. US Navy Photo

The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group left Naval Station Norfolk, Va., Wednesday afternoon and likely headed to Europe as part of the ongoing presence operations as the Russian invasion of Ukraine approaches its six-month.

The strike group consists of aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55) and destroyers USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119), USS Truxtun (DDG-103) and USS Farragut (DDG-99). Delbert D. BlackTruxton and Farragut are part of Destroyer Squadron 26 and homeported at Naval Station Mayport, according to the service.

Leyte Gulf‘s homeport is Naval Station Norfolk.

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 is embarked on Bush and includes:

  • The “Pukin’ Dogs” of VFA-143 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F/A-18Es from Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.
  • The “Jolly Rogers” of VFA-103 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
  • The “Sidewinders” of VFA-86 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
  • The “Knighthawks” of VFA-136 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Patriots” of VAQ-140 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Bluetails” of VAW-121 – 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 “Nightdippers” of HSC-5 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Grandmasters” of HSM-46 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla.

“We bring the full-range of U.S. and allied maritime power in support of national security and defense objectives wherever we sail,” Rear Adm. Dennis Velez, commander of Carrier Strike Group 10, said in the release. “Throughout our deployment we will continue to operate with and reassure our allies, maintain open sea lanes for trade and increased prosperity, and deter – or if necessary – destroy our adversaries.”

George H.W. Bush completed its graduation exercise last month that included transferring command from U.S. 2nd Fleet to Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO (STRIKFORNATO) out of Portugal. The carrier completed an extended 30-month maintenance period last year.

The Bush Carrier Strike Group is likely heading to the Mediterranean Sea where it will relieve the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, which has been in the area since December, USNI News previously reported. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin extended the Harry S. Truman CSG as part of the United States’ response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

During its time in the Mediterranean, Harry S. Truman went under NATO control twice, the first ship to do so since the Cold War. The embarked Carrier Air Wing 1 flew 60 to 90 daily sorties along NATO’s eastern front, USNI News reported following a visit to the carrier in March.

Delbert D. Black already departed Mayport, Fla., for its maiden deployment, USNI News previously reported. The destroyer, named after the first Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy, commissioned in 2020.

Report to Congress on the History of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay

The following is the Aug. 1, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay: History and Legal Issues Regarding Its Lease Agreements. From the report This report briefly outlines the history of the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, its changing relationship to the surrounding community, and its heightened importance due to military operations […]

The following is the Aug. 1, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay: History and Legal Issues Regarding Its Lease Agreements.

From the report

This report briefly outlines the history of the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, its changing relationship to the surrounding community, and its heightened importance due to military operations in Afghanistan. The report also explains in detail the legal status of the lease of the land on which the naval station stands, the statutory and treaty authorities granted to the President with regard to any potential closure of the naval station, and the effects on such a closure that Cuba sanctions laws might have.

At the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Spanish colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines transitioned to administration by the United States. Of these four territories, only Cuba quickly became an independent republic. As a condition of relinquishing administration, though, the Cuban government agreed to lease three parcels of land to the United States for use as naval or coaling stations. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was the sole installation established under that agreement. The two subsequent lease agreements signed in 1903 acknowledged Cuban sovereignty, but granted to the United States “complete jurisdiction and control over” the property so long as it remained occupied.

The prominence of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay rose briefly during the Haitian refugee and Cuban migrant crises of the early 1990s. At one point in late 1994, the migrant population of the naval station approached 45,000. However, by the end of January 1996, the last of these temporary residents had departed.

The naval station’s return to prominence arose due to the establishment of facilities to house a number of wartime detainees captured during military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. This practice began in early 2002 with the refurbishment of some of the property formerly used to house refugees and was expanded to more substantial housing that is operated by Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, a tenant for which the naval station provides logistical support. Additional temporary facilities were eventually constructed on a disused naval station airfield for use by the military commissions created to try detainees.

The 1903 lease agreements between the governments of Cuba and the United States are controlled by the language of a 1934 treaty stipulating that the lease can only be modified or abrogated pursuant to an agreement between the United States and Cuba. The territorial limits of the naval station remain as they were in 1934, unless the United States abandons Guantanamo Bay or the two governments reach an agreement to modify its boundaries. While there appears to be no consensus on whether the President can modify the agreement alone, Congress is empowered to alter by statute the effect of the underlying 1934 treaty. There is no current law that would expressly prohibit the negotiation of lease modifications with the existing government of Cuba, but the House of Representatives passed a prohibition on carrying out such a modification without congressional approval as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2017 (P.L. 114-328). This prohibition has been extended in subsequent years through FY2022.

As for “abandoning” the naval station, there appears to be no statutory prohibitions against closing an overseas military installation. Nevertheless, Congress has imposed practical impediments to closing the naval station by, for example, restricting the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to foreign countries and banning their transfer to the United States. The existence of various sanctions imposed upon Cuba may also impede closing Naval Station Guantanamo Bay by making it difficult to give or sell any property to the Cuban government.

Download the document here.

RIMPAC 2022 Sets Stage for Interoperability with U.S., Allies

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR HICKAM, HAWAII – If deterring China in the Pacific is a team sport, it might resemble a pickup basketball game more than the NBA. The allied bonds in the Pacific are less rigid than the coalition that makes up NATO in the Atlantic. The complicated web of relationships across the region […]

Mexican Naval Infantry Marines storm the beach after arriving on combat rubber raiding craft during an amphibious raid for a multinational littoral operations exercise as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022. Royal New Zealand Air Force Photo

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR HICKAM, HAWAII – If deterring China in the Pacific is a team sport, it might resemble a pickup basketball game more than the NBA.

The allied bonds in the Pacific are less rigid than the coalition that makes up NATO in the Atlantic. The complicated web of relationships across the region requires looser coalitions – like the Quad relationship between the U.S., Japan, Australia and India – instead of the structure the U.S. enjoys with its European allies in NATO.

At this year’s Rim of the Pacific 2022 naval exercise, U.S. Navy and partner nation officials described the drills as an effort to make operations between participating countries easier, with a focus on communication.

“We’re going to have to someday plugin as one unit, and whether that’s in a humanitarian assistance or disaster response or if it’s in a high-end fight, we need to be able to come together because no one of us is strong enough to tackle any of those problems, whether it’s HADR or a high-end fight,” Vice Adm. Michael Boyle, the commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet, told USNI News in a recent interview.

In addition to learning how each other’s systems and platforms work, nations attending RIMPAC had the chance for their staffs to work with those from other countries.

“Knowing how people work together, how they react, speeds up that interoperability and that capability and where it matters the most is the unexpected,” Royal Canadian Navy Rear Adm. Christopher Robinson, the deputy commander of RIMPAC, told USNI News.

“[If] an earthquake happens and you assemble a task group and every country comes together and they send their ready use forces, knowing that we’re going to establish initial [communications] on these radios and we’re going to use no call signs or call signs, and we’re going to get together twice a day at certain times and talk, once you’ve established all those really basic common understandings, then you can get to actually achieving the mission.”

Interchangeability

Personnel from the Australian Army, Malaysian Army Paratroopers and Sri Lanka Marine Corps form up on the flight deck of Royal Australian Navy Canberra-class landing helicopter dock HMAS Canberra (L02) in preparation for an air assault amphibious raid during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 on Aug. 1, 2022. Royal Australian Navy Photo

Boyle, who took the helm of 3rd Fleet in June and was the commander of RIMPAC 2022, described a need to push forward past interoperability to achieve interchangeability with allies and partners.

“I tell people that for interchangeability, [it’s] kind of the nexus, the intersection of national objective overlap and interoperability, which is the ability to talk to each other and to work together and to communicate and have tactics that are comparable and complementary,” he said.

When it comes to policy, the United States probably won’t align with a given partner or allied nation on all policy areas, Boyle said. He pointed to a Taiwan Strait transit as an example – performing one may not be in another country’s best interest, but conducting joint operations in the South China Sea could be a better option.

“My argument for interchangeability is that if we try to drive interoperability from the bottom up, from the tactical level up, what always seems to happen in my view … is we run into policy barriers,” he said.

“What seems to work better from my perspective is if we first figure out where our national objectives overlap, then we drive into that space and we have the weight and the leverage of our national command authority,” Boyle added.
“So if it’s important to the nation, then it’s easier to break down the barriers when you can say, ‘hey I really need to get foreign disclosures … for country X because it’s going to enable me to do this thing, which is our national objective. It’s also there’s.’ So it’s win win win. We get interoperability. They take care of their thing. We take care of our thing. And then we drive to the next country or group of countries. You know – multilateral is always better for us – and see where we can find overlapping objectives.”

Working Together 

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

RIMPAC 2022 allowed the U.S. and participating nations the chance to rehearse specific scenarios, like an amphibious landing and humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts, and hone the communications needed to perform those types of operations.

During a USNI News trip aboard Royal Australian Navy amphibious ship HMAS Canberra (L02), two U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys from the “Lucky Red Lions” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363 were parked on the flight deck. Those aircraft remained embarked with Canberra for all of RIMPAC’s at-sea period.

Capt. Jace Hutchison, the commanding officer of Canberra, said this year’s iteration of RIMPAC allowed the RAN to improve upon the lessons learned in 2016, when it began working toward interoperability with the U.S.

“We have developed a lot since 2016. What happened in 2016 was some initial interoperability testing between, in particular U.S. aircraft and Australian amphibious platform[s]. What we’ve been able to do in RIMPAC 2022 is actually take that to the next level,” Hutchison said.

“It’s an opportunity for us to now develop, in an enduring manner, while having two U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 aircraft embarked for the entire sea phase. That’s something that’s not happened before in an Australian context. And we’re really looking forward to expanding the way that we operate those aircraft within the constraints of our platform.”

In addition to having the U.S. Marine Corps Ospreys, Canberra also cross-decked with U.S. aircraft like the Marine Corps CH-53 Sea Stallion and Japanese aircraft, and had the authorities necessary to cross deck with any nation taking part in RIMPAC that brought aircraft to the exercise, Jace said.

Learning how to communicate with each other during those operations was a top priority for the RAN during RIMPAC, said Lt. Samuel Laidlaw, a flight control officer aboard Canberra.

“I think whenever we do international operations, the most challenging thing tends to be communications. So it can be really little things, like it can be some small differences in the way that we refer to the same thing. So understanding those differences,” Laidlaw told reporters in Canberra‘s flight control office.

“We do briefs beforehand. Before any aircraft come across here, we will endeavor to sit down to do a face-to-face brief with them. If we can’t do that. We have a PowerPoint presentation that we put together where we try and spell out all those little differences.”

For example, the U.S. Marine Corps uses magnetic north in operations, while the RAN uses true north. This meant that when the CH-53s flew out to Canberra, the location for where the ship was pointed was 10 degrees off.

“We were giving them to that in true, and they were expecting it in magnetics. There was a bit of a mismatch there,” Laidlaw said.

In addition to communications, obtaining a clear operational picture is key to conducting any missions with allies and partners.

“How do we ensure that this ship from ‘X’ country and this ship from ‘Y’ country are looking at the same picture, that way decisions can be made,” Capt. Dan Brown, the experimentation lead with U.S. 3rd Fleet, told USNI News.

“At the end of the day your commanders always want to be able to sense the battlespace that they’re assigned to and then ultimately [that] allows them to make decisions on what they want to do. And if we’re not all working off the same sheet of music, it’s going to be tough. So that experiment is pretty high visibility at this RIMPAC.”

Part of ensuring ships from different countries can communicate is testing out the Link 22 tactical data link system, which several participating nations – including the U.S., France, Chile and Canada – use.

“Tactical data links sound like they work together seamlessly. But it’s kind of like when you take your … iPhone, and you wander and you grab free WiFi from place to place to place and you still have to login, and sometimes you got to go to a homepage,” Robinson, the Canadian admiral, told USNI News. “Link systems are the same. They should connect seamlessly, but if you haven’t worked with those particular ships, it’s something to work through – making sure you’re all on the same crypto, that you’re changing at the same time, that control frequencies” are the same.

Future Operations

HMAS Canberra (L02), during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, Aug. 1, 2022. US Navy Photo

For the Australians, RIMPAC is helping them understand what they can do with U.S. aircraft aboard Canberra, including whether they could deploy U.S. aircraft aboard an Australian ship in the future, akin to the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters that deployed last year aboard United Kingdom aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08).

Jace, the CO of Canberra, said U.S. Marine Rotational Force – Darwin aircraft could embark aboard Australian ships when they’re forward deployed.

“[Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief] is something that Australia does regularly and if we’ve got MRF-D In Australia operating then that’s a perfect partnership to take out into those regional areas and support as a collective,” he said.

Canada’s Robinson acknowledged that more multi-national carrier strike group deployments like the Queen Elizabeth CSG in 2021 – which included RCN frigate HCMS Winnipeg (FFH 338) – could happen. But Robinson said he believed ad hoc naval coalitions are more likely the way maritime nations will operate together.

“I kind of think that shorter groupings – so bringing task groups together for shorter groupings of time and then ships come and go as their national taskings changed – is going to be the way of the future,” Robinson told USNI News.

Boyle said working with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific – like the United Nations-led Enforcement Coordination Cell for sanctions on North Korea – in particular, is key to deterring China.

“Continuing to make it apparent that they can’t win is the long-term objective and that way we’ll never have to go to war,” Boyle said.
“And man, if we can do it with partners, when they look out and see the ECC … and see Germany, Canada, France, the U.S., Korea all working together right off their coast, then it’s got to be like, ‘our only friend right now is Russia.’ And it’s not really a very good friend, from a China perspective.”

NASSCO to Build Another Sea Base and More Oilers for the U.S. Navy

General Dynamics NASSCO has been awarded $1.4 billion contract modifications for the construction of a sixth Expeditionary Sea Base ship (ESB 8) and two additional John Lewis-class fleet oilers (T-AO…

General Dynamics NASSCO has been awarded $1.4 billion contract modifications for the construction of a sixth Expeditionary Sea Base ship (ESB 8) and two additional John Lewis-class fleet oilers (T-AO...

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.

U.S. Will Continue Taiwan Strait Transits, FONOPs in Western Pacific Despite Growing Tension with China

U.S. warships will continue to make Taiwan Strait transits and perform freedom of navigation operations in the Indo-Pacific despite the recent Chinese live fire drills, the undersecretary of defense for policy told reporters Monday. The U.S. Navy is expected to conduct some freedom of navigation operations in the region in the coming days, Colin Kahl, […]

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65) on June 24, 2022

U.S. warships will continue to make Taiwan Strait transits and perform freedom of navigation operations in the Indo-Pacific despite the recent Chinese live fire drills, the undersecretary of defense for policy told reporters Monday.
The U.S. Navy is expected to conduct some freedom of navigation operations in the region in the coming days, Colin Kahl, undersecretary of defense for policy, said during a press briefing. It is important for Beijing to understand that the United States will continue to sail in international waters where it is allowed.

“We will continue to stand by our allies and partners. So even as China tries to kind of chip away at the status quo, our policy is to maintain the status quo with [a] free and open Indo-Pacific which frankly, is when I think most of the countries in the region would prefer,” Kahl said.

China is continuing to drill near Taiwan, with another series announced Monday, according to The New York Times. There were nearly 13 Chinese warships near Taiwan, the country’s defense ministry said. The defense ministry also reported approximately 40 sorties near the island.

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and the amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) have been in the area since Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited Taiwan, sparking the tension between China and the U.S., USNI News previously reported. Both ships are currently in the Philippine Sea, according to USNI News’ Fleet Tracker.

The drills last week started shortly after Pelosi left Taiwan. Pelosi’s trip to Taiwan caused tension between Beijing and Washington after China expressed ire over the visit.

“Legislatures from around the world go to Taiwan. Our Congress is an independent body of our government. Nothing about the visit and visit change one iota of the U.S. government’s policy toward Taiwan or towards China,” he said.
“Clearly, the PRC is trying to coerce Taiwan… Clearly they’re trying to coerce the international community. And all I’ll say is, we’re not going to take the bait, and it’s not going to work. So it’s a manufactured crisis, but that doesn’t mean we have to play into that.”