First Sea Lord: U.K. Royal Navy Will Keep Persistent Presence in Pacific

The U.K. Royal Navy is returning to its historic persistent presence in the Indo-Pacific while at the same time ensuring its stature as the foremost navy in Europe, according to the United Kingdom’s senior naval officer. Speaking Wednesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff […]

An F-35B Lightning II, assigned to the ‘Wake Island Avengers’ of Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VFMA) 211, launches from the flight deck of U.K. Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08), while the ship steams alongside Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), and Japan Maritime Self- Defense Force Izumo-class helicopter destroyer JS Kaga (DDH-184), as the ships transit the Bay of Bengal as part of Maritime Partnership Exercise (MPX), Oct. 17, 2021. US Navy Photo

The U.K. Royal Navy is returning to its historic persistent presence in the Indo-Pacific while at the same time ensuring its stature as the foremost navy in Europe, according to the United Kingdom’s senior naval officer.

Speaking Wednesday at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff Adm Ben Key, said by “persistent” he means a “reliable” presence of two patrol craft and longer, larger deployments. The goal is “building more profound relationships” with other nations in the Indo-Pacific, he added.

The Royal Navy “will be listening humbly” to what others have to say on their needs, he said.“After all, it’s their waters,” he said, and when asked the Royal Navy can provide leadership in meeting their needs to counter an aggressive and bullying China.

Key said exercising in the Indo-Pacific with the United States, France, Japan, New Zealand and Australia and NATO allies like the Netherlands is deterring Beijing’s ambitions in the South China Sea. It also tests the interoperability of naval forces addressing common threats that include China’s naval militias encroaching on other nations’ exclusive economic zones, which are vital for fisheries.

The Indo-Pacific “was an area [Britain] knew well,” dating from Captain James Cook’s explorations of those waters in the 18th century and the realization now of its importance to the continued free flow of trade in the 21st century, Key said.

“We’re going to have to [protect trade and national sovereignty] in partnerships” with the United States and other allies, he said.

He said the same rationale applied to Russia, which has been trying to close off the Black Sea to other nations as it ratchets up pressure on Ukraine. “We need to respond to that,” he said. “The high seas by their very nature are open to everybody … going about our own lawful activity.”

Key added, “we have a right to protect ourselves” by closely monitoring Russian naval activities in United Kingdom waters.

Adm. Ben Key became the nation’s most senior sailor aboard flagship HMS Victory. Royal Navy Photo

“I’ve been challenged by the government to grow the Navy,” he said. That includes fielding the first two aircraft carriers, HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and Prince of Wales (R09), designed and built for fifth-generation aircraft operations. On the deployment of the Queen Elizabeth II Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21), he said, “we tested ourselves across all three theaters” successfully.

He called the two carriers “such a step up” for the Royal Navy.

Key, who took the role in November, said Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government recognized the “increasing importance of being able [to deploy] across the global commons … to achieve what we want to” as a nation. He said it also was a turn away from the counterterrorist land campaigns in Afghanistan and Iraq of the past 20 years.

When asked about the Australia-United Kingdom-United States agreement to share technology and eventually to have Canberra field nuclear-powered submarines, Key said the pact was “a really good example of opening up [by sharing critical technologies such as undersea battlespace] rather than closing down.”

Key said that he was proud to be “part of a service that embraced innovation,” like steam over sail and exploring autonomous systems today. But after 38 years in uniform, he realizes that the career path he chose is not as appealing to possible recruits and officers. He said there needed to be a mechanism for those who want to serve for a time, leave the Royal Navy, and return without having to start over again as a midshipman.

“The Royal Navy is brimming with ideas,” he said. It has a force full of “energy, [with] entrepreneurial spirit” that needs opportunities to grow. This openness in the Royal Navy to adapt to change and meet individuals’ expectations also makes it a more attractive choice for young men and women beginning their careers.

USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker: Dec. 27, 2021

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Dec. 27, 2021, 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. Total U.S. Navy 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 Dec. 27, 2021, 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.

Total U.S. Navy Battle Force:

296

Ships Underway

Deployed Ships Underway Non-deployed Ships Underway Total Ships Underway
39 1 40

In Yokosuka, Japan

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 3rd Class Camille Islas, from Downey, California; Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Timothy Patrick Tomaneng, from Winchester, California; and Interior Communications Electrician Seaman Kimberly Zuluaga, from Miami, wrap gifts for an Angel Tree Gift Drive in the ship’s Internet cafe aboard aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) on Dec. 21, 2021. US Navy Photo

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

In Sasebo, Japan

Cmdr. Bryan Gallant, the executive officer aboard the forward-deployed amphibious dock landing ship USS Rushmore (LSD-47), conducts a tour of the ship’s well deck for allies from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force on Dec. 8, 2021. US Navy Photo

The ships of the America Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) are in port in Sasebo, Japan.

In Guam

Operations Specialist 3rd Class Rauf Acheampong, right, a native of Nsuaem, Ghana, and Operations Specialist Seaman Ethan Garcia, a native of Los Angeles, stand starboard quarter lookout aboard Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) as the ship pulls into Guam during a port visit on Dec. 23, 2021. US Navy Photo

The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group spent Christmas in Guam. Vinson is scheduled to depart on Tuesday, according to local press.

Aircraft carrier

USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), homeported in San Diego, Calif.

Carrier Air Wing 2

An F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the ‘Argonauts’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, launches off the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on Dec. 22, 2021. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., is embarked aboard Carl Vinson and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • The “Argonauts” of VFA-147 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F-35Cs from Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
  • The “Bounty Hunters” of VFA-2 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Stingers” of VFA-113 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Golden Dragons” of VFA-192 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Gauntlets” of VAQ-136 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Black Eagles” of VAW-113 – 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 “Black Knights” of HSC-4 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station North Island.
  • The “Blue Hawks” of HSM-78 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station North Island.

Cruiser

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) transits alongside Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on Dec. 14, 2021. US Navy Photo

  • USS Lake Champlain (CG-57), homeported in San Diego, Calif.

Destroyer Squadron 1

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG-106) transits the Philippine Sea as two MH-60S Knight Hawks, assigned to the ‘Black Knights’ of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4, conduct a vertical replenishment-at-sea between Henry J. Kaiser-class dry cargo ship USNS Carl Brashear (T-AKE-7) on Dec. 21, 2021. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 1 is based in San Diego and is embarked on the carrier.

  • USS Dewey (DDG-105), homeported in San Diego.
  • USS O’Kane (DDG-77), homeported in San Diego.
  • USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112), homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
  • USS Chafee (DDG-90), homeported in Pearl Harbor.
  • USS Stockdale (DDG-106), homeported in San Diego.

In the Gulf of Aden

Cmdr. John Sims, senior medical officer aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2), makes a holiday cookie with Emily Steinway, the Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) fun boss aboard Essex, during an MWR event aboard Essex on Dec. 21, 2021. US Navy Photo

The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit is in the Gulf of Aden. The ARG deployed Aug. 12.

The ARG is comprised of three ships: landing helicopter dock USS Essex (LHD-2), amphibious transport dock USS Portland (LPD-27) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52). Together the 11th MEU, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1 and ships are designated as an ARG/MEU. In addition to the ships, the principal Navy elements of the ARG are a Naval Beach Group element, the Tactical Air Control Squadron element, a fleet surgical team and a helicopter sea combat squadron element.

U.S. Navy Lt. Paul Guzman a Catholic Chaplain deployed to Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti (CLDJ) performed a Catholic Christmas Eve Mass for sailors and Marines aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on Dec. 24, 2021. US Navy Photo

The 11th MEU consists of four major components: a command element, a ground combat element, an aviation combat element and a logistics combat element. The 11th MEU is comprised of Battalion Landing Team 1/1, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165 (Reinforced), Marine Attack Squadron 214 and Combat Logistics Battalion 11.

In the Ionian Sea

Command Master Chief Keith Wilkerson, left, Capt. Gavin Duff, commanding officer, middle, Capt. Shane Marchesi, executive officer, cut a holiday themed cake with culinary specialists on the mess deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on Dec. 25, 2021. US Navy Photo

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) and the Truman Carrier Strike Group CSG are in the Ionian Sea after a port call in Souda Bay, Greece. The CSG departed for its deployment on Dec. 1. Along with the U.S. ships, Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F310) joined the strike group under the Cooperative Deployment Program.

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

Carrier Air Wing 1

Lt. Arny Warren, from Baltimore, directs a pilot of an F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to the ‘Blue Blasters’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34, before launching on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on Dec. 24, 2021. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, based at Naval Air Station Oceana, 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, Va.
  • 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

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG-56) fires a MK 45 light weight gun system during a weapons shoot on Dec. 10, 2021. US Navy Photo

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

Destroyer Squadron 28

Operations Specialist 2nd Class Omar Hernandez, from Houston, mans the rails as the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109) transits into Piraeus, Greece for a routine port visit on Dec. 24, 2021. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 28 is based in Norfolk and is embarked on the carrier.

  • 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.
  • Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F310).

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.

USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker: Dec. 20, 2021

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Dec. 20, 2021, 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. Total U.S. Navy 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 Dec. 20, 2021, 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.

Total U.S. Navy Battle Force:

295

Ships Underway

Deployed Ships Underway Non-deployed Ships Underway Total Ships Underway
55 3 58

In Yokosuka, Japan

Cryptologic Technician (Collection) 3rd Class Whitney Dorsett returns to formation during a frocking ceremony on the flight deck of the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) on Dec. 13, 2021. US Navy Photo

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

In Sasebo, Japan

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Bennet Coen, from Honolulu, assigned to the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6), directs sailors during aircraft firefighting drills in the ship’s hangar bay on Dec. 7, 2021. US Navy Photo

The ships of the America Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) are in port in Sasebo, Japan.

In the Western Pacific

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Matthew Strickland, a native of Tallahassee, Fla., acts as a safety observer for an EA-18G Growler, assigned to the “Gauntlets” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 136, as it is lifted aboard an elevator on Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on Dec. 18, 2021. US Navy Photo

The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is underway in the Western Pacific.

Aircraft carrier

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) transits the Indian Ocean on Dec. 18, 2021. US Navy Photo

USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), homeported in San Diego, Calif.

Carrier Air Wing 2

Sailor supports flight operations on the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) as it transits the Indian Ocean during a bilateral training exercise with the Royal Australian Air Force on Dec. 17, 2021. Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group and elements of the Royal Australian Navy and Air Force are conducting a bilateral training exercise to test and refine warfighting capabilities in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., is embarked aboard Carl Vinson and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • The “Argonauts” of VFA-147 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F-35Cs from Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
  • The “Bounty Hunters” of VFA-2 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Stingers” of VFA-113 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Golden Dragons” of VFA-192 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Gauntlets” of VAQ-136 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Black Eagles” of VAW-113 – 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 “Black Knights” of HSC-4 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station North Island.
  • The “Blue Hawks” of HSM-78 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station North Island.

Cruiser

An MH-60S Knight Hawk, assigned to the ‘Black Knights’ of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4 flies over Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG-57) while transiting alongside Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70) on Dec. 14, 2021. US Navy Photo

  • USS Lake Champlain (CG-57), homeported in San Diego, Calif.

Destroyer Squadron 1

Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Ancent Devera, a native of Honolulu, Hawaii conducts a dry rope exercise with Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG-106) while flying in an MH-60S Knight Hawk, assigned to ‘The Black Knights’ of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 4, Dec. 18, 2021. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 1 is based in San Diego and is embarked on the carrier.

  • USS Dewey (DDG-105), homeported in San Diego.
  • USS O’Kane (DDG-77), homeported in San Diego.
  • USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112), homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
  • USS Chafee (DDG-90), homeported in Pearl Harbor.
  • USS Stockdale (DDG-106), homeported in San Diego.

In the Gulf of Aden

Dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE-8), bottom right, leads a formation through the Strait of Hormuz with amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2), top middle, fast response cutter USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC-1142), middle right, and coastal patrol ship USS Whirlwind (PC-11) on Dec. 11, 2021. US Navy Photo

The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit is in the Gulf of Aden. The ARG deployed Aug. 12.

The ARG is comprised of three ships: landing helicopter dock USS Essex (LHD-2), amphibious transport dock USS Portland (LPD-27) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52). Together the 11th MEU, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1 and ships are designated as an ARG/MEU. In addition to the ships, the principal Navy elements of the ARG are a Naval Beach Group element, the Tactical Air Control Squadron element, a fleet surgical team and a helicopter sea combat squadron element.

The 11th MEU consists of four major components: a command element, a ground combat element, an aviation combat element and a logistics combat element. The 11th MEU is comprised of Battalion Landing Team 1/1, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165 (Reinforced), Marine Attack Squadron 214 and Combat Logistics Battalion 11.

In the Mediterranean Sea

Chief Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) Sheldon Popo, from Brooklyn, directs aircraft on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on Dec. 15, 2021. US Navy Photo

USS Harry S. Truman and the Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) are in the Mediterranean Sea. The CSG departed for its deployment on Dec. 1. Along with the U.S. ships, Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F310) joined the strike group under the Cooperative Deployment Program.

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

Carrier Air Wing 1

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to the ‘Fighting Checkmates’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211, lands on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on Dec. 13, 2021. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, based at Naval Air Station Oceana, 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, Va.
  • 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

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG-56) transits alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) during a replenishment-at-sea, Dec. 9, 2021. US Navy Photo

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

Destroyer Squadron 28

Arleigh-Burke Class destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109), front, and Royal Moroccan Navy’s Sigma-class frigate Allal Ben Abdallah (F 615) transits the Strait of Gibraltar in formation behind the USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on Dec. 14, 2021. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 28 is based in Norfolk and is embarked on the carrier.

  • 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.
  • Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F310).

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.

USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker: Dec. 13, 2021

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Dec. 13, 2021, 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. Total U.S. Navy 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 Dec. 13, 2021, 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.

Total U.S. Navy Battle Force:

295

Ships Underway

Deployed Ships Underway Non-deployed Ships Underway Total Ships Underway
51 20 71

In Yokosuka, Japan

Cmdr. Cody Lutke from Shreveport, Louisiana gives a tour of the pilot house to students from the National Defense Academy of Japan aboard the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) on Dec. 4, 2021 in Yokosuka, Japan. U.S. Navy Photo

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

In Sasebo, Japan

Lt. Cmdr. Tyler Maness, assigned to Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11, conducts a tour of the flight deck aboard the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6) for allies from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force on Dec. 8, 2021 in Sasebo, Japan. U.S. Navy Photo

The ships of the America Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) are in port in Sasebo, Japan.

In the Indian Ocean

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204), Dec. 7, 2021 in the Philippine Sea. U.S. Navy Photo

The Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group is underway in the Indian Ocean, off the northwest coast of Australia.

Aircraft carrier
USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70), homeported in San Diego, Calif.

Carrier Air Wing 2

Double rainbows form on the horizon while an EA-18G Growler, assigned to the “Gauntlets” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 136, is stowed on the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), Dec. 8, 2021 in the Philippine Sea. U.S. Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 2, based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., is embarked aboard Carl Vinson and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • The “Argonauts” of VFA-147 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F-35Cs from Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
  • The “Bounty Hunters” of VFA-2 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Stingers” of VFA-113 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Golden Dragons” of VFA-192 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Gauntlets” of VAQ-136 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Black Eagles” of VAW-113 – 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 “Black Knights” of HSC-4 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station North Island.
  • The “Blue Hawks” of HSM-78 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station North Island.

Cruiser

Seaman Sergio Vielmas, a native of Los Angeles, Calif., stands Landing Signalman during vertical replenishment drills for an MH-60R Sea Hawk assigned to the “Blue Hawks” of Helicopter Maritime Squadron (HSM) 78 aboard Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Lake Champlain (CG 57), Nov. 20, 2021 in the Philippine Sea. U.S. Navy Photo

USS Lake Champlain (CG-57), homeported in San Diego, Calif.

Destroyer Squadron 1

Sailors aboard Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Chafee (DDG 90) conduct line handling with Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO 204) during a replenishment-at-sea in South China Sea, Nov. 30, 2021. U.S. Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 1 is based in San Diego and is embarked on the carrier.

  • USS Dewey (DDG-105), homeported in San Diego.
  • USS O’Kane (DDG-77), homeported in San Diego.
  • USS Michael Murphy (DDG-112), homeported in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
  • USS Chafee (DDG-90), homeported in Pearl Harbor.
  • USS Stockdale (DDG-106), homeported in San Diego.

In the Gulf of Oman

Amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) conducts a strait transit through the Strait of Hormuz with fast response cutter USCGC Robert Goldman (WPC 1142), left, dry cargo and ammunition ship USNS Wally Schirra (T-AKE 8), middle, and coastal patrol ship USS Whirlwind (PC 11), Dec. 11. U.S. Navy Photo

The Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with the embarked 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit just transited the Strait of Hormuz and is now in the Gulf of Oman. The ARG deployed Aug. 12.

The ARG is comprised of three ships: landing helicopter dock USS Essex (LHD-2), amphibious transport dock USS Portland (LPD-27) and amphibious dock landing ship USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52). Together the 11th MEU, Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 1 and ships are designated as an ARG/MEU. In addition to the ships, the principal Navy elements of the ARG are a Naval Beach Group element, the Tactical Air Control Squadron element, a fleet surgical team and a helicopter sea combat squadron element.

The 11th MEU consists of four major components: a command element, a ground combat element, an aviation combat element and a logistics combat element. The 11th MEU is comprised of Battalion Landing Team 1/1, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 165 (Reinforced), Marine Attack Squadron 214 and Combat Logistics Battalion 11.

In the United Kingdom

HMS Queen Elizabeth returns from her seven month global mission on Dec. 9, 2021. UK Royal Navy Photo

HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and escorts of the United Kingdom Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21) returned to their home ports in HMNB Devonport and HMNB Portsmouth on Dec. 9, marking the end of the carrier’s seven-month maiden deployment.

CSG 21 sailed 49,000 nautical miles to the Indo-Pacific and back. CSG 21 ships arriving home were aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, destroyers HMS Diamond (D34) and HMS Defender (D36), frigates HMS Richmond (F239) and HMS Kent (F78) and replenishment ship RFA Fort Victoria (A387).

The remaining ships of the CSG 21 had returned home earlier. American destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) detached from the group in late October and arrived home in Mayport, Fla., on Nov. 24. Meanwhile, Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen (F805) detached from the group on Dec. 2 and arrived home at Nieuwe Haven Naval Base, Den Helder on Dec. 5. U.K. replenishment ship RFA Tidespring (A136), which was replaced as the CSG’s tanker by RFA Tidesurge (A138) on Nov. 20, returned home to Portland Port, Devon on Dec. 2. The U.K rotated its Astute-class submarines for the deployment, with one submarine accompanying the group at various periods.

The U.K. air elements of CSG 21 flew home Dec. 8 and 9, with the Merlin helicopters of 820 Naval Air Squadron and 845 NAS returning to Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose and RNAS Yeovilton, respectively, on Dec. 9. The Wildcat helicopters of 815 NAS returned to RNAS Yeovilton on Dec. 8, while “The Dambusters” of Royal Air Force 617 Squadron arrived home at RAF Marham on Dec. 9.

The “Wake Island Avengers” of U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 arrived home at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma on Dec. 8 after departing from CSG 21 last month. The squadron first landed aboard Queen Elizabeth in May 2021 for an integrated deployment with the U.K.’s 617 Squadron. A U.S. Marine Corps release stated that during the Royal Navy carrier’s initial operating deployment, VMFA-211 and the 617 squadron completed more than 1,278 sorties, flew more than 2200 hours, and conducted 44 combat missions in support of the counter-ISIS mission — Operation Inherent Resolve.

The ten F-35Bs of the squadron flew to Naval Station Rota on Nov. 24, with the remainder of the squadron disembarking from Queen Elizabeth on Dec. 2, when the carrier made a port call in Rota. On Dec. 5, the main body of personnel and equipment flew from Naval Station Rota to MCAS Yuma. The aircraft flew into MCAS Cherry Point, N.C., and subsequently flew to MCAS Yuma.

In the Eastern Pacific

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) Airman Matthew Kjoller, left, and Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Fuel) Airman Jarrett Tipton fake out a fuel hose on the flight deck aboard amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD 8), Dec. 9. Makin Island is underway conducting routine operations in U.S. 3rd Fleet. U.S. Navy Photo

The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) is underway in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of responsibility. USS Makin Island (LHD-8), USS San Diego (LPD-22) and USS Somerset (LPD-25) – along with the 15th MEU – returned from their last deployment in May 2021.

In the Western Atlantic

Sailors attach a fuel hose to a JP-5 fuel pump aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) on Dec. 3, 2021. Truman is operating as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group in the Atlantic Ocean in support of naval operations to maintain maritime stability and security in order to ensure access, deter aggression and defend U.S., allied and partner interests. U.S. Navy Photo

The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group departed from Norfolk, Va., on Dec. 1 for a scheduled deployment. Along with the U.S. ships; Royal Norwegian Navy Frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F310) joined the strike group under the Cooperative Deployment Program, which, according to the Navy, emphasizes the strengthening of defense partnerships and capabilities between the U.S. and bilateral or multilateral partners.

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

Carrier Air Wing 1

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to the “Sunliners” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 81, lands on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) in the Atlantic Ocean on Dec. 2, 2021. U.S. Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 1, based at Naval Air Station Oceana, 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, Va.
  • 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), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.

Destroyer Squadron 28

Sailors aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG 107) man the rails during a Sea-and-Anchor ceremony on Dec. 1, 2021. Gravely is operating in the Atlantic Ocean in support of naval operations to maintain maritime stability and security in order to ensure access, deter aggression and defend U.S., allied and partner interests. U.S. Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 28 is based in Norfolk and is embarked on the carrier.

  • 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.
  • Royal Norwegian Navy Frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F310).

U.S. Navy Aviation Boatswains Mates secure an MV-22 Osprey assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotar Squadron 263, during flight operations aboard amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), Dec. 6, 2021. U.S. Navy Photo

The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) is underway in the Virginia Capes Operating Area. Also underway in the Virginia Capes are USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) and USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7).

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.

U.K. Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth Wraps 7-Month Maiden Deployment

HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and escorts of the Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21) returned to their home ports in HMNB Devonport and HMNB Portsmouth marking the end of its seven-month maiden deployment. CSG 21 sailed 49,000 nautical miles to the Indo-Pacific and back. CSG 21 ships arriving home today were aircraft carrier Queen […]

HMS Queen Elizabeth returns from her seven-month global mission on Dec. 9, 2021. UK Royal Navy Photo

HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and escorts of the Royal Navy Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21) returned to their home ports in HMNB Devonport and HMNB Portsmouth marking the end of its seven-month maiden deployment.

CSG 21 sailed 49,000 nautical miles to the Indo-Pacific and back. CSG 21 ships arriving home today were aircraft carrier Queen Elizabeth, destroyers HMS Diamond (D34) and HMS Defender (D36), frigates HMS Richmond (F239) and HMS Kent (F78) and replenishment ship RFA Fort Victoria (A387).

The remaining ships of the CSG 21 had returned home earlier. Destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) detached from the group in late October and arrived home in Mayport, Fla., on Nov. 24. Meanwhile, Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen (F805) detached from the group on Dec. 2 and arrived home at Nieuwe Haven Naval Base, Den Helder on Dec. 5. U.K. replenishment ship RFA Tidespring (A136), which was replaced as the CSG’s tanker by RFA Tidesurge (A138) on Nov. 20, returned home to Portland Port, Devon on Dec. 2. The U.K rotated its Astute-class submarines for the deployment, with one submarine accompanying the group at various periods.

The U.K. air elements of CSG 21 flew home yesterday and today, with the Merlin helicopters of 820 Naval Air Squadron and 845 NAS returning to Royal Naval Air Station Culdrose and RNAS Yeovilton, respectively, yesterday. The Wildcat helicopters of 815 NAS returned to RNAS Yeovilton yesterday. The Royal Air Force 617 Squadron “The Dambusters” arrived home at RAF Marham today.

The “Wake Island Avengers” of U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 arrived home at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma yesterday after departing from CSG 21 last month. The squadron had been deployed aboard Queen Elizabeth together with 617 Squadron since the end of April 2021. A U.S. Marine Corps release stated that during the Royal Navy carrier’s initial operating deployment, VMFA-211 and the 617 squadron completed more than 1,278 sorties, flew more than 2200 hours, and conducted 44 combat missions in support of the counter-ISIS mission — Operation Inherent Resolve.

Dec. 9, 2021 message from Queen Elizabeth on the conclusion of the deployment.

“Deploying with CSG-21 was a premier opportunity for our Marines to train alongside our allies and for the Marine Corps to garner valuable lessons from operating on allied shipping in a combined environment across multiple theaters of operation,” Maj. Gen. Bradford Gering, the commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, said in the news release. “VMFA-211 continues to lead the charge in F-35 training initiatives that directly enhance future warfighting capabilities of Marine aviation.”

VFMA-211 was the first F-35B squadron to deploy as a 10-jet squadron, as outlined in the Marine Corps Commandant’s Planning Guidance, which lays out the strategic vision for the Marines.

“The deployment with CSG-21 was extremely successful for VMFA-211 in many ways, from conducting combat operations from a foreign allied vessel to demonstrating interoperability with our U.K. partners, along with multiple other strike groups, in the face of near-peer adversaries,” Lt. Col. Andrew D’Ambrogi, the commanding officer of VMFA-211, said in the release. “The hard work and fortitude the Marines demonstrated over the past eight months have been nothing less than impressive having just executed the first 10-plane F-35B operational shipboard deployment.”

The ten F-35Bs of the squadron flew to Naval Station Rota on Nov. 24, with the remainder of the squadron disembarking from Queen Elizabeth on Dec. 2, when the carrier made a port call in Rota. On Dec. 5, the main body of personnel and equipment flew from Naval Station Rota to MCAS Yuma. The aircraft flew into MCAS Cherry Point, N.C. and subsequently flew to MCAS Yuma.

Helicopters from 820 and 1700 Naval Air Squadron return home from deployment on Dec. 7, 2021. UK Royal Navy Photo.

A U.K Ministry of Defence release on the ending of the CSG 21 deployment stated that the strike group engaged with 44 countries and its air wing flew 4,723 flight hours, with 1,290 of those at night. The air wing also exercised with 64 different aircraft types from 17 nations during the deployment, the release said.

In other developments, the U.K Ministry of Defence announced on Dec. 8 that the RAF F-35B that crashed while operating off Queen Elizabeth on Nov. 17 has been recovered, though it did not provide details on the recovery efforts, other than thanking Italy and the United States for support in the recovery operation.

U.S. Navy Sending Salvage Ship, Crew To Help Recover Crashed British F-35B

The U.S. Navy is helping the United Kingdom recover its F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter that crashed in the Mediterranean last week. A U.K. government spokesperson confirmed to USNI News that the U.S. Navy is dispatching a ship and crew to help with the deep salvage mission. Naval Sea Systems Command did not immediately […]

An F35B Lightning II pilots prepared to take off from HMS Queen Elizabeth (R-08) on Aug. 14, 2021. UK Royal Navy Photo

The U.S. Navy is helping the United Kingdom recover its F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter that crashed in the Mediterranean last week.

A U.K. government spokesperson confirmed to USNI News that the U.S. Navy is dispatching a ship and crew to help with the deep salvage mission.

Naval Sea Systems Command did not immediately respond to an inquiry from USNI News about the ship and crew aiding the mission.

Italy is also assisting with the mission and the aircraft has not yet been recovered, USNI News understands.

The British F-35B had been operating from U.K. Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) when the pilot ejected and the aircraft crashed in the Mediterranean last week.

“A British F-35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning,” the U.K. Ministry of Defense said in a statement at the time.
“The pilot has been safely returned to the ship and an investigation has begun, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

Queen Elizabeth is wrapping up its maiden deployment, which featured a blended air wing with a U.S. Marine Corps squadron of F-35Bs and a Royal Air Force squadron of F-35Bs.

The Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron “The Dambusters” is billed as an RAF squadron, but includes both RAF and Royal Navy personnel. The MoD last week did not specify the branch of the pilot flying the F-35B that crashed.

The U.S. Marine Corps squadron – the “Wake Island Avengers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 – left Queen Elizabeth on Wednesday for Rota, Spain, to start heading back to the U.S.

U.K. Aircraft Carrier, Italian Navy Carrier Cross-Deck F-35Bs in Mediterranean

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The United Kingdom Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and Italian carrier ITS Cavour (CVH550) on Monday performed a cross-decking and integration exercise of their embarked F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters south east of Sicily in the Mediterranean, making Italy the second nation after the United States to […]

A U.S Marine Corps, Royal Air Force, Italian Air Force and Italian Navy F-35Bs on the deck of carrier Queen Elizabeth (R08). U.K. Royal Navy Photo

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia – The United Kingdom Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) and Italian carrier ITS Cavour (CVH550) on Monday performed a cross-decking and integration exercise of their embarked F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters south east of Sicily in the Mediterranean, making Italy the second nation after the United States to operate the aircraft off the U.K. warship.

The exercise had three phases. The first phase saw two U.S. Marine Corps F-35Bs from the “Wake Island Avengers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 from Queen Elizabeth landing on the Cavour. This was followed by an Italian Navy F-35B and an Italian Air Force F-35B from Cavour landing on Queen Elizabeth. The third phase saw F-35Bs taking off from the two carriers and flying interoperability flights, along with a joint flight formation of four F-35Bs, one each from the U.S. Marines, the U.K. Royal Navy, Italian Navy and Italian Air Force. The U.K Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron “The Dambusters” embarked on Queen Elizabeth is a composite squadron of Royal Air Force and Royal Navy personnel, though organizationally it is an RAF squadron.

“The fact that US, Italian and UK F-35Bs are able to fly to and from one another’s decks offers tactical agility and strategic advantage to NATO,” Commodore Steve Moorhouse, the commander of Carrier Strike Group 21 (CSG 21), said in a Royal Air Force news release. “Today’s activity is a telling demonstration of the ability of the U.K.’s flagship to work seamlessly with other nations; Italy is the third nation to land an F-35B on to the deck of HMS Queen Elizabeth and the seventh military operating F-35 aircraft that the U.K’s Carrier Strike Group has exercised with on Carrier Strike Group 2021.”

Watching the exercise from Cavour were Italian Chief of Defense Staff Adm. Giuseppe Cavo Dragone, along with Italian Navy Chief Adm. Enrico Credendino and Italian Air Force Chief Gen. Luca Goretti. Cavour earlier this year was in the U.S., arriving at Naval Station Norfolk, Va., on Feb. 13 and working with a test team from the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO) as part of its effort to become certified to operate the F-35B. The ship arrived back home in Italy on April 30.

ITS Carvour (CVH550) and Queen Elizabeth (R08) sailing together for the F-35 interoperability exercise in the Mediterranean. Italian Navy Photo

On Tuesday, Queen Elizabeth hosted a delegation of 30 NATO Ambassadors to see F-35 operations from the ship. The delegation arrived on V-22 Ospreys and were were joined by the Deputy Supreme Allied Commander Europe (DSACEUR) Gen. Tim Radford and representatives from Italy, the Netherlands, the U.K and the U.S., with U.K. Minister for Defence Procurement Jeremy Quin welcoming the NATO delegation.

CSG 21 is now on the final leg of its seven-month deployment, which has seen the group travel over 40,000 nautical miles to the Indo-Pacific and back. Ships and aircraft from the group have operated and exercised with over 40 countries during the deployment. The group is currently dispersed and the original composition has changed. American destroyer USS The Sullivans (DDG-68) detached from the group in late October and arrived home today at Naval Station Mayport, Fla. U.K. replenishment ship RFA Tidespring (A136) was replaced by RFA Tidesurge (A138) on Saturday.

Queen Elizabeth is currently with destroyer HMS Diamond (D34), Tidesurge, replenishment ship RFA Fort Victoria (A387) and, as was when CSG 21 operated in the Mediterranean in June, Italian destroyer ITS Andrea Doria (D553).

Frigate HMS Richmond (F239), which had previously been with Queen Elizabeth in the Mediterranean, has detached and arrived in Malta today for a port visit, while Dutch frigate HMNLS Evertsen (F805) has just completed a three-day port visit in Catania, Sicily, and is on its way to rejoin the group. Also heading to rejoin the group is destroyer HMS Defender (D36), which transited the Suez Canal today, having previously conducted exercises and a port visit with Jordan. Frigate HMS Kent (F78) is also likely heading out of the Middle East to join the group after supporting Combined Maritime Forces Bahrain operations.

VFMA 211 also completed its embarkation on Queen Elizabeth, with the squadron departing today for Naval Station Rota, Spain, for the first leg of the voyage home.

The U.K. Royal Air Force also announced today that the first F-35B from 617 landed at RAF Marham in the U.K.

“Engineers will now determine the maintenance requirement ahead of the rest of the Squadron returning next month,” the RAF wrote in a social media post.

UPDATED: U.K. F-35B from Carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth Crashes in Mediterranean, Pilot Recovered

A U.K. F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter operating from Royal Navy carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) crashed in the Mediterranean on Wednesday, the U.K. Ministry of Defense announced. “A British F-35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning,” reads a statement from the MoD. “The pilot […]

An F35B Lightning II pilot prepared to take off from HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) on Aug. 14, 2021. UK Royal Navy Photo

A U.K. F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter operating from Royal Navy carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) crashed in the Mediterranean on Wednesday, the U.K. Ministry of Defense announced.

“A British F-35 pilot from HMS Queen Elizabeth ejected during routine flying operations in the Mediterranean this morning,” reads a statement from the MoD.
“The pilot has been safely returned to the ship and an investigation has begun, so it would be inappropriate to comment further at this time.”

The crash occurred at about 10 a.m. London time and no other ships or aircraft were involved, an MoD spokesperson told USNI News. As of Wednesday morning, other type models of U.K. F-35s were still flying without restrictions, the spokesperson said.

Queen Elizabeth deployed with a blended air wing that includes the “Wake Island Avengers” of U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 and the Royal Air Force’s 617 Squadron “The Dambusters.” The MoD would not identify the service branch of the pilot of the crashed F-35. RAF and Royal Navy pilots fly the U.K. F-35s.

The carrier strike group is on its final leg of its inaugural deployment after departing the U.K. for its deployment on May 22 with eight RAF F-35Bs and 10 Marine F-35Bs.

To date, the U.K. has received 21 F-35Bs that will make up the core of the carrier air wings of the Royal Navy’s two new carriers.

The crash is the third loss of an F-35B over the history of the program. Last year, a Marine F-35B collided and crashed with a KC-130 during an aerial refueling over California. In 2018, a faulty fuel line resulted in the crash of an F-35B near Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort, S.C. The 2018 incident resulted in an international standdown of all variants of the F-35 while investigators determined the cause.

Top Stories 2020: Marine Corps Operations

This post is part of a series of stories looking back at the top naval news from 2020. 2020 was a turning-point year for the Marine Corps. After previewing changes to come in his Commandant’s Planning Guidance released last year, Commandant Gen. David Berger released a Force Design 2030 document this year outlining major changes […]

Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Austin McBain, a fire support specialist with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Information Group, monitors a radio during exercise Summer Fury 20 in Yuma, Ariz., on July 14, 2020. US Marine Corps Photo

This post is part of a series of stories looking back at the top naval news from 2020.

2020 was a turning-point year for the Marine Corps. After previewing changes to come in his Commandant’s Planning Guidance released last year, Commandant Gen. David Berger released a Force Design 2030 document this year outlining major changes in how the service would operate and equip itself. No longer would the Marine Corps be a service schlepping around tanks for sustained ground operations; rather, it would be light and mobile, using small ships to maneuver around islands and shorelines to attack an adversary from all angles and challenge their ability to track and target the small and on-the-move units.

And Berger didn’t stop at just releasing the plan: divestments are starting, new units are forming, wargames and exercises are reflecting new concepts of operations.

“In my professional opinion, we have to change. We have to move out now,” Berger told lawmakers recently.

Force Design 2030

U.S. Marines with Charlie Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry – West, fire an M98A2 Javelin guided missile system during a field-fire demonstration as part of the Anti-Tank Missileman Course at Range 204B on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, California, Jan. 22, 2020. ITB trains, develops and certifies Marines as riflemen, as well as their primary military occupational specialty within the infantry field, before sending them to join the Fleet Marine Force. US Marine Corps photo.

Berger released Force Design 2030 in March, laying out the first iteration of his vision of what the Marines needed to morph into to be successful in the future: a focus on maritime campaigning; close integration with the Navy, especially in sea control and sea denial missions; an emphasis on small units that could maneuver around islands and shorelines and bring with them logistics, anti-ship missiles, surveillance equipment, or whatever else the joint force needed dispersed throughout the battlespace.

In some ways, this vision was a culmination of everything the Marines had been working towards: many of the concepts relied on using the KC-130J on expeditionary runways and using the F-35B’s vertical takeoff and landing capabilities to get into remote areas. But in some ways it was wholly new: no longer would the Marines conducting these island-hopping missions start out aggregated on an amphibious warship, drop out the back of the well deck in a connector and then move ashore for operations; instead, the concept would rely on Marines on small ships that don’t exist today, such as a Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) that is habitable for the crew for longer durations of time but can also directly beach themselves to put Marines ashore.

The release of Force Design 2030 wasn’t the end of the effort, but rather the beginning of a massive wargaming, modeling and simulation, and live exercise bonanza that will stretch into next year.

U.S. Marines with Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment, traverse through water during an amphibious assault exercise, Marine Corps Base Hawaii, May 28, 2020. Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment, and Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 3d Marine Regiment, conducted an amphibious assault exercise and military operations in urban terrain to increase littoral mobility proficiency in 3d Marine Regiment and advance the goals of the Commandant of the Marine Corps 2030 Force Design. US Marine Corps photo.

So far, the first Marine Littoral Regiment was stood up in Hawaii to start experimenting with things like long-range ground-based anti-ship missiles, as well as either LAW prototypes or surrogates to start understanding what operations might look like with these new units and new capabilities. The service also entered into Phase III of the Force Design effort, described as a “campaign of learning approach” where teams will basically stress test the plan as it exists today by asking difficult questions of it and seeking answers through wargaming and experimentation. Much of this learning will culminate in a massive 2021 Large Scale Exercise that will involve multiple carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups and will focus on the new operating concepts: Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO), Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment (LOCE), and Expeditionary Advance Base Operations (EABO).

Though much is still to be learned through the ongoing campaign of learning, Berger is sure enough that they’re heading in the right direction to call for a restructure of Marine forces in the Pacific, to spread out beyond hubs in Japan and South Korea. While deterring China in the Pacific is his main focus now, later experimentation may look at creating alternate unit formations better tailored to challenging Russia in the North Atlantic, for example.

Of course, this is all coming at a time when defense budgets are expected to be flat or declining, so Berger said all along that he’d create a plan that the Marine Corps could pay for within its current topline. To do so, the service has taken a “divest to invest” strategy, announcing that “by the year 2030, the Marine Corps will see complete divestments of Law Enforcement Battalions, Tank Battalions and associated Military Occupational Specialties (MOS), and all Bridging Companies. Additionally, the Corps will reduce the number of infantry battalions from 24 to 21; artillery cannon batteries from 21 to 5; amphibious vehicle companies from 6 to 4; and reduce tilt rotor, attack, and heavy lift squadrons.” A further review would be conducted to see if the aviation reductions – specifically, limiting F-35 squadrons to just 10 aircraft each instead of 16 – should lead to a reduction in the planned buy from contractor Lockheed Martin.

F-35 Operations

F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 211 and the 617 Squadron sit on the flight deck aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth at sea on Oct. 6. 2020. US Marine Corps Photo

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter was among the best examples this year of the Marines pivoting in stride and refocusing towards Berger’s vision. Though fielding the F-35B and C jets has been decades in the making for the Marine Corps, ongoing F-35B and nascent F-35C activities this year nested well into the priorities of Force Design.

After spending 2019 learning how to incorporate the vertical takeoff and landing F-35B into the Marines’ island-hopping EABO concept, they took it a step further this year: incorporating the carrier-based F-35C into those plans.

The Marines’ first F-35Cs began flowing into Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif., in late January to support Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, the first squadron to transition to the next generation of carrier-based Marine aviation. In March the squadron was certified “safe for flight,” meaning they could train on their own without the supervision of the fleet replacement squadron, and earlier this month the squadron reached initial operational capability. Among the first things the squadron did after achieving IOC: demonstrating the ability to quickly rearm and refuel at expeditionary land bases, a centerpiece of EABO that will allow the Marines to stray far from their aircraft carriers and conduct stealthy missions on behalf of the joint force.

U.S. Marines with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 314 and Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352, Marine Aircraft Group 11, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, conduct a new expeditionary landing demonstration with M-31 arresting gear Interim Flight Clearance (IFC), on Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., on Dec. 3, 2020. US Marine Corps Photo

Noting an expected deployment in late 2021 aboard aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72), Maj. Robert Ahern, a pilot with VMFA-314, explained the urgency of the expeditionary landing and refueling, saying that as early as next year “we may be called upon to execute expeditionary advanced base operations. We need to be able to do this. This is something that hasn’t been done yet with the F-35C.”

A second tenet of future military concepts that the Marines’ F-35 community has focused on this year is interoperability and close collaboration with allies. In September, the “Wake Island Avengers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211 flew to the United Kingdom to begin training ahead of a joint deployment aboard aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08). The U.S. Marines and their U.K. counterparts conducted a group exercise and participated in NATO exercise Joint Warrior off Scotland.

“With a total of 14 jets and eight Merlin helicopters, it’s the largest concentration of fighter jets to operate at sea from a Royal Navy carrier since HMS Hermes in 1983, and the largest air group of fifth generation fighters at sea anywhere in the world,” the Royal Navy said at the time.

VMFA-211 will deploy with Queen Elizabeth in the spring.

Major Events

Recruits with Alpha Company, 1st Recruit Training Battalion, wait in line at Marine Corps Recruit Depot, San Diego, Sept. 22, 2020. US Marine Corps Photo

Despite the global COVID-19 pandemic – and the relative ease of blue-water navy exercises compared to the greater precautions needed for amphibious warfare and other ashore training drills – the Marines kept busy this year around the world.

Perhaps most challenging was the rotational deployment to Darwin, Australia, which was put on hold in March due to the growing pandemic.

In May, the service announced it would resume its annual rotational deployment after Australia agreed to grant an exemption to its COVID-19 travel restrictions. The Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) would involve about 1,200 Marines – just half the originally planned 2,500, due to COVID – who would train in the Northern Australia region. All were required to quarantine for 14 days upon arrival in Australia, with COVID tests being given at the beginning and at the end of the quarantine period.

Though a smaller group than originally planned, with no manned aviation assets deploying this year – but some unmanned aircraft for intelligence-gathering – the group worked with their Australian counterparts on increased interoperability in command-and-control, fire support coordination and aviation planning.

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. David Reece, a joint terminal attack controller with 1st Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company, looks over his notes during Exercise Iron Fist 2020 on San Clemente Island, California on Feb. 6, 2020. US Marine Corps Photo

Prior to the pandemic, the annual bilateral Iron Fist exercise at Camp Pendleton, Calif., took place in January and February to help improve the capability of Japan’s first Amphibious Rapid Deployment Brigade, which stood up in 2019 and will reach full capability next spring. About 310 Japan Ground Self-Defense Force soldiers came to California to operate off USS Pearl Harbor (LSD-52) and USS Portland (LPD-27), with an emphasis on infantry, amphibious assault vehicle, reconnaissance and medical training.

Japan established the ARDB to better position its self-defense forces to thwart off and defend incursions into its 3,000-plus islands — particularly in the southwest, including the disputed Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea.

Later in the year, Marines out of California were involved in fighting historic wildfires up and down the West Coast. In September Marine Wing Support Squadron 373 deployed to support the aerial firefighting mission on the Slink Fire, which spread onto training areas of the Marine Corps Mountain Warfare Training Center north of Yosemite National Park. Later in the month, 7th Engineer Support Battalion under 1st Marine Logistics Group at Camp Pendleton was trained for ground firefighting and divided into strike teams that would be paired with a corpsman and an experienced professional firefighter. The Marines ended up at the August Complex Fire, where they were given extra responsibilities such as protecting a helicopter landing pad from the encroaching fire.

Accidents and Safety

Marine Corps AAV-P7/A1 assault amphibious vehicle driver with Bravo Company, Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit, drives an AAV-P7/A1 up the well deck ramp of the amphibious landing dock USS Somerset (LPD 25) during training to increase Navy-Marine Corps interoperability in the eastern Pacific on July 27, 2020. US Navy Photo

Eight Marines and a sailor died when their amphibious assault vehicle sank off the coast of California on July 31.

Fifteen Marines and a sailor from 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit were aboard the AAV that had been training on San Clemente Island and then swam into the water to return to USS Somerset (LPD-25). They reported taking on water, and while eight Marines were recovered immediately – one of whom was pronounced dead at the hospital shortly afterwards – seven Marines and the sailor were still missing.

Submarine support ship HOS Dominator was brought in the next day to assist in the search and rescue, and the Marine Corps paused all AAV operations. By Aug. 2, the Marine Corps declared the missing men presumed dead and transitioned to a recovery operation.

The sunken AAV and human remains were located on Aug. 4 and recovered Aug. 8.

Two investigations were launched – a Naval Safety Center Investigation and a Command/Line of Duty Investigation – and Commandant Berger said at a recent hearing that the command investigation was nearing its conclusion but that it hadn’t reached his desk yet. Still, in October the commander of the battalion landing team was relieved of command.

A Marine KC-130 crash lands in California Sept. 29, 2020.

In Marine Corps aviation, a KC-130 and a F-35B collided in air on Sept. 29 during a mid-air refueling. The F-35B pilot safely ejected. In a feat of fantastic flying, the KC-130 pilot from Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 352 lost two engines, had a potential fire onboard, had just partial control of the aircraft, and yet landed safely in a farm field and saved all Marines onboard.

An MV-22B Osprey belonging to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 163, based at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, was extensively damaged while parked at a general aviation airfield near the U.S.-Mexico border. While the aircraft was unattended, a skydiving plane rolled into it, damaging the left engine compartment, wing and landing gear and both propellers.

Marine MV-22B Osprey after being struck by a Twin Otter skydiving plane on May 30, 2020. City of San Diego Photo

In March, two Marine Raiders were killed in northern Iraq while supporting Iraqi Security Forces in the fight against ISIS.

In July, an early morning shooting at Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center Twentynine Palms, Calif., temporarily locked down the training grounds. After investigating, police determined a Marine died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.