USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker: June 23, 2022

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of June 23, 2022, based on Navy and public data. In cases where a CSG or ARG is conducting disaggregated operations, the chart reflects the location of the capital ship. 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 June 23, 2022, based on Navy and public data. In cases where a CSG or ARG is conducting disaggregated operations, the chart reflects the location of the capital ship.

Total U.S. Navy Battle Force:

298

In Sasebo, Japan

Captain Kelly Fletcher, the new commodore of Amphibious Squadron 11, gives remarks during a change-of-command ceremony in the hangar bay of forward-deployed amphibious transport dock ship USS New Orleans (LPD-18). US Navy Photo

Ships of the America Amphibious Ready Group (ARG), which include USS America (LHA-6), USS Green Bay (LPD-20) and USS Ashland (LSD-48), are in port in Sasebo, Japan.

In the Philippine Sea

An F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the ‘Vigilantes’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151 conducts a fly-by off the port side of the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG-101) on June 20, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Abraham Lincoln Strike Group is underway in the Philippine Sea following the completion of Exercise Valiant Shield on Friday.

Carrier Strike Group 3

The Lincoln Carrier Strike Group, on patrol since leaving San Diego on Jan. 3, is in the Philippine Sea after a port call last week in Yokosuka for shipboard maintenance.

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

Carrier Air Wing 9

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Kayla Pettit, from Charlotte, N.C., signals an F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the ‘Vigilantes’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151, as it launches from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on June 21, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

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

Cruiser

USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) makes its approach toward the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on June 19, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

Destroyer Squadron 21

Cryptologic Technician (Technical) Seaman Stephen Mauldin, right, from Edmond, Okla., applies a tourniquet to Sonar Technician (Surface) 3rd Class Andrew Deveroux, from Jacksonville, Fla., during a tactical combat casualty care (TCCC) training evolution on the mess decks aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG-101) on June 20, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

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

An MV-22 Osprey aircraft assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 lands on the flight deck of amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA-7) on June 15, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

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

In Guam

Sailors signal to raise an aircraft elevator as USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) pulls into Naval Base Guam for a scheduled port visit on June 22, 2022. US Navy Photo

Having concluded Exercise Valiant Shield on June 17, the Ronald Reagan Strike Group is making a port visit to Guam.

Carrier Strike Group 5

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) pulls into Naval Base Guam for a scheduled port visit on June 22, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

Carrier Air Wing 5

Lt. Cmdr. Cody Forsythe, right, from Newport Beach, California, explains safety procedures to Midshipman 1st Class Tom Joyce, from Kansas City, Kansas, before his first flight in an F/A-18F Super Hornet attached to the ‘Diamondbacks’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 102 on June 17, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

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

Cruisers

USS Antietam (CG-54), right, sails in formation with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65), center, and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53), back, during Valiant Shield 2022 (VS22). US Navy Photo

 

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

Destroyer Squadron 15

Destroyer Squadron 15 is based in Yokosuka, Japan, and is embarked on the carrier. Destroyers from Destroyer Squadron 15 are also assigned to the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group.

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

In the Western Mediterranean Sea

Sailors standby for color detail on the flight deck of USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) as the ship pulls into Marseille, France for a scheduled port visit, June 18, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is underway in the Western Mediterranean Sea after a port visit in Marseille, France.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has extended the deployment of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, its escorts and Carrier Air Wing 1 as a hedge against Russian aggression in Europe. Truman has spent four months operating in the Mediterranean Sea since Austin ordered the strike group to remain on station in December as Russia massed forces along the Ukrainian border.

One defense official told USNI News the carrier could remain in the region until August before returning to its homeport in Norfolk, Va.

Carrier Strike Group 8

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) pulls into Marseille, France for a scheduled port visit, June 18, 2022. The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is on a scheduled deployment in the U.S. Naval Forces Europe area of operations, employed by U.S. Sixth Fleet to defend U.S., allied and partner interests. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Justin Woods US Navy Photo

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

Carrier Air Wing 1

An MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter, attached to the ‘Dragonslayers’ of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 11, delivers food to the flight deck of USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) during a replenishment-at-sea with USNS Supply and (T-AOE 6) USNS Robert E. Peary (T-AKE 5), June 17, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

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

Cruiser

Sailors receive stores from USNS Robert E. Perry (T-AKE-5) on the starboard weather deck of USS San Jacinto (CG-56), during a replenishment-at-sea in the Mediterranean Sea June 17, 2022. US Navy Photo

 

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

Destroyer Squadron 28

Damage Controlman Fireman Raheem Parris, from Suffolk, Virginia, increases the tension of metal shoring during a damage control drill aboard USS Bainbridge (DDG-96) June 14, 2022. 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.
  • USS Gonzalez (DDG-66), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen(F310).

In the Celtic Sea

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Tu N. Chau directs an AV-8B Harrier, attached to the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit, aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) during exercise BALTOPS 22, June 14, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are in the Celtic Sea following completion of the BALTOPS 22 exercise from June 5 to 17.

The ARG includes USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), USS Arlington (LPD-24) and USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44). The ARG is currently operating is a disaggregated fashion. Arlington arrived to Gabes, Tunisia to participate in exercise AFRICAN LION 2022 on June 17, 2022.

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

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

In the Western Atlantic

Aviation Electronics Technician Airman Daniel Ly, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 136, secures an F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), June 20, 2022. US Navy Photo

The George H. W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is underway off the coast of Virginia ahead of an anticipated deployment later this year. The strike group is conducting its Composite Unit Training Exercise, or COMPTUEX, according to The Newport News Daily Press.

Carrier Strike Group 10

Carrier
USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77), homeported in Norfolk, Va.

Carrier Air Wing 7

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Tyler Morehouse, assigned to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), directs an elevator carrying an E-2D Hawkeye aircraft, attached to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121, June 20, 2022. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., is embarked aboard George H. W. Bush and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • 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.

Cruiser

USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Leroy Grumman (T-AO-195), June 5, 2022. US Navy Photo

USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.

Destroyer Squadron 26
Destroyer Squadron 26 is based in Norfolk and is embarked on the carrier.

  • The Italian navy destroyer ITS Caio Duilo (D554)

In the Eastern Pacific

Seaman Shaun Chirico from Lithia Fla., heaves in a line on the fantail in preparation for going underway aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) on June 21, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG) has completed training in the Southern California Operating Areas. USS Nimitz (CVN-68) is headed back to homeport in Bremerton, Wa.

USS Essex (LHD-2) and USS Boxer (LHD-4) are underway in the Eastern Pacific. Essex is expected to participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise scheduled June 29 to August 4 in and around the Hawaiian Islands

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.

VIDEO: 3 Iranian Fast Attack Craft Harass U.S. Navy Ships in Strait of Hormuz

Three Iranian fast attack craft harassed two U.S. Navy ships entering the Persian Gulf on Tuesday, Navy officials told USNI News. Cyclone-class patrol coastal ship USS Sirocco (PC-6) and Spearhead-class USNS Choctaw County (T-EPF-2) were in the Strait of Hormuz on Monday when they were approached by three Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy fast […]

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy (IRGCN) operating in an unsafe and unprofessional manner in close proximity to patrol coastal ship USS Sirocco (PC-6) and expeditionary fast transport USNS Choctaw County (T-EPF-2) in the Strait of Hormuz, June 20, 2022. US Navy Photo

Three Iranian fast attack craft harassed two U.S. Navy ships entering the Persian Gulf on Tuesday, Navy officials told USNI News.

Cyclone-class patrol coastal ship USS Sirocco (PC-6) and Spearhead-class USNS Choctaw County (T-EPF-2) were in the Strait of Hormuz on Monday when they were approached by three Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Navy fast attack craft in international waters.

“One of the IRGCN vessels approached Sirocco head-on at a dangerously high speed and only altered course after the U.S. patrol coastal ship issued audible warning signals to avoid a collision. The Iranian vessel also came within 50 yards of the U.S. Navy ship during the interaction, and Sirocco responded by deploying a warning flare,” reads the statement from U.S. 5th Fleet.

A 17-second video released by the command showed a fast attack craft heading toward Sirocco’s at high speed before the PC sounded five short blasts from the ship’s horn. The attack craft quickly came to Sirocco’s starboard side. Photos released from the PC show a crew of three, one videotaping the interaction.

The incident follows a period of calm between Iran and the Navy. The IRCGN, a sectarian force that reports directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, is responsible for Iran’s security along the coast and the Strait of Hormuz.

In November, an Iranian helicopter came within 25 yards of amphibious warship USS Essex (LHD-2) prompting a public response from the Pentagon. In October, two U.S. guided-missile destroyers and at least one U.S. Coast Guard cutters sailed near a tanker seized by the IRGCN after responding to a request for help and broke off after realizing they were being filmed for a propaganda video, a U.S. official told USNI News at the time.

Since the departure of American forces from Afghanistan in August, the U.S. has not had a capital ship in U.S. 5th Fleet since January when Essex left the region, according to USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker.

SWO Boss: Surface Fleet Reforms See Positive Results Five Years After Fatal Collisions

Surface warfare reforms crafted to improve mariner skills and manage demand for ships are trickling into the fleet five years after two fatal collisions in the Western Pacific forced the Navy to retool how the service trains the surface fleet. Multiple investigations and criminal prosecutions found that basic failures in seamanship and ship handling led […]

Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, commander, Naval Surface Force, speaks with junior officers at the Mariner Skills Training Center, Pacific (MSTCPAC) on May 6, 2022. US Navy Photo

Surface warfare reforms crafted to improve mariner skills and manage demand for ships are trickling into the fleet five years after two fatal collisions in the Western Pacific forced the Navy to retool how the service trains the surface fleet.

Multiple investigations and criminal prosecutions found that basic failures in seamanship and ship handling led to the June 17, 2017, early morning collision between USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) and ACX Crystal off the coast of Japan. Seven sailors died.

Two months later, a misunderstanding of a newly installed throttle control system led to USS John McCain (DDG-56) drifting out of a ship separation scheme outside of Singapore and colliding with merchant tanker Alnic MC. Ten sailors died.

Undated photo of USS Fitzgerald (DDG-62) pier side in Japan shortly after the collision. US Navy Photo

Two subsequent Navy reviews into the fatal collisions – and two other cruiser incidents in 2017 – found systemic problems in basic ship handling and navigation in the surface force, with crews that worked too much and slept too little to meet an unrelenting demand for forces.

The reviews generated a list of more than 100 recommendations for improvements to training and procedures, resulting in a restructuring of the career path for surface warfare officers and a pledge from the Navy to Congress to have a minimum amount of manning aboard surface ships.

Five years following the collision of Fitzgerald and Crystal, the surface community is still working through the recommendations and is to see incremental, but tangible, improvements in the health of the surface force, Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, Naval Surface Forces commander, told USNI News this week.

“We remain on a positive trajectory. I do believe that, based on some good evidence, that maritime skills competency has definitely improved,” Kitchener said.

On Shore

Students in the Littoral Combat Ship Officer of the Deck course at the Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS), practice pierwork in a USS Independence (LCS-2) class simulator in 2020. US Navy Photo

The reforms following the 2017 collisions follow two decades of shortened training for sailors and the surface force skipping maintenance during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

In 2003, the same year the U.S. invaded Iraq, the Navy cut the 16-week training at Surface Warfare Officer’s School and relied on new ensigns squeezing in training via CD-ROMs between schedules to learn the mariner skills. In 2012, the Navy restored an eight-week SWOS course.

Early recommendations from the investigation, partially based on the failures of the bridge crews on Fitzgerald to adhere to the basic rules of the road, called for the Navy to beef up early training for new ensigns and expand SWOS.

That included two officer of the deck (OOD) training periods that teach junior officers to run the bridge using high-fidelity simulators.

In 2019, the Navy required all new surface warfare officers following their first schoolhouse – the Basic Division Officer Course (BDOC) – to complete an officer of the deck course. The course grew from four weeks to six last year. New SWOs have 772 hours of simulator training to learn basic mariner skills. The time is double the previous requirement, Kitchener said. SWOs take a second OOD assessment following their first division officer tour to gauge their knowledge of maritime rules of the road.

“These structured courses, individual courses like OOD phase one and two, coupled with fleet … training, where you bring a ship team over and they train on the waterfront and evolutions with the quartermasters and everybody in the full mission bridge, that’s reinforcing all that individual training,” Kitchener said.
“I’m pretty confident to say that our division officer scores have gone up.”

Students at Surface Warfare Officers School (SWOS) train on the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Full Mission Bridge (FMB) simulator in 2016. US Navy Photo

The assessments are part of a larger reform to the SWO career path instituted in 2018 under previous SWO Boss retired Vice Adm. Richard Brown that created ten pass-or-fail assessments throughout a surface officer’s career up to when they take command of a ship.

“There was a significant investment in trainers to give everybody the tools to train. It’s not only improved, I think JO ship handling, but their ability to use some of the tools on the ship … the different radars,” he said.
“By adding in the rigor where we have the assessments, we have 10 of them, and there are four no-gos built into it. If you don’t pass, you don’t go to the next wicket. That’s provided that rigor, certainly we’ve seen some attrition there.”

Last year, the GAO found that while the improvements have helped, officers leave the service at a higher rate than aviators or submariners.

“SWOs had shorter average careers and higher separation rates compared with officers in similar U.S. Navy communities, despite the U.S. Navy’s investments in SWO training,” reads the report.

At Sea

Ensign Sofia Bliek, from Vernon, Conn., on Feb. 6, 2022. US Navy Photo

As investigators looked at the collisions’ underlying causes, the Navy found that there were manning gaps and degraded equipment on many ships deployed to the Pacific.

Following the collisions, the Navy guaranteed Congress that only combat-ready ships would deploy.

“What does a combat-ready ship mean? That means ships deploy and leave no redundancy at the pier, that everything works on that ship the moment they deploy,” then-SWO Boss Brown told USNI News in 2019.
“We’re going to deploy our ships fully certified, fully manned at 92/95 (fit/fill).”

Maintaining the Navy’s measure for making sure qualified sailors are installed on the right jobs, known as fit, and that there are enough crew aboard, known as fill, has been a struggle for the service.

To meet the demand, the service pulls the sailors with the Navy Enlisted Classifications (NECs) it needs from ships in maintenance and other non-deployed duty stations.

“We are doing it, it remains a challenge, it remains a little bit of a friction point because I worry about ships, taking that manpower off in the maintenance phase, particularly critical NECs,” Kitchener said.

Quartermaster 2nd Class, from Corpus Christi, Texas, shoots a sunline with a sextant to take a bearing from the bridgewing aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG-105) while conducting routine underway operations on Jan. 30, 2022. US Navy Photo

In Fiscal Year 2020, the Navy moved 1,760 sailors for temporary additional duty (TEMADD) to fill gaps in critical NECs on deploying ships, Kitchener said in January.

To blunt the effects, SURFOR last year launched the data-driven crewing model Surface Manning Experience (SURFMEX) that tracked six critical NECs – sonar technician, Aegis fire controlman, gas turbine system technician (electrical and mechanical), quartermaster and engineman – to prevent churn in ship manning, according to Seapower.

The SURMEX program was showing good early results but “we remain challenged with our TEMADDs and it puts a strain on our sailors,” Kitchener said.
“We’re looking at doing some other pilots [to try] to reduce TEMADDs, looking at other ways we can man.”

One pilot program will remove the crew from a destroyer during its maintenance phase while training on shore until the ship is ready for training ahead of deployments.

Maintaining the 92/95 crewing standard “still remains a strain on the force because of that tax we pay on ships in the maintenance phase,” he said.

Culture

Ens. Hazel Acosta, assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Dewey (DDG-105), observes the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65), while standing conning officer during Visual Information (VI) drills between the two ships. U.S. Navy Photo

Perhaps the trickiest issue that faced the service is solving the underlying “zero-defect” culture problem that creates officers who shun risk and is quick to punish minor mistakes.

“I don’t think there is a zero-defect mentality. In our force today. Most of the time, when we’re relieving people, it’s usually for toxic leadership issues, things like that, not necessarily competency, and we’re learning from the mistakes,” Kitchener said.

Since the collisions, the surface fleet has adopted parts of naval aviation’s debriefing methodology that encourages critical assessment in debriefs to identify mistakes, Kitchener said.

“You pre-brief, brief and then afterward you do a debrief and we’ve been collecting data on that since the collisions. It’s pretty good. It gets bigger every year, the critiques that we do and that open discussion, so I’m pretty happy with that,” he said.
“The other way we try to get at culture is trying to increase that transparency and trust. That again is being able to discuss things that have gone wrong and how do we overcome that?”

Key to the culture change is predicting problems before they happen. Kitchener has touted his command’s use of data from across the command to create a better understanding of readiness in ships and personnel.

Ens. Stephen Hess uses a telescopic alidade in the pilot house of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG-56), as it transits behind USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) in the Adriatic Sea on June 6, 2022. US Navy Photo

“We’ve driven it towards being a learning organization where previously we weren’t necessarily. We were kind of reactive, and now we’re trying to be more proactive. I would tell you, we’re not completely there,” he said.

Key for Kitchener is to keep the reform momentum to build on the incremental successes.

“Vigilance remains the term. We’ve learned a lot, we’ve invested a lot and we just got to keep it all moving forward,” he said.
“We’ve all got to be making sure that we’re following the rules and the procedures we put in place. And I think for the most part, we’re doing better at that oversight role than we were back in 2017.”

Navy Awards $537M Option for Third Constellation Frigate Chesapeake

The Navy has awarded a $537 million contract option to shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine for the third Constellation-class frigate, according to a Thursday Pentagon announcement. The contract modification for the detail design and construction of Chesapeake (FFG-64) follows Constellation (FFG-62), awarded in 2020, and Congress (FFG-63), awarded in 2021. Combined with government-furnished equipment, the ship’s […]

A Fincantieri Marinette Marine model of the proposed USS Constellation (FFG-62). USNI News Photo

The Navy has awarded a $537 million contract option to shipbuilder Fincantieri Marinette Marine for the third Constellation-class frigate, according to a Thursday Pentagon announcement.

The contract modification for the detail design and construction of Chesapeake (FFG-64) follows Constellation (FFG-62), awarded in 2020, and Congress (FFG-63), awarded in 2021.

Combined with government-furnished equipment, the ship’s total cost will be about $1.5 billion.

Marinette’s Wisconsin shipyard will build the 7,300-ton frigate, which is based on Fincantieri’s FREMM multi-mission design used by the French and Italian navies.

The award comes as ship designers Gibbs & Cox are working to finalize an approved design for the class that would allow the shipyard to start fabrication of the first ship. Construction was due to start in April, but the design has yet to pass its critical design review, USNI News understands.

The frigate is set to be the Navy’s key anti-submarine warfare platform and a crucial node in the service’s emerging Distributed Maritime Operations concept, officials have told USNI News.

While the new Connies are based on an existing frigate design, the plans have gone through an extensive revision to accommodate new capabilities and meet the Navy’s survivability standards, service officials have told USNI News. That design work has taken longer than initially anticipated.

Earlier this year, the long-delayed Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations bill placed a pause on the Navy seeking a second shipyard to construct more Constellation-class frigates.

“While the [frigate] is based on a proven hull design and mature shipboard technologies, it remains a new class and the Navy and the shipbuilding industrial base have had past production challenges in managing costs, technical concurrency, design changes and schedule of lead ships of a class,” reads language from the FY 2022 appropriations law. “There is concern that prematurely adding a second [frigate] shipyard before the first shipyard has identified and corrected technical and production issues will inject unneeded risk and complexity into the program.”

The service was expected to buy two frigates a year starting in FY 2023, but alternate between one and two awards a year for a total of buying three every two years. 

Over the next five years, the service anticipates buying seven of the FFGs for a total of ten if the Navy exercises all of the contract options, according to its FY 2023 budget submission.

In the latest budget submission, the service asked for one Connie for $1.2 billion.

Ukraine Deploys Anti-Ship Harpoon Missiles to the Edge of Black Sea, MoD Says

Ukrainian forces have deployed Harpoon anti-ship missiles to the Black Sea as a counter to Russian surface ships in the region, Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov said. Denmark provided the U.S.-built anti-ship missiles to Kyiv, the Pentagon announced last month. The new Harpoon costal defense battery joined the Ukrainian Navy’s domestically-produced Neptune anti-ship missiles. “Our […]

Danish land-based Harpoon launcher in 2002.

Ukrainian forces have deployed Harpoon anti-ship missiles to the Black Sea as a counter to Russian surface ships in the region, Minister of Defense Oleksii Reznikov said.

Denmark provided the U.S.-built anti-ship missiles to Kyiv, the Pentagon announced last month. The new Harpoon costal defense battery joined the Ukrainian Navy’s domestically-produced Neptune anti-ship missiles.

“Our coastal defense was strengthened by highly effective Harpoon complexes,” Reznikov said in a translation of a Thursday address.
“Together with our Neptunes, the Harpoons are already forcing the enemy fleet to keep the distance to avoid the fate of the Russian Black Sea Fleet flagship Moskva.”

Two land-based Neptune missiles, based on a modified Soviet-era copy of a Harpoon, were used to sink the Slava-class cruiser RTS Moskva (121) on April 13.

The Danish military has used land-based RGM-84L-4 Harpoon Block IIs that are capable of not only hitting ships at sea, but also targets in port and on land with an upgrade from the Boeing Advanced Harpoon Weapon Control System, reported USNI News last month.

“This expands Harpoon’s capability to attack coastal, in harbor and land targets such as shore defense sites, [surface-to-air missile] sites, exposed aircraft, port/industrial facilities and ships in port,” reads a 1999 press release from Boeing on the sale of the system to the Danish Naval Material Command.

Ukrainian forces have sought to break the Russian Navy blockade of Odesa to allow grain shipments out of the country.

UK MoD Graphic

“The situation is very complicated,” Sergey Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odesa military district, told World-Grain.com on Thursday.
“The ports are not working at all, they are blocked completely. Ukraine cannot export the grain that it has agreed to export before the beginning of the big war.”

In addition to Russian surface ships, approaches out of Odesa have been heavily mined with the Ukrainian MoD accusing Russian forces of setting drifting sea mines.

In his address, Reznikov called for more modern NATO systems to replace Soviet ground systems to include long-range, heavy weapons.

“I cannot say that I am satisfied with the tempo and quantity of weapon supplies. Absolutely not. But at the same time, I am extremely grateful to the countries that support us. In particular, to the Unites States of America, the United Kingdom, Poland and our Baltic friends. And to all other states that help repel Russian evil,” he said.
“We have already received, bought on the market, manufactured and handed over to the Armed Forces of Ukraine a significant number of weapons. These numbers would have been enough for a victorious defense operation against any army in Europe. But not against Russia.”

Joint Staff’s Munch Nominated to Lead NAVEUR, New CNP Cheeseman Sworn In

The admiral in charge of the Pentagon’s joint force development office has been nominated to lead U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa, according to a Wednesday announcement from the Department of Defense. Vice Adm. Stuart Munsch, the director of the Joint Force Development, J-7, on the Joint Staff, is nominated to lead U.S. Naval […]

The admiral in charge of the Pentagon’s joint force development office has been nominated to lead U.S. naval forces in Europe and Africa, according to a Wednesday announcement from the Department of Defense.

Vice Adm. Stuart Munsch, the director of the Joint Force Development, J-7, on the Joint Staff, is nominated to lead U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa based in Naples.

Munsch has served on the Joint Staff since 2020. Prior to his current role, Munch oversaw the Navy’s warfighting development directorate (OPNAV N7), which is also in charge of the Navy’s education efforts. He is a career submariner and a 1985 Naval Academy graduate. At sea, he served aboard submarines and aircraft carriers, including as commanding officer of USS Albuquerque (SSN-706). Munsch also commanded Submarine Group 7 and Task Forces 74 and 54, according to his bio.

Current NAVEUR Adm. Robert Burke is expected to retire, USNI News understands.

Meanwhile, the head of Navy personnel has changed over. Vice Adm. Richard Cheeseman was sworn in as the chief of naval personnel, succeeding Vice Adm. John Nowell.

Nowell had served as the Navy’s personnel chief since 2019 and was key in crafting the service’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic for deployed ships and keeping the flow of recruits coming into the service.

He also oversaw the service’s Task Force One Navy diversity study followed by political unrest in the United States in the summer of 2020.

“The power of leveraging a diverse team with inclusive leadership is not something that the Navy recently discovered, but rather something I saw in action across so many ships and commands at sea and ashore,” Nowell said in his retirement remarks, according to a news release.
“The results were always the same, better performance, warfighting readiness and lethality.”

Cheeseman is a 1989 graduate of the Pennsylvania State University and a career surface warfare officer. His previous commands include Carrier Strike Group 10, guided-missile destroyer USS Bulkeley (DDG 84) and guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey (CG-61). As a flag officer, he also commanded Carrier Strike Group 2.

Pilot Killed in Super Hornet Crash Near China Lake

A Navy pilot was killed on Friday in a F/A-18E Super Hornet crash near the service’s test range at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif., Naval Air Forces announced on Friday. The fighter, based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., crashed at about 2:30 PM local time near the town of Trona. “The pilot […]

A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft, assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151, takes off from the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) in the Arabian Sea, Dec. 11, 2018. US Navy Photo

A Navy pilot was killed on Friday in a F/A-18E Super Hornet crash near the service’s test range at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, Calif., Naval Air Forces announced on Friday.

The fighter, based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., crashed at about 2:30 PM local time near the town of Trona.

“The pilot is confirmed deceased,” reads the statement.
“The identity of the pilot will not be released until 24 hours after the next of kin have been notified. Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Federal Firefighters and Naval Security Forces are on site. No civilians were harmed in this incident.”

A spokesman said there were no other aircraft involved in the crash when contacted by USNI News on Friday.

The Navy uses the ranges in China Lake and area in nearby Death Valley for pilot training training

In October, an F/A-18F crashed in nearby Death Valley with the pilot sustaining minor injures. In 2020, an F/A-18E crashed in China Lake with the pilot surviving. In 2019, a pilot died in an F/A-18E died during a training flight in Death Valley.

The following is the complete June 3, 2022 statement from Naval Air Forces.

This afternoon at approximately 2:30 PM PDT, an F/A-18E Super Hornet based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif. crashed in the vicinity of Trona, Calif. The pilot is confirmed deceased. The identity of the pilot will not be released until 24 hours after the next of kin have been notified. Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake Federal Firefighters and Naval Security Forces are on site. No civilians were harmed in this incident. More information will be made available at the earliest opportunity.

New Coast Guard Commandant Fagan Sets Priority on Policy, Personnel

Adm. Linda Fagan pledged her “highest priority as commandant will be to transform our policy management system” in remarks following her swearing in as the 27th leader of the Coast Guard and the first woman to lead a branch of the armed services. Speaking Wednesday at the change-of-command ceremony in Washington, D.C., she said, referring […]

Adm. Linda Fagan relieves Adm. Karl Schultz as the 27th commandant of the Coast Guard during a change of command ceremony at Coast Guard headquarters June 1, 2022. US Coast Guard Photo

Adm. Linda Fagan pledged her “highest priority as commandant will be to transform our policy management system” in remarks following her swearing in as the 27th leader of the Coast Guard and the first woman to lead a branch of the armed services.

Speaking Wednesday at the change-of-command ceremony in Washington, D.C., she said, referring to the men and women serving in uniform in the Coast Guard and the service’s civilian employees, “without you, steel doesn’t move.”

Fagan, who served as vice commandant since June 2021, said during her tenure as commandant she intended to give them “policy, training [and] support to succeed” as the Coast Guard modernizes its cutters, boats, aircraft and shore facilities.

Having graduated as one of 16 women from the Coast Guard Academy in 1985, Fagan added, “There has never been a more exciting time to be in the Coast Guard. …The pace of change creates challenges.”

President Joe Biden said at the ceremony the Coast Guard will be called on to play “an increasingly prominent role” in maritime security. He added the nation’s leaders “will be calling on the Coast Guard more” for a wide array of missions.

Those missions in the past two years ranged from marine safety on inland waters, COVID-19 response, humanitarian aid following natural disasters such as Category 5 hurricanes, and enforcing drug and fishing laws and regulations domestically to assisting other nations in their maritime security efforts.

Biden noted one effect of climate change was the warming of Arctic waters, making it “a potential region of conflict” as it becomes more open to commercial shipping, tourism, mineral exploration and energy development.

One of the service’s highest shipbuilding priorities is the expansion of the icebreaking fleet from two now to six, a mix of heavy and medium cutters.

Fagan’s first assignment following her commissioning was to USCGC Polar Star (WAGB-10), a heavy icebreaker where she was the only woman aboard. Polar Star, commissioned in 1976, remains in service and is the nation’s only heavy icebreaker.

Adm. Karl Schultz and Adm. Linda Fagan attend the vice commandant change of watch at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington D.C., May 31, 2022. US Coast Guard Photo

“It’s about time” that a woman led one of the armed forces, the president said. He added that the confirmation of Fagan as commandant shows that “no doors are closed to women” in services.

At the ceremony where she succeeded retiring Adm. Karl Shultz, Fagan praised the 15th commandant, Adm. Owen Siler for “having the courage to integrate the service academies,” allowing women entry. “I’m wearing his shoulder boards” today. She added that as a 16-year-old she informed her parents she intended to attend the Coast Guard Academy.

Noting her achievements, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said in his remarks Fagan had recently received the Golden Ancient Trident as the officer with the longest service in the Coast Guard’s marine safety program.

Biden said 40 percent of today’s enrollment at the Coast Guard Academy is female. “Now we need to keep working … to make sure women are not penalized for having children,” but remain in the service and keep being promoted.

“But we need to make some of that same progress in our enlisted ranks — and not just women, but underrepresented minority males,” he added.

Coast Guard figures show about 15 percent of its active-duty force is female.

At the ceremony, Mayorkas commended Schultz for spearheading a more than 20 percent increase in the Coast Guard budget along with “the largest shipbuilding effort since World War II.”

In his remarks, Schultz said, “we’re a learning organization striving to be more diverse and representative of the great nation that we serve.” He added, “to be the world’s best, we must also be the world’s most inclusive.”

Navy Separated 1,099 Sailors for COVID-19 Vaccine Refusal

Twenty-five more sailors have been separated from the Navy in the last week for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the service. There have now been 1,099 separations for sailors who will not get vaccinated against COVID-19 and do not have a waiver, according to the sea service’s weekly update. Of the sailors […]

Hospitalman Tanner Huffman, assigned to U.S. Naval Hospital Yokosuka Branch Health Clinic Sasebo, administers a COVID-19 vaccine booster during a shot exercise for Japanese Master Labor Contract (MLC), Indirect Hire Agreement (IHA), and MarinerÕs Contract (MC) employees employed at Commander, Fleet Activities Sasebo (CFAS) in Japan on Feb. 9, 2022. US Navy Photo

Twenty-five more sailors have been separated from the Navy in the last week for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19, according to the service.

There have now been 1,099 separations for sailors who will not get vaccinated against COVID-19 and do not have a waiver, according to the sea service’s weekly update.

Of the sailors who have been separated, 980 were active-duty, 98 were reservists and 22 were sailors in their first 180 days of service, reads the update.

“As of June 1, 2022, 3,906 active component and 3,279 Ready Reserve service members remain unvaccinated,” according to the service.
“There are 3,351 active duty and 864 Ready Reserve requests for a religious accommodation from immunization for the COVID-19 vaccine.”

The Navy cannot currently separate anyone who applied for a religious exemption due to a ruling in a federal lawsuit in Texas.

The service has approved 14 permanent and 213 temporary medical exemptions for active-duty sailors and one permanent and 78 temporary medical waivers for reservists.

The service has also approved 13 religious exemptions for members of the Individual Ready Reserve on the condition that they get vaccinated if called to reserve or active-duty status.

 

U.S. Warships Now in the Baltic Ahead of BALTOPS as Sweden, Finland Move Through NATO Membership Process

At least three U.S. warships are operating in the Baltic Sea ahead of two weeks of international drills in the region, according to U.S. 6th Fleet. Big deck amphibious warship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), amphib USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44), guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) and command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20) are operating in the Baltic […]

USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) in port in Tallinn, Estonia, on May 27, 2022. US Navy Photo

At least three U.S. warships are operating in the Baltic Sea ahead of two weeks of international drills in the region, according to U.S. 6th Fleet.

Big deck amphibious warship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), amphib USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44), guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) and command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20) are operating in the Baltic Sea ahead of the BALTOPS 22 exercise series, USNI News has learned.

Gunston Hall and Gravely made a port call in Helsinki, Finland on Friday.

“Prior to their port visit, Gunston Hall and Gravely conducted extensive operations with Allies and Partners in the Baltic Sea, including a series of maneuvering exercises with the Finnish and Swedish navies,” reads a statement from 6th Fleet.

Last week, Kearsarge and elements of the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit drilled in the Estonian-led Siil – Estonian for hedgehog – exercise around the island of Saaremaa, the city of Pärnu on Estonia’s western coast and the town of Võru, about 15 miles from the Russian border.

“The exercise scenario will consist of an amphibious landing followed by a multi-day force on force exercise, as well as the execution of a vertical assault raid,” reads a Navy release about the Estonian-led exercise.

Since the late February invasion of Ukraine by Russia, the U.S. has surged ships to Europe.

Guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) and the Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) sail in formation behind the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) during a maneuvering exercise with the Finnish and Swedish navies in the Baltic Sea on May 17, 2022. US Navy Photo

The drills with the Baltic nations come ahead of the NATO-led BALTOPS 22 exercise, which will be hosted in Sweden this year.

In addition to the U.S., countries in the exercise include Belgium, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom.

“Over 45 ships, more than 75 aircraft, and approximately 7,000 personnel will participate in BALTOPS 22,” reads a NATO release.
The exercise will include “amphibious operations, gunnery, anti-submarine, and air defense exercises, as well as mine clearance operations, explosive ordnance disposal, unmanned underwater vehicles, and medical response.”

The U.S. contingent for BALTOPS will include Kearsarge, Gunston Hall and the Rota, Spain-based guided-missile destroyer USS Porter (DDG-78), Navy officials told USNI News on Tuesday.

The 51st iteration of the exercise comes as long-time participants Sweden and Finland have started the process to join NATO amidst Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine. Swedish officials, in particular, have made calls for the U.S. to operate more in the Baltic, a move that Navy and Marine Corps leaders have endorsed, reported USNI News.

“I look forward to the prospect of Sweden and Finland joining NATO and I foresee a day when we’re actually increasing our maritime operations in the Baltic Sea,” Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro told the House Appropriations defense subcommittee earlier in May.

While the majority of the 30-nation alliance supports the entrance of the two Nordic countries, Turkey continues to raise objections over both Sweden’s and Finland’s protection of what Ankara calls terrorist organizations, including the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and the halting of arms exports.

On Tuesday, Turkish foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Turkey would not allow Finland and Sweden to join unless Helsinki and Stockholm agree to “halt their support for the PKK and other groups, bar them from organizing any events on their territory, extradite those sought by Turkey on terrorism charges, support Ankara’s military and counter-terrorism operations, and lift all arms exports restrictions,” according to Reuters.