Report to Congress on Ukrainian Military Performance

The following is the June 29, 2022, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Ukrainian Military Performance and Outlook. From the report The Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) continue to face disadvantages in seeking to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity against Russian military forces. On the one hand, since Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the […]

The following is the June 29, 2022, Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Ukrainian Military Performance and Outlook.

From the report

The Ukrainian Armed Forces (UAF) continue to face disadvantages in seeking to defend Ukraine’s territorial integrity against Russian military forces. On the one hand, since Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, the UAF has successfully defended against, and in some areas pushed back, Russian forces. On the other hand, this resistance has come with losses in personnel and equipment, and the overall outlook for the war remains uncertain. The Biden Administration and Congress have expressed support for Ukraine’s defense of its territorial integrity against Russia’s invasion. An understanding of the evolving state of the UAF may be of interest to Congress as it continues to weigh policies potentially supporting Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression.

Personnel
Some observers note that the UAF’s initially positive overall performance is due in part to the experience and motivation of its personnel. The UAF has continued to benefit from high levels of recruitment and motivation. High losses, however, pose an ongoing challenge to the UAF’s ability to maintain effective and sustained operations.

Since 2014, the UAF has gained important combat experience fighting Russian-led forces in the Eastern Ukraine regions of the Donbas, which has led to a large proportion of trained, experienced veterans among Ukraine’s population. These veterans and other volunteers (including foreign recruits, some with previous military experience) were quickly mobilized into Ukraine’s new, volunteer Territorial Defense Forces (TDF) and Reserve, without the need for lengthy training. Additionally, the high level of experience and training among the recruits meant they were able to operate artillery, tank, and support systems that traditionally require time for reservists or volunteers to master. These units were crucial in supporting and enabling regular UAF units to spearhead resistance and counteroffensives in multiple areas.

Since the beginning of the 2022 war, Ukraine reportedly has suffered high levels of casualties. In early June 2022, Ukrainian officials estimated losses of up to 100-200 killed in action each day, but officials have not provided precise figures. Losses are likely higher among regular UAF and Special Forces units, forcing a greater reliance on TDF and Reserve units. Due to losses and the need to rotate out troops, Ukraine has had to recruit and train a substantial amount of replacements. Unlike the initial period of war when most recruits were veterans, most new recruits and volunteers have little military experience. As a result, it takes longer for the UAF to train new recruits.

The UAF also faces two major hurdles to training and deploying new personnel. First, like many militaries, Ukraine was in the process of developing a professional noncommissioned officer (NCO) corps along NATO standards before Russia’s 2022 invasion. The UAF did not have a fully developed professional NCO corps by the time of the invasion and continued to deal with issues with retention, professional development, and funding. As described previously, the high proportion of trained veterans, many with combat experience, mitigated to some degree the need for an established NCO corps to train and command new recruits. However, with mounting UAF losses and recruits with no experience as replacements, continuing the development of an effective NCO corps will likely remain a major challenge and a key UAF priority.

Second, the UAF’s need for immediate reinforcements creates pressure to train new recruits to only the bare minimum levels. Training recruits to conduct complex operations and operate advanced weapon systems takes longer, but both areas are widely considered necessary for the UAF to sustain combat operations in the current conflict.

Download the document here.

People’s Liberation Army Navy Ships Complete Circle Around Japan

A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) surface group entered the East China Sea on Wednesday, according to a Thursday Japan Defense Ministry release. The surface group completed a near circuit of Japan since they were sighted in the Tsushima Strait on June 12. On Wednesday at 11 p.m., three PLAN ships were sighted sailing northwest […]

Chinese ships operating near Japan on June 24, 2022. Japanese MoD Image

A People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) surface group entered the East China Sea on Wednesday, according to a Thursday Japan Defense Ministry release. The surface group completed a near circuit of Japan since they were sighted in the Tsushima Strait on June 12.

On Wednesday at 11 p.m., three PLAN ships were sighted sailing northwest in an area 130 kilometers northeast of Miyako Island, according to the release. Hull numbers and images provided identified the ships as destroyers CNS Lhasa (102) and CNS Chengdu (120) and replenishment ship CNS Dongpinghu (902).

The ships subsequently sailed through the Miyako Strait into the East China Sea. Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer JS Setogiri (DD-156) and a JMSDF P-3C Orion Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 5 based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa, monitored the PLAN ships, the release noted.

The Joint Staff Office release also included a map showing the movements of the three ships with a Dongdiao-class surveillance ship with hull number 794, which was sighted with them in the Tsushima Strait on June 12.

Dongpinghu and Dongdiao 794 sailed east into the Pacific Ocean via the Tsugaru Strait on June 16, while the two destroyers sailed through La Pérouse Strait heading east from June 16 through 17. Lhasa, Chengdu and Dongpinghu were subsequently sighted sailing together on June 19, and the three ships have been sailing together since.

Since Sunday, the JSO has yet to issue any sighting release on Dongdiao 794. Sunday’s news release said 794 was sighted at 1 a.m. that day sailing westwards in an area 90 kilometers northeast of Hachijo Island. The ship subsequently sailed west between Mikura Island and Hachijo Island, part of the Izu Islands group, while monitored by multi-purpose support ship JS Enshu (AMS-4305).

Both Russian and Chinese ships have been operating in the vicinity of the Izu Islands while sailing around Japan in June. A total of seven Russian ships sailed around Japan from June 16-17, and subsequently the PLAN surface group sailed on June 21.

On Thursday, the JMSDF along with the Japan Coast Guard (JCG) held a joint exercise in the waters east of Izu Oshima, which is part of the Izu Islands, possibly in response to the Russian and Chinese activities there. The exercise involved JMSDF destroyers JS Yamagiri (DD-152) and JS Amagiri (DD-154), along with a JMSDF SH-60K helicopter. The JCG units included patrol vessels JCG Akitsushima (PLH-32) and JCG Miyako (PL-201), along with a JCG Super Puma helicopter.

Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) Asagiri-class destroyer JS Yamagiri (DD 152), left, JMSDF Asahi-class destroyer JS Asahi (DD 119), and JMSDF Akizuki-class destroyer JS Teruzuki (DD 116) sail in formation during Annual Exercise (ANNUALEX), Nov. 21. U.S. Navy Photo

“Through this exercise, we improved the skills of the JMSDF and strengthened our joint response capability with the Japan Coast Guard,” the commander of the JMSDF element said in a news release on the exercise.

The JMSDF has been conducting exercises with the Japan Coast Guard for the purpose of strengthening comprehensive response and cooperation, as well as for the regional security of Japan and surveillance of the sea area around Japan.

On Wednesday, the Japan Defense Ministry announced that Royal Australian Navy (RAN) frigate HMAS Parramatta (FFH154) has been conducting surveillance activities in the Sea of Japan in support of United Nations sanctions on North Korea. The release did not specify the time period this activity took place beyond stating it was happened in late June and that this was the seventh surveillance activity the RAN has conducted since 2018.

The sanctions monitoring also includes surveillance by maritime patrol aircraft from various nations, with Canada saying its CP-140 maritime patrol aircraft was harassed by Chinese aircraft while conducting such a mission from April 26 to May 26.

China has denied the actions.

“Canadian military planes used the implementation of UN Security Council resolutions as an excuse to increase their approach to China Reconnaissance and provocation endanger China’s national security,” Senior Colonel Tan Kefei, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of National Defense, said during the Ministry’s monthly press conference on Thursday. “China firmly opposes this, and urges relevant countries to stop spreading false information, stop acts that endanger China’s national security and increase tensions in the sea and air, and take concrete actions to maintain regional peace and stability”.

In other developments, Australia’s Defence Department issued a news release on Thursday about Australia’s participation in the Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise and disclosed that an unnamed Australian submarine was taking part in the exercise.

Royal Australian Navy frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH 152) arrives at Pearl Harbor for Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 on June 29. Royal Australian Navy Photo

Australia had only previously stated that landing helicopter dock HMAS Canberra (L02), frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH152) and replenishment ship HMAS Supply (A195) would be its naval units at the exercise.

The release also disclosed the composition of the Australian Joint Landing Force taking part in the exercise, which is embarked on Canberra, saying it was led by the 2nd Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment and accompanied by personnel and capabilities from other Australian Army units. The release said that 1600 Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel were participating in the exercise. Australia’s participation and leadership in the exercise highlights the nation’s enduring commitment to sovereign security in the Indo-Pacific region, ADF Chief of Joint Operations Lt. Gen. Greg Bilton said in the release.

“RIMPAC demonstrates Australia’s commitment to both the United States and to preserving the freedoms enjoyed by our regional neighbours,” Bilton said in the release. “We face complex strategic challenges in the Indo-Pacific region, and the Australian Defence Force will take every opportunity to assure our friends that Australia has the ability and the intent to stand by its alliances, agreements and bilateral relationships.”

Four submarines are taking part in RIMPAC 2022, though the nationality of only two submarines – the RAN submarine and Republic of Korea Navy submarine ROKS Shin Dol-seok (SS-082) – have been disclosed so far. At least one of the submarines is likely from host nation United States, while the fourth could be either a second U.S. submarine or a partner nation submarine.

Department of Defense Red Hill Defueling Plan, Navy Investigation into Red Hill Fuel Leak

The following are the June 30, 2022, Department of Defense Red Hill Defueling Plan and the Navy Investigation into the Red Hill fuel leak. From the defueling plan: Executive Summary In accordance with the Secretary of Defense’s (SECDEF) direction in his March 7, 2022 memo and the requirements in Directive 4 of the State of […]

The following are the June 30, 2022, Department of Defense Red Hill Defueling Plan and the Navy Investigation into the Red Hill fuel leak.

From the defueling plan:

Executive Summary

In accordance with the Secretary of Defense’s (SECDEF) direction in his March 7, 2022 memo and the requirements in Directive 4 of the State of Hawaii Department of Health’s (DOH) May 6, 2022 superseding Emergency Order (EO), the Department of Defense (DoD) will safely defuel and close the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility (Red Hill). On behalf of DoD, the Secretary of the Navy (SECNAV), in coordination with the Director, Defense Logistics Agency (DLA), provides this plan to defuel the facility. This plan will put DoD on course to achieve the completion of defueling at the earliest date consistent with the safe defueling of the facility.

The plan is evidence-driven and relies on the recommendations of subject matter experts. The plan provides interim milestones for the Navy and Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) to achieve throughout the pre-defueling process in order to make the facility safe for defueling. Upon a determination that the facility is safe to defuel, the plan requires defueling operations to commence as soon as practicable and targets the completion of that defueling within eight months of commencement.

Current planning estimates completion of defueling by the end of 2024. DoD, based on input from its subject matter experts, identified December 31, 2024 as the earliest date that is consistent with the safe defueling of the facility, based on the information that DoD has at this time. The December 2024 completion date is subject to contingencies, but DoD will work to mitigate any delays caused by contingencies and will inform DOH and the public about any major contingencies that arise during plan implementation that may affect timelines. DoD is committed to transparency in its assumptions and analyses, not only to obtain regulatory concurrence from the DOH but also to build credibility and trust with the people of Hawaii.

DoD is taking action to ensure that there is strong command and control in place to facilitate successful implementation of this plan. The Secretary of Defense is directing the standup of Joint Task Force Red Hill (JTF Red Hill), led by a senior Navy flag officer whose sole responsibility is to ensure the Department’s safe and expeditious defueling of the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility. Once on-site in Hawaii, the Commander, JTF Red Hill will be responsible for oversight and execution of this defueling plan. The Commander will report to the Secretary of Defense through the Commander, US IndoPacific Command. The JTF Red Hill will operate from Hawaii and house experts from the Department of the Navy, DLA, and other components across DoD. These experts, drawn from the fields of construction, safety and spill response, engineering, and logistics, will work full-time on the defueling efforts and will report directly to the Commander, JTF Red Hill. The JTF Red Hill will also lead DoD’s interface with DOH and with the local community in Oahu.

Department of Defense Red Hill Defueling Plan

Download the document here.

Navy Investigation Into Red Hill Fuel Leak

Download the document here.

RIMPAC 2022 Kicks Off in Hawaii With 21 Partner Nation Ships

A total of 21 United States partner nation ships, including one submarine, from 14 countries are now docked at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Hawaii for the Rim of the Pacific 2022 (RIMPAC 2022) exercise that kicks off today. Twenty-six nations, including the United States as the host, are taking part in the exercise scheduled to […]

Indonesian Navy frigate KRI I Gusti Ngurah Rai (332) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on June 26, 2022 to participate in the Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

A total of 21 United States partner nation ships, including one submarine, from 14 countries are now docked at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam Hawaii for the Rim of the Pacific 2022 (RIMPAC 2022) exercise that kicks off today.

Twenty-six nations, including the United States as the host, are taking part in the exercise scheduled to go through August 4 in and near the Hawaiian Islands and Southern California.

The largest contingent is from the Republic of Korea (ROK), which sent three ships and one submarine, followed by the Royal Australian Navy, with three ships. Canada, Japan and Mexico sent two ships each, while Chile, France, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, the Philippines and Singapore each sent a single ship. Several of the ships included embarked helicopters for the biennial drills.

Although the U.S. Navy has not yet officially issued the list of partner nation ships taking part, official news releases over the past month from the navies and defense ministries of the countries taking part have allowed USNI News to compile the list below:

Australia

  • Landing helicopter dock HMAS Canberra (L02)
  • Frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH152)
  • Replenishment ship HMAS Supply (A195)

Canada

  • Frigates HMCS Vancouver (FFH331) and HMCS Winnipeg (FFH338)

Chile

  • Frigate Almirante Lynch (FF07)

France

  • Frigate FS Prairial (F731)

India

  • Frigate INS Satpura (F48)

Indonesia

  • Frigate KRI I Gusti Ngurah Rai (332)

Japan

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

Malaysia

  • Corvette KD Lekir (FSG26)

Mexico

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

New Zealand

  • Replenishment ship HMNZS Aotearoa (A11)

Peru

  • Corvette BAP Guise (CC-28) – corvette

The Philippines

  • Frigate BRP Antonio Luna (FF-151)

Republic of Korea

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

Singapore

  • Frigate RSS Intrepid (69)

Thirty-eight surface ships, four submarines, nine national land forces, over 170 aircraft and about 25,000 personnel will take part in the drills, according to a U.S. 3rd Fleet news release about RIMPAC 2022.

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

Royal Canadian Navy frigate HMCS Vancouver (FFH 331) arrives at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam to participate in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, June 28. U.S. Navy Photo

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

Ground elements disclosed include:

  • A Joint Landing Force from Australia, which will have a platoon from His Majesty’s Armed Forces of Tonga, an Indonesian Marine Corps platoon, a Mexican Marines company, and a New Zealand Army Joint Fires Team that will include Joint Terminal Attack Controllers.
  • The ROK will field a substantial ground element with a ROK Marine Corps company, four Naval Special Warfare Flotilla teams and a Naval mobile construction squadron.

A Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) element of 40 personnel will also participate in RIMPAC, though Japan has yet to specify what the JGSDF element will be doing in the exercise.

Prior to Tuesday, a number of the ships taking part in RIMPAC carried out joint sailing and exercise activities. Canadian frigates Vancouver and Winnipeg, Chilean frigate Almirante Lynch and Peruvian corvette Guise – along with U.S. Navy ships that included destroyer USS Michael Monsoor (DDG-1001) – conducted a joint sail from San Diego to Hawaii that included maneuver, gunfire, replenishment and communication exercises.

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) pulled into Hawaii on Tuesday ahead of the start of RIMPAC.

After the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and the Australian RIMPAC 2022 contingent sailed together last week, Japanese helicopter destroyer Izumo and destroyer Takanami carried out a replenishment exercise with USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO-187) on Sunday before doing a joint exercise with French frigate Prairial on Monday.

Royal Malaysian Navy corvette Lekir also carried out a replenishment exercise with Henry J. Kaiser before docking into Pearl Harbor on Tuesday.

U.S. Carrier Abraham Lincoln to Participate in Rim of the Pacific Exercise 2022

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) will participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise this summer near Hawaii, USNI News understands. As of Monday, the carrier was operating in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of responsibility, according to the June 27 USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker. Last week, the carrier was sailing toward Hawaii […]

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Royal Australian Navy auxiliary oiler replenishment ship HMAS Supply (AO 195), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Gridley (DDG 101) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Spruance (DDG 111) sail in formation with Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ABECSG), Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and RAN ships in the Pacific Ocean on June 23, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) will participate in the biennial Rim of the Pacific exercise this summer near Hawaii, USNI News understands.
As of Monday, the carrier was operating in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of responsibility, according to the June 27 USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker.

Last week, the carrier was sailing toward Hawaii with its escorts and ships from the Royal Australian Navy and the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF), according to Defense Department photos.

Ships sailing with Lincoln last week included Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) and Arleigh Burke-class destroyers USS Gridley (DD-101) and USS Sampson (DDG-102), all of which are part of the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group. Frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFGHM-152), landing helicopter dock HMAS Canberra (L-02) and oiler HMAS Supply (AO-195) joined from the Royal Australian Navy, along with destroyer helicopter carrier JS Izumo (DDH-183) and destroyer JS Takanami (DD-110) from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force.

Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, is slated to begin June 29 and continue for about five weeks, according to a May Navy news release about the exercise.

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

Lincoln has been operating in the Indo-Pacific since January, when it left for its deployment with the first Marine Corps F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter squadron to deploy aboard an aircraft carrier. There are a total of 10 F-35Cs in the “Black Knights” of U.S. Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 from Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

Meanwhile, several Japanese ships left this month for the annual Indo-Pacific Deployment 2022. Participating ships include Izumo, Takanami, destroyer JS Kirisame (DD-104) and an unnamed submarine, USNI News previously reported. A news release from the Japanese Ministry of Defense announcing the deployment says its units will participate in RIMPAC. The deployment is slated to continue through the end of October.

USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker: June 27, 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 27, 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 27, 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

Electronics Technician 3rd Class Andrew Gadaleta, from Philadelphia, assigned to the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6), stands watch on the ships flight deck on June 7, 2022 in Sasebo, Japan. U.S. 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

A U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey aircraft with Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 prepares to land aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA 7) while underway, June 25, 2022. U.S. Marine Corps Photo

Amphibious assault ship USS Tripoli (LHA-7) remains 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 the Western Pacific

Sailors signal to raise an aircraft elevator as the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) pulls into Naval Base Guam for a scheduled port visit on June 23, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

Having completed a port visit to Guam, the Ronald Reagan Strike Group is underway in the Western Pacific.

Carrier Strike Group 5

Aircraft carrier

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

Carrier Air Wing 5

The U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) pulls into Naval Base Guam for a scheduled port visit on June 23, 2022. U.S. 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

The guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54) steams into formation with the U.S. Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), Carrier Strike Group 5 and Republic of Korea Navy ships, during Carrier Strike Group Exercise 2022 on June 4, 2022 in the Philippine Sea. U.S. Navy Photo

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

Destroyer Squadron 15

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) launches a Standard Missile (SM) 6 during the coordinated multi-domain, multi-axis, long-range maritime strikes against EX-USS Vandegrift as part of Valiant Shield 2022 (VS 22) on June 16, 2022 in the Philippine Sea. U.S. Navy Photo

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

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

In the Middle Pacific

In route to Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, ships of Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ABECSG) sail in formation with Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and Royal Australian Navy ships on June 23, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group has “chopped” from the U.S. 7th Fleet to U.S. 3rd Fleet and is underway in the Middle Pacific near Hawaii. USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) is slated to participate in the upcoming Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise near Hawaii, USNI News understands.

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

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

Aircraft, assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, launch from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) on June 22, 2022. U.S. 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, Calif.
  • 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

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) transits the Philippine Sea on June 14, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

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

Destroyer Squadron 21

Sailors remove the chock and chain from an MH-60R Sea Hawk Helicopter assigned to the “Scorpions” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 49 aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG 102) on June 15, 2022. U.S. 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.

In the Western Mediterranean Sea

Airman Carlos Armenta, from Riverside, California, assigned to the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34, cleans the canopy of an F/A-18E Super Hornet on the flight deck of USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), June 26, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group is underway in the Western Mediterranean Sea.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has extended the deployment of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, its escorts and Carrier Air Wing 1 as a hedge against Russian aggression in Europe. USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) has 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

Operations Specialist Seaman Priscilla Badillo, from Pheonix, Arizona, operates the AN/SPS-73(V)12 Radar Set on the bridge of USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), June 26, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

Carrier

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

Carrier Air Wing 1

An E-2D Hawkeye, attached to the “Seahawks” of Airborne Command and Control Squadron (VAW) 126, lands on the flight deck of USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), June 23, 2022. U.S. 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

Operations Specialist 2nd class Nicholas Holpp, from Owens Crossroads, Alabama, looks through binoculars as the USS San Jacinto (CG 56) enters Valletta, Malta for a scheduled port visit June 26, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

Guided-missile cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG-56) arrived in Valletta, Malta, on June 26.

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

Destroyer Squadron 28

Seaman Justin Adams, from Murfreesboro, Tennessee, stands by during a seamanship training exercise aboard USS Bainbridge (DDG 96) in the Mediterranean Sea, June 22, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

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

Guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109) returned to its homeport of Naval Station Mayport, Fla., on June 26. Jason Dunham deployed Dec.1 as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group.

A child of a Sailor waves an American Flag as the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) returns to Naval Station Mayport, Florida after a regularly scheduled deployment in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts, June 26. U.S. Navy Photo

Guided-missile destroyer USS Gravely (DDG-107) returned to its homeport of Naval Station Norfolk on June 25. Gravely deployed Dec.1 as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group.

Guided-missile destroyer USS Gonzalez (DDG-66) has been operating in U.S. 5th Fleet.

  • USS Cole (DDG-67), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Bainbridge (DDG- 96), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Gonzalez (DDG-66), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.

In the Bay of Biscay

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. U.S. Navy Photo

The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit are in the Bay of Biscay.

The ARG includes USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), USS Arlington (LPD-24) and USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44).

The ARG is currently operating in a disaggregated fashion. Arlington arrived to Gabes, Tunisia, on June 17 to participate in exercise Africa Lion 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

Aircraft assigned to Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 are secured to the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), June 23, 2022 in the Atlantic Ocean. U.S. Navy Photo

The George H. W. Bush Carrier Strike Group 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.

Assistant deputy chief of staff for operations at Headquarters U.S. Air Force Maj. Gen. Charles Corcoran visited Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) from June 25 through June 16 during the CSG’s COMPTUEX.

“As the Air Force implements its new Air Force ‘Force Generation Model’ and focuses on honing its agile combat employment concept, Corcoran sees a unique opportunity to work with the Navy,” the Navy said in a news release.

Carrier Strike Group 10

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 2nd Class Kayla Fowler, signals an F/A-18E Super Hornet aircraft attached to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 143, on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), June 24, 2022 in the Atlantic Ocean. U.S. Navy Photo

Carrier

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

Carrier Air Wing 7

A Sailor signals an MH-60R Sea Hawk Helicopter attached to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 46 aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), June 23, 2022, in the Atlantic Ocean. U.S. 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

The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile 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, in the Atlantic Ocean. U.S. 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.

  • Italian Navy destroyer ITS Caio Duilo (D554).

In the Eastern Pacific

Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9, sails alongside the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) in the Pacific Ocean on June 9, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group has completed training in the Southern California Operating Areas. USS Nimitz (CVN-68) returned to its homeport in Bremerton, Wash., on June 24.

Sailors participate in a mass casualty drill aboard amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), June 23, 2022, in the Pacific Ocean. U.S. Navy Photo

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 for June 29 through 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.

Chinese, Russian Warships Continue to Circle Japan, Defense Minister Says

An uptick in Russian and Chinese warship movements near Japan are a part of an ongoing military demonstration toward Tokyo, Japan’s Defense Minister Nobou Kishi said this week. The People’s Liberation Army Navy and the Russian Pacific fleet have, since mid-June, sent two separate surface action groups around the Japanese home islands. “The fact that […]

Chinese ships operating near Japan on June 24, 2022. Japanese MoD Image

An uptick in Russian and Chinese warship movements near Japan are a part of an ongoing military demonstration toward Tokyo, Japan’s Defense Minister Nobou Kishi said this week.

The People’s Liberation Army Navy and the Russian Pacific fleet have, since mid-June, sent two separate surface action groups around the Japanese home islands.

“The fact that about 10 Russian and Chinese ships sail around Japan on the same route in a short period of time is a display of the military presence of both countries around Japan,” Kishi said.

Seven Russian warships sailed near Hokkaido toward the Izu Islands on June 15. Five of the ships sailed in the waters between Okinawa and Miyakojima toward the East China Sea on June 21. The group sailed through the Tsushima Strait toward the Sea of ​​Japan, almost making a circle of the Japanese archipelago, he said.

On June 12, four Chinese ships sailed through the Tsushima Strait toward the Sea of ​​Japan, two of which sailed through the Tsugaru Strait and the other two through La Pérouse Strait to the Pacific Ocean. Three of these ships have been operating near around the Izu Islands, similar to the movement of the Russian ships, and were moving around the Japanese archipelago,

“The Ministry of Defense will continue to pay close attention to the trends of the Russian Navy and the Chinese Navy in the waters around Japan, and will make every possible effort to carry out warning and surveillance activities in the sea and airspace around Japan,” Kishi said.

In a response to a media questions as to whether the surveillance activities of the Russian and Chinese activities around Japan would involve the U.S., Kishi replied that the surveillance was a Japan Self Defense Force task.

Russian warships operating near Japan. Japanese MoD

The movement of the Russian and Chinese ships have all been posted on in recent releases by the Joint Staff Office (JSO) of the Japanese Ministry of Defense.

On Tuesday, the JSO issued a release stating that five Russian ships had been sighted at 7 a.m. that day and sailed northeast through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan.

Hull numbers and images provided corresponded to destroyer RFS Admiral Panteleyev (548), Corvettes RFS Sovershennyy (333), RFS Gromkiy (335), Hero of the Russian Federation Aldar Tsydenzhapov (339) and the missile range instrumentation ship Marshal Krylov. The release included a map showing the earlier movements of the Russian ships around Japan in which destroyer RFS Marshal Shaposhnikov (543) and corvette RFS Gremyashchiy (337) formed part of the group in those movements.

All the ships belonged to the Russian Pacific Fleet, which has been conducting a large scale exercise since June 3. The release stated that the Japan Maritime Self Defense Force (JMSDF) destroyer JS Amagiri (DD-154) and the fast attack craft JS Otaka (PG-826) monitored the Russian ships.

Marshal Shaposhnikov, Gremyashchiy and the tanker Pechanga, which had earlier replenished the seven Russian surface ship group operating around Japan made a port visit to Manila, Philippines, from Tuesday to Wednesday, according to a social media post by the Russian Embassy in the Philippines.

As of Friday afternoon, Japan has not reported any sightings of the three ships in the East China Sea since their departure from the Philippines, indicating the ships are either operating in the Philippine Sea or the South China Sea.

Chinese ships and aircraft have been also been heavily operating around Japan.

Two People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) destroyers and a replenishment ship were sighted sailing west between Smith Island and Torishima in the Izu Islands, according to a Japanese release Tuesday. Hull numbers and images provided identified the ships as destroyers CNS Lhasa (102) and CNS Chengdu (120) and replenishment ship CNS Dongpinghu (902).

These were the same ships cited in previous JSO releases and included a map showing their movements since the first sighting on 12 June, according to the Tuesday release. The release also stated that the JMSDF destroyer JS Makinami (DD-112) was monitoring the PLAN ships.

Russian ships operating near Japan from June 15 to June 21. Japanese MoD Image

On Wednesday, a JSO release stated that a PLAN corvette had been sighted at 9 a.m., sailing south in the waters about 220 km north of Yonaguni Island, and later on that day, at 11p.m., a PLAN destroyer was sighted sailing south in around 210 km north of Yonaguni Island. Both ships subsequently made separate passages between Yonaguni Island and Taiwan to sail towards the Pacific Ocean.

Hull numbers and images provided identified the ships as destroyer CNS Xi’an (153) and corvette CNS Xiaogan (615).

The release stated that the destroyer JS Abukuma (DE-229) and a JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 1 based at Kanoya Air Field, Kyushu, conducted surveillance of the PLAN ships.

A second release on Wednesday stated that on 2 .m. Tuesday, a PLAN destroyer and two frigates were sighted sailing southeast in area approximately 280 km northwest of Kume Island, Okinawa Prefecture and, subsequently, sailed through the Miyako Strait into the Pacific Ocean.

Hull numbers and images provided correspond to destroyer CNS Taiyuan (131) and frigates CNS Zhoushan (529) and CNS Anyang (599).

The release also stated that a PLAN destroyer was sighted sailing southeast in the area around 160 km northeast of Miyako Island and subsequently transited the Miyako Strait to sail into the Pacific Ocean around 6 a.m. Wednesday. Hull number and image provided correspond to the destroyer CNS Zibo (156). The release stated that the replenishment ship JS Tokiwa (AOE-423), minesweeper JS Shishijima (MSC-691) and JMSDF P-3C Orion MPAs of Fleet Air Wing 5 based at Naha Air Base, Okinawa, monitored the PLAN ships.

On Friday, the JSO issued a release stating that Xi’an was sighted at 6 a.m. 70 km southwest of Yonaguni Island before the ship sailed north in the area between Yonaguni Island and Taiwan and sailed towards the East China Sea. The release stated the PLAN ship was monitored by Tokiwa.

A second release on Friday stated that a Dongdiao class surveillance ship with the hull number 795 had been sighted sailing northwest at an area 150 km east of Miyako Island around 9 p.m. Thursday, and, at the same time, Taiyuan and Zhoushan had been sighted sailing northward in an area about 130km south of Miyako Island.

This was followed by a 10 p.m. sighting in an area about 130km south of Miyako Island of Anyang sailing northeast and of Zibo sailing north in an area about 200km southeast of Miyako Island. Subsequently all the PLAN ships sailed northwest in the Miyako Strait and entered the East China Sea. Destroyer JS Asahi (DD-119) along with Shishijima and a JMSDF P-3C Orion MPA of Fleet Air Wing 5 monitored the PLAN ships.

Chinese aircraft have also been active around Japan as on Thursday the JSO issued a release stating that three People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) H-6 bombers flew in from the East China Sea in the afternoon that day, flying through the Miyako Strait into the Pacific Ocean where the bombers conducted separate circuits before joining together again to fly through the Miyako Strait and back into the East China Sea. Images in the release showed that two of the H-6s were carrying YJ-12 anti-ship cruise missiles.

The release stated that the Japan Air Self-Defense Force’s (JASDF) Southwestern Air Defense Force’s fighter aircraft was scrambled and monitored the PLAAF planes.

On Friday, the JSO issued a release stating that on that morning a Chinese Y-9 electronic intelligence aircraft flew from the East China Sea and through the Miyako Strait to enter the Pacific Ocean and then made two turns before passing through the Miyako Strait to enter the East China Sea. JASDF fighter aircraft were scrambled and monitored the Chinese plane, stated the release.

Chinese H-6 spotted south of Okinawa. Japanese MoD

In other developments, the Royal Australian navy wrapped up exercise Sea Explorer 2022 on June 16, according to Defence Department release on Monday. The exercise was for the Australian Amphibious Force (AAF) to verify its capability to deploy as an integrated force and involved the landing helicopter dock HMAS Adelaide (L01) with ground and aviation units of the Australian Army. Also participating was the U.S landing Ship dock USS Ashland (LSD-48).

Capt. Phillipa Hay, commander of the Australian Amphibious Task Force, said in the release that Sea Explorer 2022 was also enriched by the presence of the United States Navy’s Japan-based USS Ashland, with AAF forces embarked on it.

“USS Ashland is one of our nearest and closest coalition partners. Together, we have demonstrated our ability to interchange and operate as a cohesive force to develop and deliver an amphibious effect,” Hay said.

“The AAF is now certified to deploy on Indo-Pacific Endeavour, Defence’s premier deployment into the region and beyond, where we will be enhancing our interoperability and relationships with key partners and friends in the region.”

Indo-Pacific Endeavour is the Australian Defence Force’s annual presence and partnership deployment spearheaded by one of its Canberra-class LHDs to the Indo-Pacific region. On odd number years the deployment focuses on Southeast and Northeast Asia while even number years focus upon the Pacific Islands. No date has been released yet for the deployment but it is expected to be a key part of the new Australian government’s goal of strengthening Australia’s partnership with the Pacific islands and rolling back China’s influence there.

Meanwhile, Adelaide’s sister ship, HMAS Canberra (L02), accompanied by frigate HMAS Warramunga (FFH152) is inbound to Hawaii for the RIMPAC 2022 exercise, having conducted a replenishment at sea with USNS Yukon (T-AO-202).

 

Report to Congress on Air Force Next-Generation Air Dominance Program

The following is the June 23, 2022 Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Air Force Next-Generation Air Dominance Program. From the report According to the Air Force, the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program is intended to develop “a portfolio of technologies enabling air superiority.” The Air Force intends for NGAD to replace the F-22 fighter […]

The following is the June 23, 2022 Congressional Research Service In Focus report, Air Force Next-Generation Air Dominance Program.

From the report

According to the Air Force, the Next-Generation Air Dominance (NGAD) program is intended to develop “a portfolio of technologies enabling air superiority.” The Air Force intends for NGAD to replace the F-22 fighter jet beginning in 2030, possibly including a combination of crewed and uncrewed aircraft, with other systems and sensors. NGAD began as a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency project. Since 2015, Congress has appropriated approximately $4.2 billion for NGAD.

NGAD is a classified aircraft development program, but the Air Force has released a few details. On September 15, 2020, then-U.S. Air Force acquisition executive Dr. Will Roper announced that the Air Force had flown a full-scale flight demonstrator as part of the NGAD program. Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall announced on June 1, 2022 that NGAD program technologies have matured enough to allow the program to move to the engineering, manufacture, and design phase of development.

Is the Goal of NGAD a New Fighter? 

While a stated aim of the NGAD program is to replace the F-22 fighter jet, the aircraft that come out of the NGAD program may or may not look like a traditional fighter. The Air Force is developing technologies involved in NGAD to provide air dominance. Part of the program’s goal is to determine how to achieve that end, independent of traditional U.S. military approaches to air dominance. NGAD could take the form of a single aircraft and/or a number of complementary systems—manned, unmanned, optionally manned, cyber, electronic—forms that would not resemble the traditional “fighter.”

For example, a larger aircraft the size of a B-21 may not maneuver like a fighter. But that large an aircraft carrying a directed energy weapon, with multiple engines making substantial electrical power for that weapon, could ensure that no enemy flies in a large amount of airspace. That would achieve air dominance. There appears to be little reason to assume that NGAD is going to yield a plane the size that one person sits in, and that goes out and dogfights kinetically, trying to outturn another plane—or that sensors and weapons have to be on the same aircraft.

Download the document here.

GAO Report on Hypersonic Missile Defense

The following is the June Government Accountability Office report, Missile Defense: Better Oversight and Coordination Needed for Counter-Hypersonic Development. What GAO Found The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) continues to build components of the Missile Defense System (MDS), test its capabilities, and plan for countering evolving threats. In fiscal year 2021, MDA made progress, but continued […]

The following is the June Government Accountability Office report, Missile Defense: Better Oversight and Coordination Needed for Counter-Hypersonic Development.

What GAO Found

The Missile Defense Agency (MDA) continues to build components of the Missile Defense System (MDS), test its capabilities, and plan for countering evolving threats. In fiscal year 2021, MDA made progress, but continued to fall short of its goals for asset deliveries and testing. For example, MDA successfully delivered many of the planned interceptors and conducted developmental and operational cybersecurity testing for MDS elements; however, MDA did not conduct any planned system-level cybersecurity tests—leaving MDA without knowledge of its systems’ vulnerabilities and contributing to programmatic delays. The shortfalls to planned system-level tests were partially attributable to the COVID-19 pandemic.

MDA’s efforts to address hypersonic threats include the Glide Phase Interceptor (GPI) and Hypersonic and Ballistic Tracking Space Sensor (HBTSS). These efforts represent technologies that have considerable risks, but MDA has not taken necessary steps to reduce risks and ensure appropriate oversight from the Department of Defense (DOD) or stakeholder involvement.

  • GPI is a missile designed to shoot down a hypersonic weapon in the middle
    (or glide phase) of its flight. Contrary to a DOD directive with which MDA has
    aligned its effort, at the time of our review, MDA did not plan to obtain an
    independent technological risk assessment to determine the maturity of the
    technologies before proceeding with development. In addition, MDA did not
    plan to obtain an independent cost estimate.
  • HBTSS is a concept of space-based sensors to track the unique flight path of
    a hypersonic weapon. However, MDA has not adequately coordinated the
    HBTSS effort with DOD’s Space Development Agency and Space Force.

Increased DOD oversight and involvement would reduce risk. In addition, more clearly delineated roles and responsibilities would help avoid duplication, overlap, or fragmented capabilities among MDA and other View GAO-22-105075. For more information, DOD space agencies.

Download the document here.

‘We’re leaking fuel and we might be on fire’ How a Pair of KC-130J Pilots, Crew Saved Their Plane After a Collision with an F-35

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The first F-35B Lightning II pulled up to the KC-130J Super Hercules aerial tanker, took its sip of fuel from the left-wing tank and pulled away, just as planned. The Miramar-based KC-130J – call sign “Raider 50” – was flying the Sept. 29, 2020 refueling mission to support the fall class […]

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

SAN DIEGO, Calif. – The first F-35B Lightning II pulled up to the KC-130J Super Hercules aerial tanker, took its sip of fuel from the left-wing tank and pulled away, just as planned.

The Miramar-based KC-130J – call sign “Raider 50” – was flying the Sept. 29, 2020 refueling mission to support the fall class of the Weapons and Tactics Instruction Course run by Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1, based at Marine Corps Air Station Yuma, Ariz.

Initially, the plane was to fuel F/A-18 Hornet fighters. But they were no shows, and instead the Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron (VMGR) 352 crew awaited the second F-35B to tap the fuel line, which was extended off the external fuel tank under the right-side wing.

When the plane came, things quickly spiraled as the F-35B, call sign “Bolt 93,” collided with the tanker.

Capt. Michael Wolff was flying in the right seat of the Super Herc as the aircraft commander. Next to him was Maj. Cory Jones, the copilot flying for the first time since the birth of his son. The actions of the aircrew over the next 12 minutes – fighting the aircraft for control and safely landing it in a field with no serious injuries – would earn the pilots the Distinguished Flying Cross, the military’s second-highest medal for valor that an aviator can get.

“It was a really violent collision,” recalled Wolff, adding that momentary chaos all happening within “1.2 seconds or something. Not enough time to really react and do anything.”

A ‘Hole in the Plane’

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

The collision sent headsets flying off the pilots’ heads and iPads off their mounts. “Anything that was loose in the cockpit went flying,” Wolff said earlier this month during a phone interview with USNI News. “It was pretty violent… I got my headset back on, grabbed the yoke and I got the plane back under control.”

The cockpit crew quickly realized the crash ripped a hole into the KC-130J, Wolf said.

“You have a slight, some rapid decompression going on,” he said. “And it’s also very loud.”

The outside air now screamed into the fuselage, adding to the fireworks of lights and alarms raging in the cockpit. Cascading warning and caution messages went off as the displays lit up.

Filled with shock and adrenaline, the crew grappled with the emergency at hand aboard the four-engine turboprop.

The collision destroyed both of the KC-130J’s right-side starboard engines. But “the impact did not damage our ailerons, elevators or rudder, so we still have all of our primary flight control surfaces,” Wolff said. “At that point, I’m like, OK, let’s get figuring out what’s going on and the best course of action.”

“That’s when – it’s kind of cliché – the training kicks in,” he said.

They tapped into what they knew about the KC-130J, knowledge built from hours of flying and training in simulators practicing procedures for handling emergencies in the air and on the ground. Aircrews are famously known for their strict attention to and following of detailed checklists, seemingly unconscious habits and embedded memory built from repetitive training.

“We start running through everything,” Wolff said, “and figuring out where to go and communicating to the crew and then outside” to air traffic control.

Fireworks in the Sky

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

Federal Aviation Administration air traffic controllers were handling typical afternoon traffic, according to an air traffic control recording posted online, when someone radioed seeing “pyrotechnics” about five miles away “or a collision or something like that?”

Several minutes later came the Marines’ emergency call.

“L.A. Center! L.A. Center! This is Raider 5-0 declaring an in-flight emergency. Major collision with Bolt-93. We have two engines out and we are leaking fuel and might be on fire. In an emergency descent at this time. Raider 5-0,” Wolf said, according to a recording of the emergency call.

Wolff, his voice calm amid the cascading problems, added: “We are declaring an emergency. We still have partial control of the aircraft.”

At one point, an aircraft traffic controller asked if the Marines were headed toward the Imperial County Airport near El Centro, Calif. To the south along the long, fertile valley that includes the Salton Sea is Naval Air Facility El Centro, in Imperial County, and to the north are smaller airfields, including an airstrip in Thermal, southeast of the Palms Springs area.

An F-35B Lightning II with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 121 takes off during exercise Red Flag 16-3 at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. US Marine Corps photo.

The collision and ATC radio calls prompted chatter about the location of the KC-130J and the F-35B. At one point came the call to keep the frequency unclogged.

Unbeknownst to Raider 50, the F-35B crashed into the desert, but the F-35 pilot ejected before impact.

The pilot, with the “Green Knights” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, landed safely, with no major injuries, according to Marine Corps officials. Officials have yet to release the investigations into the collision.

On the ground, someone camping captured on their smartphone the jet with light smoke trailing behind as it flew down to the ground, and posted the video on Twitter. Other people told local media they had spotted a parachute.

Midair Maneuvering

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Michael Wolff, a KC-130J Super Hercules pilot with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352, Marine Aircraft Group 11, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), receives the Distinguished Flying Cross from Maj. Gen. Bradford J. Gering, 3rd MAW commanding general, at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, May 25, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

Black smoke trailed Raider 50 as fire bellowed from the burning fuel tanks.

Inside the Super Herc, momentary chaos turned to a nervous focus to retain control and get their aircraft safely to ground.

“I can see the far right engine – the #4 – from my seat, but I can’t see the #3,” Wolff said. The crew in the rear compartment “gave me confirmation that [the] thing was toast, and we pulled the fire handle and [made] sure nothing got worse.”

He needed to know if the flames were dissipating or if fuel was still flowing from the wing, he said, as “that communication from the back [crew] is extremely vital to get down safely.”

With fuel trailing from the pods, the wing was possibly on fire. With the starboard landing gear obviously damaged, the crew focused on landing as soon as possible. They had practiced scenarios with two engines out, but never with multiple emergencies.

“We do train to handle compound emergencies, including two engines out on one side,” such as a bird strike, Wolff said, but “not all together at once.”

Adding to the dangers, the KC-130J was loaded with fuel held in the pods under the belly and wings.

But there was no option to ease the danger and dump fuel “due to time constraints and the possibility of fire” in flight, he said.

The airplane’s high altitude was a plus, as it provided space and time “to build airspeed and begin the descent,” Wolf said.

They scanned the area and figured they could land at the Thermal airport, known as Jacqueline Cochran Regional Airport.

“We had a lot of open space between where we were and there – the Salton Sea and a lot of farmland – and we’re not worried about populated areas,” Wolff said.

The crew was on track to land their aircraft on the runway, but the plane started to turn right as a result of the malfunctions and distance, he said. That wasn’t planned as they approached Thermal airport – its 5,000-foot runway sits at 114 feet below sea level – about a half-mile from the runway.

Initial Shock, Then Teamwork

Marine Corps Col. Stephen J. Acosta, the assistant wing commander for 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing (MAW), praises Maj. Cory T. Jones during a ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, Aug. 13, 2021. Jones is a KC-130J Hercules pilot assigned to Marine Aircraft Group (MAG) 14 and was awarded the Order of Daedalians 2020 USMC Exceptional Aviator Award for his actions that saved the lives of his crew after an accidental mid-air collision that occurred during an exercise in September 2020. US Marine Corps Photo

A typical KC-130J crew is five – two pilots and a flight engineer or a qualified loadmaster in the cockpit and two loadmasters in the back who also act as observers during the refueling mission. On the mishap flight, eight Marines were aboard, with an instructor and loadmasters getting training to maintain currency.

In the immediate seconds after the collision, Jones thought of friends he’d lost in two fatal KC-130 crashes and of his infant son, born just 19 days earlier. Training then kicked in, that muscle memory of checklists and procedures and actions memorized to respond to flight emergencies.

Grabbing the controls, he recalled in a Marine Corps video posted online about the incident how he “started moving them and realized that the airplane was actually flying. That was kind of like the shock moment, like, okay … maybe we’ve got a chance here.”

Talking to the crew, Jones got no response before he realized his headset was on the floor. He put his headset back on and checked in with the rest of the crew before they all assessed the situation and the damage to the plane.

“We gotta get this plane on the ground,” he thought. “We’ve got to do … whatever we can to save everybody’s life.”

They’d have few options if they lost all flight control.

“We don’t have an ejection seat,” Jones said. “We’ve got parachutes [for the crew], but not enough for everybody.”

Despite its right-side engines going out, the KC-130J was still flyable.

“We worked together as a team,” Jones said, “and we just took it step by step … for the entire descent until we were able to walk away from the airplane.”

Over those 10 to 12 minutes, the flight crew got to work.

“You could hear it in the voices of everybody with the severity of the situation, but we all had a job to do,” Jones said. Nobody quit or froze up, and “everybody remained focused on what they had to do because we all knew that it was going to take a team effort to safely get that aircraft on the deck.”

“Each person on that crew played an integral role in getting the aircraft safely on the deck, from our flight engineer to all the load masters in the back,” he said.

Mission to Land


About 10 minutes after the collision, the KC-130J made the approach to Thermal.

But “there was no way for us to continue our approach to the airport. The aircraft made an uncontrolled right turn due to getting below our minimum control airspeed,” Jones recalled. Now assigned as a crew resource management program manager at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., he was awarded his DFC medal during a Feb. 28 ceremony there.

Outside of the aircraft, farm fields stretched out before them, and they quickly decided to land in one. The crew still had power during the descent.

“It was controllable most of the way down,” Wolff said.

Nearer to the ground, dropping the remaining landing gear and setting flaps slowed the speed, and “that’s when you run into some controllability issues.”

They set the airplane down in a cauliflower field, full of wet dirt, said Wolff, who received his DFC medal during a May 25 ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, Calif.

“It was definitely a relief. I’m still kind of surprised how smooth the touchdown was,” he said.

He estimates the airplane skidded some 300 to 400 yards before stopping. “It wasn’t quite like the movies where you see you have like a 747 that plows through … We came to a stop pretty quickly,” Wolf said.

It wasn’t long before he and the rest of the crew exited the airplane.

Lessons and Crew Training

Capt. Michael Wolff, a KC-130J Super Hercules pilot with Marine Aerial Refueler Transport Squadron 352, Marine Aircraft Group 11, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing addresses Marines after receiving the Distinguished Flying Cross, at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, May 25, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

The multiple, simultaneous emergencies the crew faced went beyond what Wolff and Jones had normally trained for in the flight simulator.

Lessons from the mishap weigh on Jones’ mind, particularly in his current assignment.

“The biggest lessons learned from this event [is] … to continue to emphasize emergency procedure training and continue to make the emergency procedures training realistic for each crew position,” he said, and “continue to make sure that we are instilling that in the new pilots and the new load masters, and that they understand how each person on the aircrew plays an integral role in mission accomplished.”

“We work on doing things just over and over and over and over again” to make it habitual and instinctual, Jones added.

Wolff said the experience gave their training “a new meaning. You do these compound emergencies in simulation. It is great training. You have to replicate handling a lot of stuff at once, even though, relatively, it doesn’t normally happen. Now this is a case where … you never know what’s going to happen.”

“The training that we do works,” he said. “We had eight people … coming together, coordinating and everyone remained calm and just working together as a team.”

He’s read the mishap report and believes “the end result speaks for itself how everyone handled themselves.”

After stepping away, the reality of what happened – and what they went through – started to sink in.

“To be able to walk away definitely makes you appreciate the little things in life and every day that you have,” Jones said. “So it’s given me a better outlook on that. It’s made me … respect the aircraft more and its capabilities. The maintainers that keep the aircraft flying every step of the way, the manufacturer … every piece of the puzzle that went into getting us safely on the deck that day.

“Taking that amount of damage – an unheard of amount of damage and still being able to fly and get the crew on the ground – speaks volumes to that airframe,” he said.

Aftermath

U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Corey Jones, a KC-130J Super Hercules pilot with Fleet Replacement Detachment gives remarks during an award ceremony at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina, Feb. 28, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

The traumatic flight became a bond.

“Everyone was in shock that it happened,” Jones said.

Although some of the Marines have moved onto other duty stations, they keep a group text and occasionally check in with each other.

“Maybe we’ll all get back together and go get our photos there [at Miramar] with our V.F.W. hats on,” he said.

Wolff said he was “just happy, that everyone … walked off the plane with maybe a couple of bruises but nothing serious … I’m not sure if it will ever sink in.”

That day, Jones had texted his wife, “We just had a mishap. I won’t be home for dinner.”

Wolff’s family in Pittsburgh hadn’t seen the news reports that had widely circulated in the San Diego area. He messaged his parents, saying “I can’t discuss the details but I’m fine. I’ll call you later.”

The refueling mission marked the final flight for KC-130J, bureau number 166765. The collision and fire damage and emergency landing rendered it a spare parts contributor. It took about a week for Marine Corps crews to remove the aircraft from the field, after investigators combed through it and VMGR-352 maintenance personnel brought in a crane and salvaged parts that would be used for other aircraft.

“It was a lot of work just taking that plane off the field and getting the usable parts,” Wolff said.

They salvaged the rear stabilizers, the tail of the aircraft, placed it outside the squadron, and painted in the squadrons’ Raider black, as a display and reminder.

“We fly as a crew,” Wolff said. “I’m proud of how everyone handled themselves and kept calm.”

While the DFC is an individual award, he noted, “it’s still everyone coming together and doing their part. That one single action could be the thing that saved us in the end.”