Nimitz Carrier Strike Group Departs San Diego for Pacific Deployment

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group left San Diego, Calif., on Saturday for a Western Pacific deployment, USNI News has learned. USS Nimitz (CVN-68) left its pier at Naval Station North Island at around 8 a.m. Saturday local time, according to ship spotters and headed out into the Pacific. In a Saturday statement to USNI News, […]

USS Nimitz (CVN-68) passing amphibious warship USS Portland (LPD-27) while departing San Diego, Calif., on Dec. 3, 2022. Photo via San Diego Web Cam used with permission

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group left San Diego, Calif., on Saturday for a Western Pacific deployment, USNI News has learned.

USS Nimitz (CVN-68) left its pier at Naval Station North Island at around 8 a.m. Saturday local time, according to ship spotters and headed out into the Pacific.

In a Saturday statement to USNI News, U.S. 3rd Fleet acknowledged Nimitz left San Diego but did not provide additional details.

“USS Nimitz (CVN-68) departed San Diego, Calif. to conduct operations in U.S. 3rd Fleet,” reads the statement.
Nimitz is the flagship for Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11 and is ready to answer the nation’s call and deliver combat-ready naval forces to deter, and if necessary, win conflicts through sustained and forward naval presence.”

The carrier left its Bremerton, Wash., homeport on Nov. 28 and sailed to San Diego to pick up the carrier strike group leadership before leaving California, Navy officials confirmed to USNI News. The carrier left Naval Base Kitsap, Wash., with 2,500 sailors aboard, according to the Kitsap Sun.

“The sailors assigned to Carrier Strike Group 11 are manned, trained and certified to deliver combat-ready naval forces to deter, and if necessary, win conflicts through sustained and forward naval presence,” Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney, commander of CSG 11, said in a statement to the paper last week.

Nimitz, the oldest aircraft carrier in the fleet, its escorts and Carrier Air Wing 17 completed their Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) in October ahead of the deployment. The carrier was sidelined for two weeks in late September after the crew discovered potable water tanks aboard Nimitz were contaminated with jet fuel.

The carrier is deploying with USS Bunker Hill (CG-52), the oldest cruiser in the fleet, the staff of Destroyer Squadron 9 and five guided-missile destroyers USS Decatur (DDG-73), USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60), USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93), USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG-108) and USS Shoup (DDG-86).

Nimitz‘s last deployment was at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Western Pacific deployment was preceded with a quarantine period for the crew that began in April 1, 2020. The deployment ran from June 8, 2020 to March 4, 2021 – meaning the carrier crew was deployed eight months and 28 days, and away from home for 11 months and seven days.

USS Nimitz (CVN-68) prepares to depart Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton for a scheduled deployment on Nov. 28, 2022. US Navy Photo

The following is the compostiion of the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group:

Carrier Strike Group 11

Carrier

  • USS Nimitz (CVN-68), homeported in Bremerton, Wash.

Carrier Air Wing 17

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, based at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., will be embarked aboard Nimitz for COMPTUEX and includes a total of nine squadrons and detachments:

  • The “Fighting Redcocks” of VFA-22 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F/A-18Fs from Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
  • The “Mighty Shrikes” of VFA-94 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Kestrels” of VFA-137 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Blue Diamonds” of VFA 146 – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Cougars” of VAQ-139 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Sun Kings” of VAW-116 – E-2D – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from Naval Air Station Point Mugu, Calif.
  • The “Providers” of VRC-30 – C-2A – Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) – from Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.
  • The “Indians” of HSC-6 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station North Island.
  • The “Battle Cats” of HSM-73 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station North Island.

Cruiser

  • USS Bunker Hill (CG-52), homeported at Naval Station San Diego, Calif.

Destroyer Squadron 9

Destroyer Squadron 9 is based in Everett, Wash., and is embarked on Nimitz.

  • USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG- 108), homeported at Naval Station Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
  • USS Chung-Hoon (DDG-93) homeported at Naval Station Pearl Harbor.
  • USS Decatur (DDG-73) homeported at Naval Station San Diego, Calif.
  • USS Paul Hamilton (DDG-60) homeported at Naval Station San Diego.
  • USS Shoup (DDG-86) homeported at Naval Station San Diego.

Destroyer Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee Delivers to the Navy

The final Flight IIA Arleigh Burke destroyer to be built at Ingalls Shipbuilding delivered to the Navy on Tuesday, the service announced. Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG-123) delivered to the service in a small ceremony at the Pascagoula, Miss., yard, during which the shipyard signed over ownership of the ship. “Delivering an incredibly capable finished ship to the […]

Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG-123) during sea trials on Oct. 6, 2022. HII Photo

The final Flight IIA Arleigh Burke destroyer to be built at Ingalls Shipbuilding delivered to the Navy on Tuesday, the service announced.
Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee (DDG-123) delivered to the service in a small ceremony at the Pascagoula, Miss., yard, during which the shipyard signed over ownership of the ship.

“Delivering an incredibly capable finished ship to the Navy is always an important event for our Ingalls team,” said Kari Wilkinson, president of Ingalls Shipbuilding, in a statement.

Higbee was procured as part of a 2013 multi-ship award between Ingalls and General Dynamics Bath Iron Works, Maine. The keel was laid in 2017, and the ship launched in 2020.

The destroyer is built around the Lockheed Martin AN/SPY-1D air search radar and the Aegis Combat Systems Baseline 9C2 installed, according to Naval Sea Systems Command. The delivery follows the completion of Navy acceptance trials in the Gulf of Mexico in October.

“The ship’s onboard systems, including navigation, damage control, mechanical and electrical systems, combat systems, communications, and propulsion applications, met or exceeded Navy specifications,” NAVSEA said at the time.

The ship is named for Lenah Sutcliffe Higbee, who was the second superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps during World War I and the influenza pandemic, according to a 2017 piece in Naval History Magazine.

Higbee was awarded the Navy Cross in 1920 for, “distinguished service in the line of her profession and unusual and conspicuous devotion to duty as superintendent of the Navy Nurse Corps,” according to her citation.

The ship is scheduled to be commissioned in Key West next year.

Higbee will be the last Flight IIA for Ingalls before the transition to the Flight III line.

Ingalls is finishing Jack H. Lucas (DDG-125), the first Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyer that will be built around the Raytheon AN/SPY-6 active electronically scanned array air search radar. The hull of the Burke was expanded to accommodate the heavier radar that requires more power and cooling than its predecessor.

Ingalls has three other Flight III destroyers under construction — Ted Stevens (DDG-128), Jeremiah Denton (DDG-129) and George M. Neal (DDG-131

The Flight IIIs will replace the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers as the air defense platform for the U.S. carrier strike groups and serve as a transition platform ahead of the planned next-generation DDG(X) guided-missile destroyers.

 

 

Japanese, Korean Fighters Scrambled in Response to Joint Russia-China Bomber Patrol

Four Russian Tu-95MS bombers and two Chinese H-6 bombers conducted a joint patrol over the Sea of Japan Wednesday, prompting fighter scrambles by Korea and Japan in response. The joint patrol was the most recent one since May this year, which occurred the same day U.S. President Joe Biden met his Australian, Indian and Japanese […]

A Russian Tupolev Tu-95 Bear off Japan in May. Japanese MoD Photo

Four Russian Tu-95MS bombers and two Chinese H-6 bombers conducted a joint patrol over the Sea of Japan Wednesday, prompting fighter scrambles by Korea and Japan in response.

The joint patrol was the most recent one since May this year, which occurred the same day U.S. President Joe Biden met his Australian, Indian and Japanese counterparts in Tokyo, though both the Russian and Chinese defense ministries stated the flights in May were part of their annual military cooperation plan and not intended to be provocative.

On Wednesday morning, two Chinese H-6 bombers were confirmed to have flown from the East China Sea through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan before heading north, according to the Japanese MoD. Around the same time, two Russian aircraft flew south before turning back and heading north. Japan Air Self-Defense Force (JASDF) fighter aircraft scrambled in response, according to a statement from the MoD.

Path of the Joint Russian, Chinese bomber patrol on Nov. 30, 2022. Japanese MoD image.

According to Korea’s Yonhap News Agency, the Republic of Korea’s (ROK) Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said Wednesday a total of two Chinese H-6 bombers, four Russian Tu-95 bombers and two Russian Su-35 fighters entered the Korea Air Defence Identification Zone that day with the Chinese bombers entering twice on their own and once with the Russian aircraft. The JCS stated that Republic of Korea Air Force fighters scrambled in response, but the Russian and Chinese planes did not violate ROK airspace.

The JCS said that the two Chinese H-6 bombers entered the Korean ADIZ at 5:48 a.m. local time, in an area 78 miles north of Leo Islet, a submerged rock south of Jeju Island, and left at 6:13 a.m. Following this, the H-6s entered the ADIZ from an area northeast of the port city of Pohang at 6:44 a.m. before exiting at 7:07 a.m. The two Chinese bombers and the four Russian bombers and two Russian fighters then flew together into the ADIZ from an area 125 miles northeast of the ROK’s Ulleung Island at 12:18 p.m. before exiting at 12:36 p.m. Both Russia and China do not recognise the Korea ADIZ.

Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a Wednesday release that the air forces of Russi and China conducted a joint air patrol in the Asia-Pacific region, adding that an air group of Russian Tu-95MS bombers and Chinese H-6 bombers carried out air patrols over the waters of the Sea of Japan and East China Sea.

The Russian bombers were in the air for eight hours, and the combined air group was escorted by Russian Su-30SM and Su-35S fighters, according to the release. Foreign fighter aircraft flew escort on the air group on occasions on the flight route, although the MoD did not state which countries these fighters came from. The release also stated that for the first time in the course of joint air patrols, Russian aircraft landed at an airfield in the People’s Republic of China and Chinese aircraft at an airfield in the Russian Federation though it did not give the locations where this took place.

The Russian MoD also said the aircraft of both countries acted in full accordance with the provisions of international law and there were no violations of the airspace of third countries, according to the release. Upon completion of the joint air patrol, the aircraft involved returned to their home bases. The patrols were carried out as part of the military cooperation plan for this year and are not directed against third countries.

PLAN Ships Huanggang (577) and Taizhou (138). Japanese MoD Photo

China’s Ministry of National Defense issued a brief statement on Wednesday about the joint operation.

“According to the annual military cooperation plan between the Chinese and Russian militaries, on November 30, the air forces of the two countries organized a routine joint air strategic patrol over the Sea of ​​Japan, the East China Sea, and the western Pacific Ocean,” according to the statement.

Chinese ships have also sailed through the Tsushima Strait as well this week.

At 5 p.m. Monday, a People’s Liberation Army Navy frigate was sighted sailing northeast in an area 93 miles southwest of Tsushima with the image and hull number identifying the frigate as CNS Huanggang (577), according to a Tuesday JSO release.

A PLAN destroyer was sighted 9 a.m. Tuesday sailing northeast in an area 20km southeast of Tsushima. Image and hull number provided in the release identified the destroyer as CNS Taizhou (138).

Both Taizhou and Huanggang then sailed northeast through the Tsushima Strait into the Sea of Japan. The Japan Maritime Self Defense Force destroyer JS Setogiri (DD-156) and JMSDF P-1 Maritime Patrol Aircraft of Fleet Air Wing 4 based at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Honshu shadowed the PLAN ships, according to the release.

U.K. Defence Equipment Plan 2022-2032

The following is the U.K. Ministry of Defence 2022 Defence Equipment Report released in November. From the report The 2022 Equipment Plan comes at a pivotal point in time for Defence, one where we are entering a new age of warfare and defensive planning. The Ministry of Defence has become increasingly in the spotlight over […]

The following is the U.K. Ministry of Defence 2022 Defence Equipment Report released in November.

From the report

The 2022 Equipment Plan comes at a pivotal point in time for Defence, one where we are entering a new age of warfare and defensive planning. The Ministry of Defence has become increasingly in the spotlight over the last year, as have our spending plans and capability investments been scrutinised in the wake of the Ukraine Russia conflict.

The events of the last few months have demonstrated the instability and unpredictability of the threat to our nation’s security but have also exemplified the ability Defence has to react and adapt rapidly to those emerging risks. Despite the turbulent climate, we are confident that the spending decisions outlined in the following Plan remain relevant and resilient to the changing nature of Defence.

The uplift received from the 2020 Spending Review meant we were able to rectify an existing deficit and instil stability and confidence in current and future spending forecasts. This has enabled us to invest in cutting edge capabilities that ensure we are threat ready and resilient against emerging risks. Within this Plan, we have continued the task of developing investment decisions from the integrated review into detailed spending plans. The 2021 Equipment Plan was the first in five years that was not described as unaffordable by the National Audit Office (NAO). We have retained an affordable position for the 2022 Plan and continue to hold a contingency to ensure resilience against emerging financial pressures.

There has been significant change, both in Defence and the world since the publication of the last Plan. We are experiencing a period of rising inflation, we are witnessing large scale conflict in Ukraine, and we have welcomed two new Prime Ministers. It is paramount therefore that the decisions reported each year are sustainable and resilient against current and future pressures. While this report is based on data that closed in March, and so will not reflect for the most part the impact of recent pressures, we nonetheless remain aware and responsive to their significance, particularly as we move forward into the next planning cycle.

In the Autumn Statement the Government has recognised the need to increase Defence spending. The case for this will be set out in the Integrated Review which will consider the response to the emerging threat. The outcome of this will be represented in future Equipment Plans.

The Plan is not immune to risk, we have set ambitious savings targets and made hard decisions in spending priorities across the Commands. We are confident however that the capabilities we are investing in, and spending decisions made in the last year, remain in line with the developing defence landscape and ensure we have a stable financial footing for this and future Plans.

[signed]

The Rt Hon Ben Wallace MP, Secretary of State for Defence

Download the document here.

Pentagon: Chinese Navy to Expand to 400 Ships by 2025, Growth Focused on Surface Combatants

China is building more modern surface combatants and expanding its aircraft carrier and logistics force to grow its naval influence further from shore, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power. By 2025, the People’s Liberation Army Navy is expected to grow to 400 hulls, up from its fleet of 340, according to […]

People’s Liberation Army Navy aircraft carrier Shandong berths at a naval port in Sanya, China. PLAN Photo

China is building more modern surface combatants and expanding its aircraft carrier and logistics force to grow its naval influence further from shore, according to the Pentagon’s annual report on Chinese military power.

By 2025, the People’s Liberation Army Navy is expected to grow to 400 hulls, up from its fleet of 340, according to the Pentagon’s annual China military report estimates released on Tuesday.

“The PLAN is an increasingly modern and flexible force that has focused on replacing its previous generations of platforms that had limited capabilities in favor of larger, modern multi-role combatants,” reads the report.
“As of 2021, the PLAN is largely composed of modern multi-role platforms featuring advanced anti-ship, anti-air, and anti-submarine weapons and sensors.”

The report, which sums up Chinese military developments in 2021, pegs the growth to the PLAN adding more major surface combatants. The ship total dipped last year from 355 due to a transfer of more than 20 older corvettes to the China Coast Guard.

“At the close of 2021, the PLAN was building an aircraft carrier, a new batch of guided-missile destroyers (DDG), and a new batch of guided missile frigates (FFG),” reads the report.

The bulk of the surface expansion is contained in two programs, the 7,500-ton Luyang III guided-missile Type-52D destroyers and the larger 13,000-ton Type-55 Renhai-class guided-missile cruisers, according to the report.

Renhai-class cruiser

The Luyang III destroyers are built around a dual-band active electronically scanned array (AESA) air search radar and a 64-cell vertical launch system for multiple missiles similar to the Mk-41 VLS on U.S. surface ships.

The Renhais are much larger with a similar radar and 112 cell VLS cells “and can carry a large load out of weapons including [anti-ship cruise missiles], surface-to-air missiles (SAMs), torpedoes, and anti-submarine weapons along with likely [land-attack cruise missiles] and anti-ship ballistic missiles when those become operational,” according to the report.

As of May, the Chinese have five of the Renhai-class cruisers in commission, according to the South China Morning Post.

The newer classes of ships, with a variety of anti-surface and anti-air missiles, allow the PLAN better protection as its task groups venture farther from the protective umbrella of its shore-based air defense systems and mimic the basic construct of the American Aegis Combat System.

The emphasis on the platforms are anti-surface weapons, according to the report.
“The PLAN recognizes that long-range ASCMs require a robust, over-the-horizon (OTH) targeting capability to realize their full potential. To fill this capability gap, the PLA is investing in joint reconnaissance, surveillance, command, control, and communications systems at the strategic, operational, and tactical levels to provide high-fidelity targeting information to surface and subsurface launch platforms,” reads the report.

The PLAN is developing new submarines more slowly than it’s developing surface ships, “as it works to mature its force, integrate new technologies, and expand its shipyards,” reads the report.
“The PLAN currently operates six nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBN), six nuclear-powered attack submarines (SSN), and 44 diesel-powered/air-independent powered attack submarines (SS/SSP). The PLAN will likely maintain between 65 and 70 submarines through the 2020s, replacing older units with more capable units on a near one-to-one basis.”

The Pentagon speculated in the report that China is developing a nuclear guided-missile submarine that would field both anti-surface and land-attack cruise missiles, a new addition this year.

Type-093A Shang-class attack submarine

“By the mid-2020s, China will likely build the SHANG class (Type 093B) guided-missile nuclear-powered attack submarine (SSGN). This new SHANG class variant will enhance the PLAN’s anti-surface warfare capability and could provide a clandestine land-attack option if equipped with land-attack cruise missiles,” reads the report.

In terms of amphibious ships, the report highlighted not only the rapid development of the Yushen-class of big-deck amphibious warships, but also the increased use of civilian roll-on/roll-off car carriers that can go into service for military operations.

“This flexibility decreases the requirement to build additional PLAN amphibious ships to successfully assault Taiwan. This operational flexibility also provides operational and logistics units within the [PLAN Marine Corps] the training and proficiency to move between military and civilian vessels not just in a Taiwan scenario, but in any maritime environment where civilian transport vessels are available to the PLANMC and PLAN amphibious ships are not,” reads the report.

In late August, the PLAN held a major amphibious drill using civilian ferries to launch landing craft from sea, USNI News reported.

The PLAN has two operational aircraft carriers, Liaoning and Shandong, based on the Soviet Kuzenetzov, a short take-off but arrested recovery (STOBAR). Both carriers have been active in the Western Pacific. A third carrier, Fujian, will feature a catapult launch and arrested landing and is expected to be operational by 2024.

“This design will enable it to support additional fighter aircraft, fixed-wing early warning aircraft, and more rapid flight operations and thus extend the reach and effectiveness of its carrier-based strike aircraft,” reads the report.

The PLAN continues to refine its carrier aircraft – primarily the Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, which is an unlicensed copy of the Russian Sukhoi Su-33 fighter.

A People’s Liberation Army Navy J-15 carrier fighter takes off from Chinese aircraft carrier Liaoning (16) during a December 2021 deployment. PLAN Photo

“In addition to the standard J-15 fighter that currently operates from PLAN carriers, there is a catapult-capable J-15 variant in development,” reads the report.
“The aircraft is currently testing from land-based steam and electromagnetic catapults. A third J-15 variant, the J-15D, is a two-seat aircraft equipped with wingtip electronic support measures/electronic intelligence gathering pods as well as several conformal antennas. The aircraft is intended to fill a dedicated electronic attack role. China is also developing a carrier capable variant of the fifth-generation J-31 fighter.”

All told, the report concludes that the PLAN is working toward deploying an operational carrier battle group in the next several years beyond the first island chain that doesn’t need the shore-based defenses of the rest of the PLA.

“The PLAN’s ability to perform missions beyond the First Island Chain is modest but growing as it gains more experience operating in distant waters and acquires larger and more advanced platforms,” reads the report.

2022 Pentagon Report on Chinese Military Development

The following is the Nov. 29, 2022, Pentagon’s report to Congress, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China. From the report The 2022 National Security Strategy identifies the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the only competitor with the intent and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international order. The Department of […]

The following is the Nov. 29, 2022, Pentagon’s report to Congress, Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China.

From the report

The 2022 National Security Strategy identifies the People’s Republic of China (PRC) as the only competitor with the intent and, increasingly, the capacity to reshape the international order. The Department of Defense (DoD) annual report on military and security developments involving the PRC charts the current course of the PRC’s national, economic, and military strategy and offers Congress insight on the tenets of Beijing’s ambitions and intentions. The PRC’s strategy entails a determined effort to amass and harness all elements of its national power to place the PRC in a “leading position” in an enduring competition between systems. As expressed in the 2022 National Defense Strategy, the PRC presents the most consequential and systemic challenge to U.S. national security and the free and open international system.

In this decisive decade, it is important to understand the contours of the People’s Liberation Army’s (PLA) way of war, survey its current activities and capabilities, and assess its future military modernization goals. In 2021, the PRC increasingly turned to the PLA as an instrument of statecraft as it adopted more coercive and aggressive actions in the Indo-Pacific region. Having purportedly achieved its 2020 modernization goal, the PLA now sets its sights to 2027 with a goal to accelerate the integrated development of mechanization, informatization, and intelligentization of the PRC’s armed forces. If realized, this 2027 objective could give the PLA capabilities to be a more credible military tool for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to wield as it pursues Taiwan unification.

In addition to the development of the PLA’s conventional capabilities, the PRC has continued to accelerate the modernization, diversification, and expansion of its nuclear forces. The PRC has stated its ambition to strengthen its “strategic deterrent,” while being reluctant to discuss the PLA’s developing nuclear, space, and cyberspace capabilities, negatively impacting global strategic stability—an area of increasing global concern.

As the PRC seeks to achieve “national rejuvenation” by its centenary in 2049, this report highlights Beijing’s ambition to reform the prevailing international rules-based system. This objective requires an external environment supportive of the PRC’s strategic goals defined under the concept of a “community of common destiny,” led by Xi Jinping’s initiatives such as the Global Security Initiative and the Global Development Initiative.

This report illustrates how the CCP increasingly turns to the PLA in support of its global ambitions, and the importance of meeting the pacing challenge presented by the PRC’s increasingly capable military.

Report Scope: This report covers security and military developments involving the PRC until the end of 2021.

Download the document here.

USS Chancellorsville Performs South China Sea FONOP, Draws Chinese Protests

The Tuesday passage of a U.S. guided missile cruiser past a disputed island chain in the South China Sea has drawn protests from Beijing and claims that the People’s Liberation Army expelled the ship from Chinese territorial waters. According to U.S. 7th Fleet, USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) sailed past the Spratly Island chain on Tuesday as […]

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) conducts routine underway operations in the South China Sea, Nov. 29, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Tuesday passage of a U.S. guided missile cruiser past a disputed island chain in the South China Sea has drawn protests from Beijing and claims that the People’s Liberation Army expelled the ship from Chinese territorial waters.

According to U.S. 7th Fleet, USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) sailed past the Spratly Island chain on Tuesday as part of a freedom of navigation operation.

“USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the South China Sea near the Spratly Islands, consistent with international law. At the conclusion of the operation, USS Chancellorsville exited the excessive claim area and continued operations in the South China Sea,” reads the statement from 7th Fleet.
“The freedom of navigation operation (“FONOP”) upheld the rights, freedoms, and lawful uses of the sea recognized in international law by challenging restrictions on innocent passage imposed by the People’s Republic of China, Vietnam and Taiwan.”

China asserts that foreign warships passing within the territorial sea of its claims in the South China Sea require prior approval from Beijing. Under the U.N. Law of the Sea Convention, a warship make an “innocent passage” through another country’s territorial waters with our prior notification.

The Chinese state-supported South China Sea Probing Initiative published satellite images on Twitter showing the cruiser was operating near the Chinese artificial island at Fiery Cross Reef along with a U.S. P-8A Poseidon maritime surveillance aircraft.

SCS Probing Initiative

Under international law, a warship can transit through a nation’s territorial waters “so long as it is not prejudicial to the peace, good order or security of the coastal state,” according to Article 19 of the UNLOSC.

In a statement following the transit, the PLA Southern Theater issued a statement claiming Chinese forces drove Chancellorsville out of Chinese territorial waters.

Chancellorsville illegally intruded into the waters adjacent to China’s Nansha islands and reefs without the approval of the Chinese Government, and organized naval and air forces in the Chinese southern theater of the People’s Liberation Army to follow and monitor and give a warning to drive them away,” reads a translation of the statement. “The U.S. military’s actions have seriously violated China’s sovereignty and security, which is another ironclad proof of its hegemony in navigation and militarization of the South China Sea, and fully demonstrates that the United States is an out-and-out security risk maker in the South China Sea.”

In response, the U.S. Navy pushed back against the Chinese statement.

“The PRC’s statement about this mission is false. USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) conducted this FONOP in accordance with international law and then continued on to conduct normal operations in waters where high seas freedoms apply,” reads a 7th Fleet statement.
“The operation reflects our continued commitment to uphold freedom of navigation and lawful uses of the sea as a principle. The United States is defending every nation’s right to fly, sail, and operate wherever international law allows, as USS Chancellorsville did here. Nothing the PRC says otherwise will deter us.”

The Japan-based Chancellorsville has been operating with the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group in recent months.

The last reported U.S. FONOP in the South China Sea was performed by the guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG-65) in July.

USS Tripoli Nearing San Diego After Almost 7 Months at Sea, Makin Island Now in U.S. 7th Fleet

USS Tripoli (LHA-7) has entered U.S. 3rd Fleet and is preparing to return to its homeport in San Diego after a nearly seven-month deployment, according to the USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker. As of Monday, the amphibious warship has been deployed for 210 days since leaving San Diego on May 2nd. Tripoli’s independent deployment […]

USS Tripoli (LHA-7) pulls into Sydney harbor on Nov. 4, 2022. Royal Australian Navy Photo

USS Tripoli (LHA-7) has entered U.S. 3rd Fleet and is preparing to return to its homeport in San Diego after a nearly seven-month deployment, according to the USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker.

As of Monday, the amphibious warship has been deployed for 210 days since leaving San Diego on May 2nd.

Tripoli’s independent deployment was in part to test the F-35B “Lighting Carrier” concept that would load up to two dozen of the Marine fighters aboard the big deck amphibious warship as an adjunct to a traditional carrier strike group. Following the 2022 Valiant Shield exercise near Guam, the warship transitioned into an amphibious ready force with the Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) embarked. Since the ship began its deployment in May, Tripoli has also had a detachment of MH-60S Knight Hawks embarked from the “Wildcards” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 23.

“We’re not an aircraft carrier,” Col. Chad Vaughn, commander of Marine Aircraft Group 13, told USNI News prior to its deployment. “We are an LHA that is very uniquely suited to aviation operations – whether that’s an assault or in this case, a lightning carrier. The traditional carrier has capabilities that are unique that we do not [have]. We do some unique things that we can help out the joint task force or the combatant commander and do unique things to help out those CVNs and help out the Marine commander on the ground, whoever it is. We have some unique capabilities, especially when you put 20 F-35s on here.”

USS Makin Island (LHD-8) pulls into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii on Nov. 20, 2022. Photo by Ed. Schaefer used with permission

Meanwhile, big deck amphibious warship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) is now operating in U.S. 7th Fleet after deploying earlier this month, according to Monday’s USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker.

The warship pulled into Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Nov. 20 and departed a few days later, according to ship spotters. The two other ships in the Amphibious Ready Group, USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) and USS Anchorage (LPD-23), were still at Pearl Harbor as of Monday morning.

Makin Island and Murtha departed Naval Station San Diego, Calif., for their deployment on Nov. 9 with no fanfare. Anchorage followed the two amphibious warships the next day. The ARG is embarked with the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit.

Makin Island is deploying with a full squadron of 10 Marine F-35B Lighting Joint Strike Fighters from the “Flying Leathernecks” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122.

The Navy has released little information on the deployment since the ships departed San Diego. U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Samuel Paparo told reporters earlier this month he had specific training objectives for the Makin Island ARG and the 13th MEU, “and that’s what’s informing why we deploy that force with no advance notice.”

Navy Exploring ‘Surface Strike’ Upgrades for Zumwalt Destroyers

The Navy wants to upgrade its Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyers with a new radar, electronic weapons suite and anti-submarine warfare capabilities, as the service seeks to integrate the platform into the blue water fleet, according to a government request for information issued earlier this month. The Zumwalt Enterprise Upgrade Solution, also known as ZEUS, would […]

Guided-missile destroyer USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000) arrives at Commander, Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan on Aug. 26, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Navy wants to upgrade its Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyers with a new radar, electronic weapons suite and anti-submarine warfare capabilities, as the service seeks to integrate the platform into the blue water fleet, according to a government request for information issued earlier this month.

The Zumwalt Enterprise Upgrade Solution, also known as ZEUS, would upgrade the destroyer’s radar from Raytheon’s AN/SPY-3 Dual Band Radar to its AN/SPY-6, which the Navy is fielding on the Flight III Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers.

Before executing ZEUS, the Navy also wants to update its Total Ship Computing Environment infrastructure (TSCEi). But that initiative would not fall under the ZEUS overhaul, according to the RFI issued earlier this month.

The “primary mission of the DDG 1000 class remains Surface Strike,” the RFI reads.

The service is evaluating both the inclusion of MK 41 Vertical Launch System software and the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program, or SEWIP, as part of the ZEUS effort.

As the Navy assesses the potential radar and software upgrades for Zumwalt, it’s also preparing to install hypersonic missiles on the lead ship in the class next year.

USS Zumwalt (DDG-1000), which recently wrapped up an underway in the Western Pacific, will go into the dry dock in late 2023 for an 18-month maintenance availability to receive the hypersonic upgrades in Fiscal Year 2024 and FY 2025, Capt. Shea Thompson, the commodore for Surface Development Squadron 1, told reporters earlier this month.

During the recent underway in the Pacific, the Navy had the chance to test Zumwalt’s capabilities and reliability as it learned how to maintain the platform, U.S. Pacific Fleet commander Adm. Sam Paparo said earlier this month.

“We intend to upgrade its mission systems. We intend to employ its stealthy capabilities, its passive detection, its [mission bay], the ability to integrate undersea unmanned capabilities, surface unmanned capabilities and to really use it as an all-domain platform that can collect. It can sense,” Paparo said.
“It can execute rapid disorienting fires and can do so in contested environments to be a difference maker and an enabling capability. This year was a first step. It was exciting. We tested her. We wrung out its crew. We built confidence in our ability to sustain her. We put her to sea for long periods of time. We gained confidence in her propulsion systems and her weapon systems.”

Japan Considering Buying Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles as ‘Counterstrike’ Capability, Say Reports

The Japanese government is considering buying Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles from the United States to establish a “counterstrike” capability to deter enemy missile attacks, according to domestic press reports. The Japanese Self-Defense Forces could deploy Tomahawks faster than its own domestically produced long-range cruise missiles, according to public broadcaster NHK. The Japanese Ministry of Defense […]

USS Monterey (CG 61) fires a Tomahawk land attack missile April 13, 2018 against land targets in Syria. US Navy Photo

The Japanese government is considering buying Tomahawk long-range cruise missiles from the United States to establish a “counterstrike” capability to deter enemy missile attacks, according to domestic press reports.
The Japanese Self-Defense Forces could deploy Tomahawks faster than its own domestically produced long-range cruise missiles, according to public broadcaster NHK.

The Japanese Ministry of Defense is currently in the process of extending the range of the domestically made Type 12 surface-to-ship missiles deployed by the Ground Self-Defense Force, from the current 125 miles to a maximum range of 750 miles. However, the enhanced Type 12 SSM will not be ready until 2026 — too late to respond to the expanded threats from China and North Korea. The MoD is considering deploying Tomahawks from the land, sea and air as well as considering submarines as a launch platform, according to the Japanese newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun.

At present, it is unclear which variant of the Tomahawk cruise missile the Japanese government may introduce: Block IV, which is currently in operation by the U.S. Navy and others, or the Block V, which was delivered in 2021.

Although the Type 12 SSM will have its range extended, its original purpose is to attack ships. The introduction of the Tomahawk, a mainly land-attack cruise missile, would allow Japanese forces to attack enemy bases and other targets overseas, which could be controversial given Japan’s self-defense military policies. The Japanese government is currently planning to revise its National Security Strategy, National Defense Program Guidelines and Mid-Term Defense Program by the end of 2022. The introduction of long-range cruise missiles, including Tomahawk, is expected to be specifically described in these documents.

Buying Tomahawks is linked to the cancellation of Japan’s domestic Aegis Ashore BMD program in 2020. Originally, Japan’s stance was to respond to the threat of ballistic missiles from North Korea with its own domestic ballistic missile defense interceptors. The cancelation of the program pushed Japan to look to other means of deterrence.

However, then-Prime Minister Shinzo Abe questioned the interception model during a press conference on Aug. 28, 2020.

“We will examine whether we can truly protect the lives of the people only by improving interception capabilities,” Abe said.

This statement is believed to indicate his willingness to pursue the possession of some kind of offensive capability. In response to the significant progress in the technological level of North Korea’s ballistic missile development, the Japanese government has been studying ways to enhance deterrence. The Tomahawk would give the Japanese government a counterstrike capability against enemy missile attacks.

“In order to protect the lives and livelihood of our citizens, we will examine all options, including a so-called enemy base strike capability, in a realistic manner without ruling out any options,” Prime Minister Fumio Kishida told the Diet on Dec. 6.
“We will fundamentally strengthen our defense capabilities with an accelerated pace.”

Tomahawk Block IV has a longer range than its predecessors (well in excess of 1,000 miles), can be directed at a new target in mid-flight, and can also beam back images of the battlefield to its launch platform. The Royal Navy is the only foreign user of the missile to date.

According to Raytheon, U.S. and allied militaries have flight-tested the GPS-enabled Tomahawk 550 times and used it in combat more than 2,300 times. Its most recent use came in 2018, when U.S. Navy warships and submarines launched 66 Tomahawk missiles at Syrian chemical weapon facilities.

All Tomahawk Block IVs are being upgraded to Block V with longer range and dynamic targeting with the capability to hit vessels at sea (maritime strike role). Raytheon is recertifying and modernizing the missile, extending its service life by 15 years.

A version of this post originally appeared on Naval News. It’s been republished here with permission.