Government Accountability Office Study on Navy Multiyear Contracts

The following is ab Aug. 8, 2022, Government Accountability Office report, Navy Should Provide Congress More Complete Information on Budget Request Decisions. Why GAO Did This Study Congressional conferees expressed concern that recent budget requests underfunded critical Navy weapon system programs that were using multiyear procurement authority. They also questioned whether the Navy’s budget requests […]

The following is ab Aug. 8, 2022, Government Accountability Office report, Navy Should Provide Congress More Complete Information on Budget Request Decisions.

Why GAO Did This Study

Congressional conferees expressed concern that recent budget requests underfunded critical Navy weapon system programs that were using multiyear procurement authority. They also questioned whether the Navy’s budget requests in recent years for programs using multiyear procurement accurately reflected the service’s most important priorities.
The conferees included a provision for GAO to review certain activities related to Navy multiyear procurements in recent years. This report addresses (1) the extent to which Navy programs fulfilled their multiyear procurement plans in fiscal years 2021 and 2022; and (2) factors contributing to any budget requests for fiscal years 2021 and 2022 that did not include the multiyear procurement quantities stated in the contracts.

To conduct this assessment, GAO reviewed seven programs with active multiyear procurement contracts in fiscal years 2021–2022. GAO also reviewed relevant legislation, policy, and guidance; reviewed budget and contract information; and interviewed Department of Defense officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is making one recommendation to the Department of Defense, that it establish a requirement to ensure that the congressional defense committees receive notification of the rationale for any budget requests that do not fund the procurement quantities stated in multiyear contracts. The Department of the Navy concurred with the recommendation.What GAO Found

The Navy used multiyear procurement—a special method to contract for multiple years of requirements in a single contract—for seven critical weapon system programs in fiscal years 2021 and 2022. This contracting method can save the government money through procurement efficiencies but can include future financial commitments. GAO reviewed the seven programs and found that the budget requests for three programs included quantity reductions when compared to their multiyear contracts or previous Navy plans. This hampered their efforts to meet warfighting needs:

  • DDG 51 destroyers. The budget request for fiscal year 2022 included funds to procure one of the two ships in the program’s multiyear contracts. Instead of requesting funding for the second ship, the Navy requested $33 million to cover the government’s cancellation liability for reducing its procurement to one ship in fiscal year 2022.
  • V-22 aircraft. The budget request for fiscal year 2022 included funds to procure eight of the 11 aircraft in the program’s multiyear contract for the budget year. The Navy used additional aircraft funded but not procured in fiscal year 2021 to offset the reduced request and meet the stated contract quantity for fiscal year 2022.
  • Virginia class submarines. The budget request in fiscal year 2021 included funding for one submarine. This met the multiyear contract quantity but departed from previous multiyear procurement plans, the steady practice of procuring two of the submarines each year, and congressional direction.

Navy officials told GAO that affordability was the primary driver leading to the reduction in quantities requested for DDG 51 and V-22 in the fiscal year 2022 budget. However, GAO found that Department of Defense financial management regulation does not require the Navy to notify the congressional defense committees of its rationale for budget decisions that do not support the procurement quantities stated in multiyear contracts. The lack of such notification can hamper the ability of the committees to oversee programs and make decisions without having to request supplemental information and explanations from the Navy.

The Navy included additional quantities for the DDG 51, V-22, and Virginia class programs in unfunded priorities lists provided to the defense committees. Congress ultimately decided to fund the procurement of additional quantities.

Download the document here.

Navy Recovers F/A-18E Super Hornet Blown off Deck of USS Harry S. Truman

The F/A-18E Super Hornet blown off the deck of an aircraft carrier was recovered 9,500 feet under the Mediterranean Sea, U.S. 6th Fleet announced on Monday. The single-seat Super Hornet assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1 aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) was knocked off the deck of the carrier in what the Navy at […]

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Zuani Batista, from the Dominican Republic, directs the pilot of an F/A-18E Super Hornet, attached to the “Blue Blasters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 34, on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), April 14, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

The F/A-18E Super Hornet blown off the deck of an aircraft carrier was recovered 9,500 feet under the Mediterranean Sea, U.S. 6th Fleet announced on Monday.

The single-seat Super Hornet assigned to Carrier Air Wing 1 aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) was knocked off the deck of the carrier in what the Navy at the time called “unexpected heavy weather” during the midst of an underway replenishment.

A “team from Task Force (CTF) 68, Naval Sea Systems Command’s Supervisor of Salvage and Diving (SUPSALV), Harry S. Truman, Naval Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, and U.S. 6th Fleet embarked on the multi-purpose construction vessel MPV Everest,” oversaw the Aug. 3 recovery, according to the statement from 6th Fleet.
“The aircraft was recovered using a CURV-21 remotely operated vehicle to attach specialized rigging and lift lines to the aircraft. A lifting hook was attached to the rigging to raise the aircraft to the surface and hoist it aboard Everest.”

The recovery team included members from Phoenix International, the maritime salvage company that aided in the recovery of an F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter from the Pacific following a January crash aboard USS Carl Vinson (CVN-70). A similar team, including Navy salvage personnel, recovered the fighter from a depth of 12,500 feet using a CURV-21.

The Navy took the recovered Super Hornet to an unspecified military base in Europe and will eventually transport the jet to the U.S. While 6th Fleet did not provide details, Everest docked in Sicily, near Naval Air Station Sigonella, the day after the recovery in Augusta, according to ship tracking data.

The incident is still under investigation. The service has yet to identify the squadron to which the Super Hornet belonged.

Truman deployed from the East Coast in December and since then has been operating almost exclusively in the Mediterranean Sea. In a visit earlier this year, officials aboard Truman told USNI News the air wing was flying 60 to 90 sorties a day as part of ongoing deterrence missions along NATO’s eastern front.

USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker: Aug. 8, 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 Aug. 8, 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. Ships Underway Total 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 Aug. 8, 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.

Ships Underway

Total Battle Force Deployed Underway
300
(USS 242, USNS 58)
114
(USS 77, USNS 37)
 81
(65 Deployed, 16 Local)

Ships Deployed by Fleet

2nd Fleet 3rd Fleet 4th Fleet 5th Fleet 6th Fleet 7th Fleet Total
2 8 3 11 28 59 111

In Sasebo, Japan

Seaman Zerquera Amaya, from Savannah, Ga., assigned to USS America (LHA-6), directs line handlers on the phone and distance line during a replenishment-at-sea with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Rappahannock (T-AO-204) in the East China Sea, on Aug. 3, 2022. US Navy Photo

USS America (LHA-6) is in port in Sasebo, Japan. The ship was underway briefly in the East China Sea last week and returned to port on Aug. 5.

In the Philippine Sea

Capt. Fred Goldhammer, commanding officer of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), escorts visitors on the bridge during a tour while underway in the Philippine Sea on Aug. 5, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is in the Philippine Sea.

Carrier Strike Group 5

Aircraft carrier

Cmdr. Nick Cunningham, commanding officer of the ‘Saberhawks’ of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 77 flies over USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) in an MH-60R Sea Hawk during a change of command ceremony in the Philippine Sea on Aug. 1, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

Carrier Air Wing 5

Aviation Machinist’s Mate Airman Colby Brown, from Rising Sun, Maryland, observes as an E-2D Hawkeye attached to the ‘Tigertails’ of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125, prepares for launch on USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) in the Philippine Sea, on Aug. 2, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

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

Cruisers

USS Antietam (CG-54) receives supplies from the Henry J. Kaiser-class underway replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO-199) while operating in the Philippine Sea on Aug. 2, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

Destroyer Squadron 15

Destroyer Squadron 15 is based in Yokosuka, Japan, and is embarked on the carrier.

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

Sailors refuel an AH-1Z Viper helicopter assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 (Reinforced) aboard amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA-7) on Aug. 7, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

Tripoli departed Naval Station San Diego, Calif., 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 Marines’ “lightning carrier” concept. The Navy and Marine Corps are testing Tripoli’s adjunct capability to a carrier strike group, USNI News has reported.

In the Middle Pacific

Sailors assigned to Nimitz-class nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) render honors to the USS Arizona Memorial, as seen from Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) on Aug. 5, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise has concluded and the Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is en route San Diego.

Carrier Strike Group 3

Sailors and embarked guests look out at USS Missouri (BB-63) museum ship from the hangar bay as USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) departs Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on Aug. 5, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Lincoln Carrier Strike Group has been on patrol since leaving San Diego, Calif., on Jan. 3.

Carrier

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

Carrier Air Wing 9

An F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the ‘Black Knights’ of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, flies over USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on July 30, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

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

Cruiser

Logistics Specialist 2nd Class Miguel Aragon, from Buffalo, N.Y., mans a .50 caliber mount aboard USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) on July 29, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

Destroyer Squadron 21

Ens. Christiane Mccabe, from Knoxville, N.Y., stands watch on the bridge wing aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sampson (DDG-102) as the ship transits the Pacific Ocean on July 31, 2022. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 21 is based in San Diego 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.

Amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) is underway off the coast of Hawaii after departing Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam on July 10.

In the Ionian Sea

Sailors raise a jet blast deflector on USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), Aug. 4, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is underway in the Ionian Sea.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has extended the deployment of the Harry S. Truman CSG, its escorts and Carrier Air Wing 1 as a hedge against Russian aggression in Europe.

USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) has been 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.

The George H. W. Bush Carrier Strike Group is expected to relieve the Harry S. Truman CSG in the Mediterranean.

Carrier Strike Group 8

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 1st Class Shawn Whitford, from San Diego, processes damage control petty officer designation letters aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on Aug. 5, 2022. US Navy Photo

Carrier

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

Carrier Air Wing 1

Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Francis Manaog, from Bicol, Philippines, safety checks an E-2D Hawkeye propeller on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on Aug. 4, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

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

Cruiser

Culinary Specialist 3rd Class Toby Greenie, left, from San Diego and Seaman Ulisses Cotamaldonado, from Tucson, Arizona, give signals to an MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter assigned to the ‘Proud Warriors’ of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 72, on the flight deck of USS San Jacinto (CG-56), in the Mediterranean Sea on July 27, 2022. US Navy Photo

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

Destroyer Squadron 28

USS Cole (DDG-67) conducts a replenishment-at-sea with the Supply-class fast combat support ship USNS Supply (T-AOE-6) in the Mediterranean Sea on July 29, 2022. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 28 is based in Norfolk and is embarked on the carrier. The following ships deployed with the strike group.

  • USS Cole (DDG-67), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Bainbridge (DDG- 96), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Gravely (DDG-107), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109), homeported at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
  • USS Gonzalez (DDG-66), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • Royal Norwegian Navy frigate HNoMS Fridtjof Nansen (F310).

In the Baltic Sea

Pekka Haavisto, the Finnish Minister of Foreign Affairs, delivers remarks to media during a key leader engagement event aboard the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD-3) in Helsinki, Finland on Aug. 7, 2022. US Marine Corps Photo

The Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are underway in the Baltic Sea. The ARG includes USS Kearsarge (LHD-3), USS Arlington (LPD-24) and USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44).

According to U.S. 6th Fleet, the ARG “arrived in multiple Baltic Sea ports for scheduled port visits to allied and partner nations, August 5, 2022.”

Kearsarge arrived in Helsinki, Finland; Arlington arrived in Stockholm, Sweden and Gunston Hall pulled into Tallinn, Estonia.

“The ARG-MEU aggregated in the Baltic Sea for the first time on this deployment after passing through the Danish Strait on Aug. 3,” reads a statement from 6th Fleet.
“For Kearsarge and Gunston Hall, this marks a return to the Baltic Sea. Both ships participated in the Estonian-led exercise Siil 22 in May and the annual joint, multinational exercise Baltic Operations (BALTOPS), the premier maritime-focused exercise in the Baltic region, in June. The ships also conducted previous port visits in Helsinki, Stockholm, and Tallinn earlier this year.”

Capt. Eric Kellum, right, commanding officer of the San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship USS Arlington (LPD-24), discusses navigational reference points with a Swedish tugboat pilot during a sea and anchor transit to Stockholm, Sweden on Aug. 5, 2022. US Navy Photo

Arlington‘s port visit will be the ship’s first time in the Baltic Sea since deploying from the U.S. East Coast.

“Since arriving in theater, Arlington’s Sailors and Marines have participated in a wide array of bi-lateral and multinational exercises throughout Europe and Africa, including Northern Viking with Iceland, Greece’s exercise Alexander the Great, EFES in Turkey, and African Lion off the coast of Northern Africa,” reads the Navy statement.
“All three ships recently completed near-simultaneous mid-voyage deployment repair (MDVR) and maintenance periods in Brest, France; Rijeka, Croatia; and Copenhagen and Kalundborg, Denmark.”

The ships are back underway today.

USS Gunston Hall (LSD-44) enters port in Tallinn, Estonia for a scheduled port visit on Aug. 5, 2022. Estonian Navy Photo

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.

The MEU 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

Chief Hull Maintenance Technician Lovell Cooper, assigned to the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD-5), and midshipman Second Class Jessie Sedlock, assigned to the United States Naval Academy, test the portable exothermic as part of Readiness Evaluation 7 (READ-E 7), July 27, 2022. US Navy Photo

The Bataan Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are underway in the Western Atlantic off the coast of North Carolina.

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.

USS Vella Gulf Becomes First of Five Ticonderoga-Class Cruisers to Decommission This Year

Nearly 29 years ago, USS Vella Gulf (CG-72) sat in the waters around Norfolk, Va., waiting to be commissioned into the Navy. The ship sat in the same waters Thursday, this time for its decommissioning ceremony as its current crew and plankowners said goodbye to the ship. When Vella Gulf commissioned, every sailor wanted to […]

Sailors and former shipmates stand in formation during the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG-72) decommissioning ceremony, Aug. 4, 2022, in Norfolk, Va. US Navy Photo

Nearly 29 years ago, USS Vella Gulf (CG-72) sat in the waters around Norfolk, Va., waiting to be commissioned into the Navy.

The ship sat in the same waters Thursday, this time for its decommissioning ceremony as its current crew and plankowners said goodbye to the ship.

When Vella Gulf commissioned, every sailor wanted to be on an Aegis-class cruiser, said Capt. Constantine Xefteris, the ship’s first commanding officer. Those cruisers set the standard for performance.

“I don’t care whether you’re playing a sport, whether you’re playing a musical instrument, whether you’re playing chess, you want to be the best,” Xefteris said. “You want to play with the best, and you want to play against the best. And Aegis cruisers were just simply the best.”

During its time in the Navy, Vella Gulf deployed multiple times, visiting Malta, Cyprus, Italy, Scotland, Israel, to name a few, said Capt. Mike Desmond, the ship’s current commanding officer.

“And by my calculations, Vella Gulf has sailed nearly a half million miles,” Desmond said.
The miles took their toll on Vella Gulf, with Desmond saying that in its later years, the ship became temperamental.

“When all systems were a go, operating as designed, she was arguably the most reliable, capable and lethal warship on the planet,” he said. “And certainly the most fun to sail.”

Vella Gulf had two COVID-19 deployments, Desmond noted.

That includes a deployment with Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group in February 2021. However, Vella Gulf was shortly sidelined due to mechanical issues.

The ship also deployed with the Eisenhower CSG in 2020, sailing to the Middle East and Europe, said Rear Adm. Brendan McLane, commander of Naval Surface Forces Atlantic.

“Two hundred and five days straight underway. Nobody came out. Nobody left,” McLane said, referencing the period when the Navy halted port calls to prevent spread of COVID-19.

Vella Gulf is one of five cruisers that will be decommissioned in Fiscal Year 2022. The ship will get towed to the Navy’s Inactive Ship’s facility in Philadelphia, Pa., on Oct. 11. It will be placed in Logistical Support Asset status.

USS Bulkeley Leaves for Homeport Shift to Rota; USS Delbert D. Black Leaves for Maiden Deployment

USS Bulkeley (DDG-84) left Norfolk, Va., for its new home in Rota, Spain, on Thursday evening, according to a tweet from a ship spotter. Bulkeley will be part of the Forward Deployed Naval Force-Europe ships in Rota that can conduct ballistic missile defense, according to a U.S. Fleet Forces Command news release. Other ships stationed in […]

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Bulkeley (DDG-84) departs Naval Station Norfolk August 4, 2022, commencing the ship’s scheduled homeport shift to Rota, Spain, as part of the U.S. Navy’s long-range plan to gradually rotate the Rota-based destroyers. US Navy Photo

USS Bulkeley (DDG-84) left Norfolk, Va., for its new home in Rota, Spain, on Thursday evening, according to a tweet from a ship spotter.

Bulkeley will be part of the Forward Deployed Naval Force-Europe ships in Rota that can conduct ballistic missile defense, according to a U.S. Fleet Forces Command news release.

Other ships stationed in Rota include USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), USS Roosevelt (DDG-80), USS Paul Ignatius (DDG-117) and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 79.

The Navy has rotated the ships that are homeported in Rota as part of Forward Deployed Naval Force-Europe. Arleigh Burke came to Rota in April 2021, replacing USS Donald Cook (DDG-75). USS Roosevelt replaced USS Carney (DDG-64) in 2020.

Paul Ignatius pulled into Rota for its formal homeport shift in June, USNI News previously reported.

USS Porter (DDG-78) and USS Ross (DDG-71), which are currently homeported at the Spanish naval base, will transition to Norfolk as part of the shift.

The Biden administration in June announced it would base two additional destroyers in Rota, for a total of six, but did not disclose which ships or when they would head to Spain.

Typically the ships in the Forward Deployed Naval Force-Europe operate in the Black Sea for deterrence missions. But no U.S. warships have entered the Black Sea since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022.

Bulkeley was at one point part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group, deploying with the carrier in 2019. That was the ship’s last deployment, USNI News previously reported.

Bulkeley is currently led by Deputy Commodore of Destroyer Squadron 2 Capt. William Harkin, who temporarily took over as commanding officer after the Navy relieved Cmdr. Devine Johnson from the position. The Navy also relieved Master Chief Earl Sanders as the destroyer’s command master chief. The Navy cited a lack of confidence in the their ability to lead as a command team.

The Harry S. Truman CSG is currently in the Mediterranean Sea as part of U.S. support for NATO allies. USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) has gone under NATO control twice during its time in the Mediterranean.

The Harry S. Truman CSG is expected to leave the Mediterranean this month the George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group will move in as the replacement, according to the USNI News Fleet Tracker.

USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119) left Naval Station Mayport, Fla., earlier this week for its maiden deployment. The destroyer will be part of the George H.W. Bush CSG.

“The ship completed all training phases of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan with Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 26 and Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 10,” U.S. Fleet Forces Command said in a news release.

Navy IDs USS Arleigh Burke Sailor Lost At Sea

The Navy identified a sailor, assigned to USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), who went overboard as Seaman Recruit David Spearman. Spearman, who was on his first assignment, went overboard Monday afternoon, 6th Fleet spokesperson Lt. Richlyn Ivey said in an email. Arleigh Burke was operating in the Baltic Sea at the time, according to a Thursday Navy […]

Seaman Recruit David Spearman US Navy Photo

The Navy identified a sailor, assigned to USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51), who went overboard as Seaman Recruit David Spearman.

Spearman, who was on his first assignment, went overboard Monday afternoon, 6th Fleet spokesperson Lt. Richlyn Ivey said in an email. Arleigh Burke was operating in the Baltic Sea at the time, according to a Thursday Navy press release.

Search and rescue efforts began Monday afternoon and ended Tuesday, Ivey said. The investigation is ongoing. Ivey did not say if foul play or suicide is suspected.

The German and Swedish navies, as well as the U.S. Air Force, assisted Arleigh Burke‘s crew with the search.

Spearman, of North Carolina, enlisted on Nov. 10, 2021. He reported to Arleigh Burke on April 21, 2022 after his training at Great Lakes, Ill.

“This bright, young man made an oversized positive impact on Arleigh Burke. My entire crew’s thoughts and prayers are with Seaman Recruit Spearman’s family and friends. We offer our most sincere condolences for their loss,” Arleigh Burke Commanding Officer Cmdr. Pete Flynn said in the Navy release.

Arleigh Burke is homeported at Naval Station Rota as part of the Forward Deployed Naval Force-Europe (FDNF-E). It moved to Rota, Spain, in April of last year, replacing USS Donald Cook (DDG-75), USNI News previously reported.

China Deploys Aircraft Carriers, Prepares Military Drills Near Taiwan Following Pelosi Visit

Beijing deployed its two aircraft carriers this week and plans to start a series of live-fire exercises following Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to Taiwan, Chinese state media reported. Carriers CNS Liaoning (16) and CNS Shandong (17) sortied from their homeports as part of the retaliatory measures China planned in reaction to Pelosi’s visit to Taipei […]

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

Beijing deployed its two aircraft carriers this week and plans to start a series of live-fire exercises following Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s (D-Calif.) visit to Taiwan, Chinese state media reported.

Carriers CNS Liaoning (16) and CNS Shandong (17) sortied from their homeports as part of the retaliatory measures China planned in reaction to Pelosi’s visit to Taipei as part of an expanded tour of the western pacific.

“The aircraft carrier Liaoning on Sunday embarked on a voyage from its homeport in Qingdao, East China’s Shandong Province and the aircraft carrier Shandong on Monday set out from its homeport in Sanya, South China’s Hainan Province, accompanied by a Type 075 amphibious assault ship,” according to state-controlled Global Times on Tuesday.

A defense official told USNI News, as of Wednesday morning, U.S. ships operating in the region have not had any unsafe or unprofessional encounters with People’s Liberation Army Navy forces.

The moves come in parallel to extensive live-fire exercise drills the PLA announced that will fire weapons within 10 miles of Taiwan’s coast. The drills would surround Taiwan, with some crossing into waters claimed by the island, according to a New York Times graphic. At least two cross into Taiwan’s marine border.

China has warned ships and aircraft to stay out of the area for 72 hours while the drills are conducted, but it is unclear if Taiwan and the United States will follow, according to The New York Times.

The current situation is reminiscent of the Third Taiwan Strait Crisis, which saw the U.S. send two aircraft carriers groups to the area in response to China’s live fire drills. This time, the drills are closer to Taiwan.

Meanwhile, the Reagan Carrier Strike Group and USS Tripoli (LHA-7) have been in the waters near Taiwan as of Monday, according to USNI News’ Fleet Tracker.

The Ronald Reagan CSG and Tripoli were in the vicinity due to normal operations, a Pentagon spokesperson said Monday. However, a senior defense official told USNI News that the ships were there as part of a contingency plan if there was a military reaction from China to Pelosi’s visit.

Report to Congress on Current, Future Unmanned Aircraft Systems

The following is the July 28, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Current and Potential Programs. From the report Since the dawn of military aviation, the U.S. military has been interested in remotely piloted aircraft. Present-day unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) typically consist of an unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) paired with a ground control […]

The following is the July 28, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Unmanned Aircraft Systems: Current and Potential Programs.

From the report

Since the dawn of military aviation, the U.S. military has been interested in remotely piloted aircraft. Present-day unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) typically consist of an unmanned aircraft vehicle (UAV) paired with a ground control station. UAS have become ubiquitous in U.S. military operations since the 1990s with the introduction of the MQ-1 Predator.

The U.S. military currently employs several different large UAS, including

  • the Army’s MQ-1C Gray Eagle,
  • the Air Force’s MQ-9 Reaper,
  • the Navy’s MQ-25 Stingray,
  • the Air Force’s RQ-4 Global Hawk,
  • the Navy’s MQ-4C Triton, and
  • the Air Force’s RQ-170 Sentinel.

In addition, several other reported programs are either in development or currently undergoing experimentation. These programs include the Air Force’s B-21 Raider and the Air Force’s RQ-180.

As Congress performs its oversight and authorization functions, it may consider several potential issues associated with UAS programs, including

  • the cost of manned versus unmanned aircraft,
  • a lack of acknowledged follow-on programs of record,
  • the management of UAS acquisitions across the Department of Defense,
  • the interoperation of UAS with existing force structure, and
  • export controls of UAS abroad.

Download the document here.

RIMPAC Testing Will Inform the Fate of Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicle

The manned-unmanned teaming experimentation currently underway at the biennial Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise will help the Navy decide the future of the Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicle, a service official told reporters on Monday. Speaking to reporters virtually, Rear Adm. Casey Moton, the program executive officer for unmanned and small combatants, noted that the […]

Medium displacement unmanned surface vessels Seahawk, front, and Sea Hunter launch for the U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Unmanned Systems Integrated Battle Problem 21 (UxS IBP 21), April 20, 2021. US Navy Photo

The manned-unmanned teaming experimentation currently underway at the biennial Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise will help the Navy decide the future of the Medium Unmanned Surface Vehicle, a service official told reporters on Monday.

Speaking to reporters virtually, Rear Adm. Casey Moton, the program executive officer for unmanned and small combatants, noted that the Fiscal Year 2023 budget request did not include plans to buy more MUSV prototypes.

“Whether or not we will buy more MUSVs will be certainly informed by what we’re learning at RIMPAC. When we’ll decide that will be kind of when we’re ready to decide that. And I think even the CNO certainly has even commented on publicly about this discussion about what’s the best path in terms of MUSVs or smaller USVs, or those kinds of things, which I believe is a completely healthy conversation,” Moton said, referring to comments Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday made earlier this year.

While L3 Technologies is currently building a MUSV prototype, Gilday in April said the service is rethinking what it needs, including potentially the number of MUSVs, after seeing the experimentation U.S. 5th Fleet has been performing with smaller unmanned systems under the Combined Task Force 59 effort.

The Navy still plans to purchase the first Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle (LUSV) in FY 2025, Moton said on Monday.

“We are maturing all of the systems engineering pillars to get to the right level of technical maturity and we will achieve certification – which will include the senior technical authority – looking at that and our key technology areas: has the specific requirements for the land-based testing, for the machinery plant in particular, and other technical areas. So at its most fundamental level the program office is using this as [is] sort of a piece of its plan to get to those certification points and that transition to LUSV,” Moton said.

With four USV prototypes under the helm of the recently created Unmanned Surface Vessel Division One, the Navy is pairing the platforms with destroyers at RIMPAC to experiment with and better understand how the four USVs all work in conjunction with manned warships. The New USVDIV command will serve as the bridge between the program office and the fleet for that feedback, USNI News previously reported.

The USVs operating at RIMPAC include Ghost Fleet Overlord test ships Nomad and Ranger, which were originally developed by the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office. Sea Hunter, which was developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, and its sister ship, Seahawk, are also taking part in the exercise. Sea Hunter and Seahawk are considered medium-sized USVs.

While it’s not the first time the Navy has paired the USVs with manned warships, it’s the first time all four USVs are participating in the same exercise, USNI News previously reported.

A Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessel (USV) sails in the Gulf of Aqaba off of Jordan’s coast, Dec. 12, 2021.US Army Photo

“It puts a different level of stress on it though because now I don’t just have one USV and a whole dedicated engineering staff just for that and fleet operators … But it puts a level of stress on not just the systems themselves, but the support behind it, right. So it’s not everyone’s focused on one thing. There’s four different things going on at the same time … and it’s a lot of the same people,” said Brian Fitzpatrick, the principal assistant program manager for USV’s at the Naval Sea Systems Command’s unmanned maritime systems program office, or PMS 406.

Moton described the RIMPAC testing as the “initial step in ramping up the scaling” of USV operations with the fleet.

The exercise paired a single USV with a single destroyer that had a crew embarked aboard to manage the unmanned asset. But the plan is to keep scaling up as the Navy develops the concept of operations for the USVs.

“The CONOPS are not one USV with one surface combatant. It’s multiple USVs with a surface combatant,” Fitzpatrick said.

“That’s a scaling point that we didn’t do at RIMPAC. We had one USV assigned to one surface combatant. But those are steps. And then we’re going to continue to grow that and then continue to put in future exercises we’ll have multiple USVs with one surface combatant, and then maybe multiple USVs tied with multiple surface combatants,” he continued. “So two and two or two and three. Those are things that were in the future CONOPs we’ve identified we need to go to. So we’re going to go do those. But again, steps to scale to where we need to get to.”

During RIMPAC, the Navy had the chance to react in real-time to unplanned events, service officials said. At one point before a planned mission in the exercise, a destroyer had to drop out due to an issue officials declined to detail. That meant control of the USV had to switch to the shore-based unmanned operations center in San Diego, Calif.

Officials did not say which USV nor which destroyer experienced the change in plans, but said it provided the fleet with the change to learn how to react to events it can’t control.

“The other thing that I suspect it probably did is it’s just one more thing to help build trust with the fleet. So if there’s an off nominal condition and we show the ability to take control, to move control off that vessel, to have the [unmanned operations center] perform its role, then that just gives the fleet more confidence in how the platforms going to react, how the USVDIV is going to react. It will give more confidence, frankly probably up to the numbered fleet commander,” Moton said.

Fitzpatrick described the process of switching the controls to the shore-based UOC as “seamless.”

“That is the really the longest part – it’s just the coordination and getting the people there. But again in an operational standpoint, using the common control system … it’s a few clicks on a screen,” he said.
“You have to relinquish control and then gather control over it.”

Large unmanned surface vessel Ranger departs Pearl Harbor to begin the at-sea phase of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, July 11., 2022. US Navy Photo

Capt. Scot Searles, the program manager for unmanned maritime systems, described the process as no different from when a manned ship starts reporting to another task group commander.

“It really is nothing more on the ship than making a report to say, ‘I’ve now left that commander and I’m now reporting to the new commander.’ But there’s a whole lot leading up to that … to make that sure everybody’s ready for that, so it’s the coordination piece of it that takes the longest,” Searles said. “But I think from our perspective what we learned is that’s a normal expected off-nominal operation that all ships of the fleet are expected to be able to do seamlessly. And planned or unplanned, we were able to do it.”

The Navy did multiple planned transfers from a ship-based command of the USVs to a shore-based one, in addition to the one or two unplanned transfers, Searles said.

With four payloads at RIMPAC – including electronic warfare and anti-submarine warfare payloads – Fitzpatrick said feedback from the fleet has focused on getting more advanced and an increased quantity of payloads instead of the autonomy side.

“That’s one of the biggest feedbacks we’re getting initially. They’re talking about payloads. They’re talking about capabilities,” he said. “They’re not worried that it’s going to go run into something.”

“They want to take Sea Hunter and an Overlord – which were developed under two different programs and have two different comms suites – and we’re working to bring them together. But they really want to do that. They want to say, ‘we want Sea Hunter and an Overlord with different payloads onboard, to be controlled from the same platform,” Fitzpatrick added.

The payloads have largely come from existing programs that the Office of Naval Research has altered so they could operate from an autonomous or unmanned platform.

“That’s the angle, right, is really trying to use existing technologies and make them work without people. And that’s the angle that allows us to rapidly get newer capabilities out there, to test them on all of the prototypes to inform the future requirements,” Fitzpatrick said.

Meanwhile, the Navy last week announced that its Unmanned Influence Sweep System, or UISS, reached initial operating capability, making it the first USV to hit that acquisition benchmark.

Sea Hunter, an autonomous unmanned surface vehicle, arrives at Pearl Harbor to participate in the Rim of Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 on June 29, 2022. US Navy Photo

Moton noted that while the mission for UISS – which would pair with a Littoral Combat Ship or potentially other ships for the mine countermeasures mission – is different from that of the USVs the Navy is experimenting with at RIMPAC, it inches the Navy toward the future fleet of manned and unmanned platforms.

“Clearly it’s got a different mission, it’s under sort of local control of that asset that it’s operating from, whether that’s an LCS or a vessel of opportunity, or from the pier. It’s a different autonomy problem. It’s executing a mine warfare mission. It’s kind of going out and executing a traditional mine warfare sort of sweep of the area,” Moton said.

“It’s still the first time a fleet asset is going to be operating, is going to have to have trust in the autonomy, unmanned system trust in how it’s going to handle if there’s something that happens in the mission, whether it’s a mechanical thing or something else. So there are many reasons that it’s important in the broader push to hybrid man-unmanned,” he added.

After declaring IOC, the Navy will next head into the initial operational test and evaluation phase for the MCM mission package system once FY 2023 ends, according to Moton.

“Having [UISS] IOC – which means it’s through test, which means we have numbers fielded which means we have trained crews, which mean we have logistics set up, all of which makes IOC so important – it’s just a huge milestone to get that done for our first surface MCM platform,” Moton said.

Carrier USS Ronald Reagan, Two F-35B Big Decks Operating Near Taiwan as Pelosi Arrives in Singapore; China Renews Threats

Three U.S. capital ships and their escorts are operating in the Western Pacific near Taiwan, USNI News has learned. Aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and big deck amphibious ships USS America (LHA-6) and USS Tripoli (LHA-7), with Marine F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters embarked, are operating in the vicinity of Taiwan, on the […]

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) conducts an archipelagic sea lane passage through the San Bernardino Strait, on July 30, 2022. US Navy Photo

Three U.S. capital ships and their escorts are operating in the Western Pacific near Taiwan, USNI News has learned.

Aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) and big deck amphibious ships USS America (LHA-6) and USS Tripoli (LHA-7), with Marine F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters embarked, are operating in the vicinity of Taiwan, on the edge of the South China Sea ahead of a Western Pacific visit from U.S. House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) to the region, according to the Aug. 1 edition of the USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker.

A Pentagon spokesman told USNI News on Monday that the ships were operating normally in the region and would not detail force protection measures for the visit of the third highest-ranking U.S. official to the region.

However, a senior defense official told USNI News the ships, escorts and their air wings – already in the region – were prepared to linger as a contingency option. On Monday, Beijing implied there would be a military response if Pelosi traveled to Taiwan.

China has “serious concern over Speaker Pelosi’s potential visit to Taiwan and our firm opposition to the visit. We have been stressing that such a visit would lead to serious consequences,” Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters Monday when asked about the trip.
“We want to once again make it clear to the US side that the Chinese side is fully prepared for any eventuality and that the People’s Liberation Army of China will never sit idly by, and we will make resolute response and take strong countermeasures to uphold China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

Capt. Joel Lang, commanding officer of amphibious assault carrier USS Tripoli (LHA-7) watches an F-35B Lightning II aircraft assigned to Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 121 prepare to launch from the flight deck on July 24, 2022. US Navy Photo

China views Taiwan as a breakaway province and discourages governments from dealing with Taipei directly. Pelosi would be the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit Taiwan in 25 years.

Pelosi arrived in Singapore on Monday as part of a congressional delegation to the region after a stop in Hawaii that included a brief with U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, her office said in a statement.

“In Singapore, Malaysia, South Korea and Japan, our delegation will hold high-level meetings to discuss how we can further advance our shared interests and values, including peace and security, economic growth and trade, the COVID-19 pandemic, the climate crisis, human rights and democratic governance,” reads the statement.

Her official itinerary did not include Taiwan, however, officials in Washington and Taipei said a visit is expected, according to CNN.

As of Monday, Japan-based Reagan is in the Philippine Sea after transiting the San Bernadino Strait on Saturday following a port visit to Singapore and operating in the South China Sea.
Japan-based America is in the East China Sea and California-based Tripoli is in just south of Okinawa. Tripoli has been embarked with up to 20 F-35Bs, while America routinely deploys with Marine F-35Bs. Marine officials told USNI News on Friday that its F-35Bs were not grounded as part of the ongoing ejection seat problems.

Specific lots of ejection seats across the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps — including F-35s — were found to have defective components. The services are in the process of clearing the seats for service with repairs.

“Currently, Marine Corps F-35Bs are not grounded, and over 90 percent of the inspections on Marine Corps ejection seat cartridge actuating devices are now complete,” Marine Maj. Jay Hernandez told USNI News on Friday.