Report to Congress on Navy Force Structure

The following is the July 28, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress. From the report The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the […]

The following is the July 28, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Navy Force Structure and Shipbuilding Plans: Background and Issues for Congress.

From the report

The current and planned size and composition of the Navy, the annual rate of Navy ship procurement, the prospective affordability of the Navy’s shipbuilding plans, and the capacity of the U.S. shipbuilding industry to execute the Navy’s shipbuilding plans have been oversight matters for the congressional defense committees for many years.

In December 2016, the Navy released a force-structure goal that calls for achieving and maintaining a fleet of 355 ships of certain types and numbers. The 355-ship goal was made U.S. policy by Section 1025 of the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 2810/P.L. 115-91 of December 12, 2017). The 355-ship goal predates the Trump and Biden Administrations’ national defense strategies and does not reflect the new fleet architecture (i.e., new mix of ships) that the Navy wants to shift toward in coming years. This new fleet architecture is to feature a smaller proportion of larger ships, a larger proportion of smaller ships, and a new third element of large unmanned vehicles (UVs). The Navy and the Department of Defense (DOD) have been working since 2019 to develop a successor for the 355-ship force-level goal that would reflect current national defense strategy and the new fleet architecture.

The Navy’s FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan, released on April 20, 2022, presents the results of three studies on possibilities for the Navy’s successor force-level goal. These studies call for a future Navy with 321 to 404 manned ships and 45 to 204 large UVs. A long-range Navy shipbuilding document that the Navy released on June 17, 2021, and which reflects some of these studies, outlined a future Navy that would include 321 to 372 manned ships and 77 to 140 large UVs. A congressionally mandated Battle Force Ship Assessment and Requirement (BFSAR) report that reportedly was provided to Congress in July 2022 reportedly calls for a Navy with 373 battle force ships.

The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget requests $27.9 billion in shipbuilding funding for, among other things, the procurement of eight new ships, including two Virginia (SSN-774) class attack submarines, two Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) class destroyers, one Constellation (FFG-62) class frigate, one LPD-17 Flight II class amphibious ship, one John Lewis (TAO-205) class oiler, and one Navajo (TATS-6) class towing, salvage, and rescue ship. The Navy’s FY2023 budget submission shows a ninth ship—the amphibious assault ship LHA-9—as also being requested for procurement in FY2023. Consistent with both prior-year congressional authorization and appropriation action and Section 126 of the FY2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) (H.R. 6395/P.L. 116-283 of January 1, 2021), CRS reports on Navy shipbuilding programs, including this report, treat LHA-9 as a ship that Congress procured (i.e., authorized and provided procurement—not advance procurement [AP]—funding for) in FY2021. Navy officials have described the listing of LHA-9 in the Navy’s FY2023 budget submission as a ship being requested for procurement in FY2023 as an oversight. The Navy’s proposed FY2023 budget also proposes retiring 24 ships, including 9 relatively young Littoral Combat Ships (LCSs).

The FY2023 30-year (FY2023-FY2052) shipbuilding plan released on April 20, 2022, includes three potential 30-year shipbuilding profiles and resulting 30-year force-level projections, referred to as Alternatives 1, 2, and 3. Alternatives 1 and 2 assume no real (i.e., above-inflation) growth in shipbuilding funding beyond the level to be attained over the five-year period FY2023-FY2027, while Alternative 3 assumes some amount of real growth in shipbuilding funds after FY2027. Under Alternative 1, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 316 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 2, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2035 and grow to 327 manned ships by FY2052. Under Alternative 3, the Navy would reach 300 manned ships in FY2033 and grow to 367 manned ships by FY2052.

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USS Abraham Lincoln Return Marks End of Second High-Tempo Carrier Deployment in WESTPAC

ABOARD AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, OFF THE COAST OF HAWAII – When aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) pulls into Naval Air Station North Island on Thursday, it will cap off a busy deployment to the Western Pacific. Lincoln’s deployment saw the carrier largely operating in U.S. 7th Fleet, where it had the chance […]

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

ABOARD AIRCRAFT CARRIER USS ABRAHAM LINCOLN, OFF THE COAST OF HAWAII – When aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) pulls into Naval Air Station North Island on Thursday, it will cap off a busy deployment to the Western Pacific.

Lincoln’s deployment saw the carrier largely operating in U.S. 7th Fleet, where it had the chance to drill with both Japan and the Philippines ahead of the biennial Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise in Hawaii.

It’s the second consecutive high operational tempo aircraft carrier deployment to WESTPAC, as the U.S. Navy increases its emphasis on operating in the region to counter China.

“Our activities into the South China Sea as well as East China Sea were important to send a signal to China, North Korea, Russia of our commitment to the region, as well as our willingness to fly, sail, or operate wherever international law allows,” Rear Adm. J.T. Anderson, the commander of Carrier Strike Group Three, told USNI news in a recent interview.

While the carrier participated in a wide range of exercises, the deployment also marked the first U.S. Marine Corps F-35C Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter squadron deployment on an aircraft carrier and the second for the CMV-22B Osprey.

Capt. Amy Bauernschmidt, Lincoln’s commanding officer, told USNI News that the crew applied many of the takeaways from USS Carl Vinson‘s (CVN-70) recent deployment in the region to Lincoln’s time in WESTPAC.

“We took onboard a lot of their lessons about … where to base, and how to operate. We did build upon those lessons and learned a few of our own. We were fairly fortunate in that while we covered a vast amount of space in 7th fleet – some days it was a long flight for the CODSPREY – but we were able to remain mostly based out of one location for most of the deployment, which at least facilitated the flow of people and parts to one location,” Bauernschmidt said.

Dynamic Environment

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) sails in formation during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, July 28, 2022. US Navy Photo

The early days of Lincoln’s deployment saw the carrier operating in the South China Sea – including amid People’s Liberation Army Air Force incursions into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone – and the Philippine Sea.

Anderson echoed remarks Vinson crew members made to USNI News during a trip earlier this year to Vinson at the tail-end of its deployment, in which sailors described a more dynamic environment in U.S. 7th Fleet compared to deployments over the last two decades in U.S. Central Command.

“We spent a lot of time maneuvering around not only the Philippine Sea, but also in the South China Sea and well as the East China Sea. And the dynamic maneuver wasn’t just exclusively maneuvering around to avoid certain things, but it was also that that’s our best way of being able to compete in that space, as well as provide a strong presence throughout the region,” Anderson said.
“If we were to just simply maintain our location in one general location, I don’t think we were necessarily doing our job, right, in terms of providing a sustained presence throughout the region.”

Bauernschmidt acknowledged the difference between operations in U.S. 7th Fleet versus U.S. 5th Fleet.

“I would say a vast majority of folks that have deployed in the Navy got very comfortable and used to 5th Fleet operations and this is obviously not 5th Fleet operations. And so it is a much larger area than we would typically operate in and … it’s not just about one entity. It’s about China, Russia, [North] Korea. It’s about multiple different actors and being able to respond to any of those,” she told USNI News.
“Because it’s a large area of operations, being able to strategically place yourself to answer whatever mission we’re called upon is very important.”

Because of the size of the Indo-Pacific region, Bauernschmidt said she had to change how she thought about the carrier’s operations.

“I personally also had to think a little differently about each and every night what the sea space looked like, what we were being tasked with, what we were being asked to accomplish, or to just think ahead about where we may want to position ourselves in the event we were tasked with a different mission,” she said.
“Because unlike operations in the 5th Fleet that you can get where you needed to be in a half a day, in a fairly short amount of time, we have a lot more sea space to cover. And so being able to think strategically, position yourself where you need to be, understand the constraints and the restraints of ourselves, our aircraft, and other forces was important.” 

Lessons Learned from Vinson

An F/A-18E Super Hornet, assigned to the ‘Tophatters’ of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14, prepares to make an arrested landing on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on June 3, 2022. US Navy Photo

Lincoln’s deployment to the western Pacific followed a similar one last year by Vinson, which sent the first U.S. Navy F-35C squadron and CMV-22B Osprey squadron out to sea. Lincoln deployed with 10 Marine Corps F-35Cs that make up the “Black Knights” of Marine Strike Fighter Squadron (VMFA) 314 out of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, Calif.

Ahead of the deployment, Bauernschmidt said Lincoln had the authority to install a double-decker mezzanine at the back of the hangar bay.

“What that allowed us to do was get some of the material that was normally in hangar bay 3 up into that mezzanine,” she said.

“We also took a good look at all of the support equipment and really tried to optimize where maybe we had duplicates, or we had the ability to truly ensure that the support equipment for the aircraft that we had was the right quantity, the right number, and the right ability,” Bauernschmidt added.

Instead of basing out of the U.S. Air Force’s Kadena Air Base on Okinawa, like Vinson’s CMV-22B Osprey detachment, Lincoln’s detachment was based out of Marine Corps Air Station Futenma. This helped with parts and maintenance because the U.S. Marine Corps’s MV-22B Ospreys were also at Futenma.

“It is always helpful when there’s extra bodies, extra parts. So there was a little bit easier flow because there was already an established flow for most of their parts,” Bauernschmidt said.

Cmdr. Daniel Hutton, an aircraft intermediate maintenance department officer aboard Lincoln, said the carrier’s crew used takeaways from the Vinson deployment to tweak what equipment Lincoln brought. This allowed the crew to make more space in the hangar bay and be more strategic with what equipment it needed or did not need. As a result, the crew placed more gear in hangar bay 3, which made for more space in the middle of the carrier and in the forward part of the ship.

“Being the second air wing ship team to go out to sea with that type of aircraft, there’s a constant learning process that takes place between the ship, the supporting entities ashore, and then being able to adjust and take into account what things break,” Hutton told USNI News.

Hutton said they will continue to make tweaks depending on what happens throughout the deployment.

Since Vinson‘s crew had the chance to test out the deck density aboard the carrier with the Navy F-35Cs and the CMV-22B Ospreys, Lincoln could take those lessons and alter what they brought to sea. As a result, Bauernschmidt said Lincoln decreased its deck density.

An CMV-22B Osprey, carrying the U.S. ambassador to Japan, Hon. Rahm Emanuel, Japan Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hayashi Yoshima, Commander, U.S. 7th Fleet, Vice Adm. Karl Thomas, Commander, Navy Region Japan/Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan Rear Adm. Carl Lahti, lands on Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi following an official visit, to the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) on April 23, 2022. US Navy Photo

“Because we had a lot of Vinson’s lessons learned, we were able to sit down and take a very thoughtful look at how we were utilizing space in the hangar bay to try to ensure that we didn’t have anything we didn’t need, but we did have everything that we were going to need so that it opened up extra space for aircraft and a little bit of extra maneuver space to maneuver them around,” she said.
“And we got our deck density down quite a bit from where Vinson was and into a pretty good place. And then we were still able to provide a little bit more feedback for follow on carriers so that they can learn from what we kind of figured out as well.”

Bauernschmidt said she also took advice from Vinson‘s commanding officer about how to perform replenishments at sea to maximize the carrier’s ability to respond to missions if necessary.

“He talked about some of the pluses and minuses with different locations – impacts of sea space, or how flight operations worked. We try to ensure that we were postured very well to be able to react to anything that we needed to react, like we do every day,” Bauernschmidt said. “But when you’re alongside another ship, we were very careful about planning it so that we were – several times we launched aircraft while we were alongside replenishing to be able to respond as necessary and then we were able to continue about the mission.”

F-35C Operations

Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Equipment) 2nd Class Justin Mancha, from San Antonio, signals an F-35C Lightning II, assigned to the ‘Black Knights’ of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314, as it takes off from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 on July 14, 2022. US Navy Photo

After employing the Navy and Marine Corps F-35Cs at sea, officials aboard both Vinson and Lincoln say they want more of the aircraft operating within a carrier strike group.

Anderson, when asked why he would like more F-35Cs, pointed to the fighter’s sensing capabilities. Both Bauernschmidt and Anderson described “seamless” integration of the F-35Cs into the carrier air wing.

“It’s the tremendous capability that the aircraft provides from an ability to generate information, the sensors that it has onboard, as well as its ability to distribute that information, not just to other aircraft but to the rest of the force,” Anderson told USNI News.
“It’s a testament to the platform and the folks that fly it too that it can integrate so well in with the rest of the air wing. We don’t have to do unique things with the schedule, the cycle lengths, etc. in order to accommodate it.”

Despite concerns ahead of the first F-35C deployments, Bauernschmidt said at-sea operations disproved some of those worries.

“I think like any new platform that’s introduced, there’s a little bit of angst about how it’s going to go. And I think what ended up happening when we got them was the realization that it was again a fairly seamless integration, regardless of whether it was Marine Corps or Navy,” she said.
“But I think in terms of the noise and some of the things they were concerned about from whether it was a deck density standpoint, or parts availability, or maintenance that they were going to be required to do, I think there were a lot more concerns that were fairly unfounded once, you know, now that we’ve gotten through this deployment [and] we’ve been able to see and operate with them.”

Report to Congress on the History of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay

The following is the Aug. 1, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay: History and Legal Issues Regarding Its Lease Agreements. From the report This report briefly outlines the history of the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, its changing relationship to the surrounding community, and its heightened importance due to military operations […]

The following is the Aug. 1, 2022, Congressional Research Service report, Naval Station Guantanamo Bay: History and Legal Issues Regarding Its Lease Agreements.

From the report

This report briefly outlines the history of the U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, its changing relationship to the surrounding community, and its heightened importance due to military operations in Afghanistan. The report also explains in detail the legal status of the lease of the land on which the naval station stands, the statutory and treaty authorities granted to the President with regard to any potential closure of the naval station, and the effects on such a closure that Cuba sanctions laws might have.

At the end of the Spanish-American War in 1898, the Spanish colonies of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines transitioned to administration by the United States. Of these four territories, only Cuba quickly became an independent republic. As a condition of relinquishing administration, though, the Cuban government agreed to lease three parcels of land to the United States for use as naval or coaling stations. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was the sole installation established under that agreement. The two subsequent lease agreements signed in 1903 acknowledged Cuban sovereignty, but granted to the United States “complete jurisdiction and control over” the property so long as it remained occupied.

The prominence of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay rose briefly during the Haitian refugee and Cuban migrant crises of the early 1990s. At one point in late 1994, the migrant population of the naval station approached 45,000. However, by the end of January 1996, the last of these temporary residents had departed.

The naval station’s return to prominence arose due to the establishment of facilities to house a number of wartime detainees captured during military operations in Afghanistan and elsewhere. This practice began in early 2002 with the refurbishment of some of the property formerly used to house refugees and was expanded to more substantial housing that is operated by Joint Task Force-Guantanamo, a tenant for which the naval station provides logistical support. Additional temporary facilities were eventually constructed on a disused naval station airfield for use by the military commissions created to try detainees.

The 1903 lease agreements between the governments of Cuba and the United States are controlled by the language of a 1934 treaty stipulating that the lease can only be modified or abrogated pursuant to an agreement between the United States and Cuba. The territorial limits of the naval station remain as they were in 1934, unless the United States abandons Guantanamo Bay or the two governments reach an agreement to modify its boundaries. While there appears to be no consensus on whether the President can modify the agreement alone, Congress is empowered to alter by statute the effect of the underlying 1934 treaty. There is no current law that would expressly prohibit the negotiation of lease modifications with the existing government of Cuba, but the House of Representatives passed a prohibition on carrying out such a modification without congressional approval as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for FY2017 (P.L. 114-328). This prohibition has been extended in subsequent years through FY2022.

As for “abandoning” the naval station, there appears to be no statutory prohibitions against closing an overseas military installation. Nevertheless, Congress has imposed practical impediments to closing the naval station by, for example, restricting the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo to foreign countries and banning their transfer to the United States. The existence of various sanctions imposed upon Cuba may also impede closing Naval Station Guantanamo Bay by making it difficult to give or sell any property to the Cuban government.

Download the document here.

RIMPAC 2022 Sets Stage for Interoperability with U.S., Allies

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR HICKAM, HAWAII – If deterring China in the Pacific is a team sport, it might resemble a pickup basketball game more than the NBA. The allied bonds in the Pacific are less rigid than the coalition that makes up NATO in the Atlantic. The complicated web of relationships across the region […]

Mexican Naval Infantry Marines storm the beach after arriving on combat rubber raiding craft during an amphibious raid for a multinational littoral operations exercise as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022. Royal New Zealand Air Force Photo

JOINT BASE PEARL HARBOR HICKAM, HAWAII – If deterring China in the Pacific is a team sport, it might resemble a pickup basketball game more than the NBA.

The allied bonds in the Pacific are less rigid than the coalition that makes up NATO in the Atlantic. The complicated web of relationships across the region requires looser coalitions – like the Quad relationship between the U.S., Japan, Australia and India – instead of the structure the U.S. enjoys with its European allies in NATO.

At this year’s Rim of the Pacific 2022 naval exercise, U.S. Navy and partner nation officials described the drills as an effort to make operations between participating countries easier, with a focus on communication.

“We’re going to have to someday plugin as one unit, and whether that’s in a humanitarian assistance or disaster response or if it’s in a high-end fight, we need to be able to come together because no one of us is strong enough to tackle any of those problems, whether it’s HADR or a high-end fight,” Vice Adm. Michael Boyle, the commander of U.S. 3rd Fleet, told USNI News in a recent interview.

In addition to learning how each other’s systems and platforms work, nations attending RIMPAC had the chance for their staffs to work with those from other countries.

“Knowing how people work together, how they react, speeds up that interoperability and that capability and where it matters the most is the unexpected,” Royal Canadian Navy Rear Adm. Christopher Robinson, the deputy commander of RIMPAC, told USNI News.

“[If] an earthquake happens and you assemble a task group and every country comes together and they send their ready use forces, knowing that we’re going to establish initial [communications] on these radios and we’re going to use no call signs or call signs, and we’re going to get together twice a day at certain times and talk, once you’ve established all those really basic common understandings, then you can get to actually achieving the mission.”

Interchangeability

Personnel from the Australian Army, Malaysian Army Paratroopers and Sri Lanka Marine Corps form up on the flight deck of Royal Australian Navy Canberra-class landing helicopter dock HMAS Canberra (L02) in preparation for an air assault amphibious raid during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 on Aug. 1, 2022. Royal Australian Navy Photo

Boyle, who took the helm of 3rd Fleet in June and was the commander of RIMPAC 2022, described a need to push forward past interoperability to achieve interchangeability with allies and partners.

“I tell people that for interchangeability, [it’s] kind of the nexus, the intersection of national objective overlap and interoperability, which is the ability to talk to each other and to work together and to communicate and have tactics that are comparable and complementary,” he said.

When it comes to policy, the United States probably won’t align with a given partner or allied nation on all policy areas, Boyle said. He pointed to a Taiwan Strait transit as an example – performing one may not be in another country’s best interest, but conducting joint operations in the South China Sea could be a better option.

“My argument for interchangeability is that if we try to drive interoperability from the bottom up, from the tactical level up, what always seems to happen in my view … is we run into policy barriers,” he said.

“What seems to work better from my perspective is if we first figure out where our national objectives overlap, then we drive into that space and we have the weight and the leverage of our national command authority,” Boyle added.
“So if it’s important to the nation, then it’s easier to break down the barriers when you can say, ‘hey I really need to get foreign disclosures … for country X because it’s going to enable me to do this thing, which is our national objective. It’s also there’s.’ So it’s win win win. We get interoperability. They take care of their thing. We take care of our thing. And then we drive to the next country or group of countries. You know – multilateral is always better for us – and see where we can find overlapping objectives.”

Working Together 

USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) sails in formation during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 on July 28. US Navy Photo

RIMPAC 2022 allowed the U.S. and participating nations the chance to rehearse specific scenarios, like an amphibious landing and humanitarian aid and disaster relief efforts, and hone the communications needed to perform those types of operations.

During a USNI News trip aboard Royal Australian Navy amphibious ship HMAS Canberra (L02), two U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys from the “Lucky Red Lions” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 363 were parked on the flight deck. Those aircraft remained embarked with Canberra for all of RIMPAC’s at-sea period.

Capt. Jace Hutchison, the commanding officer of Canberra, said this year’s iteration of RIMPAC allowed the RAN to improve upon the lessons learned in 2016, when it began working toward interoperability with the U.S.

“We have developed a lot since 2016. What happened in 2016 was some initial interoperability testing between, in particular U.S. aircraft and Australian amphibious platform[s]. What we’ve been able to do in RIMPAC 2022 is actually take that to the next level,” Hutchison said.

“It’s an opportunity for us to now develop, in an enduring manner, while having two U.S. Marine Corps MV-22 aircraft embarked for the entire sea phase. That’s something that’s not happened before in an Australian context. And we’re really looking forward to expanding the way that we operate those aircraft within the constraints of our platform.”

In addition to having the U.S. Marine Corps Ospreys, Canberra also cross-decked with U.S. aircraft like the Marine Corps CH-53 Sea Stallion and Japanese aircraft, and had the authorities necessary to cross deck with any nation taking part in RIMPAC that brought aircraft to the exercise, Jace said.

Learning how to communicate with each other during those operations was a top priority for the RAN during RIMPAC, said Lt. Samuel Laidlaw, a flight control officer aboard Canberra.

“I think whenever we do international operations, the most challenging thing tends to be communications. So it can be really little things, like it can be some small differences in the way that we refer to the same thing. So understanding those differences,” Laidlaw told reporters in Canberra‘s flight control office.

“We do briefs beforehand. Before any aircraft come across here, we will endeavor to sit down to do a face-to-face brief with them. If we can’t do that. We have a PowerPoint presentation that we put together where we try and spell out all those little differences.”

For example, the U.S. Marine Corps uses magnetic north in operations, while the RAN uses true north. This meant that when the CH-53s flew out to Canberra, the location for where the ship was pointed was 10 degrees off.

“We were giving them to that in true, and they were expecting it in magnetics. There was a bit of a mismatch there,” Laidlaw said.

In addition to communications, obtaining a clear operational picture is key to conducting any missions with allies and partners.

“How do we ensure that this ship from ‘X’ country and this ship from ‘Y’ country are looking at the same picture, that way decisions can be made,” Capt. Dan Brown, the experimentation lead with U.S. 3rd Fleet, told USNI News.

“At the end of the day your commanders always want to be able to sense the battlespace that they’re assigned to and then ultimately [that] allows them to make decisions on what they want to do. And if we’re not all working off the same sheet of music, it’s going to be tough. So that experiment is pretty high visibility at this RIMPAC.”

Part of ensuring ships from different countries can communicate is testing out the Link 22 tactical data link system, which several participating nations – including the U.S., France, Chile and Canada – use.

“Tactical data links sound like they work together seamlessly. But it’s kind of like when you take your … iPhone, and you wander and you grab free WiFi from place to place to place and you still have to login, and sometimes you got to go to a homepage,” Robinson, the Canadian admiral, told USNI News. “Link systems are the same. They should connect seamlessly, but if you haven’t worked with those particular ships, it’s something to work through – making sure you’re all on the same crypto, that you’re changing at the same time, that control frequencies” are the same.

Future Operations

HMAS Canberra (L02), during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, Aug. 1, 2022. US Navy Photo

For the Australians, RIMPAC is helping them understand what they can do with U.S. aircraft aboard Canberra, including whether they could deploy U.S. aircraft aboard an Australian ship in the future, akin to the U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters that deployed last year aboard United Kingdom aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08).

Jace, the CO of Canberra, said U.S. Marine Rotational Force – Darwin aircraft could embark aboard Australian ships when they’re forward deployed.

“[Humanitarian Aid and Disaster Relief] is something that Australia does regularly and if we’ve got MRF-D In Australia operating then that’s a perfect partnership to take out into those regional areas and support as a collective,” he said.

Canada’s Robinson acknowledged that more multi-national carrier strike group deployments like the Queen Elizabeth CSG in 2021 – which included RCN frigate HCMS Winnipeg (FFH 338) – could happen. But Robinson said he believed ad hoc naval coalitions are more likely the way maritime nations will operate together.

“I kind of think that shorter groupings – so bringing task groups together for shorter groupings of time and then ships come and go as their national taskings changed – is going to be the way of the future,” Robinson told USNI News.

Boyle said working with allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific – like the United Nations-led Enforcement Coordination Cell for sanctions on North Korea – in particular, is key to deterring China.

“Continuing to make it apparent that they can’t win is the long-term objective and that way we’ll never have to go to war,” Boyle said.
“And man, if we can do it with partners, when they look out and see the ECC … and see Germany, Canada, France, the U.S., Korea all working together right off their coast, then it’s got to be like, ‘our only friend right now is Russia.’ And it’s not really a very good friend, from a China perspective.”

VIDEO: First Black Four-Star Marine Takes Charge of AFRICOM

The first Black four-star Marine general assumed command of the U.S. Africa Command during a Tuesday ceremony in Germany. Gen. Michael Langley is now the sixth commander of the U.S. Africa Command, which was formed in 2008, according to a statement. The Senate confirmed his nomination at the beginning of the month, USNI News previously […]

U.S. Africa Command change of command held in Stuttgart, Germany, on Aug. 9, 2022. AFRICOM Photo

The first Black four-star Marine general assumed command of the U.S. Africa Command during a Tuesday ceremony in Germany.

Gen. Michael Langley is now the sixth commander of the U.S. Africa Command, which was formed in 2008, according to a statement. The Senate confirmed his nomination at the beginning of the month, USNI News previously reported.

“I look forward to taking on the mantle of leading these talented professionals here at AFRICOM and across our component as we work shoulder to shoulder with our allies and our partners to advance peace and prosperity for both Africa and American homeland,” Langley said during the change of command ceremony.

Langley grew up in a military home and followed in his Air Force father’s footsteps, commissioning in 1985. He previously served as the deputy commander for Marine Forces Command and Marine Force Northern Command, as well as commander for Marine Forces Europe and Africa, according to the press release.

“This one’s for you, Dad,” Langley said.

As the leader of AFRICOM, Langley plans to build strategic partnerships through a whole of government approach, he said.

Langley takes over the position from Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, who is retiring after four decades in the service.

“No assignment of the past 40 years has given me greater professional challenge and fulfillment for more personal growth and leading the men and women of USAFRICOM,” Townsend said during the ceremony.

Leading a command for a continent much larger than the continental United States meant a new trial every day, he said. The African continent cannot be ignored by America, and Townsend said that he was confident that the military was not after hearing sentiments by Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, both of whom were present at the ceremony.

“Africa’s future will have global impact,” Townsend said. “We must continue to work shoulder to shoulder with our allies, with our partners across the continent to secure enduring peace and prosperity for Africa and for America. America’s future security, and I believe our prosperity, depends on a more secure and more prosperous Africa.”

Townsend will leave his position confident that Langley will be able to take up the helm, Townsend said.

Austin, who nominated Langley for the position, said he was proud to oversee the ceremony, especially given its historic nature.

“You are supremely qualified to take on this challenge. And you will bring to bear your tremendous experience—from commands in Okinawa and Afghanistan to serving as J5 director at CENTCOM and many, many other vital assignments,” Austin said in his remarks. “And I know that AFRICOM will benefit from your superb credentials and your outstanding leadership.”

Austin highlighted the challenges facing Africa, including the Al-Shabaab and recent work in Somalia to combat it. Despite AFRICOM being a younger command, it is an important one, Austin said.

“The continent is on the front lines of many of this century’s most pressing threats—from mass migration to food insecurity, from COVID-19 to the climate crisis, from the drumbeat of autocracy to the dangers of terrorism,” he said. “These challenges threaten us all together. And so we must tackle them all together. And that’s just what AFRICOM does.”

Senate Questions How Pentagon Uses ‘Controlled Unclassified Information’ Label

The Senate is raising questions about how the Pentagon uses a label for unclassified information that some officials say makes it more difficult to access public information. In its version of the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate Armed Services Committee wants to better define how the Defense Department can use the […]

NASA Photo

The Senate is raising questions about how the Pentagon uses a label for unclassified information that some officials say makes it more difficult to access public information.

In its version of the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate Armed Services Committee wants to better define how the Defense Department can use the controlled unclassified information (CUI) designation.

CUI was intended to speed the disclosure of information to other agencies and the public, but the Defense Department has used the designation to keep the information from public view, several congressional sources and defense officials have told USNI News.

Since the new CUI regime came to the Pentagon in late 2021 – replacing the old “for official use only,” or FOUO label – officials have put the designation on a government phone directory, an “any questions?” slide in a PowerPoint presentation and an invitation to a ship tour, USNI News has learned.

The designation has been in the wider federal government for more than a decade as part of an Obama administration initiative to streamline the handling of non-secret government information like personal data, in-progress law enforcement investigations and confidential business information.

The promise of CUI was to refine rules from agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency to the Fish and Fish and Wildlife Service and make them into a simple standard across the government.

“This inefficient, confusing patchwork has resulted in inconsistent marking and safeguarding of documents, led to unclear or unnecessarily restrictive dissemination policies, and created impediments to authorized information sharing,” reads the 2010 executive order outlining the policy.

The best-known example to date is the annual Pentagon weapons report. Federal law says the DoD director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E) must deliver two annual reports on the health of acquisition programs to Congress – a classified and unclassified version.

In February, the public report came out with CUI printed on it. By publishing the DOT&E report under CUI, the Department of Defense prevented members of Congress and the general public from being able to see what Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) called “key information” in a letter asking for the release of the full version.

It also highlighted the inconsistent ways in which the Pentagon uses CUI, staff members of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s minority and majority told USNI News.

While there is guidance on how to use it, published as recently as 2020, the Senate Armed Services Committee wrote in the report accompanying its version of the NDAA about inconsistent use of the designation.

DSCA Image

“As noted elsewhere in this Act, the committee is concerned with the uneven application of controlled unclassified information (CUI) document marking within the Department of Defense (DOD). While the committee understands the need to protect sensitive unclassified information, we remain concerned that a clear, systematic process and corresponding guidance from the Department for applying the CUI marking guidance is lacking,” according to the committee report.

The SASC NDAA version contains two different sections set to address CUI, including one section that calls for more oversight and training.

Section 874 in the Senate Armed Services Committee version calls for a process to use controlled unclassified information in a consistent way, with the undersecretary of defense for intelligence and security and the undersecretary of defense for research and engineering creating a process to monitor CUI to ensure it’s used correctly.

It also includes training on CUI, with the deadline to complete the process of refining guidelines and education by the beginning of 2029.

In the section, senators also called for a Department of Defense inspector general review of controlled unclassified information.

The other section addresses the director of operational test and evaluation (DOT&E) assessment. Under the SASC version, if the director releases a classified version or a version marked CUI, there must also be an unclassified version.

Committee members have dealt with CUI on other documents, chalking it up to minor annoyances, a Senate aide said. But seeing CUI on the DOT&E report affected their ability to provide oversight for the Pentagon.

It turned their attention to the inconsistent use of CUI by the Department of Defense, the aide said, resulting in the inclusion in the SASC NDAA.

CUI can make documents difficult to share, the senate aide told USNI News.

In response, SASC included the provision on guidance and training in the NDAA. Right now, the guidance available is overly broad, the aide said.

“And I will say, just from my own perspective, […] having worked in industry, I ran into the same problems that there was inconsistent guidance, or, in some cases, no guidance beyond the very high-level instruction and marking guides that are out there,” the aide said.

It’s not that SASC wants to get rid of CUI, which does have a use, the aide said. The committee wants better parameters so that those determining whether to mark a document with the CUI label are consistent, the aide said.

The aide referenced similar guidance on classified documents, in which the individuals determining if a document should be classified follow strict, defined rules.

“So you have classification guides that sort of are very explicit about […] what is included at different levels of classification to give you that specificity when you’re applying it to other documents,” the aide said.

Republicans on SASC also want a clearer definition for CUI, a SASC Republican spokesperson told USNI News.

“Broadly throughout the bill, it’s clear the Committee has concerns about the proper classification of information to allow everyone, including Congress and industry, to do their jobs well while protecting sensitive national security information,” the SASC Republican spokesperson said.

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.

RIMPAC 2022 Officials Reflect on Lessons Learned, What to Change for RIMPAC 2024

The Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise enabled participants to build upon their adaptability, particularly during the unscripted portion, leaders overseeing the exercise told reporters Wednesday. Officials said they will assess the experiences and lessons gathered from the exercise to decide what to execute in RIMPAC 2024. Speaking in a media call, U.S. 3rd Fleet […]

Mexican Naval Infantry participates in an amphibious raid for a multinational littoral operations exercise as part of Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, Aug. 1. Infantería de Marina Photo

The Rim of the Pacific 2022 exercise enabled participants to build upon their adaptability, particularly during the unscripted portion, leaders overseeing the exercise told reporters Wednesday.

Officials said they will assess the experiences and lessons gathered from the exercise to decide what to execute in RIMPAC 2024.

Speaking in a media call, U.S. 3rd Fleet commander Vice Adm. Michael Boyle, who is also commander of RIMPAC 2022, said the biggest lesson learned from the exercise was the need to have a less scripted program and design for the drills.

“What that did for us was that the scripted allows us to really enhance tactical training between tactical units, but by being unscripted it now allows us to give training in more of the leadership role. So if you were the commander of a task group/force or a combined component commander, having to think through an unpredictable program forces you to think like you would have to in crisis, and that’s any crisis, whether it is humanitarian assistance or conflict and that is probably one of the biggest lessons that we got out of this RIMPAC,” Boyle said.

He added that moving forward the U.S. Navy will evolve the understanding on how participants plug into an unscripted command and control structure and continue to refine that part of RIMPAC.

Canadian Rear Adm. Christopher Robinson, the deputy commander of RIMPAC 2022 who was also on the press call, said senior leaders that morning discussed the takeaways from the exercise and, in the next couple of days, will incorporate them into building the 2024 exercise.

“We’ve already sketched out some ideas, things that we’ve learned, some improvements that we’d like to make and that will feature in the 2024 series,” Robinson said.

U.S. Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2), front, and Royal Australian Navy Canberra-class landing helicopter dock HMAS Canberra (L02) transit the Pacific Ocean during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022, July 29, during an amphibious raid. U.S. Navy Photo

Robinson noted the exercise participants met together 18 months ago to discuss what each nation wanted to achieve for RIMPAC 2022 and built the exercises on those objectives, which in some cases included building new capabilities. Some other objectives were refining skills and for some countries, it meant taking on new challenges.

As examples, he cited Republic of Korea Navy (ROKN) Rear Adm. Sangmin An commanding the amphibious task force and Republic of Singapore Navy (RSN) Col. Kwan Hon Chuong as sea combat commander, the embarkation of two U.S. Marine Corps MV-22B Ospreys on Royal Australian Navy (RAN) landing helicopter dock HMAS Canberra (L02) and the Royal Malaysian Navy corvette KD Lekir (FSG-26) conducting the RMN’s first missile firing outside of Malaysian waters.

RIMPAC 2022 also featured the participation of four Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV) in the exercise. Robinson said the experience with autonomous and remotely-controlled systems in RIMPAC 2022 has on the capabilities, payloads and the ways these systems can be employed.

Boyle said there were a number of unique aspects to the Sinking Exercises (SINKEX) carried out at RIMPAC, in which decommissioned frigate ex-USS Rodney M. Davis (FFG-60) and decommissioned landing platform dock ex-USS Denver (LPD-9) were sunk. He pointed to the U.S. Air Force MQ-9 UAVs providing real-time data and live feed during the SINKEXs to participants. He added that the SINKEXs also involved the simultaneous executions of multiple kill chains, such as directly from a ship targeting and firing to over-the-horizon targeting provided by a platform to a firing unit of another platform.

The SINKEXs in RIMPAC 2022, Boyle said, also span the gamut of multi-domain fires, including fires from various air platforms such as a Harpoon missile from a Royal Australian Air Force P-8 Poseidon and the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force (JGSDF) firing a ground-based surface to ship missile at Denver. The 5th Surface to Ship Missile Regiment fired Type 12 Surface to Ship Missiles for the SINKEX, according to a July 28 JGSDF news release.

A Navy Marine Expeditionary Ship Interdiction System (NMESIS), right, fires as part of a sinking exercise (SINKEX) during Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) 2022 on July 22. U.S. Navy Photo

As for the effect of the closure of the Red Hill Fuel Depot in Hawaii and the inability to use it in the exercise, Boyle said it actually led to participants honing their skills in at-sea replenishments and enhancing training in operations with CONSOL (consolidated cargo operations) ships.

During RIMPAC 2022, Military Sealift Command (MSC) chartered tanker ships MT Maersk Peary and SLNC Goodwill to provide at-sea fuel deliveries to the MSC’s Combat Logistics Fleet (CLF) ships that supported the underway phase of the exercise.

Goodwill supplied diesel ship fuel to MSC replenishment ships USNS Pecos (T-AO- 197) and USNS Henry J. Kaiser (T-AO-187), in addition to dry cargo/ammunition ship USNS Washington Chambers (T-AKE-11), while Maersk Perry supplied JP5 aviation fuel and diesel ship fuel, according to a 3rd Fleet news release.

“So that kind of takes away some of the requirement for fixed site logistics hubs like Red Hill because we’re able to do that from a mobile platform, a more survivable platform, at sea. In this case, we really did move our capability and our proficiency at refueling at sea for all our partner nations to new heights,” Boyle said. Along with the U.S ships, Australia’s HMAS Supply (A195) and New Zealand’s HMNZS Aotearoa (A11) provided replenishment to ships in the exercise.

Boyle said that a key aspect of RIMPAC is the relationships built between individual participants in the exercise and how they are able to work together and exchange knowledge. He cited an example of where he came across Canadian, Chilean and French sailors prior to the at-sea phase discussing how to operate the Link 22 system and solving the issues that Chile was having in getting the system to work. Boyle said that when the underway began, the ships from those countries were using Link 22 with each other seamlessly.

“And that to me is just a small example of the benefit of coming together and of operating together, as we are like-minded and when we need to operate together in crisis, we already know how to do it. We don’t have to learn those lessons, we’re learning them during RIMPAC. My goal for this RIMPAC was that everybody learned, and go back with competence and maybe some skills that they didn’t have and I can tell you without doubt that has happened for every participant,” he said.

11 Chinese Ballistic Missiles Fired Near Taiwan, U.S. Embarks USS America From Japan

The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has fired 11 ballistic missiles into waters surrounding Taiwan as part of a series of military exercises, the Ministry of Defense in Taipei said in a Thursday statement. According to the MoD, the PLARF fired 11 DF-15 short-range ballistic missiles into waters to the northeast and southwest of Taiwan. […]

PLA Rocket Force fires missiles on Aug. 4, 2022. CCTV Image

The People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force has fired 11 ballistic missiles into waters surrounding Taiwan as part of a series of military exercises, the Ministry of Defense in Taipei said in a Thursday statement.

According to the MoD, the PLARF fired 11 DF-15 short-range ballistic missiles into waters to the northeast and southwest of Taiwan.

The Taiwan military, “have monitored the situation with various means, while our defense systems have been activated. We condemn such irrational action that has jeopardized regional peace,” read a Thursday statement from the MoD.

Additionally, the Chinese claimed to have conducted live fire drills in the Taiwan Strait.

“Long-range armed live fire precision missile strikes were carried out on selected targets in the eastern area of the Taiwan Strait,” the PLA announced, according to The Associated Press.

“The expected outcome was achieved.”

The planned drills kicked off just after U.S. House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visit to Taiwan this week. The visit was part of a larger Congressional delegation visit to the Western Pacific.

Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan,”manic, irresponsible and irrational,” reported the BBC.

U.S. Marine Corps F-35B aircraft mechanic Lance Cpl. William Wiggins assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121, currently attached to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 265 (Reinforced), 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), monitors an F-35B aboard amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA-6), in the Philippine Sea on Aug. 18, 2021. US Marine Corps Photo

In addition, the PLA Navy has deployed both its aircraft carriers CNS Liaoning (16) and CNS Shandong (17) this week, USNI News reported.

For its part, the U.S. has positioned a carrier strike group and two big deck amphibious ships embarked with Marine F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters are underway to the east of Taiwan, defense officials confirmed to USNI News on Thursday morning.

USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76), its escorts and Carrier Air Wing 5 and its escorts are underway in the Philippine Sea. USS Tripoli (LHA-7), which has embarked with up to 20 F-35Bs, is off Okinawa and USS America (LHA-6) has recently departed Sasebo, Japan, a defense official confirmed to USNI News on Thursday.

Neither the Chinese drills near Taiwan threatened the U.S. ships nor has the PLAN acted unprofessionally toward the deployed groups, a defense official told USNI News.

Senate Confirms First Black Marine For Fourth Star to Lead U.S. Africa Command

The Senate on Monday approved the promotion of Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Langley to the rank of general, which will make him the first Black Marine to receive a fourth star. Langley will lead U.S. Africa Command, the Stuttgart, Germany-based combatant command. Langley will formally receive his fourth star at a ceremony this Saturday […]

U.S. Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Langley delivers a speech aboard amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5), during the Fleet Week New York reception ceremony in the hangar bay, May 25, 2022. U.S. Navy Photo

The Senate on Monday approved the promotion of Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Michael Langley to the rank of general, which will make him the first Black Marine to receive a fourth star.

Langley will lead U.S. Africa Command, the Stuttgart, Germany-based combatant command.

Langley will formally receive his fourth star at a ceremony this Saturday in Washington, D.C., according to a Tuesday news release from the Marine Corps.

In his role leading AFRICOM, Langley will oversee operations in Somalia and support for West Africa forces countering piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Langley has been the commander of U.S. Marine Corps Forces Command and Marine Corps Forces Northern Command, in addition to serving as the commanding general of Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, since November.

He is a career artillery officer who commissioned into the Marine Corps in 1985.

“Langley has commanded Marines at every level from platoon to regiment, serving in Okinawa, Japan and Afghanistan,” the service said in the news release.

“As a general officer, Langley has held billets including deputy commanding general for II Marine Expeditionary Force, commanding general for [2nd] Marine Expeditionary Brigade, commander for Marine Forces Europe and Africa, deputy commanding general for Fleet Marine Force Atlantic, and deputy commander for Marine Forces Command and Marine Forces Northern Command,” the release continued.

The Pentagon announced Langley’s nomination to lead AFRICOM in June.

“Langley’s promotion will mark the first time a Black Marine has served as a four-star general in the 246-year history of the Marine Corps,” the Marine Corps said in the Tuesday release.

Seven Black Marines have previously reached the rank of lieutenant general.

Army Gen. Stephen Townsend, who has led AFRICOM since July of 2019, is slated to retire.