US Warships Struggle To Stay At Sea As China’s Fleet Grows

By Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg) US Navy warships have seen fewer days at sea since 2011 because vessels are breaking down more frequently than expected and taking longer to repair, even as…

By Tony Capaccio (Bloomberg) US Navy warships have seen fewer days at sea since 2011 because vessels are breaking down more frequently than expected and taking longer to repair, even as...

GAO Report on Increase in Cost of U.S. Navy Ship Operations

The following is the Jan. 31, 2023, Government Accountability Report, Weapon System Sustainment Navy Ship Usage Has Decreased as Challenges and Costs Have Increased. From the report Sustainment Challenges Have Worsened across the Ship Classes Reviewed GAO reviewed key sustainment metrics for 10 ship classes and found that from fiscal years 2011 through 2021, these […]

The following is the Jan. 31, 2023, Government Accountability Report, Weapon System Sustainment Navy Ship Usage Has Decreased as Challenges and Costs Have Increased.

From the report

Sustainment Challenges Have Worsened across the Ship Classes Reviewed

GAO reviewed key sustainment metrics for 10 ship classes and found that from fiscal years 2011 through 2021, these classes faced persistent and worsening sustainment challenges. Specifically, the number of maintenance cannibalizations (working parts removed and reused elsewhere due to parts shortages), casualty reports (reports of events that impair ships’ ability to do a primary mission), and days of maintenance delay (days beyond the scheduled end date for depot maintenance) have each increased, while steaming hours (the number of hours a ship is generally in an operating or training status) have decreased. Additionally, the Navy is not fully or accurately tracking other metrics—operational availability and materiel availability—that the Department of Defense and the Navy have determined are key to assessing ship effectiveness despite a prior GAO recommendation to do so.

Changes in Sustainment Metrics per Ship across Selected Navy Ship Classes, Fiscal Years 2011 through 2021

(a)Cannibalization data for fiscal years 2011 through 2014 is incomplete. Therefore, cannibalization trends begin fiscal year 2015. (b) The first America class amphibious assault ship was commissioned in 2014, so readiness trends for this class reflect fiscal years 2015 through 2021.

Operating and Support (O&S) and Steaming Hour Costs Have Increased

Total O&S costs increased by about $2.5 billion from fiscal years 2011 and 2020 for the 10 ship classes GAO examined, including a $1.2 billion increase in maintenance costs. The Navy also added about 33 ships to these classes. Collectively, the number of steaming hours for the ships declined over the timeframe.

GAO Analysis of Navy Data

GAO found the average O&S cost per steaming hour—used to measure the cost to provide operational steaming hours—across the 10 ship classes increased from fiscal year 2011 to 2020. Specifically, most ship classes we reviewed experienced an increase in O&S cost per steaming hour across the timeframe.

Operating and Support Costs, by Ship Class, Fiscal Year 2020 and the Ship Class’ Trend in Average Cost per Steaming Hour, Fiscal Years 2011 and 2020

The increase in O&S cost per steaming hour occurred for several reasons. First, a decrease in steaming hours contributed to the increase in cost per steaming hour. Second, GAO’s prior work shows that a number of other challenges have increased sustainment costs for ships, such as maintenance delays that have resulted in some ships deferring maintenance. Over time this situation has resulted in worsening ship conditions and increased costs to repair and sustain ships. GAO has made dozens of recommendations, which the Navy has generally concurred with, to improve the Navy’s sustainment of its ships. While taking actions, the Navy has not fully implemented many of GAO’s recommendations, including that the Navy

  • establishes performance goals and measures to better manage deferred depot maintenance backlog;
  • better track data on and address challenges with executing intermediate maintenance periods; and
  • take steps to ensure that new ships are reliable and can be sustained as planned when procured.

Why This Matters

The Department of Defense (DOD) spends tens of billions of dollars annually to sustain its weapon systems in an effort to ensure that these systems are available to simultaneously support today’s military operations and maintain the capability to meet future defense requirements. Costs to operate and sustain the 151 Navy ships included in this review totaled approximately $17 billion in fiscal year 2020. GAO’s past work has shown that the Navy has faced significant readiness challenges over the last decade. This is a public version of a sensitive report issued in December 2022. GAO removed specific details on steaming hours that DOD deemed sensitive.

How the GAO Did This Study

GAO initiated this work due to: 1) continuing interest in the operational availability and O&S costs for major weapon systems; and 2) as part of our response to a provision in section 802 of the William M. (Mac) Thornberry National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2021 for us to report on sustainment reviews conducted by the military services with a specific focus on O&S cost growth. GAO reviewed documentation and interviewed program office officials to identify reasons for the trends in key sustainment rates and O&S costs as well as any challenges in sustaining the selected ship classes.

Download the document here.

Navy Destroyer Modernization Program Could Cost $17B, Take Up to 2 Years Per Hull

ARLINGTON, Va. – The plan to upgrade the Navy’s fleet of Flight IIA Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyers with new radars and electronic warfare suites is estimated to cost about $17 billion and take anywhere from a year and a half to two years to upgrade each warship, USNI News has learned. The service has been […]

USS Pinckney (DDG-91) undocks SEWIP Block 3/SLQ-32(V)7 structures under either bridge wing on Aug 26, 2022. Screengrab of a General Dynamics NASSCO Video

ARLINGTON, Va. – The plan to upgrade the Navy’s fleet of Flight IIA Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyers with new radars and electronic warfare suites is estimated to cost about $17 billion and take anywhere from a year and a half to two years to upgrade each warship, USNI News has learned.

The service has been working for the last several years to develop a plan to back fit about 20 Flight IIAs with the AN/SLQ-32(V)7 Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block 3, the AN/SPY-6 air and missile defense radar and the Baseline 10 version of the Aegis Combat System.

The DDG MOD 2.0 effort is starting with the first installation of SEWIP aboard USS Pinckney (DDG-91) during a $121 million modernization period currently underway at General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, Calif.

“We’re kind of in a little bit of a crawl, walk, run process,” commander of Naval Sea Systems Command Vice Adm. Bill Galinis told USNI News earlier this month.
“We’re installing SEWIP on Pinckney in San Diego right now and that effort is going very well.”

US Navy Graphic

Service officials have told industry that the cost estimation to do the installations aboard 20 ships is about $17 billion, three sources familiar with the conversations told USNI News.

A Navy official confirmed to USNI News that the estimated time to install all three major systems – the Raytheon-built radar, Northrop Grumman’s SEWIP Block 3 and Lockheed Martin’s Baseline 10 combat system, along with other modernizations – could run from 18 to 24 months.

SEWIP will be a major upgrade to the surface Navy’s electronic attack arsenal and service has said it’s key to defeating incoming attacks on surface ships.

“SEWIP Block 3 will include improvements for the electronic attack by providing integrated countermeasures against radio frequency-guided threats and extending frequency range coverage,” the Navy said in a statement 2015 after issuing a $267 million award to Northrop Grumman.

The Navy has been incrementally improving the electronic warfare systems on its destroyers over the 1970s era AN/SLQ-32 “Slick 32s,” with Block I awards to General Dynamics and Block II to Lockheed Martin.

SEWIP will be housed in a sponson between Pinckney’s existing SPY-1D(v) faces. A video released in August from NASSCO shows the destroyer undocking with white plastic over the areas where the system were installed.

NAVSEA told USNI News that the DDG Mod 2.0 program will use the Raytheon AN/SPY-6(v)4 radar, a version of the active electronically scanned array radar that the service is building its new Flight III guided-missile destroyers around.

SPY-6 is based on two-foot squared cubes that are linked together to create the radar. The version for the Flight IIIs is made up of 37 blocks per radar face, while the Flight IIA back fit will include 24 blocks.

AN/SLQ-32(V)7 Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block 3 array in 2019. Northrop Grumman Photo

“The engineering has already been done and matter of fact is what the shipbuilders will do is they’ll remove all the SPY-1 equipment off the ship. Our 24-[cube] array configuration has an adapter plate that goes on the array that actual bolt into the exact location where the SPY-1 was and there’s no weight issues at all from a topside perspective,” Raytheon SPY-6 program director Mike Mills told USNI News on this month.

It’s unclear when the Navy will move ahead with the back fit program in earnest beyond the SEWIP installations. The Navy is approaching DDG MOD 2.0 as a major acquisition program, Galinis told USNI News.

“What we’re really looking at doing is trying to manage [DDG MOD 2.0] more like an acquisition program where we determine the contractor that’s going to do that work, to provide that on a repeatable basis to drive learning, and to lower the costs and scheduling applications to the ship,” he said.

For their part, some in Congress have been skeptical of the program based on the Navy’s largely unsuccessful attempt to modernize its guided-missile cruise fleet.

“It is unclear to the [Senate Armed Services] committee how the Navy’s more ambitious near-term modernization plans for destroyers, including back fitting a SPY-6 radar and installing a larger electronic warfare system, could succeed if the Navy cannot manage the cruiser phased modernization program,” reads report language from the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

Western Navies See Strategic, Tactical Lessons from Ukraine Invasion

The lessons emerging from the war in Ukraine for Western countries and their navies, and for maritime matters more broadly, ranging from the strategic to the tactical levels, the chiefs of the French, U.K. and U.S. navies told the recent inaugural Paris Naval Conference. “One thing we should all take away is the importance of […]

RTS Moskva (121) following an April 13, 2022 strike from Ukrainian missiles. Russian MoD

The lessons emerging from the war in Ukraine for Western countries and their navies, and for maritime matters more broadly, ranging from the strategic to the tactical levels, the chiefs of the French, U.K. and U.S. navies told the recent inaugural Paris Naval Conference.

“One thing we should all take away is the importance of the will to fight,” U.S. Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said during a press briefing with the three chiefs following the conference.

Gilday underscored the depth of the Ukrainians’ desire to “fight for their freedom … down to every single person in their society.”

Adm. Pierre Vandier, the French navy’s chief of staff, noted that while the war in Ukraine seems based around a land campaign, it has a significant maritime dimension, while speaking at the Jan. 18 conference along with Gilday and U.K. Royal Navy First Sea Lord Adm. Ben Key. Amongst a range of strategic-level maritime challenges in the Black Sea region, Adm. Vandier pointed to the importance of keeping open the port of Odesa in southwestern Ukraine.

“It was very important to have this [as a] free port,” he said.

Key, who also serves as the British chief of the naval staff, said that despite the heavy land emphasis, the ability to keep Odesa has strong maritime implications.

“The loss of Odesa would have strangled the Ukrainian economy because of the inability to export grain,” Key said. “That would then have created huge food shortages in countries many thousands of miles away from Ukraine […] Even in something that is being contained to a small region, the maritime implications of not having secure sea lines of communication are considerable and will impact the international community.”

Adm. Mike Gilday, Adm. Pierre Vandier and Adm. Ben Key on Jan. 18, 2023.

At the operational level, there are a number of maritime activities underway, including maritime patrol, amphibious forces operations, mining and countermining, blockades and unmanned vessel use, Vandier said.

The war in Ukraine saw the use of USVs in an offensive role, with USVs contributing to strikes. In addition, technologies like cruise missiles have been used in strikes both from sea to shore and shore to sea. Several warships have also been lost.

“[This is] nothing new, but the range of what has been done shows the dimension of the maritime aspect of this war,” Vandier said.

During the conference, Gilday discussed how the Ukrainians are learning lessons themselves, and how their fighting spirit is even filtering down to the tactical level.

“The Ukrainians are learning war while they’re fighting the war, and they’re doing so in a way that is so agile, and so flexible, and so nimble,” Gilday said. “They’re leveraging technology down at the tactical level. This goes down to the soldier on the battlefield.”

“For all our navies and our sailors, that’s the kind of spirit we want,” he continued. “That brings an asymmetric advantage to our navies that perhaps puts you in a position of advantage in a fight.”

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

U.S., South Korea Pledge to Expand Military Cooperation; NATO and Japan Deepen Ties

The U.S. and South Korea will step up joint field exercises and bolster joint capabilities to deter and respond to North Korean nuclear and missile threats, the defense chiefs of both countries said on Tuesday. In a joint statement, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and South Korea Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-Sup condemned North […]

South Korea’s 28th Infantry Division, Artillery Brigade, U.S 2nd Infantry Division, 2nd Striking Brigade,2-17th Artillery Battalion combined live-fire Exercise were held at Kkotbong Shooting Range in Gyeonggi Province. Jan. 23, 2023. ROK Photo

The U.S. and South Korea will step up joint field exercises and bolster joint capabilities to deter and respond to North Korean nuclear and missile threats, the defense chiefs of both countries said on Tuesday.

In a joint statement, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and South Korea Minister of National Defense Lee Jong-Sup condemned North Korea’s continued provocations and violations of United Nations Security Council resolutions, including its missile launches and recent drone incursions. The defense chiefs also affirmed that the ROK-U.S. Alliance, along with the international community, will continue to take a strong stance against any further provocations by North Korea.

The two leaders emphasized that the two nations will continue to bolster the alliance capabilities to deter and respond to North Korean nuclear and missile threats, as well as to expand information sharing and joint planning. The two defense chiefs additionally pledged to closely cooperate in order to continue to deploy U.S. strategic assets in a timely and coordinated manner in the future.

The U.S. and South Korea will hold a Deterrence Strategy Committee Table-top Exercise (DSC TTX) in February, with the goal of assessing and developing response options to deal with the North Korean nuclear threat. The two sides highlighted the combined air exercises in late 2022 that involved U.S. strategic bombers and demonstrated a range of deterrence capabilities of the U.S.-ROK alliance.

“Going forward as well, we will seek together for various measures to enhance extended deterrence implementation, show the public of the Republic of Korea the firm will of the United States commitment to the defense of the ROK,” Lee said in a press conference with Austin.
“We will further reinforce the alliance capability and posture and the combined defense through expanded execution of field exercises and large scale combined joint fires demonstration.”

Neither Lee nor Austin provided details on the exercises that would be carried out, but they will likely be on the same level as the Foal Eagle joint exercises, which were suspended in 2019.

Asked about the types of deployments that the U.S. would carry out in the future to the ROK, Austin referred to the past year’s activities which included the deployments of F-22s, F-35s and the visit by the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG).

“You can look for more of that kind of activity going forward,” he said, adding that deeper consultations between the two countries and leaderships and more tabletop exercises are planned.

Both Austin and Lee also discussed measures to strengthen regional security cooperation, including ROK-U.S.-Japan trilateral security cooperation, according to the statement, and committed to following up on developing specific courses of action to facilitate trilateral sharing of missile warning data. Conversations are expected to be addressed at a future meeting of the Defense Trilateral Talks.

Both defense chiefs agreed to hold Defense Trilateral Talks (DTT) at the earliest opportunity to discuss concrete measures on how to strengthen security cooperation among the three nations, the statement read.

Japan, Korea and the U.S. already carry out a number of joint missile defense activities like the Pacific Dragon exercise and held a ballistic missile defense drill in October 2022 in response to North Korean missile launches

Austin will now head to the Philippines where he will meet Philippines President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. while hosted by acting secretary of National Defense Carlito Galvez, Austin will also meet with Gen. Andres Centino, the chief of defense, and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Enrique Manalo.

NATO and Japan

In Tokyo, Japan, on Tuesday, Japan Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg pledged to deepen ties between Japan and NATO.

In a joint statement, Kishida and Stoltenberg condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and North Korea’s ongoing development of nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles. The pair reiterated their support for Ukraine and called for North Korea to fully comply with all U.N. Security Council resolutions and to abandon its nuclear weapons and existing nuclear programs.

Both leaders also shared concerns with Russia’s growing military cooperation with China, including through joint operations and drills in the vicinity of Japan.

Kishida and Stoltenberg raised concerns about Chinese and Russian attempts to change the status quo in the East China Sea, as well as the militarisation, coercion and intimidation in the South China Sea, due to China’s rapid strengthening of its military capabilities in the region. Both also stated that Japan and NATO’s positions on Taiwan remained unchanged and encouraged a peaceful resolution of cross-Strait issues.

“Beijing and Moscow are leading an authoritarian pushback against the international rules-based order,” Stoltenberg said in his opening statement during his meeting with Kishida.

He said the Indo-Pacific faces growing challenges, from China’s coercive behavior to provocations by North Korea

“If President Putin wins in Ukraine, this would send a message that authoritarian regimes can achieve their goals through brute force. This is dangerous. Beijing is watching closely. And learning lessons that may influence its future decisions,” Stoltenberg said.

He added that what is happening in Europe today could happen in East Asia tomorrow.

Both leaders welcomed progress toward the new framework cooperation document between Japan and NATO, the Individually Tailored Partnership Programme (ITPP), in order to expand current Japan-NATO cooperation. Japan and NATO are exploring expanding cooperation to areas such as defense science and technology including activities with the NATO Science and Technology Organization (STO) and are also accelerating efforts to enhance information sharing.

Stoltenberg wrapped up a two-day visit to the Republic of Korea on Monday with talks with President Yoon Suk Yeol. The two leaders discussed common security challenges and how to strengthen the Alliance’s partnership with Seoul

In the South China Sea

On Friday, U.S. Marine Corps F-35B fighters embarked on amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8) carried out dissimilar air combat training in international airspace in the southern reaches of the South China Sea with Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-15SG fighters, according to a social media post by the service.

On Sunday, embarked Rafale fighters and an E-2C Hawkeye from the carrier FS Charles De Gaulle (R91), currently deployed around the Indian Ocean and Arabian Sea, carried out a drill off India’s west coast with Indian Air Force (IAF) Su-30MKI fighters, an IAF Airborne Early Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft and an IL-76 tanker.

GAO Report on Contested Information Environments

The following is the Jan. 26, 2023, Government Accountability Office report, Contested Information Environment: Actions Needed to Strengthen Education and Training for DOD Leaders. From the report What GAO Found Department of Defense (DOD) guidance for operating in a contested information environment continues to evolve as DOD works to develop and prepare leaders to make […]

The following is the Jan. 26, 2023, Government Accountability Office report, Contested Information Environment: Actions Needed to Strengthen Education and Training for DOD Leaders.

From the report

What GAO Found
Department of Defense (DOD) guidance for operating in a contested information environment continues to evolve as DOD works to develop and prepare leaders to make effective decisions. The information environment––that is, the aggregate of factors that affect how humans and automated systems derive meaning from, act upon, and are impacted by information—is at risk of adversaries from anywhere attacking and contesting it to undermine DOD operations. In 2017 DOD elevated “information” as a joint function, and in 2019 it identified Globally Integrated Operations in the Information Environment as a special area of emphasis for education. As adversaries increasingly aim to distort or compromise information available to leaders, the focus on leader decision-making approaches becomes more important to minimize negative effects on military readiness and the successful execution of military operations (see figure). DOD continues to take steps—such as establishing a doctrinal, operational, and technical framework—to improve its understanding of and effective operation in increasingly contested information environments.

As part of its efforts to prepare for contested information environments, DOD offers education and training for its leaders. However, DOD components are unclear about what information environment aspects to cover in such education and training because guidance does not specify what content to include. DOD officials also reported having limited resources for their education and training efforts and cited simulation, infrastructure, and personnel limitations as further impeding these efforts. Officials stated that these limitations hinder the creation of realistic environments in which leaders can practice decision-making skills. However, DOD has not assessed or comprehensively reviewed component assessments of resources. Until DOD develops guidance and assesses its resources, it will lack assurance that it will be able to educate and train leaders to prepare them to make decisions in a contested information environment.

Why GAO Did This Study
According to DOD, our competitors and adversaries are taking advantage of vulnerabilities in the information environment to advance their national objectives and offset the U.S.’s position as the preeminent warfighting force. DOD’s military operations in the information environment play a pivotal role in engaging our adversaries.House Report 117-118 included a provision for GAO to review DOD training that prepares leaders and service members to operate and make decisions in a contested information environment. In this report, GAO (1) describes DOD guidance that supports the department’s education and training efforts to prepare leaders to make decisions in a contested information environment and (2) assesses the extent to which DOD provides education and training designed to prepare leaders to make such decisions.GAO reviewed selected DOD strategies, policies, and course syllabi; analyzed information related to the conduct of military exercises; and interviewed officials with knowledge of the department’s education and training efforts.

What GAO Recommends
GAO recommends that DOD (1) develop guidance about what content to incorporate in its education and training related to decision-making in a contested information environment and (2) assess the resources necessary to meet related education and training needs. DOD generally concurred with GAO’s recommendations.

Download the document here.

Australians, French Avoid AUKUS Talk in Paris Ministerial Meeting, Commit to More Pacific Operations

Australian and French defense ministers pledged to produce artillery shells to support Ukraine against the ongoing invasion from Russia in the first meeting between the two countries since Canberra walked away from a conventional submarine deal with French sub-builder DCNS. French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu and his Australian counterpart Richard Marles met in Paris Monday just […]

(left to right) Australian foreign minister Penny Wong, defense minister Richard Marles, French foreign minister Catherine Colonna and defense minister Sebastien Lecornu. Australian Government Photo

Australian and French defense ministers pledged to produce artillery shells to support Ukraine against the ongoing invasion from Russia in the first meeting between the two countries since Canberra walked away from a conventional submarine deal with French sub-builder DCNS.

French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu and his Australian counterpart Richard Marles met in Paris Monday just over two years after plans to replace the Royal Australian Navy’s Collins-class submarines with DCNS’ Barracuda diesel-electric attack boats were dropped in favor of a nuclear submarine agreement with the U.S. and the U.K., signed in 2021.

“It is the first time that our consultations have taken place at this level — in the so-called 2+2 format – since an incident I shall not come back to,” French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told reporters in a press conference with the defense ministers and Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong.

The meeting series was a reset in diplomatic relations following the rift between the two countries following the May election of Australian Prime Minster Anthony Albanese and the installation of a new national security team.

Rather than talk submarines, the defense ministers agreed to produce thousands of 155mm artillery shells for use by the Ukrainian military against the Russian invasion.

“There are actually complementarities between our defense industrial bases, which allows this to happen,” Marles told following the meeting. “It’s also true that we wanted to act together as a statement about how importantly Australia and France regard the support of Ukraine in the current conflict.”

Marles also fielded questions from the French press on if Australia would consider buying diesel-electric submarines. The questions were prompted by reports the Navy had closed four of its submarine repair dry docks at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., according to a report in Sky News.

“We’re obviously working closely with the United States and the United Kingdom to develop a nuclear-powered submarine capability and develop the optimal pathway to achieve that capability,” Richard Marles said.
“There are no plans for any interim conveniently powered submarine capability.”

The first outline for the plan to produce nuclear attack submarines for the Royal Australian Navy is due in March.

First steps under consideration for the partnership include basing a number of U.S. nuclear attack boats at the RAN’s submarine base near Perth in Western Australia. Those attack boats could be manned by a blended crew of RAN and U.S. sailors, several sources familiar with the ongoing discussions have told USNI News.

The timeline for the Australians to field their own nuclear attack boats is unclear, but U.S. officials have said those subs could be decades away.

In a joint statement, France and Australia committed to continuing to operate in the Pacific and join in international exercises in the region.

“Ministers reiterated their strong opposition to any coercion or destabilizing actions in the South China Sea, including the militarization of disputed features,” reads a joint statement from the meeting.
“They reaffirmed their intention to continue transits and deployments in the Indo-Pacific in accordance with international law.”

To that end, Paris and Canberra pledged greater military logistical support in the Pacific for each other’s forces. Additionally, Australia will take part in the Croix du Sud exercise series off of New Caledonia while France will join the Talisman Saber 2023 drills off of Australia, the Monday statement reads.

The statement also opposed “unilateral changes in the status quo” regarding Taiwanese sovereignty and the statement echoed concern with human rights abuses in Xinjiang and the “erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy, rights and freedoms.”

Bath Irons Works Delivers Destroyer Carl M. Levin to Navy

General Dynamics Bath Iron Words delivered the future USS Carl M. Levin (DDG-120) to the Navy last week, the service announced. The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer finished acceptance trials in December off the coast of Maine, USNI news previously reported. “A Flight IIA destroyer, DDG 120 is equipped with the latest Aegis Combat System. The Aegis […]

USS Carl Levin (DDG-120) at General Dynamics Bath Iron Works. BIW Photo

General Dynamics Bath Iron Words delivered the future USS Carl M. Levin (DDG-120) to the Navy last week, the service announced.

The Arleigh Burke-class destroyer finished acceptance trials in December off the coast of Maine, USNI news previously reported.

“A Flight IIA destroyer, DDG 120 is equipped with the latest Aegis Combat System. The Aegis Combat System provides large area defense coverage against air and ballistic missile targets, and also delivers superior processing of complex sensor data to allow for quick-reaction decision making, high firepower, and improved electronic warfare capability against a variety of threats,” the service said in a news release.

Carl M. Levin is slated to commission into service sometime this year.

The destroyer’s delivery comes as Bath Iron Works digs out of a backlog at its Maine yard that was exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic and labor issues at the yard over the last few years. The Navy issued BIW the contract for Carl M. Levin in March of 2014 and the company started building the destroyer in September of 2016, according to the Fiscal Year 2023 budget documents. Those documents listed the delivery for Carl M. Levin as September 2022.

The yard last delivered USS Daniel Inouye (DDG-118) in March of 2021 and the destroyer was commissioned later that year.

BIW has several Flight IIAs and Flight III Arleigh Burke destroyers under construction at its yard in Bath. Those include future destroyers Harvey C. Barnum Jr. (DDG-124), John Basilone (DDG-122), Patrick Gallagher (DDG-127), Quentin Walsh (DDG-132), William Charette (DDG-130) and Louis H. Wilson Jr. (DDG-126), according to Naval Sea Systems Command.

The FY 2023 National Defense Authorization Act included language allowed the Navy to ink another multi-year procurement deal for as many as 15 Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, as lawmakers push the service to work up to buying three destroyers per year. The last multi-year deal went through FY 2022.

USNI News Fleet and Marine Tracker: Jan. 30, 2023

These are the approximate positions of the U.S. Navy’s deployed carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups throughout the world as of Jan. 30, 2023, 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 Jan. 30, 2023, 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
293
(USS 237, USNS 56)
102
(USS 67, USNS 35)
 58
(42 Deployed, 16 Local)

Ships Deployed by Fleet

2nd Fleet 3rd Fleet 4th Fleet 5th Fleet 6th Fleet 7th Fleet Total
1 1 1 11 20 68 102

In Japan

A sailor aboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) working in the hangar bay on Jan. 30, 2023. US Navy Photo

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

In the Philippine Sea

Marines with Battalion Landing Team 1/4, 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, fly in a MV-22B Osprey during a rehearsal for an immediate company size reinforcement aboard the Amphibious Assault Ship USS America (LHA-6), in the Philippine Sea, Jan. 28, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

The America Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) – consisting of USS America (LHA-6), Amphibious Squadron 11, and USS Green Bay (LPD 20) – is underway in the Philippine Sea.

In the South China Sea

Sailors observe the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73) and the underway replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn (T-AO-198) steam alongside the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) on Jan. 29, 2023. US Navy Photo

The Nimitz Carrier Strike Group departed Singapore on Thursday after a port visit and is now back in the South China Sea, the Navy announced on Friday.

The Nimitz CSG deployed from the West Coast on Dec. 3 and chopped into U.S. 7th Fleet on Dec. 16.

Carrier Strike Group 11

Sailors observe from the fantail aboard the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) as the ship gets underway from the Republic of Singapore on Jan. 25, 2023. US Navy Photo

Aircraft carrier

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

Carrier Air Wing 17

An F/A-18F Super Hornet from the “Mighty Shrikes” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 94 launches from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) on Jan. 27, 2023. US Navy Photo

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

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

Cruiser

Ens. Dennis Krivida, from Kensington, Md., stands watch on the bridge of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG-52) on Jan. 18, 2023. US Navy Photo

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

Destroyer Squadron 9

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG-73) steams near the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) on Jan. 29, 2023. US Navy Photo

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

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

In Singapore

Marines with 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) leave from an MV-22 Osprey, assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor (VMM) 362 (Rein.), 13th MEU, on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Makin Island (LHD-8), Jan. 20, 2023 in the South China Sea. US Navy Photo

The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and the 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU) are at Changi Naval Base in Singapore. USS Makin Island (LHD-8), the flagship of the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, left Naval Base San Diego on Nov. 9 for a deployment to the Indo-Pacific.

The ARG completed the Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT)/Marine Exercise (MAREX) Sri Lanka 2023 in Colombo, Sri Lanka last week following eight days of in-person and at-sea exercises.

“CARAT/MAREX Sri Lanka took place in Colombo, at Sri Lanka Navy (SLN) bases in Trincomalee and Mullikullam, and in the Laccadive Sea, Jan. 19-26. The exercise focused on increasing proficiency in humanitarian assistance, disaster relief (HADR), and maritime security capabilities,” reads a statement from the U.S. Navy.

Sri Lanka Navy offshore patrol vessels SLNS Gajabahu (P 626) and SLNS Vijayabahu (P 627) operated with USS Anchorage (LPD-23), with the embarked 13th MEU at sea. This year’s exercise included participants from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the Maldives National Defense Force, as well as the Sri Lanka Air Force.

Marines with Combat Logistics Battalion 13, 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit, and Sri Lankan marines brief the route plan during a Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief exercise, Jan. 23, 2023 in Mullikulam. US Marine Corps Photo

“For the HADR training, two USN landing craft transferred troops, supplies, and vehicles ashore to a beach area of Mullikulam,” according to the statement.
“Additional exercises conducted at sea included divisional tactics, visit, board, search, and seizure (VBSS), replenishment-at-sea approaches, and reconnaissance and gunnery exercises. Helicopters aboard Anchorage successfully carried out VBSS exercises, embarkation, and disembarkation of personnel and material on the decks of the SLN ships involved in the sea phase.”

The ARG includes Makin Island and amphibious transport docks USS John P. Murtha (LPD-26) and USS Anchorage (LPD-23). During the deployment to the Western Pacific, the ARG has worked with other U.S. assets, including Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21, P-8A Poseidon aircraft and personnel from U.S. 7th Fleet and CTF 72, 73, 75, 76/3, Destroyer Squadron 7, and Amphibious Squadron 7. Task Force 76/3 recently formed as a result of merging the staffs of the Navy’s TF 76 and the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, III Marine Expeditionary Force.

The MEU includes the aviation combat element with the “Flying Leathernecks” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122 flying F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and the “Ugly Angels” of Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 362 (Reinforced) flying MV-22B Ospreys; the logistics combat element made up of Combat Logistics Battalion 13; and the ground combat element with 2nd Battalion, 4th Marines.

In the Adriatic Sea

Israeli Lt. Gen. Hertzi Halevi, chief of the general staff, Israeli Defense Force, during a press conference aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77) during exercise Juniper Oak 2023-2, Jan. 26, 2023. US Navy Photo

The George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group (CSG) is operating in the Adriatic Sea. Last week, USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) participated in Juniper Oak, joint drills between Israel and the United States in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.

USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119) continues to operate in U.S. 5th Fleet.

Carrier Strike Group 10

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter, attached to Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 46, takes off from the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H. W. Bush (CVN-77) during flight operations on Jan. 24, 2023. US Navy Photo

Carrier

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

Carrier Air Wing 7

An E-2D Hawkeye aircraft, attached to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 121, flies over the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN-77), Jan. 27, 2023. US Navy Photo

Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, based on Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., is embarked on Bush and includes:

  • The “Pukin’ Dogs” of VFA-143 Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) flying F/A-18Es from Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.
  • The “Jolly Rogers” of VFA-103 – F/A-18F – from Naval Air Station Oceana.
  • The “Sidewinders” of VFA-86 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.
  • The “Knighthawks” of VFA-136 – F/A-18E – from Naval Air Station Lemoore.
  • The “Patriots” of VAQ-140 – EA-18G – Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) – from Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
  • The “Bluetails” of VAW-121 – E-2D – Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk, Va.
  • The “Rawhides” of VRC-40 – Detachment – C-2A – Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VRC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Nightdippers” of HSC-5 – MH-60S – Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) – from Naval Air Station Norfolk.
  • The “Grandmasters” of HSM-46 – MH-60R – Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) – from Naval Air Station Jacksonville, Fla.

Cruiser

Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55) sails with the Israeli Navy during Juniper Oak 2023-2, Jan. 24, 2023. US Navy Photo

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

Destroyer Squadron

Sailors assigned to guided-missile destroyer USS Truxtun (DDG-103) man the rails during a scheduled port visit to Haifa, Israel, Jan. 27, 2023. US Navy Photo

Destroyer Squadron 26 is based in Norfolk and is embarked on the carrier. The following ships deployed with the strike group.

  • USS Delbert D. Black (DDG-119), homeported at Naval Station Mayport, Fla.
  • USS Truxtun (DDG-103), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.
  • USS Farragut (DDG-99), homeported at Naval Station Mayport.
  • USS Nitze (DDG-94), homeported at Naval Station Norfolk.

In the Western Atlantic

Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 3rd Class James Heddings, from Kansas City, Missouri, conducts preflight safety checks on an MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter, attached to the ‘Dusty Dogs’ of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 7, on the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN-69). US Navy Photo

USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS Bataan (LHD 5) and USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) are underway in the Western Atlantic.

Dwight D. Eisenhower is in the Virginia Capes conducting flight operations after completing a 15-month maintenance period in December. The 45-year-old carrier completed back-to-back deployments on July 18, 2021.

Kearsarge returned home to Norfolk and Virginia Beach, Va., after completing a seven-month deployment in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operation on Oct. 13.

Bataan is conducting deck landing qualifications.

A U.S. Marine Corps CH-53E Super Stallion assigned to Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron 162 (VMM-162) Reinforced, 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), conducts deck landing qualifications aboard the Wasp-class Amphibious Assault Ship Class USS Bataan (LHD-5) during Amphibious Squadron/MEU Integrated Training, Jan. 27, 2023. US Marine Corps Photo

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.

White House Nominates New Commanders for Pacific, Middle East Fleets

Two admirals currently serving in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff have been nominated to lead numbered fleets in the Middle East and the Pacific, the Department of Defense announced on Friday. Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, currently the vice director for Operations (J-3) on the Joint Staff, has been nominated for a third star and […]

Rear Adm. Fred Kacher (l), Rear Adm. George Wikoff (r)

Two admirals currently serving in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff have been nominated to lead numbered fleets in the Middle East and the Pacific, the Department of Defense announced on Friday.

Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, currently the vice director for Operations (J-3) on the Joint Staff, has been nominated for a third star and to command U.S. 7th Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, according to the announcement. He would succeed the current 7th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Karl Thomas.

Rear Adm. George Wikoff, current vice director of the Joint Staff, has been nominated for a promotion to vice admiral and to lead U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain. He would follow the current U.S. 5th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper.

Kacher, a career surface warfare officer, has served on cruisers and destroyers and deployed to both the Atlantic and Pacific, according to his Navy bio. At sea, he commanded guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG-106) and served as the executive officer of USS Barry (DDG-52). He commanded Destroyer Squadron 7 based in Singapore and commanded Expeditionary Strike Group 7. Leading ESG-7, Kacher sailed on four patrols aboard amphibious warship USS America (LHA-6). During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, America was underway often in the Western Pacific while carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) was pier side in Guam coping with a COVID-19 outbreak.
He is a 1990 graduate of the Naval Academy.

Wikoff is a career fighter pilot with experience flying F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18s. He has deployed aboard the former aircraft carriers USS America (CV-66), and USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). He commanded the “Fighting Checkmates” of Strike Fighter (VFA) Squadron 211 aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the “Flying Eagles” of the fleet replacement squadron VFA-122. He also commanded Carrier Air Wing 3 that was embarked aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), according to his bio. Ashore his assignments include time as an instructor at Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (TOPGUN, battle director for the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Qatar, chief of staff for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command as chief of staff in Bahrain, executive assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations and Joint Staff as deputy director for operations.
He is a 1990 graduate of Catholic University.

The following is the complete Jan. 27, 2023, announcement from the Pentagon.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III announced that the president has made the following nominations:

Navy Rear Adm. Fred Kacher for appointment to the grade of vice admiral, with assignment as commander, Seventh Fleet, Yokosuka, Japan. Kacher is currently serving as vice director for Operations, J-3, Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.

Navy Rear Adm. George Wikoff for appointment to the grade of vice admiral, with assignment as commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command; commander, Fifth Fleet; and commander, Combined Maritime Forces, Manama, Bahrain. Wikoff is currently serving as vice director, Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.