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October 13, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Preparing the Surface Force: How New Naval Surface Group Western Pacific Will Differ From Afloat Training Group

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SASEBO, Japan (Sept. 25, 2017) Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, commander of Naval Surface Forces, U. S. Pacific Fleet, addresses Sailors during an all-hands call in the hangar bay of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). Rowden is visiting Fleet Activities Sasebo, home of the 7th Fleet’s forward-deployed amphibious ships, to better understand forward-deployed readiness challenges and to discuss the new command Naval Surface Group Western Pacific. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 3rd Class Zachary DiPadova/Released) 170925-N-RD713-445

Following the string of at-sea accidents this year that involved U.S. Navy ships, criticism arose over the strenuous operational tempo of forward deployed ships in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility. Questions arose regarding training pitfalls, sleep cycles for watchstanders, and the general effectiveness to prepare ships for operations. Work has been diligently underway to devise strategies and programs, and amendments to Surface Force processes in order to reduce the risk of similar incidents and improve readiness in the future.

One of these actions includes the creation of Naval Surface Group Western Pacific (NSGWP). This organization, which will be led by Capt. Richard Dromerhauser, will coordinate training and maintenance periods for ships forward deployed to Japan and address an organizational gap that allowed a culture to grow myopically focused on operations to the detriment of readiness. NSGWP will consolidate authorities to oversee the training and certification of Forward Deployed Naval Forces-Japan (FDNF-J) ships and provide oversight of training, maintenance, and readiness, as well as liaise with fleet commanders. Additionally, this organization will assess whether ships are proficient enough to receive operational tasking, or whether they will require remediation prior to being deemed mission ready.

As NSGWP is being further developed in the upcoming months, questions have already arisen about how it differs from Afloat Training Group (ATG).

flowchartATG trains ships and recommends them for certification in specific warfare areas. The following warfare areas fall under the jurisdiction of ATG: 3M; air warfare; anti-terrorism; amphibious warfare; aviation; ballistic missile defense; communications; cryptology; electronic warfare; explosive safety; intelligence; medical; mine warfare; damage control; engineering; navigation; seamanship; search and rescue; strike warfare; supply; surface warfare; undersea warfare; visit, board, search, and seizure; and cyber warfare. These warfare areas are further categorized into Mobility, Unit Tactical, and Group Tactical tiers, labeled 1-3, respectively. Additionally, each warfare area has a X.1-X.4 event series coding: material assessment (-X.1), theory and fundamental (-X.2), individual and watch team training (-X.3), and certification and qualification (-(X.4). Because different ships have varying capabilities and systems, these certifications are tailored specifically to platforms and ship classes. When a ships completes each of these events, ATG will recommend that the associated mission area be certified.

While ATG examines discrete portions of ship readiness and trains the crew, they have no influence in the crew manning levels, or their operational schedule and availability for tasking. NSGWP will examine the ship’s readiness as a whole – and certifications aside, it will raise the question,“Is this ship ready to receive operational tasking?” If the answer is no, NSGWP will recommend operational commanders defer any operational tasking until the ship is properly crewed, trained and ready to meet mission requirements.

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USS Benfold (DDG 65), left, and the Henry J. Kaiser-class fleet replenishment oiler USNS Pecos (T-AO 197) participate in a photo exercise during Pacific Griffin 2017 off the coast of Guam. US Navy Photo

Through this additional authority, NSGWP provides another level of readiness assessment for forward deployed ships which, due to their operational tempo, operate under a different training pipeline than ships homeported stateside.

Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, Commander U.S. Naval Surface Forces is eager for NSWPG to stimulate much-needed change on the waterfront for our forward deployed forces and is confident in his newly assigned commanding officer, Capt. Rich Dromerhauser.

“The Surface Navy operates under the tenets of being Forward, Visible and Ready,” said Dromerhauser. “And I fully take on board the CNO’s point; we must understand that the enduring strength for our Surface Force can only be built on a foundation of solid readiness.”

While ATG and NSGWP have the same driving force – training and preparing our naval force for operations at sea – their approach, jurisdiction, and focus greatly differ from one another. With this new organization coming into place, FDNF-J will benefit immensely from incorporating the roles of both ATG and NSGWP in training, maintaining and equipping the most capable, ready surface warships.

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October 6, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Fleet Week City’s Tie to Battle of Guadalcanal

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171003-N-XN518-041 SAN FRANCISCO (Oct. 3, 2017) Gunner’s Mate 2nd Class Ian Kilcrease discusses Navy weaponry with guests on the flight deck of the Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2) during Fleet Week San Francisco 2017. Fleet weeks provide an opportunity for the American public to meet their Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard team and experience America’s sea services. Fleet Week San Francisco will highlight naval personnel, equipment, technology and capabilities with an emphasis on humanitarian assistance and disaster response. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Irwin Sampaga/Released) 171003-N-XN518-041

As Surface Warriors USS Champion (MCM 4),  USS Dewey (DDG 105), and USS Essex (LHD 2) represent the U.S. Navy at San Francisco Fleet Week this week, the bridge wings of an earlier Surface Warrior located near the city’s coast is a reminder of a war long over.

USS San Francisco (CA 38) saw significant action in the Battle of Guadalcanal during World War II and now her bridge wings – armor meant to protect the bridge – reside in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area on permanent display at the USS San Francisco Memorial. The 75th anniversary of the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal is less than six weeks away and the lessons learned during that time are still relevant today.

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NHHC Photo: USS San Francisco Battle of Guadalcanal damage to forward superstructure from starboard side. Note hit on 5″ gun No. 3 in foreground and fragment damage to the stack. 

The Guadalcanal Campaign was fought on and around Guadalcanal, an island of the Solomon Islands, between the Allied Forces and the Empire of Japan. From Aug. 7, 1942 to Feb. 9, 1943, the two forces fought for control of the island as a strategic location in the Pacific theater during the war. While the campaign was long and arduous, the surface battles stand out because of the amount of carnage suffered from close range sea clashes and the damage inflicted. The most complex of these was the Battle of Guadalcanal.

According to the Naval History and Heritage Command, the Naval Battle of Guadalcanal began Nov. 12, 1942, with Japanese air attacks on U.S. ships bringing reinforcements to the embattled island. Over the next four days, the U.S. Navy loses the light cruisers Atlanta and Juneau, in addition to seven destroyers. Japanese battleships Hiei and Kirishima, and heavy cruiser Kinugasa, along with three destroyers and many valuable transports are also sunk. Japan’s losses weaken their ability to strengthen their garrison on Guadalcanal, enabling the U.S. to shift from the defensive to the offensive in this campaign, which later becomes a decisive victory for the Allies in the Pacific theater.

Though the battle is in the history books, the lessons of the toughness it takes to grind out an assigned mission, the resiliency required to refuse to give up the fight, and the importance of sea control, strongly influence the attributes of our Navy today.

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Graphic depicting a possible distributed lethality inspired formation of surface ships (blue) spread out in juxtaposition to an adversaries possible formation.

Demonstrative of this character was the recent quick response by the crew of USS Mason (DDG 87) when they launched three missiles in defense of themselves and USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) after being attacked by two suspected cruise missiles fired from the Yemini shore while in the Red Sea in October 2016.

On a larger scale, the warfighting spirit of our aforementioned Surface Warriors is present as the surface force shifts to an offensive mindset via distributed lethality and the increase of each surface combatant’s ability to fight.

Though time passes and we move farther from the events of the Battle of Guadalcanal we will never forget those who fought or the lessons their grit and tenacity taught us about the importance of sea power.

Heroes, like those that served aboard USS San Francisco will always have a place in the annals of Navy history, and more importantly a place in shaping our heritage of honor, courage and commitment!

September 29, 2017 / iDriveWarships

LCS Builds Better Organizational Structure by Standing Up New Divisions

USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS-10) General Public Visitation

SAN DIEGO (July 22, 2017) USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) is moored at Broadway Pier in San Diego for public tours of the newly commissioned combat ship. Giffords is the newest Independence-variant littoral combat ship and one of seven LCS homeported in San Diego (U. S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Marie A. Montez/ Released) 170722-N-CM227-0258

Guest Blog By: Capt. Jordy Harrison, Commodore, Littoral Combat Ship Squadron ONE

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) community has garnered quite a bit of attention in the news lately as USS Coronado (LCS 4) tested an over the horizon missile during the ship’s current deployment and the newly commissioned USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) joined the fleet. That being said, like so many great enterprises, it’s often the less publicized efforts going on behind the scenes that make the most impact.

For LCS, the next important step for the community begins this fall when LCS stands up a mission-focused Immediate Superior In Command (ISIC) role within the current command hierarchy. Since its inception, the littoral combat ship community has operated with one overarching ISIC, Littoral Combat Ship Squadron (LCSRON) ONE, located in San Diego. The community has been steadily building fleet presence since the release of the 2016 CNO-directed LCS review findings, to include successfully stationing two LCS out of Mayport, Florida, supported by the additional ISIC role at LCSRON TWO. We’ve also fused our ships’ core crews and detachments across the LCS fleet. And now we are poised to stand up a new division known as Commander, Surface Division ELEVEN.

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PORTLAND Ore., (June 8, 2017) – Independence-class littoral combat ship USS Jackson (LCS 6) arrives in Portland for Rose Festival Fleet Week. The festival and Portland Fleet Week are a celebration of the sea services with Sailors, Marines, and Coast Guard members from the U.S. and Canada making the city a port of call. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob G. Sisco/Released)

As we continue to grow and evolve, this new Command and Control architecture is significant because it provides firm administrative infrastructure toward our initiative to shift to a division construct in order to simplify LCS processes and streamline the chain of command. The CNO-directed study determined that operational and administrative management by a single command for 16 ships and 25 crews was excessive, and with no parallel throughout the rest of the U.S. Navy. The structure was simply too flat – and the span of control too broad. In the new construct, the division commander is responsible for four ships and seven crews, and the respective LCSRON oversees the future three divisions and the current four test ships – creating much more depth in the LCS chain of command.

So what does this new division mean for the community’s staff and crews? The biggest difference is that there is an additional ISIC and a modified reporting chain. Each division will have an O-6 major commander who will work with the commodore at the LCSRON staff. An important takeaway for all LCS Sailors is to realize that overall, between the three divisions and the squadron staff, there are no planned additions to personnel – a “zero-sum.” This means that the community is not getting more people, the community is not losing people– we are realigning throughout the personnel force to fill the billets in order to provide better support to the crews and ships.

This organizational shift has begun; we are presently standing up COMSURFACEDIVELEVEN, composed of USS Jackson (LCS 6), USS Montgomery (LCS 8), USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10), and (soon to be) USS Omaha (LCS 12). MCM Division 12 and ASW Division 14 will be stood up in subsequent years. Personnel moves into these new divisions will be a gradual process; for many LCS Sailors, change will not be readily apparent until after COMSURFACEDIVELEVEN attains Initial Operational Capability.

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(Future LCS Chain of Command Organization)

The CNO study also recommended creating a separate test division, consisting of USS Freedom (LCS 1), USS Independence (LCS 2), USS Fort Worth (LCS 3), and USS Coronado (LCS 4). As we grow to fully understand the operational employment of these test ships and progress further with the implementation of the lessons gathered in the study, we will revisit the idea of breaking these four ships out into their own division.

Looking back, it has been a very busy year; we’ve implemented major organizational changes – injecting simplicity, stability and ownership into our program. However, we know there is much more work to be done in order to set the LCS community up for long-term success in the fleet; more changes are coming and we’re moving in a new and exciting direction. We’re committed to delivering a program capable of evolving for the benefit of LCS Sailors and the operational commanders we serve.

 

September 22, 2017 / iDriveWarships

The Framework for Developing Naval Leaders

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U.S. 5th FLEET AREA OF RESPONSIBLITY (June 11, 2010) Newly-promoted petty officers stand in formation during a frocking ceremony aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Nassau (LHA 4). Nassau frocked 83 Sailors during the ceremony. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Patrick Gordon/Released) 100611-N-8936G-016

Guest Blog By: Lt. Marissa Legg, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

In January 2017, the chief of naval operations (CNO) released ‘Navy Leader Development Framework,’ outlining his guidance on how the U.S. Navy needs to develop operational and warfighting competence, as well as character through schools, on the job training, and self-guided learning. Following this framework, he sent out a message later in the year outlining an implementation plan that tasked all community leaders to establish strategies and continuums aimed at developing leaders in both the enlisted and officer ranks; up to command senior enlisted and major command levels, respectively.

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NORFOLK, Va. (June 9, 2016) Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Scott Sears sews on a 3rd class petty officer crow for Hospital Corpman 3rd class Eric Norris during a Tacking on of the Crow frocking ceremony aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5). Royal Navy and the days of the sail. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Zachariah Grabill/Released) 160609-N-GB113-002

Developing the Petty Officer Leadership Course:
While working to meet the CNO’s tasker, Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (CNSP) staff identified a gap in petty officer leadership training that has existed since the discontinuation of the Navy’s leader development program (NAVLEAD). Currently, junior enlisted Sailors receive the Petty Officer Selectee Leadership Course (POSLC) at their commands prior to being promoted to E4, and then they aren’t required to complete any other formal leadership schools or training until prior to advancing to the rank of chief petty officer and, possibly later, the Senior Enlisted Academy. In order to fill this gap and improve the continuity of competency and character of the Surface Force’s junior enlisted Sailors, CNSP is pursuing the effectiveness of standing up a Petty Officer Leadership Course (POLC).

What is POLC:
The current POLC contains a course of instruction created by the Naval Leadership and Ethics Center (NLEC), with the assistance of CNSP and Afloat Training Group (ATG). In total, there are three different courses, each lasting three days. The courses are the Foundational Leader Development Course, which provides training for seaman; the Intermediate Leader Development Course; which provides training for petty officers 3rd class; and the Advanced Leader Development Course, which performs training for petty officers 2nd class. Each course is designed to touch on topics such as self-awareness, the naval profession, naval leadership, and ethical decision making, with a focus to upcoming leadership positions and expectations. A big difference between this course and POSLC is a dedicated training environment. Sailors come off their ships, enter into a non-attributional environment, and get the opportunity to network with other Sailors in their paygrades from across the waterfront.

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ARABIAN SEA (Dec. 2, 2012) Cryptologic Technician (Technical) 2nd Class Daniel Carns, from Seattle, salutes Capt. Thomas Halvorson, commanding officer of the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), after being frocked to 2nd class petty officer during a ceremony on the ship’s forecastle. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Armando Gonzales/Released) 121202-N-LV331-060

Specifically for the program’s pilot series, senior enlisted leaders from ATG San Diego, who have received instructor training and qualification, will be conducting the training. There will be four classes of each level, each class with 25 Sailors. In order to attend the class, Sailors are nominated by their command master chief and granted acceptance into the course by CNSP’s Force Master Chief Jason E. Wallis.

Moving forward with POLC:
With the conclusion of each pilot class, lessons learned, as well as student and command feedback will be used to make necessary curriculum and training adjustments prior to the next session. All data will be collected with an eye toward providing a permanent program for the Surface Force in the future, with potential for adoption of practices Navy-wide. The pilot series, delivery of courses and collection of data, will take just shy of one year to complete. The first course begins Oct. 2 with kick-off remarks from Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, Commander Naval Surface Forces.

 

September 15, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Surface Force Assists After Hurricanes

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CARIBBEAN SEA (Sept. 9, 2017) Naval Aircrewman (Helicopter) 2nd Class Andy Blessing from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC-22), assigned to the amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1), departs Wasp to provide aid to evacuees as part of first response efforts to the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The Department of Defense is supporting Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Irma to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Taylor King/Released) 170909-N-NM806-002

In the midst of what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has labeled as ‘one of the most potentially active hurricane seasons since 2010’, the U.S. Navy Surface Force has mobilized multiple vessels and thousands of Sailors and Marines to support humanitarian and disaster relief (HaDR) operations.

According to the National Weather Service, a hurricane is defined as “an intense tropical weather system with well-defined circulation and sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher” and is measured on a scale, one through five, that estimates potential property damage. This first-ever recorded event of two category four or stronger hurricanes, Hurricane Harvey trailed by Hurricane Irma, making landfall in the continental U.S. in the same year has prompted one of the largest HaDR operations in U.S. Navy history.

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CARRIBEAN SEA (Sept. 10, 2017) The amphibious assault ship USS Wasp (LHD 1) transits the Caribbean Sea in support of first response efforts to the U.S. Virgin Islands in the wake of Hurricane Irma. The Department of Defense is supporting the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the lead federal agency, in helping those affected by Hurricane Irma to minimize suffering and is one component of the overall whole-of-government response effort. (U.S. Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Levingston Lewis/Released) 170910-N-BD308-0009

The seven surface force ships sent to various locations around Florida, the mid-Atlantic and the Caribbean include: USS Wasp (LHD 1), USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7), USS New York (LPD 21), USS Farragut (DDG 99), and USS San Jacinto (CG 56).

U.S. Northern Command endorses these ships as collectively capable of providing medical support, maritime civil affairs, maritime security, expeditionary logistic support, medium and heavy air lift support, and bring a diverse capability including assessment, security, route clearance and water purification. Amphibious ships are particularly well designed for this type of mission as they are designed and built to move Marines ashore and provide sustainable logistic and aviation support.

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1-Nov. 30 and covers the areas of the North Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and the Caribbean Sea, as per the NOAA.

The top priority of the federal government, as multiple federal and state organizations work together to support civil authorities, is to minimize suffering and protecting the lives and safety of those affected by these natural disasters. For such a lethal, war-fighting force, these surface combatants are especially equipped to conquer other mission areas. HaDR is a pillar mission set for the U.S. Navy and these ships’ crews- Sailors and Marines of the finest kind, surface warriors-along with their embarked aircraft.

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ATLANTIC OCEAN (Sept. 8, 2017) A GOES satellite image taken Sept. 8, 2017 at 9:45 a.m. EST shows Hurricane Irma, center, in the Caribbean Sea, Hurricane Jose, right, in the Atlantic Ocean, and Hurricane Katia in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Irma is a Category 4 hurricane with sustained winds of 155 mph and is approximately 500 miles southeast of Miami, moving west-northwest at 16 mph. Hurricane warnings have been issued for South Florida, as the storm is expected to make landfall in Florida. (U.S. Navy photo courtesy of the NRL/Released) 170908-O-N0204-001

September 8, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Ships of the Surface Fleet: Amphibious Transport Dock Ship (LPD)

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Amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17)

Construction of USS San Antonio (LPD 17), the first in the class of ships which bears her name, began in June 2000 with her commissioning in January 2006. Nearly every year since then, a new San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship (LPD) has commissioned into service in the U.S. Navy.

Coming in at 684 feet long with a weight of 25,300 metric tons, the modern $2 billion-dollar LPD specializes in the embark, transport, and land elements of a landing force for a variety of expeditionary warfare missions. This surface warrior’s mission is to transport  U.S. Marines and their mobility triad consisting of amphibious assault vehicles (AAAVs), landing craft air-cushion (LCAC) and the MV-22 Osprey tiltrotor aircraft, to the shore wherever needed around the world.

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SAN DIEGO (April 21, 2014) The amphibious transport dock ship USS Somerset (LPD 25) arrives at its new homeport at Naval Base San Diego. Somerset, commissioned in Philadelphia March 1, is the ninth San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock ship, and is named in honor of the crew and passengers of United Airlines Flight 93, wich crashed near Shanksville, Pa., in Somerset County during the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. (Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Eric Coffer/Released) 140421-N-GW139-034

USS New York (LPD 21) was the first of three LPD 17-class ships built in honor of the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. The Navy named the eighth and ninth ships of the class, USS Arlington (LPD 24) and USS Somerset (LPD 25), in honor of the victims of the attacks on the Pentagon and United Flight 93, respectively. In December 2016, the Navy awarded Huntington Ingalls the detail design and construction of LPD 28 (Fort Lauderdale). As the 12th San Antonio class ship, LPD 28 will perform the same missions as the previous 11 ships of the class while incorporating technically feasible cost reduction initiatives and class lessons learned.

These modern marvel warships are impressive, no doubt, but at their core, they are cold steel. It’s their crews of Sailors and Marines that make them versatile players in maritime security with the ability to support a variety of amphibious assault, special operations or expeditionary warfare missions. LPDs are capable of operating independently or as part of amphibious readiness groups, expeditionary strike groups or joint task forces, as well as supporting anti-piracy operations, providing humanitarian assistance and foreign disaster relief operations around the world. Whatever must be done to maintain the freedom of the seas, deter aggression, and protect U.S. interests and that of allies and partners.

September 1, 2017 / iDriveWarships

F-35B In the Fleet

05.22.2015 USS Wasp (LHD-1), At Sea - An F-35B Lightning II takes off from the flight deck of USS Wasp (LHD-1) during flight operations May, 22, 2015. Over a two-week period, the Marine Corps will evaluate the full spectrum of F-35B’s measures of suitability and effectiveness, as well as the aircraft’s readiness for initial operating capability in July. Data and lessons learned will lay the groundwork for future F-35B deployments aboard U.S. Navy amphibious carriers. (Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Anne K. Henry/RELEASED)

You’ve probably heard that F-35B Lightening II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft will someday be coming to an amphibious ship near you, but did you know that some ships have already made the improvements to accept F-35’s?

In August USS Essex (LHD 2) welcomed the F-35B on board during sea trials and flight deck certifications off the coast of Southern California.

While USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) wished fair winds and following… tailwinds to the last AV-8B Harrier from the “Tomcats” of Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 311, as VMA-311 concluded their last tour with the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (BHR ESG) and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Strike Group as the ESG transitions to F-35B.

And earlier this week USS Wasp (LHD 1) departed Naval Station Norfolk for Sasebo, Japan, where it will assume the duties of USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) and become the forward-deployed flagship of U.S. 7th Fleets amphibious force. Wasp will later become the first ship to do a regular deployment with an embarked F-35B squadron.

05.22.2015 USS Wasp (LHD-1), At Sea - An F-35B Lightning II takes off from the flight deck of USS Wasp (LHD-1) during flight operations May, 22, 2015. Over a two-week period, the Marine Corps will evaluate the full spectrum of F-35B’s measures of suitability and effectiveness, as well as the aircraft’s readiness for initial operating capability in July. Data and lessons learned will lay the groundwork for future F-35B deployments aboard U.S. Navy amphibious carriers. (Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Anne K. Henry/RELEASED)

05.22.2015 USS Wasp (LHD-1), At Sea – An F-35B Lightning II takes off from the flight deck of USS Wasp (LHD-1) during flight operations May, 22, 2015. Over a two-week period, the Marine Corps will evaluate the full spectrum of F-35B’s measures of suitability and effectiveness, as well as the aircraft’s readiness for initial operating capability in July. Data and lessons learned will lay the groundwork for future F-35B deployments aboard U.S. Navy amphibious carriers. (Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Anne K. Henry/RELEASED)

The F-35B is the world’s first supersonic short take-off, vertical landing (STOVL) fighter and is set to become the new standard across the amphibious fleet eventually replacing the AV-8B Harrier and F/A-18 Hornet. STOVL aircraft are fixed-wing aircraft that are able to take off from a short runway and land vertically like a helicopter. They can also take off vertically if they don’t have a heavy payload.

The STOVL capability of F-35B provides forward-deployed combatant commanders with more flexible basing options. In particular, when this aircraft deploys from LHDs, or America class LHAs, squadrons will be able to reach targets inaccessible from shore-based runways. Which is to say that if the target is too far away by flight alone commanders have the option to move a U.S. Navy Surface Force ship closer via sea and then launch aircraft to the target from there.

“[Wasp’s homeport shift] ensures that our most technologically-advanced air warfare platforms are forward deployed,” said Wasp Commanding Officer Capt. Andrew Smith. “Our capabilities, paired with the F-35B Joint Strike Fighter, increases our Navy’s precision strike capabilities within the 7th Fleet region. Wasp will help America’s commitment to the maritime security and stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific.”

Together forward-deployed amphibious ships like Wasp and embarked Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU) like that of their 31st MEU, will form U.S. Pacific Command‘s premier crisis response force. Together, the U.S. Navy-Marine Corps team has the capability to conduct stability operations or deliver disaster relief at a moment’s notice.

 

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