Guest Blog By Ensign Emily Judstra, Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One Public Affairs
Following the Chief of Naval Operations’ Littoral Combat Ship Program Review conducted in the fall of 2016, the LCS program underwent a complete restructuring. With heads held high and spirits to match, the leadership and staff at the LCS Squadrons (LCSRON) – LCSRON One in San Diego, California and LCSRON Two in Mayport, Florida – brainstormed and implemented several key changes. As a member of the program, both on the crew and the staff level, the current program in no way resembles the program I joined in early 2015, with the most dramatic changes occurring over the last six months.
One of the most noticeable changes within the program is the shift in crewing construct. The program review called for increased simplicity, stability, and ownership, and ultimately did away with the 3-2-1 crew construct and separate mission detachments. Ships are now crewed in either a Blue-Gold format or by a single crew. USS Jackson (LCS 6), for example, is the first ship to be successfully crewed by a single crew, composed of the former LCS Crew 212 and Surface Warfare Detachment Three. Additionally this summer, USS Montgomery (LCS 8) will be the first ship to transition to blue and gold crews with LCS Crew 209 composing the gold crew and LCS Crew 208 composing the blue crew.
In support of restructuring the Independence variants on the west coast and the Freedom variants on the east coast, LCSRON Two officially took command over USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) and USS Detroit (LCS 7) in December of 2016, marking the transition of the Freedom variant to the east coast. As the future USS Little Rock (LCS 9) and USS Sioux City (LCS 11) commission later this year and early next year, respectively, LCS will have quite the pier presence in the Mayport basin, much like they do in San Diego now.
All in all, the program review instilled a change in thought process throughout the entire LCS program. The ships are being realigned with a single mission and then assigned to a division of four ships with that same mission. The squadrons are working on plans to put this in place and get the first division, a surface warfare division, online as early as this year. Additionally, LCS crews are being combined with mission module crews into a single crew that focuses on one mission. Furthermore, ships are being delivered to the fleet at a brisk pace, with the newest ship, USS Gabrielle Giffords (LCS 10) due to commission this June. At the current rate, LCS will be the second largest class of ship currently in operation, behind the Arleigh Burke-class Destroyer, by 2018.
While the growth of the U. S. Navy LCS class has not been a simple one, they’re heading in a new and focused direction! LCS Sailors are dedicated to making this program great and seeing it succeed. Changes are brewing, growing pains are lessening, and the LCS is about to become a staple of our fleet; so hop on board!
Ensign Emily Judstra is currently serving as the Assistant Public Affairs Officer at COMLCSRON One in San Diego, California. Commissioned from the Naval Academy in 2015, she reported to LCS Crew 104 in May of 2016, after completing the LCS training pipeline. During the summer of 2016 she deployed onboard USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) and in the winter deployed to USS Milwaukee (LCS 5) where she earned her Surface Warfare Officer qualification.
Out of the eight classes of ships that make up the Naval Surface Force, one of the most well known types is the guided-missile cruiser, known simply as cruiser, or CG. From their original functions in blockade enforcement, commerce raiding, scouting, and sea-denial, to their current role as carrier strike group offense and protection, cruisers have long filled critical mission roles in the surface force.
Often thought of in conjunction with U.S. Navy destroyers for their close working ties, cruisers are large multi-mission surface combatants. While powerful and capable enough to operate on their own, cruisers are often referred to as “support vessels” because of the important role they play in Navy operations – being primarily deployed in battle groups, cruisers are near- and far-striking ships with multiple and mission-specific roles.
At 567 feet long, cruisers can reach impressive speeds of over 30 knots via four gas turbine engines while being operated by a crew of 24 officers and 340 enlisted Sailors. With sophisticated guided-missile systems, these agile surface warfare ships can take out virtually any target in the air, the sea, beneath the waves or on the shore as needed to lead a strike or protect the fleet against aircraft, submarines, and other ships.
They can operate as Air Warfare (AW), Undersea Warfare (USW), Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS), and Surface Warfare (SUW) surface combatants, capable of supporting carrier battle groups, amphibious forces, flagships or surface action groups, or be tasked with independent missions.
Cruisers are armed with a Mark 41 (MK 41) vertical launching system, Standard Missile (MR); Vertical Launch Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC) (VLA); Tomahawk Cruise Missile giving them additional long range Strike Warfare (STRW); Six MK-46 torpedoes (from two triple mounts); Two MK 45 5-inch/54 caliber lightweight guns; Two Phalanx Close-In-Weapons Systems and two SH-60 Seahawk (LAMPS III) helicopters. Some cruisers have also been outfitted with Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) capability.
While a number of the earliest Ticonderoga class cruisers have been decommissioned, others are set to undergo a structured modernization over the course of the next several years to upgrade them to ensure they serve the fleet effectively through the year 2030 when they are projected to reach their 35-year service life. The Cruiser Modernization program aims to improve ships by modernizing the computing and display infrastructure, and the Hull, Mechanical and Electrical (HM&E) systems. Weapons and sensor sets will also be improved in order to upgrade ships’ anti-submarine capabilities and add short-range electro-optical systems that can monitor the ship’s surroundings without the use of radar emissions. Additionally, they’ll receive routine machinery upgrades to improve all areas of ship functionality.
With their lightning-quick communications, space-based radar systems, precision weapons and advanced engineering systems, U.S. Navy cruisers will continue to be lethal, mission flexible warships, capable of fulfilling both carrier strike group offense and protection, as well as other critical roles in the surface force, for many years to come.
When the U.S. Navy talks about providing on-call, scalable options to address challenges in a changing world, the firing of 59 Tomahawk missiles into Syria, April 7, is an example of that.
President Donald J. Trump ordered the targeted military strike on Al-Shayrat Air Base, the base from which the chemical attack on Syria’s Idlib province was launched.
“Bashar al-Assad launched a horrible chemical weapons attack on innocent civilians,” Trump said in a statement to the nation. “Using a deadly nerve agent, Assad choked out the lives of helpless men, women and children. It was a slow and brutal death for so many. Even beautiful babies were cruelly murdered in this very barbaric attack. No child of God should ever suffer such horror.”
The missiles were launched from U.S. Navy Surface Force ships in the Eastern Mediterranean Sea.
Adm. Michelle Howard is the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe-Africa – where the ships are conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
“Last night, two of our forward-deployed ships, the USS Porter and the USS Ross, conducted strikes into Syria. This was in response to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian regime. I just want to say that the commanding officers of both those ships, Russ Caldwell and Andria Slough, performed magnificently, along with their crews. What is also important is that this was a cross-combatant commander mission, and that the integration of the operations cells and all of the teams supporting from the planning to the execution was just flawless. It’s an example of the strength of the United States Navy and our ability to project power around the globe.”
Part of Naval Surface Forces, both USS Porter and USS Ross are guided-missile destroyers – multi-mission surface combatants capable of conducting anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare.
Below are 13 things that you should know about USS Porter and USS Ross, which are both forward-deployed to Rota, Spain.
USS Porter was commissioned in 1999 at Port Canaveral, Florida.
- In March 2017, Porter participated in the multilateral NATO Allied Maritime Command anti-submarine, anti-surface warfare exercise Dynamic Manta 2017 with naval forces from France, Norway, Canada, Turkey, Germany, Spain, Greece, Italy and the U.K.
- In February 2017, USS Porter participated in exercise Sea Shield 2017. Sea Shield is an annual Romanian-led multinational exercise in the Black Sea to improve interoperability and proficiency of participating units.
- Porter is a Ballistic Missile Defense capable Aegis ship operating as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense.
- USS Porter’s commanding officer is Cmdr. Andria Slough, a 1998 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. Her personal awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, the Meritorious Service Medal, Pacific Fleet Shiphandler of the Year and the Vice Admiral John D. Bulkeley Leadership Award.
- The ship’s motto is “Freedom’s Champion.”
USS Ross was commissioned in 1997 at Galveston, Texas.
- Ross’ weapons include surface-to-air missiles, Harpoon anti-ship missiles, Tomahawk cruise missiles, antisubmarine rockets, torpedoes, Phalanx Close-In Weapons Systems and a five-inch rapid-fire deck gun. Electronic warfare countermeasures, decoys, and passive detection systems supplement these weapons.
- Ross is a Ballistic Missile Defense capable Aegis ship operating as part of the European Phased Adaptive Approach to missile defense.
- On March 30, 2017, USS Ross completed the final live fire tests of the newly installed SeaRAM systems, successfully intercepting U.S. Navy targets launched from Spain’s test range in the Gulf of Cadiz.
- Since its arrival at Rota in 2014, Ross has been actively involved in Operation Atlantic Resolve working with U.S. partners and allies to achieve objectives in the Sixth Fleet area of operations.
- USS Ross’ commanding officer is Cmdr. Russell Caldwell from Johannesburg, South Africa, and a graduate of the University of Kansas. His personal awards include the Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal (three awards), and Navy Achievement Medal (two awards).
- The ship’s motto is “Fortune Favors Valor.”
**The original version of this blog first appeared on Navy Live Blog.
Guest Blog By Captain Nick Sarap, Commodore, Destroyer Squadron 1
I have seen what our cruisers and destroyers (CRUDES) are capable of, and know them to be a vital contributor to our Carrier Strike Groups. Most folks who have spent any amount of time on a CRUDES know they are invaluable to our Navy.
Without the cruiser performing air defense, the high value unit (HVU) – often a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier bringing the pre-dominance of the power projection to the strike group – would not be able to send pilots downrange to perform their jobs of conducting intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), strike missions, or any combination thereof. The HVU’s ability to maneuver safely throughout the world’s waters while routinely launching and recovering aircraft relies solely on the multi-mission, multi-weapon capabilities our CRUDES deliver and train toward on a daily basis.
Surrounding a Carrier or other HVU with the “ring of steel,” comprised of one cruiser and two or more destroyers, not only allows the HVU to safely execute her primary mission, it also provides offensive and defensive capabilities galore for the entire Strike Group. Without the cruiser and destroyers:
– there would be no alerts from active or passive sound navigation and ranging (SONAR) when a submarine is within the area of operations, potentially threatening the ships in the strike group and carrier strike operations;
– there would be no shipborne surface, or air-engagement capabilities in the event that lethal weapons must be employed in order to protect our nation and our assets;
– there would be no AN/SPY-1/3 radars to detect air contacts well ahead of the force during transits or routine operations;
– there would be no 5” guns standing at the ready for a worst-case scenario involving small craft swarming the HVU.
One could continue on with a mile-long list; suffice it to say that the CRUDES provide a robust mission set necessary for a strike group to conduct operations in support of America’s national interests. Each of these ships has the ability to engage roles as other Warfare Commanders’ when necessary, bearing a tremendous responsibility and displaying the versatility and flexibility of the CRUDES complement.
It is readily apparent that the CRUDES we employ every day in our Strike Group operations are capable of conducting and supporting a myriad of mission-sets required of the Strike Group. The surface ships feverishly train and hone various skillsets regularly so that the Aircraft Carrier can do what she is called to do – to be a forward, ready and engaged centerpiece, a visible maritime deterrence for the U.S. command authority. The systems, weapons, and most importantly the people aboard every single American flag warship assigned as a CRUDES asset are top-notch in every way – fully ready and standing the watch.
I am currently stationed at Destroyer Squadron One, where the command logo conveys the unit’s ethos,“If you want peace, prepare for war.” And that is precisely what our cruisers and destroyers deliver – they allow us to rest easy in times of peace, knowing we are indeed prepared for whatever lies ahead of us.
Sarap is a 1991 graduate of Bethany College. He completed sea tours aboard USS Puget Sound (AD 38), USS Kidd (DDG 993), USS Thorn (DD 988), and served as executive officer of USS Thomas S. Gates (CG 51). He commanded USS Firebolt (PC 10) and USS Wayne E Meyer (DDG 108). He reported to Destroyer Squadron One in June of 2015.
Imagine being out on a fishing boat, enjoying a day of deep-sea fishing with family and friends, and suddenly the boat’s engine loses power. Your vessel is now adrift miles from shore and no one on board knows how to fix the problem.
In a scenario that could quickly become a life or death situation, you’d welcome help from anyone willing to offer it, and in keeping with time-honored traditions any available mariners in the area are duty-bound to assist.
As a maritime force, the U.S. Navy has a lengthy recorded history of helping mariners in distress by providing medical assistance, engineering assistance, and conducting search-and-rescue missions when called upon.
In two separate incidences this month, Naval Surface Forces ships have provided assistance to such mariners in distress.
On March 19, USS Lake Erie, while preparing for an upcoming deployment during a composite training unit exercise (COMPTUEX) with the Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in the Pacific Ocean, assisted 25 mariners after receiving a distress call from a civilian boat taking on water. The ship deployed an eight person rescue and assistance team to embark the distressed vessel; they immediately began dewatering and searching for the source of the flooding. The team found two cracks in the hull of the wooden boat and then used wooden shoring to decrease the flow of incoming water. Once the flooding was under control and the water level on board dropped, the Lake Erie team turned the operation over to the U.S. Coast Guard.
In the second incident, on March 24, USS Cole, while deployed in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations, responded to signal flares fired by stranded fishermen whose boat’s engine had stopped running. Cole launched Sailors to the United Arab Emirates-flagged vessel to conduct an approach and assist visit, where they provided the boat with a new battery and some cookies.
These are just a few examples of ways Surface Warriors work to uphold maritime tradition. Whether in the oceans surrounding our nation, or those far from home, the willingness of the U.S. Navy and Naval Surface Forces to assist mariners in distress honors both a long standing maritime tradition and the values of honor, courage, and commitment they pride themselves on.
Commander, Naval Surface Forces (SURFOR) announced March 14 that 36 surface ships and four Littoral Combat Ship crews have earned Battle Effectiveness Awards for calendar year 2016. The awards are a direct reflection of the Sailors’ hard work and dedication to the ship and their role in the Surface Force.
Commonly known as the Battle “‘E”, the award is coveted amongst U.S. Navy vessels as it recognizes the ships and crews that best exemplify readiness and their capability to perform assigned wartime tasking. It also acknowledges a command’s demonstrated ability to perform efficiently in an operational environment and sustain overall superior performance in each department.
Vice Admiral Tom Rowden, Commander, Naval Surface Forces/Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, announced the winners via naval message traffic and expressed his gratitude to 2016 Battle “E” recipients in the fleet-wide message.
“Congratulations to all award winners,” Rowden wrote. “Your success in meeting mission area excellence standards is noted with pleasure.”
The annual award is given to ships, submarines, and other Navy units that display the highest standards of performance during a yearlong evaluation cycle that assesses the readiness of the command to carry out required missions. To qualify for Battle “E” consideration, a surface ship must win at least four of the five Command Excellence Awards categories throughout the competitive period. Categories include: Maritime Warfare (Black “E”), Engineering/Survivability (Red “E”), Command and Control (Green “E”), Logistics Management (Blue “E”), and CNSF Ship Safety (Yellow “E”).
However, the Battle “E” isn’t just a unit award. Each Sailor who belonged to a winning command during the 2016 competition period is now eligible to wear a Battle “E” ribbon on their uniform. Sailors assigned to this year’s winning ships, who already have a Battle “E” award from a previous awarded command, can now add an additional “E” device to the ribbon.
Each Sailor serving aboard the Battle “E” winning commands can be proud that they’ve made a direct impact on the Surface Fleet’s readiness and ability to provide prompt and sustained combat operations at sea if called upon.
Congratulations to the Surface Force winners of 2016 Battle Effectiveness Awards!
USS America, USS Bonhomme Richard, USS Boxer, USS Bunker Hill, USS Chancellorsville, USS Chung-Hoon, USS Curtis Wilbur, USS Dextrous, USS Gladiator, USS Green Bay, USS Gridley, USS Makin Island, USS McCampbell, USS Mobile Bay, USS Patriot, USS Pinckney, USS Princeton, USS Sampson, USS San Diego, USS Spruance, LCS Crew 103, LCS Crew 206, LCS Crew 212
USS Anzio, USS Bataan, USS Gravely, USS Iwo Jima, USS Mason, USS Mitscher, USS Monsoon, USS New York, USS Porter, USS Ramage, USS San Antonio, USS San Jacinto, USS The Sullivans, USS Squall, USS Truxtun, USS Zephyr, LCS Crew 208
The award focuses on recognizing not only the material condition of the ship but also the hard work required of the crew to maintain that condition of excellence.
“USS Mobile Bay and USS Spruance’s superb performance during their MCI [Material Condition Inspection] reflected a strong commitment to establishing and maintaining a shipboard culture of material readiness,” said Vice Admiral Tom Rowden, commander, Naval Surface Force U.S. Pacific Fleet (SURFPAC). “Their steady strain approach, pride in ownership, and self-sufficiency ensured their ships were kept consistently materially fit to fight. Congratulations!”
Named after a former SURFPAC commander who believed that material readiness was the foundation to the Navy’s warfighting ability, Rowden got the idea for the award shortly after taking command. A brief time later the annual Vice Admiral Thomas H. Copeman III Material Readiness Award was borne. It’s made up of two categories: young ships – those less than 15 years old, and the ships requiring additional work to maintain – those more than 15 years old.
Recognizing the recently announced calendar year 2015 winners, USS Mobile Bay was awarded top honors in the ships older than 15 category and USS Spruance was given top honors in the ships younger than 15 years category.