Skip to content
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.


August 25, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Why USS Coronado’s OTH Harpoon Missile Live-Fire Matters


PHILIPPINE SEA (Aug. 22, 2017) A harpoon missile launches from the missile deck of the littoral combat ship USS Coronado (LCS 4) as part of Pacific Griffin 2017. As the most complex and comprehensive exercise between the U.S. and The Republic of Singapore Navy to date, Pacific Griffin 2017 represents the enhanced capabilities of both navies to operate and work together to ensure maritime security and stability. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Fire Controlman Adam Hoffer/Released)

USS Coronado (LCS 4) conducted a successful live-fire test of a Harpoon Block 1C missile which then struck a surface target a significant distance beyond the ship’s visual range during exercise Pacific Griffin 2017 off the coast of Guam, August 22. This is an important event in the U.S. Navy’s commitment to advancing the capability of the harpoon missile system on board littoral combat ships (LCS).

The harpoon is an all-weather, over-the-horizon (OTH) weapon designed to execute anti-ship missions against a range of surface targets. It can be launched from surface ships, submarines and aircraft and is currently used on 50 U.S. Navy ships, including select littoral combat ships.

Coronado used an MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned aerial system (UAS) and an MH-60S Seahawk helicopter, both part of the ship’s rotary-wing air detachment, to provide targeting support for the missile. The firing demonstrated both the Navy’s broader objective of delivering OTH targeting using shipboard UASs as well as Coronado’s ability to use them.

Coronado’s OTH targeting ability significantly increases the range of the Harpoon Weapons System, allowing striking solutions without need of visual range of target and allowing Coronado to project combat power across significantly farther ranges within a broad spectrum of maritime warfare. This ability also represents another technologically advanced system the Navy can use to respond quickly and professionally to global events.

The ship’s successful firing of the harpoon OTH missile system shows the lethality LCS can offer while deployed overseas.

“LCS will play an important role in protecting shipping and vital U.S. interests in the maritime crossroads,” said Rear Adm. Don Gabrielson, commander, Task Force 73. “Its ability to pair unmanned vehicles like Fire Scout with Harpoon missiles to strike from the littoral shadows matters – there are over fifty thousand islands in the arc from the Philippines to India; those shallow crossroads are vital world interests. Harpoon and Fire Scout showcase one of the growing tool combinations in our modular LCS capability set, and this complex shot demonstrates why LCS has Combat as its middle name.”

August 18, 2017 / iDriveWarships

SURFPAC Surface Line Week 2017


SURFPAC Surface Line Week 2017 Overall 1st Place, Large Command, USS Boxer

There’s nothing like a little friendly competition to get the blood flowing and lift moral among shipmates. The Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S Pacific Fleet hosted Surface Line Week (SLW) has offered that for 36 years.

SLW gives San Diego area Sailors, Marines, and Department of the Navy civilian employees an opportunity to come together to compete in both athletic and professional events and build camaraderie within the Surface community and along the waterfront each summer.


SAN DIEGO (Aug. 17, 2017) Sailors participate in a damage control competition as part of the 36th annual Surface Line Week (SLW) in San Diego. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Phil Ladouceur)

“It’s always great to see the friendly competition,” said Lt. Amanda Towey, this year’s SLW coordinator. “These team sports really have an incredible level of camaraderie and all around fun.”

Commands compete in large, medium and small unit categories, accumulating points for each event they participate in throughout the week to identify the top command in each category. The week culminated with an award presentation where Vice Admiral Tom Rowden, Commander, Naval Surface Force, U.S Pacific Fleet announced many SLW winners including:

Overall 1st Place, Large command: USS Boxer (LHD 4)

Overall 1st Place, Medium command: USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26)

Overall 1st Place, Small command: Transient Personnel Unit

SMWDC Particpates in Surface Line Week 2017

San Diego, Calif. (Aug. 16, 2017) Lt. Ben Olivas, a Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) assigned to Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), competes in a swimming event as part of Surface Line Week (SLW) 2017 on board Naval Base San Diego, Aug. 15. (U.S. Navy Photo by Lt. Matthew Stroup/Released)

Commands participated in professional skills challenges such as sailing, photography, cake decorating, lathe work, marksmanship, medical diagnosis, rescue swimmer, ship handling, valve packing, visual communications, maneuvering board (MoBoard), seamanship, and welding and cutting. They also competed in a damage control marathon, a stretcher bearer race, and a rigid-hulled inflatable boat race. This year’s SLW also featured athletic tournaments such as golf, softball, basketball, bowling, dodge ball, flag football, tennis, volleyball, soccer, and racquetball, as well as weightlifting, billiards, a 5k run, swimming, push-up and pull-up endurance challenges and functional fitness competitions.

Congratulations to all of the winners and everyone who participated! The coveted award of overall winner, which comes with the most bragging rights, will be announced at the annual Surface Warrior Ball August 26.


For more information on SURFPAC’s Surface Line Week 2017, click here or visit their Surface Line Week Facebook page here.



August 11, 2017 / iDriveWarships

75 Years Later: The Raid on Makin Island


Sgt. Walter Carroll and Pfc. Dean Winters of the 2nd Marine Raiders Battalion – “Carlson’s Raiders” – prepare to debark from the submarine USS Nautilus before the Makin Raid. The strike was designed to divert Japanese attention from the U.S. landings on Guadalcanal and boost American morale. National Archives photo

In honor of the 75th anniversary of the raid on Makin Island we bring you the inspiring story of grit and determination of the strike. This World War II battle became not only the stuff of legend, but the namesake of several of U.S. Navy ships.

The coral atoll in the Pacific’s Gilbert Island chain known as Makin Island (though it’s real name is Makin Atoll) became the site of American troops’ first amphibious attack made from submarines. The raid on Makin Island began August 17, 1942 when 222 Marines from two companies of the 2nd Raider Battalion launched from submarines USS Argonaut (APS 1) and USS Nautilus (SS 168).

The Raiders’ mission was to destroy the Japanese installations, gain intelligence on the area, take prisoners, and divert Japanese attention and reinforcements from Guadalcanal and Tulagi, where American Marines had landed earlier in the month.

Marine Lt. Col. Evans F. Carlson led the men ashore under the cover of night. Notable amongst his troops was his executive officer, Maj. James Roosevelt, the son of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. However, things didn’t exactly go as planned.


Makin Atoll, aka Makin Island

Once topside the men, known as “Carlson’s Raiders,” were met with gale force winds and rough seas. While making their way to the beach many of their small boat engines were drowned out by the bad weather, and the men had to paddle them to shore. As the Raiders arrived, they spotted a small boat and a large transport ship in the waters nearby. Using only radios to relay communications and compass readings from Carlson, Nautilus fired her 6-inch guns into the night and was able to sink both vessels.

Despite all this, the men were able to remain undetected until landing on the beach. Shortly after landing, an accidental burst of gunfire from one of the men’s rifles announced their arrival. Within 20 minutes the fighting began. As the mission unfolded, the men faced-off against everything from heavy sniper fire, tanks, and machine guns, to flamethrowers and aerial bombing from at least 12 aircraft. But they were able to evade the threat and eliminate the enemy.

After several attempts the men were able to pass the breakers August 18 and make their way aboard the submarines, which immediately steamed to Pearl Harbor. An accurate account of the men couldn’t be made until they reached Hawaii. There it was revealed 30 of Carlson’s Raider’s hadn’t returned.


Marine Raiders and Sailors crowd the deck of USS Argonaut as she is warped into the dock at Pearl Harbor after the Makin Island raid. National Archives photo

It was eventually determined that seven drowned, 14 were killed by Japanese forces, and nine were unaccounted for. It was later discovered those nine were somehow marooned on the island. With help from sympathetic locals they evaded Japanese forces for some time but were eventually caught and taken to Kwajalein where they were beheaded.

While there has been some debate about the success of the mission objectives, it was at the time considered both a success and a morale raiser for the troops, as well as a sign to the world that the U.S. was gaining control of the war.

The will and determination of Carlson’s Raiders left a lasting impression and less than two years later the Casablanca-class escort carrier USS Makin Island (CVE 93) was commissioned. Although the original Makin Island was decommissioned in 1946, the gritty, fighting spirit of her namesake Raiders is carried on in the present USS Makin Island (LHD 8), an amphibious assault ship.

USS Makin Island is home ported in San Diego where the crew is now enjoying some time ashore after returning from a seven-month deployment in July.

August 4, 2017 / iDriveWarships

From Training to Real Life Success: Driving an LCS

In The Bridge

OOD Lieutenant Natalie Schimelpfenig, right, and JOOD Lieutenant Junior Grade Travyn Mapes, left

Guest Blog By: Lieutenant Natalie Schimelpfenig, USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) Navigator

Officer of the Deck (OOD) is the most coveted underway watchstations for a young ensign on board a U.S Navy warship. This position gives junior officers a great amount of authority because while standing the watch they act as a direct representative of the ship’s captain and are responsible for the navigation and safety of the vessel. Although OODs are assisted by other navigation watchstanders on the bridge team, it’s an intense role to fill.

I originally attended OOD training en route to my first ship, USS Lake Erie (CG 70). It consisted of several hours in a virtual reality headset simulator under the close watch of experienced officers. While driving in this virtual environment, I practiced giving steering commands, driving through various weather and traffic conditions, and performing mooring evolutions. I felt the training gave me more than enough preparation to drive my newly assigned ship. After standing bridge watches during workups and a 7th Fleet deployment on board Lake Erie, I was even more confident in my ship driving ability and ready to finally take the deck.

Later, when I received orders to Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Crew 101, I was surprised to see that I would be attending three more months of OOD training before joining the command. As it turns out, the high speed OOD School in Newport, Rhode Island was the best school I’ve attended in my four years of naval service.

In the Bridge

OOD Lieutenant Natalie Schimelpfenig, right, and JOOD Lieutenant Junior Grade Travyn Mapes, left

The two major differences for an OOD on an LCS, vice standing the watch on a conventional ship, are the hands on approach to ship driving and the increased amount of responsibility. While conventional ships have watch teams of about ten Sailors to handle all bridge responsibilities, the LCS relies on the OOD and JOOD. In addition to assisting the OOD with radar operation and voice communications, the JOOD takes on the responsibilities of the traditional Quartermaster of the Watch, who performs navigation duties and maintains the deck log, and the Boatswains Mate of the Watch, who makes all shipboard loudspeaker announcements via the 1MC. The OOD is primarily tasked with driving. Using two handles called “combinators” that control the ship’s four water jets, the OOD can use the jets to direct the ship in twists that can shift the ship port or starboard while keeping the ship on its original heading.

After more than 100 hours of simulator time spent mastering high speed operations and precision ship handling, I was given the opportunity to drive a real LCS for the first time in April while we were underway for a weekend of refresher training. Our commanding officer, Commander Spencer Austin, decided to perform an anchorage just off the coast of San Diego. Once the order was given, seeing the bridge and anchoring teams spring into action and conduct a safe evolution with such ease was incredible. Performing a precision anchorage involves driving to a chosen anchoring location and stopping the ship within 25 yards of that location. With unexpected traffic and the fading light of the day, my team expertly supported my driving and I gave the command to “let go the anchor” within seven yards of our intended spot.

In the Bridge

OOD Lieutenant Natalie Schimelpfenig, right, and JOOD Lieutenant Junior Grade Travyn Mapes, left

Less than 24 hours later I checked off another ship driving first. In the simulators, every junior officer practices pier work without tugboat assistance. However, most OODs will never get to put those skills to the test in the fleet. That wasn’t the case for me. My captain has such confidence in his Sailors’ abilities that he allows all of his OODs to attempt to moor without help from the tugboats. So, the next morning after our successful anchoring, my JOOD and I pulled into port. With my captain’s trust, and many hours of intensely realistic simulator training, I successfully moored without tugs for our weapons offload. It was an amazing moment in my career.

From my first experiences on USS Lake Erie, to my most recent on USS Fort Worth, I’m grateful for the opportunities I’ve been afforded and earned in the Navy. It’s rewarding to know that hard work will continue to pay off!

July 28, 2017 / iDriveWarships

5 Things to Know about Future USS Rafael Peralta

As the U.S. Navy grows more highly capable warships are being added to the fleet’s Surface Forces. One such ship, the future USS Rafael Peralta (DDG 115), will be commissioned into active duty naval service in a ceremony at Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, California tomorrow, July 29. With due pomp and circumstance, the guided missile destroyer named in honor of the late U.S. Marine Corps Sgt. Rafael Peralta will be brought to life. Once the ship is commissioned it will serve the nation for several decades and surely, just as its namesake was, USS Rafael Peralta and its crew will live up to the ships’ motto of, “Fortis Ad Finem,” and be “Courageous to the End.”

The ship’s namesake was killed November 15, 2004 during the Second Battle of Fallujah, when Peralta used his own body to cover a live grenade, saving the lives of his squad members. He was 25 years old. In recognition of his selfless actions, Peralta was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross, the Purple Heart and the Combat Action Ribbon. He’s buried at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego.

July 14, 2017 / iDriveWarships

Get to Know USS John Finn (DDG 113)

The U.S. Navy‘s newest Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer, the future USS John Finn (DDG 113), is set to be commissioned in a ceremony at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii Saturday, July 15. Before the ship named for an American hero joins the fleet on active duty, get to know a little about the ship and it’s namesake, Medal of Honor recipient John Finn. Live video from the commissioning is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. EDT/ 10 a.m. HST and is available by clicking here or visiting

Screen Shot 2017-07-14 at 3.51.28 PM

USS John Finn (DDG 113), welcome to the fleet!


%d bloggers like this: