USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) and USS Truxtun (DDG 103) were also involved in the STEAMX.
During the exercise all four ships aligned themselves one behind another while moving at high speeds and close distances simulating a "Beryl Strait Transit."
"We had 2000 nautical yards of separation between us and maintained a speed of about 15 knots," said Lt. j.g. Molly Hanas, Philippine Sea's navigator. "On deployment we will be transiting through narrow passages like the Strait of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal. This exercise allows us to practice the formations we need in order to get the strike group through safely."
The STEAMX also included a fast attack craft (FAC)/fast inshore attack craft (FIAC) exercise, further testing the strike group's interface and communications.
"Basically FAC's are small militarized boats, whereas FIAC's are small customized commercial boats," said Lt. j.g. Daniel Cho, ship's force protection officer, and port bridge wing sniper during the exercise.
While transiting through narrow passages a ship can often encounter these smaller more agile militarized boats. For this reason formations are vital not only because of the limited space during a strait transit but also because of the safety concerns that come into play when transiting so close to land.
"Formations allow multiple ships to work together to identify each possible threat," said Chow.
When such threats are met the ship's nautical or otherwise photographic intelligence exploitation (SNOOPIE) team is activated. The SNOOPIE team is a reaction force made up of Sailors that have been trained to record and photograph unknown contacts that approach the ship within visual range.
"Typically when a threat enters within visual range the tactical action officer (TAO) will call away the SNOOPIE team," said Chief Intelligence Specialist Raynald P. Lemieux, ship's intelligence officer. "We have two minutes to get up to the bridge from wherever we're at on the ship."
The SNOOPIE team is specially trained in intelligence, collections and analysis of all air, surface and sub-surface threats. This training enables them to can quickly identify a contact and determine if its weapons are manned, unmanned, covered or uncovered.
"We can identify what the contact is and if it's displaying a threatening posture," said Lemieux. "The SNOOPIE team, along with our lookouts, provides the commanding officer (CO) and TAO a positive identification, giving them options."
All imagery captured is then forwarded off the ship for both intelligence gathering and documentation. Visual information (VI) documentation differs from intelligence gathering in that it is used to help defend against false accusations of an engagement.
"The photos and video we use to gather our intelligence plays a dual role," said Lemieux. "If someone is claiming that we fired upon them first then we can pull that video as evidence of the contrary."
The number of personnel on board, their actions, the types of weapons and their approach on the ship are all elements that that need to be recorded, said Lemieux.
"This transit exercise activated a lot more of our warfare components" said the ship's Executive Officer, Cmdr. Paul S. Nagy. "It involved team work on multiple levels between the crew and the ships themselves. I consider this one a win."
The Philippine Sea is participating in the GHWB GRUSL to improve strike group interoperability and prepare for an upcoming deployment.