Tuesday, July 31, 2007

JTFEX 07-2 Begins

Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69), USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) transit in formation with the Royal Navy's Invincible-class aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious (R 06) in the Atlantic Ocean. The three carriers are currently participating in Operation Bold Step where more than 15,000 service members from three countries partake in the Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFX). U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jay C. Pugh

By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Nathaniel Moger, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower Public Affairs

USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER, At Sea (NNS) -- Eisenhower Strike Group, comprised of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) (Ike), embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7 and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 28, began conducting a Joint Tactical Fleet Exercise (JTFEX) with Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (HSTCSG) and the Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Illustrious CSG off the coast of the Eastern Seaboard in the Atlantic Ocean July 25.

JTFEX is an integrated strike group exercise designed to test the capabilities of multiple carrier strike groups operating in a multinational, joint environment. It is the final building block of a carrier workup cycle, designed to mimic real life.

“We treat this like we’re on deployment,” said Cmdr. Matt Baker, Ike’s operations officer.

JTFEX begins as a political problem that will develop into an actual battle. This type of free-form training challenges Eisenhower Strike Group on many different fronts.

“There are a number of different warfare areas that need to integrate,” said Baker. "Air warfare, undersea warfare, surface warfare, information warfare; everyone
is involved.”

“For the DESRON, mission planning and continuous training for our ships are our main areas of focus. JTFEX allows the staff to fine-tune our planning process while our ships maintain their readiness through a robust schedule of events,” said Lt. Cmdr. Albert Seeman, DESRON 28 Combat Systems and Force Protection officer.

This means Ike is not just being tested in warfare areas traditionally associated with a carrier strike group, like strike missions and anti-submarine warfare, but also information and political warfare.

“We will get simulated intelligence and act on it,” said Baker. “Information is power and we dedicate time and thought to protecting it.”

This doesn’t mean all the action is simulated. With three carrier air wings from two nations operating in the same area, the air space will begin to look crowded and poses its own challenges.

“It will require good communication,” said Baker. “We’re looking for synergy between the operations of the three air wings.”

While Truman Strike Group is ramping up for an upcoming deployment, Eisenhower Strike Group recently completed an extended deployment to the 5th Fleet area of operations in support of maritime security operations and Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. This means certain elements of Eisenhower Strike Group will be practicing skills they haven’t used in a while.

“JTFEX let’s us maintain the level of readiness we had before we came home,” said Command Master Chief (AW/ SW) Jon Echolls of Strike Fighter Squadron 103, the “Jolly Rogers.”

“It’ll allow us to go through the cyclic flight ops we were performing a couple of months ago in case we’re called away again.”

With its status as the Atlantic Fleet surge-ready aircraft carrier, Ike’s crew faces a challenge steeper than getting ready for deployment; they have to stay at the top of their game.

“It’s not just another opportunity for us to show we know what we’re doing,” said Baker. “Coming off deployment - we were operating at our highest level of readiness. Now we’re looking to stay up there.”

Ike is currently underway conducting JTFEX 07-2 off the coast of North Carolina and Florida with USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75).