Saturday, May 29, 2010

Multiple Enterprise Strike Group Ships Operate Together for First Time

By Ensign Michael Hatfield, USS Enterprise Public Affairs

USS ENTERPRISE, At Sea (NNS) -- Several Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (ENTSG) ships operated together at sea for the first time May 27 in a display of operational prowess not usually occurring until later in a strike group's training cycle.

The aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and guided-missile destroyers USS Stout (DDG 55), USS Mason (DDG 87) and USS Bulkeley (DDG 84), assigned to Destroyer Squadron 2 performed maneuvers as Enterprise launched sorties from the flight deck.

The destroyers took turns behind the carrier in the 'plane guard' position which allows the carrier to continue launching aircraft during wartime even if a plane goes down, because the destroyer acting in that capacity will lead the recovery effort.

"There is a steep learning curve and little margin for error while maneuvering so close to a carrier," said Lt. Cmdr. Eric Moyer, anti-air warfare officer for ENTSG assigned to Carrier Strike Group 12. "It is outstanding that we have the opportunity to conduct integrated seamanship operations this early in the training cycle."

The destroyers also operated in the 'screen' position which is in charge of protecting the aircraft carrier itself. Carriers are considered a high-value target for enemies due to their ability to launch overwhelming air power rapidly, and deep inland, for sustained periods.

Stout, Mason and Bulkeley took turns in each position throughout the day.

The interoperability of U.S. ships is a key component to its decisive naval superiority and allows crews to develop their skills in their assigned warfare areas to the benefit of the entire strike group.

Instead of one ship trying to do everything, warfare tasks, including their command and control requirements, are divided amongst the ships and staff best equipped and trained to cover that core function.

This means that a guided missile destroyer, whose abilities include anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare, long-range strike and anti-surface warfare, can be assigned one of these areas to focus on for the entire strike group. This allows others to focus on different assigned warfare areas, and this division of labor makes the strike group more effective than the sum of their individual parts.

"During the training cycle and on deployment, these ships will defend Enterprise and other ships in the strike group from enemy submarines, ships and aircraft," said Lt. Cmdr. John Bartak, ENTSG Tomahawk land attack missile officer assigned to Carrier Strike Group 12. "They also bring another strike capability to our group because they carry Tomahawk cruise missiles."

The cooperative maneuvering followed a day after Enterprise completed her first at-sea ammunition on-load in more than two years.

Pilots from the 'Dragonslayers' of Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 11 and the 'Chargers' of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 22 flew more than 1,400 lifts during the two-day event. The two squadrons are attached to Carrier Air Wing 1 which provides the air capability for the strike group.

ENTSG will continually increase its interoperability and cooperative training until all of its ships and squadrons are ready for deployment.