Third Optimized Fleet Response Plan Carrier Strike Group Returns Home

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By Rear Adm. Bruce Lindsey
Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic

After completing a seven-month deployment in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of operations in support of maritime theater security operations and flying missions supporting Operation Inherent Resolve over the skies of Iraq and Syria, the ships and squadrons of the USS George H.W. Bush Carrier Strike Group returned safely home.

Thousands of friends and family members lined the piers of Naval Station Norfolk to welcome home more than 6,000 strike group Sailors! More than 300 Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 8 aircrew flew home to cheering, flag-waving crowds in Norfolk, Oceana, Mayport and Whidbey Island.

While deployed, CVW-8 and USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) launched 11,437 sorties, completed 1,924 combat missions. With flawless execution the aviators successfully delivered 1,717 pieces of ordnance on target with devastating lethality. By the end of the deployment, our aviators logged an amazing 30,873 flight hours and 7,868 arrested landings. These impressive numbers set post-Desert Storm records for any CVN/CVW team.

This deployment is yet another example of the pivotal role naval aviation plays in our national defense. As the U.S. Navy’s ‘Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority’ states, we have the mission to “conduct PROMPT and SUSTAINED combat power from and at sea, necessary to fight and win decisively in contested and denied environments against our enemies.” That is exactly what the men and women of CVW-8 and the strike group accomplished on deployment. The team delivered a devastating blow to the capabilities of ISIS, allowing our partners on the battlefield to employ a strategic initiative to retake large swaths of land in Northern Iraq and Syria.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 8, 2017) The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) operate in formation during exercise Saxon Warrior 2017. The United States and United Kingdom co-hosted carrier strike group exercise demonstrates interoperability and capability to respond to crises and deter potential threats. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Zingaro/Released)
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 8, 2017) The Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77), Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) operate in formation during exercise Saxon Warrior 2017. The United States and United Kingdom co-hosted carrier strike group exercise demonstrates interoperability and capability to respond to crises and deter potential threats. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael B. Zingaro/Released)

I have written several blog posts about how our carriers benefit from the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP). OFRP is designed to maximize our return on training and maintenance investments, to maintain Sailor quality of life and ensure units are fully employable and deployable. By the time the strike group deployed, it was at the peak of readiness and this was clearly demonstrated through their record-setting accomplishments.

With USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) now at Norfolk Naval Shipyard to begin her maintenance phase, the first phase of the four-part OFRP cycle, George H.W. Bush enters the post deployment portion of its sustainment phase to maintain her combat readiness in order to be prepared to deploy fully ready combat forces if required by our Nation.

While George H.W. Bush is in her sustainment phase, CVW-8 will also be in sustainment. For the air wing, this means several underway periods to maintain their carrier qualification requirements, maintain their aircraft at optimum performance levels and provide continuous training in combat flight operations and maintenance.

Meeting these standards will allow CVW-8 to effectively remain combat ready around the clock in the event the president of the United States decides they need to surge an additional carrier strike group.

This will be a challenge, but I have every confidence that the George H. W. Bush Carrier Strike Group team will not only meet but also exceed our leadership’s standards and expectations.

Finally, I send my strongest congratulations to entire carrier strike group for your tireless efforts and commitment to the Navy’s standard of excellence. Bravo Zulu, well done and welcome home!

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 18, 2017) Sailors assigned to the "Tomcatters" of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31 celebrate as the squadron flies over the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). The ship and its carrier strike group were transiting home from a scheduled seven-month deployment in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage/Released)
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 18, 2017) Sailors assigned to the “Tomcatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 31 celebrate as the squadron flies over the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77). The ship and its carrier strike group were transiting home from a scheduled seven-month deployment in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in the U.S. 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Matt Matlage/Released)


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Third Optimized Fleet Response Plan Carrier Strike Group Returns Home

F-35C Integration into the Fleet

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By Rear Adm. Roy Kelley
Director, Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Fleet Integration Office

As the first director for the Navy’s F-35C Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) Fleet Integration Office, I have enjoyed the opportunities and challenges of bringing fifth-generation strike-fighter capabilities to the fleet. As this highly advanced weapons system matures, I am convinced the F-35C will be a cornerstone platform that plays a crucial role in mission success for Carrier Air Wings (CVW), Carrier Strike Groups (CSG) and numbered fleets. The F-35C will be a game-changer for the Navy.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 20, 2016) An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant, assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, flies above the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). VX-23 is conducting its third and final developmental test (DT-III) phase aboard George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean. The F-35C is expected to be fleet operational in 2018. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wyatt L. Anthony)
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 20, 2016) An F-35C Lightning II carrier variant, assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, flies above the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Wyatt L. Anthony)

The F-35C Lightning II will introduce next generation strike-fighter aircraft capabilities to the Navy CVW , enabling the CSG and numbered fleets to effectively engage and survive a wide range of rapidly evolving threats, both air and surface, in contested airspace.

The unique capabilities of the F-35C, coupled with the proven capabilities and capacity of current United States Navy fighter aircraft, significantly enhance a CSG’s battle space awareness, lethality and survivability. In supporting a principle Department of Defense investment objective of balancing modernization and readiness, the Navy remains committed to selecting the right procurement ramp for F-35C to balance strike-fighter inventory management with the cost and time required to field advanced capabilities. The Navy will maintain and sustain much of its current force in order to guarantee mission success against the threats of today, as well as the high-end threats of the future.

Near-peer adversaries are advancing technologically and economically, resulting in proliferation of highly capable Integrated Air Defense Systems, high performance aircraft and information operations to include:

  • Long-range air surveillance radars and airborne early warning aircraft
  • Long-range surface-to-air missiles
  • Highly maneuverable, low observable adversary aircraft
  • Jamming and anti-jamming operations against communication, radar and Global Positioning System satellites

Left unchecked, this threat proliferation will constrain the CSG’s ability to project power. As technologies continue to advance, the future air wing will continue to adapt as it always has, particularly to increase its capacity to contribute to the sea control mission, conducting both kinetic and non-kinetic operations. The F-35C will be the CSG’s first choice to penetrate and operate in these contested environments, providing a day-one strike capability. Integrated with other fleet assets, the F-35C’s tactical agility and strategic flexibility are critical to maintain a long-term decisive tactical advantage.

F-35C Lightning II carrier variants, assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, prepare to take off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alora R. Blosch)
F-35C Lightning II carrier variants, assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, prepare to take off from the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Alora R. Blosch)

While the day one capability provided allows the F-35C to perform at the “tip of the spear,” its interoperability within the CVW and unique ability to support and augment already fielded legacy platforms is essential to sustaining the Navy’s combat lethality now and in the future. In the near term, legacy aircraft will continue to comprise the majority of the CVW. The CVW’s  inherent integrated capability design will enable the distribution of information collected by F-35Cs to enhance the effectiveness and survivability of all sea, air and land platforms throughout the battle space. The mix of both legacy and next generation aircraft operating from carrier flight decks provides the necessary complementary capability and capacity to pace the rapidly evolving threat…a formula which guarantees the CVW of the future remains lethal, survivable and able to accomplish the full spectrum of CSG and numbered fleet mission sets while providing an effective and affordable balance across the strike fighter inventory.

Four F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighters fly in formation over Naval Air Station Lemoore.
LEMOORE, Calif. (Jan. 25, 2017) Four F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighters fly in formation over Naval Air Station Lemoore. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Eshleman/Released)

The Navy expects to deploy the first operational F-35C squadron in 2021. Underpinning this deployment is the service declaration of Initial Operating Capability, which is based on providing a validated and verified combat capable aircraft prior to first deployment. The means to validate that capability is the successful demonstration of operational test in the 3F software configuration. The 3F configured F-35C provides warfighting capability to accomplish primary Navy missions to include: Attack, Close Air Support and Suppression and Destruction of Enemy Air Defense as well as Offensive and Defensive Counter Air.

Follow on modernization capabilities planned for the F-35C program will ensure that a CSG is able to consistently meet and defeat expected advanced threats now and well into the future. Follow on modernization will be implemented in order to continue to advance F-35C capability and improve lethality and survivability across all mission sets and enable operations in areas of increasingly sophisticated threats, leveraging intelligence assessment of the future battlespace.

For the CVW of the future to out-pace the rapidly evolving threat, it is critically important to ensure that F-35C capabilities are integrated and interoperable with existing ships and aircraft within the CSG and the numbered fleets.

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 20, 2016) Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Daniel Booth, from Manchester, New Hampshire, directs an F-35C Lightning II carrier variant, assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). VX-23 is conducting its third and final developmental test (DT-III) phase aboard George Washington in the Atlantic Ocean. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Clemente A. Lynch)
ATLANTIC OCEAN (Aug. 20, 2016) Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Daniel Booth, from Manchester, New Hampshire, directs an F-35C Lightning II carrier variant, assigned to the Salty Dogs of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 23, on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Clemente A. Lynch)

Weapons integration, radar improvements, electronic warfare capabilities, interoperability, and real-time information sharing must continue to progress in order to guarantee mission success in the future high-end threat environment. The full integration of these capabilities within the CSG / CVW  team, combined with the F-35C’s ability to distribute this information across multiple platforms within the numbered fleets, is the cornerstone of how the future Navy will fight and win.

Recognizing Naval Aviation’s capability of today and the need for increased capability tomorrow, the Navy remains committed to pursuing the right procurement ramp for F-35C to balance inventory management, affordability and force modernization. A detailed asset allocation study determined that the most efficient and effective composition of strike fighters for the future CVW  is two squadrons of F-35C and two of F/A-18E/F. With 10 CVWs , the Navy’s objective is to attain 20 F-35C squadrons, two per CVW  by the early-2030s.  This strategy calls for the continued procurement of low rate initial production aircraft and the enhanced capabilities of Block 3F software, and eventually Block 4’s advanced capabilities. The Navy’s plan for full rate production optimizes the force for the introduction of next generation capabilities to the Navy in the near term, while allowing the fleet to build the community and work integration solutions.

A Navy CSG requires the speed, endurance, flexibility and ability to operate in hostile environments autonomously.

Four F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighters fly in formation over Naval Air Station Lemoore.
LEMOORE, Calif. (Jan. 25, 2017) Four F-35C Lightning II joint strike fighters fly in formation over Naval Air Station Lemoore. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Zachary Eshleman/Released)

The F-35C’s stealth characteristics, long-range combat identification and ability to penetrate threat envelopes, while fusing multiple information sources into a coherent picture, will enhance the role that the CSG and numbered fleets must play in support of our national interests. Ultimately, with the F-35C integrated and interoperable with the CVW, the CSG of the future will continue to be lethal, survivable and able to accomplish the entire spectrum of mission sets to include day one response to high end threats. The Navy remains dedicated to a capability focused approach as we evolve the CVW  and the CSG. The F-35C’s capability will provide decision superiority to the nation’s warfighters to ensure that if deterrence fails, the United States can conduct decisive combat operations to defeat any adversary.

I look forward to the day in the not-too-distant future when Lightning II is a common participant in training and deployed operations for the Navy. The F-35C will undoubtedly play a critical role in the integrated maritime force that we will depend on to execute Navy’s mission for decades to come.

Check out the F-35C in action below!


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F-35C Integration into the Fleet

Battle of Coral Sea leads to Midway: A comeback for U.S. Navy

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By Rear Adm. John Fuller
Commander, Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific

Seventy-five years ago today, May 12, 1942, American submarines inflicted the final major casualties of the Battle of the Coral Sea, a fight that tested the skill of our Navy on, under and above the sea.

The Battle of the Coral Sea etched names in our history and heritage: Rear Adm. Frank Jack Fletcher, Lt. “Jo Jo” Powers, Lt. Milton Ricketts, Dauntlesses Devastators aircraft (VB 2, VB 5, VS 2, VS 5, VT 2, VT 5), USS Hammann (DDG 412), USS Neosho (AO 23), USS Lexington (CV 2) and USS Yorktown (CV 5).

A mushroom cloud rises after a heavy explosion on board USS Lexington (CV 2), May 8, 1942. This is probably the great explosion from the detonation of torpedo warheads stowed in the starboard side of the hangar, aft, that followed an explosion amidships at 5:27 p.m. Note USS Yorktown (CV-5) on the horizon in the left center, and destroyer USS Hammann (DD 412) at the extreme left. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
A mushroom cloud rises after a heavy explosion on board USS Lexington (CV 2), May 8, 1942. This is probably the great explosion from the detonation of torpedo warheads stowed in the starboard side of the hangar, aft, that followed an explosion amidships at 5:27 p.m. Note USS Yorktown (CV 5) on the horizon in the left center, and destroyer USS Hammann (DD 412) at the extreme left. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The enemy sank our aircraft carrier USS Lexington and so badly damaged another carrier, USS Yorktown, they thought it too was lost.

But the carrier, captain and crew were tough, resilient and determined. And so was our Navy.

On May 27, Yorktown made it back into the Pearl Harbor channel and eased into drydock at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, met by Adm. Chester Nimitz, who conducted an immediate inspection.

Back then, Sailors and civilians were still in recovery mode after the attacks of Dec. 7, 1941. Shipyard workers were repairing hulls, propellers and pumps on damaged ships.

Simultaneously, ashore at what is now known as Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, preparations were underway for the battle that would turn the tides in America’s favor in the war in the Pacific.

While Imperial Japan felt emboldened and confident after the destruction the Japanese inflicted to our Pacific Fleet battleships, we were quietly getting ready to engage in multiple domains, including cyber, through codebreaking.

At Station Hypo in Building One, Navy code breakers, led by Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton and Lt. Cmdr. Joe Rochefort, provided intelligence to Nimitz about the enemy’s plans to attack Midway Atoll. The surprise, combined with luck and courage, would give the Americans the edge despite the armada they faced at Midway.

Meanwhile, at the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard, workers, who had already been working for months to salvage, recover and repair warships in the harbor, would have to perform a miracle for Yorktown.

View of damage on USS Yorktown’s third and fourth decks, amidships, caused by a 250 kilogram bomb hit received during the Battle of Coral Sea. This view looks forward and to starboard from the ship's centerline at frame 110. The photographer is in compartment C-301-L , shooting down through the third deck into compartment C-402-A. The large hole in the deck was made by the bomb's explosion. Many men were killed or badly injured in C-301-L, a crew's messing space that was the assembly area for the ship's engineering repair party. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
View of damage on USS Yorktown’s third and fourth decks, amidships, caused by a 250 kilogram bomb hit received during the Battle of Coral Sea. This view looks forward and to starboard from the ship’s centerline at frame 110. The photographer is in compartment C-301-L , shooting down through the third deck into compartment C-402-A. The large hole in the deck was made by the bomb’s explosion. Many men were killed or badly injured in C-301-L, a crew’s messing space that was the assembly area for the ship’s engineering repair party. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

Nimitz ordered the ship to be ready in three days.

According to historian Thomas Cutler, “Civilian yard workers swarmed aboard armed with a different arsenal of war – hammers, acetylene torches and the like – and soon the ship echoed with a cacophony of frantic but purposeful activity. Working around the clock in temperatures sometimes reaching 120 degrees, these workers labored in an eerie world of pulsating light, choking smoke, pungent fumes and a racing clock. Three days later, the resurrection was complete. Yorktown steamed down the channel, headed for sea and ‘rendezvous with destiny,’ civilian workers spilling from her insides into small boats alongside as she went.”

Cutler said the U.S. Navy’s victory at the Battle of Midway is shared by those workers here at Pearl Harbor. “The miracle began when others fought exhaustion and the clock to do the seemingly impossible.”

Japanese facilities burning on Tanambogo Island, east of Tulagi, Aug. 7, 1942 – the Battle of Guadalcanal invasion's first day. This view looks about ESE, with Gavutu Island to the right, connected to Tanambogo by a causeway. Small island to the left is Gaomi. The Florida Islands are in the distance. Photographed from an SBD aircraft based on one of the supporting U.S. aircraft carriers. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)
Japanese facilities burning on Tanambogo Island, east of Tulagi, Aug. 7, 1942 – the Battle of Guadalcanal invasion’s first day. This view looks about ESE, with Gavutu Island to the right, connected to Tanambogo by a causeway. Small island to the left is Gaomi. The Florida Islands are in the distance. Photographed from an SBD aircraft based on one of the supporting U.S. aircraft carriers. (U.S. Navy photo/Released)

The war in the Pacific started in Pearl Harbor and so did the comeback.

After Midway, our Sailors and Marines continued to fight across the Pacific and northward from Guadalcanal, eventually defeating Imperial Japan and setting the stage for greater freedom, democracy and prosperity.

Editor’s note: Fuller is finishing up his tour as commander of Navy Region Hawaii and Naval Surface Group Middle Pacific. He is slated to become commander of Carrier Strike Group 1 this summer.


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Battle of Coral Sea leads to Midway: A comeback for U.S. Navy