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SOUTH CHINA SEA - Comprised of ships and personnel from three U.S. 7th Fleet task forces, Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Tulsa (LCS 16), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd (DDG 100), and a detachment from Commander, Task Group (CTG) 75.1/Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit (EODMU) 5 joined together to form a Surface Action Group (SAG) while underway in the South China Sea.
The SAG formation marks the first time a deployed LCS and DDG have joined to form a surface task group, supplemented by navy expeditionary forces (NEF), expanding capabilities that enable the fleet commander to execute a full spectrum of maritime and theater littoral warfare operations, on, above and below the water.
“The tactical value of a SAG, comprised of LCS and DDG, operating in a distributed manner cannot be overstated,” said Rear Adm. Chris Engdahl, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7/Task Force (CTF) 76. “Combining the capabilities of these teams into one networked node demonstrates our commitment to regional stability across the entire theater. The demonstrated adaptability of these deployed forces are clear indications of U.S. 7th Fleet's continued support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”
Tulsa is on a rotational deployment from San Diego, under Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 7, supporting CTF 76/ ESG 7; deployed from Everett, Wash., Kidd is supporting CTF 71/DESRON 15; and EODMU 5/CTG 75.1 is forward deployed in Guam with CTF 75/NEF. While operating together in a surface action group, the units developed and improved integrated capability and lethality.
The SAG exercised several capabilities within the spectrum of surface warfare, mine countermeasure (MCM), and anti-submarine warfare. The units exercised dynamic maneuvering; MCM techniques with an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV); dual flight operations with MH-60S and MH-60R helicopters from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 21 det. 3 and Helicopter Maritime Squadron (HSM) 75 det. 2, respectively; and an underway replenishment with fleet replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe (T-AO 199).
“These types of SAG operations are exceptional opportunities to harness the combined lethality of the fleet,” said Capt. Chase Sargeant, commander, CTF 71/DESRON 15. “Destroyers integrating with LCS and amplified by the NEF push the boundaries of how we tactically employ our forces and builds a common understanding of our integrated warfighting capabilities.”
Integrating naval expeditionary forces aboard Tulsa increases shared mission understanding and expands interoperability, operational reach, and tactical focus. The forces have worked together over the previous three months, both in port and underway, to refine newly-developed techniques promulgated across the community.
“Similar to when Tulsa hosted NEF personnel in port Okinawa [Japan], we continue to showcase the versatility that LCS brings to the fleet,” said Cmdr. Brandon Cornes, commanding officer, Tulsa Blue Crew. “Practicing littoral warfare concepts as well as maritime warfare tactics with Kidd and with the integrated EOD mobile unit, we continue to forge new ways to operate in support of our fleet commanders.”
CTG 75.1 deployed Sailors aboard Tulsa and Kidd to conduct littoral maritime security operations within the SAG. The teams deployed with the expeditionary mine countermeasures (ExMCM) capability CTF 75, embarking the MK 18 Mod 1 Swordfish UUV. HSC-21 det. 3 and CTG 75.1 recently began rehearsing deployment of the UUV, and the continued practice with Tulsa enables the team to provide commanders with a full spectrum MCM operational capability.
“With the airborne mine countermeasures systems and organic systems we have on MCM-variant LCS, like Tulsa, with the complementary capabilities EOD ExMCM units provide, it’s a perfect match,” said Lt. Michael Ryan, HSC-21 det. 3 assistant officer-in-charge. “Pairing these capabilities expands the mission and range of both the SAG and ExMCM units, providing more flexibility and impact with a smaller footprint. I’m excited to see how this will develop.”
The Mk 18 Mod 1 is currently used by NEF to give the theater commander a wide range of options in the maritime domain. During SAG operations with Tulsa and Kidd, CTG 75.1 launched and recovered the UUV from Tulsa’s MH-60S and small boat to practice mine countermeasure insertion methods while embarked on a U.S. Navy vessel.
“Embarking ExMCM onboard Tulsa and Kidd reinforced our ability to conduct mine countermeasures operations from a variety of ships and aircraft,” said Lt. Kevin Stoddard, ExMCM CTG 75.1 company commander. “This unique integration opportunity in 7th Fleet helped build our proficiency and set the stage for future operations. We will continue pursuing integration events like this so that we can deliver our capability wherever and whenever the Fleet needs it.”
CTF 71, CTF 75, and CTF 76 are task forces assigned to U.S. 7th Fleet and operate in support of security and stability in the region, and work alongside allied and partner navies to provide maritime security and stability, key pillars of a free and open Indo-Pacific.