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EAST CHINA SEA - The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Benfold (DDG 65) conducted coordinated maneuvering events, Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES), and a search-and-rescue (SAR) swimmer training event with the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) (PLA(N) Aug. 12.
Two officers from PLA(N)’s Jiangkai II class frigate Daqing (FFG 576) got underway with Benfold while two Benfold officers got underway on Daqing. During their time aboard, each pair of officers observed operations on their respective ship’s bridge and joined the wardroom for lunch before returning to their own vessel after the short engagement.
“What an amazing experience, an opportunity to host two naval officers from the People’s Liberation Army (Navy) onboard while sending two U.S. naval officers underway on a Chinese warship," said Cmdr. Justin Harts, commanding officer, USS Benfold. "We conducted several underway drills using CUES and communicated back and forth in both English and Mandarin between the two ships with PLAN officers on Benfold's bridge.”
During the engagement, the ships practiced tactical signals to maneuver into lead and trail positions as well as CUES to facilitate clear and professional communication between the ships.
“This engagement helped to strengthen our continued use of CUES in an effort to reinforce international norms when operating in close proximity to each other,” said Lt. Christopher Ragsdale, operations officer aboard Benfold.
Benfold used CUES with Daqing on both the arrival transit into Qindao, China on Aug. 8 and the departure on Aug. 12. CUES is a set of guidelines for unplanned maritime encounters with the aim of reducing incidences at sea, providing standards for communication, safety procedures and maneuvering instructions for naval ships and aircraft.
The final event in the engagement practiced search and rescue where both the Daqing and Benfold searched for, and rescued, simulated victims dropped by a PLA(N) support ship. Each ship independently spotted their simulated victim, maneuvered to recover, and deployed a small boat with a SAR swimmer onboard.
“This joint SAR interoperability event furthered our common goals of developing mutual understanding,” said Ensign Sean McNeil, strike warfare officer and a SAR swimmer aboard Benfold. “I cannot think of a more fitting way to conclude our visit here in the People’s Republic of China. We were successfully able to demonstrate that we possess the ability to overcome the challenges and dangers faced by all people who go to sea.”
The engagement concluded after the Daqing and Benfold officers were returned to their respective vessels and the two ships came up to speed, paralleled, and manned the rails before breaking off on separate courses.
“They also showed an intense interest in American customs and humor, seeking to confirm rumors they had heard about American ship's playing music over the loud speakers,” Harts said. “So upon saying farewell to the Chinese frigate at the end of the engagement we broke away at high speed while playing a little AC/DC for them.”
Benfold is forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan, and is currently underway in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the Indo-Asian Pacific.