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USS Decatur brings naval edge to Alaska

15 June 2011

From by Marine Sgt. Deanne Hurla

The destroyer arrived in Homer, Alaska, last week to participate in the U.S. Pacific Command-sponsored Exercise Northern Edge 11.

HOMER, Alaska (June 14, 2011) — The USS Decatur (DDG73) arrived in Homer, Alaska, last week in preparation for participation in the U.S. Pacific Command-sponsored Exercise Northern Edge 11.

The more than 500-foot long Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer made quite a visual impact upon the docks in this small fishing town of little more than 5,000 people some four hours drive south of Anchorage.

During the exercise, Sailors of the Decatur will remain positioned just off the Alaskan shore to track aircraft in the area and aid Navy and Air Force pilots participating in the exercise designed to prepare forces for contingency response in the Asia-Pacific region.

The ship is equipped with an Aegis Combat System, which includes the AN/SPY-1D phased array radar that scans in all directions simultaneously to detect, track and engage hundreds of aircraft and missiles.

The SPY radar is a three-dimensional search-and-track radar that provides the ship's crew with real-time contact information. It allows crews to track aircraft and to pass on target information, giving pilots accurate and up-to-date data on any target within range, according to U.S. Navy Ensign Ryan Andrews, the Decatur's assistant weapons officer.

Joint training between naval vessels and Air Force planes will help the pilots learn ship capabilities and stand-off distances.

"For example, the destroyer can engage targets about 75 nautical miles away, and the target might not know they have been fired upon until the missile is in its terminal phase, seconds before impact," Ensign Andrews said.

This exercise not only provides training time for each of the services, but also enables both Air Force pilots and naval crews to learn each other's terminology and how to best work together, according to the Redmond, Wash., native.

"We are quickly learning the differences and making adjustments to understand and work with each other better," he said.

The crew of the Decatur returned in April from a seven-month deployment to the Western Pacific and U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. During Northern Edge they will operate in different surroundings. The cold weather and rough water caused by the Alaskan environment are challenges not faced at home station in San Diego or on deployment.

"Navigating a ship in poor weather reduces visibility, causes radar interference and will force watch-standers to rely upon each other more, building trust," Ensign Andrews said. "As a world-wide deployable ship, we need to be prepared to operate in any environment and Northern Edge is providing the much needed cold weather experience."

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