A Brief History: USS Nimitz

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Each of our naval vessles has a rich history. What they’ve done, where they’ve been, and who they were named after. To begin what I hope to be a series that covers our carrier and expeditionary strike groups, the flagship of the Nimitz CSG is first on our list. Here to talk about this fine piece of engineering, is the commanding officer, Capt. Jeff Ruth.

–Fleet LT

7027737895_f138f3658e_cUSS Nimitz (CVN 68) is the U.S. Navy’s oldest aircraft carrier in active service, and she is now operating in the Arabian Gulf.

Our legacy comes from the rich history of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, and the long service of the ship—the lead in the Nimitz class of aircraft carriers. Both the man and the ship share deep roots in tradition, dedication and service to the United States Navy.

Chester_Nimitz_as_CNOFleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz, USN (February 24, 1885 – February 20, 1966) was a five-star admiral in the United States Navy. He held the dual command of Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet, for U.S. naval forces and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, for U.S. and Allied air, land, and sea forces during World War II. He was the leading U.S. Navy authority on submarines, as well as Chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Navigation in 1939. He served as Chief of Naval Operations from 1945 until 1947. He was the United States’ last surviving Fleet Admiral.

8703363020_efd7256684_zHis rise to Fleet Admiral was not without hiccups. While he was an ensign in command of the destroyer USS Decatur, the ship ran aground on a sand bar in the Philippines. The ship was pulled free, however, Nimitz was court-martialed, found guilty of neglect of duty and issued a letter of reprimand. He obviously recovered from that misstep and continued to develop as a leader, encouraging his men to question authority, while telling them to not worry about what they could not control, and to learn everything they could about their job.
A few of my favorite quotes from Admiral Nimitz:

  • 6989928362_08dc58e3ed_zGod grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless.
  • Our present control of the sea is so absolute that it is sometimes taken for granted.
  • Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.

USS Nimitz was commissioned on May 3, 1975 by Rear Adm. Richard E. Rumble, Commander, Fifth Naval District, at Pier 12, Naval Station Norfolk, Va. with President Gerald R. Ford and more than 20,000 guests in attendance. Nimitz’ commissioning marked the beginning of a new “Nimitz class” of aircraft carriers.

7136736685_bbe778571b_zNimitz has been called upon many times to deploy around the world to support both war and peace efforts. The men and women who have ensured the continued success of this ship and her missions have done so through great effort and dedication to their work and to their country. No matter the generation, no matter the mission, Nimitz Sailors have answered the call, and we couldn’t be more proud to be conducting our current mission here in the NAVCENT AOR.

Now, as ever, teamwork is our tradition.
-Capt. Jeff Ruth, Commanding Officer, USS Nimitz (CVN 68)

Mammals, Drones and Darts: The future of protecting critical infrastructure in the Gulf

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Technological advances make life better, more interesting, more sustainable, more defensible, and what have you. Advances, from my perspective, come from building on established ideas and filling a need (new or re-invented), or mimicking observable phenomenon. In today’s post, I aim to discuss a few of these types of innovation, examples in technology, and a few notes on why this matters from a Navy and global community perspective.

Sound like a lot to cover? Yeah, to me too, so let us get started.

Mimicry

One of the biggest idea generators is the world around us and our desire to explore it. The desire to fly as birds do led to manned flight. Sure, the first flight lasted less than a minute, could only hold one person (a bicycle mechanic), and was powered by a buggy motor; but thousands of years of desire and failure were quenched by a few equations, an internal combustion engine and a few very big dreams. Want to see what’s going on underwater? Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Want to see what’s on the sea floor? Submarines and unmanned underwater vehicles. Investigate things that are too dangerous for people? Robots.

Enduring FreedomWhile people are able to duplicate useful systems like sonar for echo location, the ability to send and receive multiple tonals with the same device and analyze the data in seconds becomes a complicated problem. Add in the small size and agility of a dolphin or a porpoise, and the level of sophistication required is daunting.

Why not just train a dolphin to do it? Good question. Fact is the U.S. Navy does train marine mammals to perform tasks that would take a team of well-trained people to do, and possibly several days to do it. Dolphins are very intelligent animals and are capable of quickly identifying underwater objects and people, deftly maneuvering in tight spaces to reach them, and can repeatedly dive deeply without the dangers of decompression sickness.

Robert Simmons, Navy Underwater EOD Assistant Program Manager, said during IMCMEX 13 MIP Symposium, “Mammals are particularly well suited for precision location in a cluttered acoustic environment.” He went on to say that mammals are also the “only asset capable of detecting, marking and neutralizing partially buried or buried mines.”

2dudes and a dolphinThe use of mammals is not new, but with mine countermeasures re-emerging as a global focus, these agile, capable animals may again become a staple of our identifying and marking potential subsurface hazards. Additional information on the mammals used and the mandates that govern their treatment can be found on NNMP’s data-rich website.

Filling a Need and Re-purposing

Items like remote controls and toasters are good examples of things made convenient by decreasing the effort of achieving a result. While toasting bread over a fire or on a pan achieves the same result as resistance heated coils in close proximity to bread that is time limited by a heat sensitive thermocouple. The difference lies in the rheostat that adjusts the heat/time limit based on the signal sent by the thermocouple, allowing people to “set and forget” while still getting made-to-order toast.

8779354149_53ea5cacbe_zUUVs in relation to mine hunting serve a similar role: increasing convenience and safety while decreasing effort. The REMUS UUV was developed in the late 1990s by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. The U.S. Navy calls REMUS the MK 18 UUV, an underwater autonomous surveillance and reconnaissance vehicle that operates on a pre-programmed path for hours and surfaces at a set time at a set location with an enormous data packet on the acoustic survey of a harbor or waterway. This allows a small boat with 2 or 3 crew members to do in a day what it would take a team or two of divers a month to do. Sure, divers (or specialized submersibles) are still needed to identify suspicious targets and neutralize threats, but the amount of man hours needed to search an area is drastically reduced.

Additionally, the Navy is developing Knifefish, a heavyweight Surface Mine Countermeasure (SMCM) UUV that is designed to hunt for buried mines and mines in high clutter environments with high confidence and low false alarm rates. Knifefish Flight 1 is equipped with low frequency broadband side scan sonar and operates in the littoral regions as part of the Littoral Combat Ship MCM Mission Package.

e6d625bbd7b14cad9425bdb4a22a074f-0x0Want a robot to visually identify and make a threat go boom? We’ve got those too (and so do other nations). SeaFox is a mine neutralization submersible that has been adopted by the U.S. Navy and is being tested to replace/augment the older mine neutralization vehicles that are much larger and less sophisticated. The SeaFox system can be used to visibly identify and neutralize objects of interest, previously located by sonar from ships or other UUV systems.

Sailors are still a part of this equation, whether piloting the Sea Fox with more fidelity or analyzing the data transmitted, but this remote system provides an enhanced level of convenience and safety during mine hunting operations that have become integral to the way the mine countermeasure mission is accomplished.

Innovation

Innovation has been described many different ways by people far more educated than I am. That being said, I am going to talk about a common concept and attack it from a different direction. Take the 90’s and 2000’s wave of making cell phones smaller, easier to text, etc. The team at Apple, made phones bigger and turned them into interactive personal computing devices that happen to make phone calls.

How’s that for left field? The story’s been told enough times that it’s commonplace, but the innovation of that team is undeniable.

As for mines, and mine neutralization, we focus on approaching the problem mainly with surface and subsurface assets and technology (some mentioned above). Aside from the sweeping and hunting gear that an MH-53 helicopter drags through the water, there isn’t much of an air-based MCM capability. Until now.

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Researchers are developing air-dropped munitions that can neutralize mines in the surf zone, and even inland. The aerial Assault Breaching System (ABS) Countermine System (CMS) deploys dart-like projectiles that can render mines ineffective while naval forces and shipping vessels wait a safe distance away. This system also has the potential to neutralize other targets.

The Horizon

Cool things are in the works all the time. Rail guns and Lasers at sea have gotten some attention lately, but for MCM and MIP, unmanned vehicles and airborne response options are where it’s at. 41 countries from all over the world gathered for the sixth Maritime Infrastructure Protection Symposium this year, and got to talk with technology representatives about new systems and new developments with old systems like the ones mentioned above. This conference is held every 18 months and is a critical forum to exchange ideas so that infrastructure protection and mine countermeasures can outpace the capabilities of hostile actors.

Hope you enjoyed the not-so-terse tour of tech.

–Fleet LT

Eager Lion 13 — Flexible Amphibious Forces in Jordan

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Amphibious Forces fill a variety of missions. A mobile, at-sea medical facility, a temporary afloat staging base for port clearance or explosive ordnance disposal operations, and vehicles for support and delivery of Marines; Amphibious ships are capable of all of these and with the embarked teams, they are a formidable, flexible force capable of robust military operations as well as humanitarian ones.

5th Fleet’s amphibious forces, Expeditionary Strike Group 5, recently began exercise Eager Lion in Jordan and here to talk about the forces involved and the importance of the exercise is Rear Adm. William K. Lescher, Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 5. Lescher’s comments are also featured on NavyLive Blog.

-Fleet LT

130609-N-AD372-250Our Navy-Marine Corps team launched participation in the annual U.S. Central Command exercise Eager Lion this week, during which we’ll be executing training events from multiple locations in Jordan and its littorals over the period June 9-20.

Expeditionary Strike Group 5, serving as the maritime component commander, brings the Kearsarge Amphibious Ready Group; USS Kearsarge (LHD 3), USS San Antonio (LPD 17) and USS Carter Hall (LSD 50); the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), USS Stockdale (DDG-106), an Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) team and U.S. Coast Guard Advanced Interdiction Team (AIT) to the effort. This naval force is part of 19 total nations and more than 8,000 participants in Jordan working toward the shared goal of strengthening regional security and stability.

130607-N-AD372-166The amphibious ships and MEU are impressively demonstrating the power of an integrated naval force – the Navy-Marine Corps team – in conducting a complex and rapid build-up of force ashore, followed by fast-paced and closely integrated live fire training with our Jordanian Armed Forces partners. 26th MEU Marines are leaning forward and eager to work closely with their Jordanian counterparts to strengthen interoperability, proficiency and friendships. Events include field training, multiple live-fire exercises, reconnaissance training and a broad scope of integrated aviation evolutions involving Harriers, Cobras and Ospreys.

USS Stockdale, the EOD and AIT teams are similarly active, conducting visit, board, search and seizure (VBSS) exercises; explosive ordnance disposal drills; at-sea formation drills; and search and rescue exercises with the Royal Jordanian Navy.

130607-N-WX580-070Overall, the exercise is superbly demonstrating the capability of our integrated naval team to provide fast, forward and flexible combat power supporting the core U.S. Central Command missions of strengthening regional security and stability, and building multinational partnerships.

–Rear Adm. William K. Lescher, Commander, Expeditionary Strike Group FIVE

Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping: Reserve Fleet Support and Crisis Response

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Today I was going to put together a post about Naval Coordination and Guidance of Shipping (NCAGS). I intended to get some information about the reservists that are primed to provide crisis support for 5th Fleet within 96 hours. That’s pretty impressive. To my surprise, the commanding officer of the NCAGS office in Chicago, reserve Cmdr.  Alex Soukhanov, provided a detailed narrative that is a perfect replacement for what would have been my attempt at being witty.

Without further ado, take it away Sir.

-Fleet LT

8267519570_2020323cd3_oThanks for the Accolades LT, and it’s a pleasure to be on the program. Let’s talk about what NCAGS, and the Chicago DET can do for the Navy and 5th Fleet.

I officially have 10 officers and 12 enlisted in my command. However, our numbers jump to 31 if you include all personnel cross-assigned to other Naval Coordination and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS) units. The mission of my unit is to support Naval Forces Central Command as the operation interface and line of communication between U.S. Naval forces and international merchant shipping. NCAGS Chicago also has a designated crisis response force, tasked with providing surge support to NAVCENT within 96 hours.

Naval Cooperation and Guidance for Shipping (NCAGS) is a reserve-only capability, therefore highly unique. It has no active duty counterpart.

There are six NCAGS units within the U.S. NCAGS Enterprise, each aligned with a numbered fleet: NCAGS “A” (Bronx) with6th Fleet, NCAGS Chicago with 5th Fleet/NAVCENT, NCAGS “Q” as HQ with U.S. Fleet Forces, NCAGS Houston with 4th Fleet, NCAGS Kitsap with 3rd Fleet/7th Fleet, and NCAGS San Diego as a Pacific hub.
NCAGS 5th Fleet is maritime operations-centric. Other NCAGS operations are more concerned with maritime domain awareness and communications centric. NCAGS requirements are different in each AOR, so the fleet commanders utilize the resources accordingly.

8267579164_4e311fb809_cThe peculiarities of the NAVCENT AOR are such that our capability is one of NAVCENT’s tools, requiring a steady-state manning presence at Bahrain. The AOR has three major choke points to navigation — Sues Canal, Bab el Mandeb Straits, and Straits of Hormuz — while considering the protection of sea lanes, regional stability, and freedom of navigation. Our role is to coordinate, advise, and provide reassurance to international shipping in the event of a threat to navigation safety and maritime security. This not only includes piracy and terrorism, but also natural and environmental disasters, and other disruptions. NCAGS was employed in Haiti and in the aftermath of the earthquake/tsunami in Japan.

130522-N-AX559-006The NCAGS competency is built around three pillars: warfare-qualified officers, Strategic Sealift Officers, and Enlisted SMEs. The warfare-qualified officers provide for the natural Navy staff work requirements and core Navy competencies. The Strategic Sealift Officers (SSOs) are maritime industry professionals and merchant marine officers, and have a natural fit in this line of work, mainly serving as LNOs and in crisis response (they can speak the languages of Navy and maritime industry). Our enlisted SMEs fill critical roles in crisis response watch standing and in our Expeditionary Shipping Control Teams (ESCTs) and the Expeditionary Shipping Control Center (ESCC). The SCTs are small 3-person units that are deployed to ports throughout the AOR in the event of a crisis, and serve as nodes for the “brain” of the NCAGS operation — the Expeditionary Shipping Control Center (or Crisis Response Center). The SCTs operate to gather information and establish local communications with merchant shipping, and assist with the ESCC’s main function, which is to provide an AOR “White Shipping” picture to the NCAGS Commander. The White Shipping picture is a combination of open-source commercial maritime information/MDA, analysis, and local maritime business knowledge for NAVCENT.

Although we see various enlisted ratings in NCAGS, the predominant ratings are Information Systems Technicians, Electronics Technicians, Operations Specialists, Boatswain’s Mates, and Quartermasters. Our enlisted SMEs are the nucleus of the NCAGS system, and are assigned to positions throughout the NCAGS mission. They run the unit level training for all officer and enlisted positions.

NCAGS Chicago supports NAVCENT four exercises per year (Lucky Mariner, IMCMEX, and two CENTCOM Exercises). Lucky Mariner is the annual U.S. Navy NCAGS exercise, which includes convoy operations with real merchant ships. IMCMEX incorporates the Lucky Mariner exercise as well. NCAGS Chicago also participates in  exercise working groups, persistent networking with industry, and interoperability with CMF. It is a true international and joint mission.

–Cmdr. Alex Soukhanov, Commanding Officer, NCAGS Chicago.

A Fond Farewell to IMCMEX

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Greetings Readers. As the end of International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2013 has past, and exercise staffs have turned in their reviews of what went wrong and what went right, it’s time to reflect on what the exercise accomplished.

8779354149_53ea5cacbe_zThough ships operated in fewer geographical areas this year, international forces operated in more locations performing a wider variety of missions. Although IMCMEX 12 set a tough standard–more than 30 nations, three widely disparate operating areas–a new year rose to the challenge by widening our objectives and perspectives.

As we have said on multiple occasions, 13 brings us industry participation with very large crude carriers, an increased number of patrol coastal ships from many nations to support infrastructure protection and maritime security operations for naval forces, industry shipping, and at-sea oil terminals involved in exercise events.

8785831850_e72cab684a_zA relative footnote on the serial list, but a major undertaking none the less, were the two casualty drills. As a Navy, we drill medical readiness and responses regularly to ensure that trained personnel are prepared to respond with life-saving speed and expertise. IMCMEX 13 included a seriously cool mass casualty drill where a simulated mine attack on a commercial ship caused extensive damage where mariners were severely injured and needed evacuation to a medical facility. The closest stabilizing facilities were aboard RFA Cardigan Bay and USS Ponce. The cool part comes in where the simulated wounded were made-up to be gruesome in accordance to their simulated injuries.

Any time international navies meet, techniques are developed, best practices are learned, and knowledge is broadened for the betterment of the international community. In this case, it is truly important we take these lesson and continue to apply them to future exercises. Because, it is not one country who benefits from mine countermeasure, maritime security and infrastructure protection proficiency, but all of them. All rely on sea-going commerce after all.

8764812494_1332e2ba31_zThis post isn’t intended to be a re-cap of the exercise, we’ve done that, I’m here to bid a fond farewell to an exciting, complex exercise that embraced a myriad of separate events and knitted them together in a quilt of participation and expertise. Sure, a RHIB broke down here, some computers had trouble syncing up, and some events didn’t get finished due to environmental and safety concerns; but these lessons are the thread that stitches this year’s exercise with future iterations of International Mine Countermeasures Exercise.

So long, biggest little exercise in the world, we’ll see you next time.

-Fleet LT