Home » Aviation » PACFLT’s Swift: Amphib USS Wasp Will Deploy With Surface Action Group in 2017


PACFLT’s Swift: Amphib USS Wasp Will Deploy With Surface Action Group in 2017

USS Wasp (LHD-1) departs Souda Bay, Greece, on Nov. 1, 2016. US Navy Photo

USS Wasp (LHD-1) departs Souda Bay, Greece, on Nov. 1, 2016. US Navy Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When amphibious warship USS Wasp (LHD-1) deploys the first time from its new homeport in Japan in late 2017, it’ll ship out with some extras: a squadron of Marine F-35B Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters, three guided-missile destroyers, a Marine general and a Navy admiral.

The deployment will be a test for a so-called upgunned Expeditionary Strike Group that will combine a traditional three-ship Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) with a three ship guided-missile destroyer surface action group (SAG), Adm. Scott Swift, commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, told reporters on Friday.

The six-ship force – paired with a Marine Expeditionary Unit – is designed to relieve the pressure of the demand for the Navy’s 11 carrier strike groups by U.S. combatant commanders (COCOMs), Swift said.

Admiral Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet. US Navy Photo

Admiral Scott Swift, commander of U.S. Pacific Fleet. US Navy Photo

“It’s not the same as a strike group, it doesn’t have that depth the strike group brings, not the same number of aircraft and capability, [but] if you look at the demand signal for Carrier Strike Groups from a COCOM perspective from around the world, it’s 15 carrier strike groups,” he said.
“With these upgunned ESGs, you have three to four of these that helps bridge that desire on the part of COCOMs.”

The assembly will be built on the composite warfare concept the Navy uses with its CSG.

“[The ESG] will be integrated with the same [command and control] structure as a Carrier Strike Group,” Swift said.
“They will be assigned to [Combined Task Force] 76, who will be embarked on USS Wasp, and they will operate that Wasp ESG just as we do a carrier strike group.”

The concept is a new take on an ESG effort the Navy and Marines attempted in the 1990s. One combination the Navy and Marines attempted was three surface warships, a submarine, an ARG/MEU and a P-3 Orion surveillance aircraft.

The composition of a 1990s era ESG

The composition of a 1990s era ESG

Ultimately, the services abandoned that ESG concept due to – among other problems – command and control issues. Since the 1990s, however, the ships in the ARG have changed. Today’s San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock (LPD-17) has significantly greater command and control capabilities than its predecessor – and it will be the basis of the dock landing ship (LSD) replacement, the LX(R), meaning the ARG will only grow more capable in the 2020s. Additionally, the newest amphibious assault ships are more capable, with the last Wasp-class LHD, USS Makin Island (LHD-8), having a hybrid electric drive propulsion system that can power more sophisticated shipboard systems, and the new America-class LHAs having enhanced aviation spaces optimize aviation operations that more closely resemble CSG operations.

Swift said those new air platforms like the MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor and F-35Bs prompted the U.S. Pacific Fleet to give the idea another shot.

“I’ve had people criticize me because we’ve done this before and it’s failed. We’ve done it with some rigor. We did it with 3rd Fleet and it didn’t go well,” Swift said.
“One of the reasons it didn’t go well is that we don’t have the capacity and capability to support the concept. Two things have changed that. One is V-22 and the other is F-35Bs. The F-35 is an incredible platform just as a sensor. It sucks in so much data. It sucks in so much [situational awareness] it takes a flag officer in order to manage that. You get much better insights into the environment.”

A Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey assigned to the 13th MEU operating from USS Boxer (LHD-4). US Marine Corps Photo

A Marine Corps MV-22B Osprey assigned to the 13th MEU operating from USS Boxer (LHD-4). US Marine Corps Photo

For example, while the upgunned ESG won’t have an equivalent of a CSG’s E-2 Hawkeye airborne early warning radar aircraft, the F-35’s onboard sensors could expand the targeting ability of the three-ship SAG. In September, the Navy successfully used sensor information from a F-35B to remotely target SM-6 missile in the Navy’s White Sands test range. The capability could pair the Wasp’s F-35s with a Baseline 9 destroyer operating with the ESG to extend the range of the air defense systems of the group.

A sailor aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) signals to the pilot of an F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter to land as it arrives for the first phase of operational testing, May 18, 2015. US Marine Corps photo.

A sailor aboard the USS Wasp (LHD-1) signals to the pilot of an F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter to land as it arrives for the first phase of operational testing, May 18, 2015. US Marine Corps photo.

As to the MV-22s, Swift brought up the deployment of the Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) from Spain to Somalia as an example of what a new ESG structure could bring.

“They flew that damn Special MAGTF to Somalia without touching any other country,” Swift said.
“That demands that we think different about an ESG.”

Part of the new ESG will use the lessons from this year’s deployment of a three-ship SAG controlled by 3rd Fleet – which wasn’t marked by overwhelming success.

“How has the PACSAG gone? It has been awesome because we’ve failed at every turn,” Swift said.
“It’s been such a rich learning environment. We’ve had communications issues, we’ve had integration issues… [Learning] that’s what this is all about.”

– Megan Eckstein contributed to this report.

  • DaSaint

    I’m game. Nothing to lose in trying.

    • Rocco

      But a lot to gain by learning!⚓️

  • Secundius

    Correct me if I’m wrong? But Wasn’t the FFG-47 Samuel Nicholas, Decommissioned in March 2014…

    • Paul

      The chart in the article is captioned as being from the 90s to contrast what they are trying now.

      • Tom Brown

        Wondered the same thing; seeing a graphic clears up a lot of question about just what they are talking about..

  • Secundius

    In case Nobody got the Word, but According to “gCaptain” the PRC PLAN are about to Open a PLAN Naval Base in the Republic of Djibouti. Right next to the Suez Canal…

    • Niki Ptt

      So what? They learned their lesson from Mahan and they protect their shipping lanes, that’s all.

      • Secundius

        It’s also Interesting that the PRC has a “PLAN” Submarine Base, based in the Israeli Port City of Eilat too…

        • Niki Ptt

          Do you have a proof of that?

          • Secundius

            SORRY, But USNI News has decide to REDACT my Answering of your Question. THEY do that from Time-To-Time. When either the Question and/or Answer GET’s to “Radioactive” for their Taste…

          • Secundius

            www. israel national news. com / news / news . aspx / 158898

          • Niki Ptt

            Nothing new for me, but there’s no PLAN submarine base in Israel. That was just a courtesy visit…

    • Paul

      The French Army, Air Force, and Foreign Legion are already in Djibouti in force, they use Djibouti as their NTC or 29 Palms. NATO ships as part of the piracy patrol dock and refuel there frequently. We (the US) have a base at Camp Lemonier near the airport and have for years, I was there for 7 months in 2003 and it’s still there so far as I know. The Chinese won’t take over Djibouti even if they have a base there, the Djiboutians will just be getting another paycheck.

      • Secundius

        But even the French have Their “National Security Interests”, which MAY NOT be the Same As Ours…

        • Paul

          Very true, things change over time. But Djibouti is it’s own sovereign country so the foreign powers there at least ostensibly have to abide by Host Nation rules and wishes anyway. It is a desperately poor country too and they won’t be keen to kick us out at the behest of the French or Chinese, our base is huge cash cow for them. Believe me, compared to us the French are stingy. I just looked up Camp Lemonnier (our base in Djibouti) and it is a MUCH more permanent base now than when I was there, they are even considering it for accompanied tours, we will be in Djibouti for a while. There is even a Pizza Hut and coffee shop there now if you look it up on Google.

          It seems alarming that the Chinese are slated to build a base there but it won’t be like they will be making policy for the Horn of Africa region in a vacuum. Our base in Djibouti is literally at the airport, we will see anything that comes in or leaves there by air and the port is just as transparent. We will all be keeping close tabs on each other even as I’m sure we will do friendly official visits to each others bases. The Chinese won’t be able to do anything there without it being widely known. It’s not a big country and it is already crawling with foreign troops, ours included.

          I would be much more alarmed if the Chinese started building bases in Somalia, they could do whatever they wanted there an no one would be the wiser…

          • Secundius

            Depends on HOW MUCH MONEY the PRC are Pouring into the Republic of Djibouti. To Rebuild THEIR (Djibouti’s) Infrastructure. And USING “Chinese Laborer” to Build It…

  • WayneLLewis

    10 or 12 F-35’s in this squadron?

    • Paul

      I think 10.

  • Leveller

    €: USNI News

    Unless you haven’t “Posted” the “Comment”, then the “Comment was NEVER Made.

  • Ed L

    About time,

  • Lazarus

    This is a good test effort for using the USS America as an actual light carrier (CVL) with upwards of 20 F-35 embarked as a strike asset.

  • Secundius

    FYI: According to “Arutz Sheva” (Israel National News) dated Cheshvan 26, 5777 (27 November 2016). The IDAF just bought(?) another Seventeen F/A-35A’s, bring to Total to Fifty F/A-35A’s…

    • Curtis Conway

      Some sources suggest the Israeli Air Force is considering F-35Bs in the future for use with rapidly moving bases.

  • Secundius

    I wonder how Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte is going to handle the ISIS Occupation of the City of Davao, Mindanao? Handle it Himself, or Call-In the PRC…

  • Jffourquet

    This article makes a good argument for smaller carriers to perform specific missions such as air defense, close air support or ASW.

  • Curtis Conway

    “Two things have changed… One is V-22 and the other is F-35Bs. The F-35 is an incredible platform just as a sensor. It sucks in so much data. It sucks in so much [situational awareness] …. You get much better insights into the environment.”

    Some of us have been saying this was coming for the better part of a decade. ‘Lightening Carriers’ are a thing of the future.

  • Ed L

    A couple of Frigates would be nice.