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Truman CSG: Arctic Strike Group Operations Required Focus on Logistics, Safety

Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Farragut (DDG 99) conducts a replenishment-at-sea alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), Sept. 19, 2018. Farragut, homeported at Naval Station Mayport, Florida, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa. US Navy photo.

Operating in the Arctic didn’t stop the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group from conducting flight operations or surface and undersea warfare missions, but it did force leadership to focus on the logistics that kept those ships running.

Though the aircraft carrier was well suited to handle the heavy seas of the North Atlantic and Norwegian Sea, the cruiser and destroyers escorting USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) were limited in their ability to operate in extreme conditions, and the logistics ships that bring fuel and dry cargo were even more limited, according to strike group commander Rear Adm. Gene Black, who spoke to USNI News today from aboard Truman.

“Essentially it was a question of which weather windows could support us getting alongside the logistics ships. Because of the distances, they were covering, sometimes the two to three days of decent weather wouldn’t allow them to come up. But we had planned for that,” he said, and the carrier brought extra supplies with it in case there were longer-than-usual gaps between resupplies at sea. Black said the strike group had a few good underway replenishments and saw no operational impact from the challenges of getting the supply ships up to such high latitudes.

The guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) conducts an underway replenishment with the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Big Horn (T-AO 198) on Oct. 29, 2018. Forrest Sherman is currently deployed as part of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group. US Navy photo.

As a lesson learned he would pass along to the next strike group commander operating in that region – which hasn’t been done since the early 1990s – Black said, “you’ve got to be agile, and when you see a weather window, an opportunity to rendezvous to take fuel, you need to grab it.”

“You’ve got to know when it’s time to head for shelter or to get out of the way of a storm. We ended up leaving Trident Juncture a little bit earlier than we would have wanted to, but we had a storm with 30-foot-plus seas coming and that’s not a good day at sea for anybody,” he continued when asked about lessons learned.
“Start talking about secure-for-sea, and start talking about being prepared for the cold well in advance. The more you talk about it, the more folks go and check and double check, the less likely you are to have anything get thrown around by the heavy seas and something gets damaged or hurt, which is something we were quite well prepared for and I was very pleased with that.”

Black noted that he had to give careful consideration to the weather and “be very mindful of the size of the seas, because while the carrier can easily operate in bigger seas, we need to be careful of the cruiser and destroyers, that we don’t unintentionally beat them up – because the motion on them is obviously, being a fraction of the tonnage of the carrier, significantly greater.”

Fire Controlman 2nd Class Noah Diaz acts as a phone talker aboard the guided-missile destroyer USS Forrest Sherman (DDG 98) during an underway replenishment in the North Sea on Oct. 30, 2018. US Navy photo.

As far as personnel goes, though, he noted the operations in the Arctic Circle were more grueling on the carrier, whose flight deck personnel might be launching and recovering planes for 12 to 15 hours a day in icy conditions.

“Operating a carrier in more northern latitudes presents some obvious challenges. There were extremes of environmental conditions – higher sea states, higher wind conditions and significantly colder temperatures than we had nominally operated in and trained on over the last really three decades or so,” Truman commanding officer Capt. Nick Dienna told USNI News in the same interview.
“We spent a lot of time planning for it, we spent a significant amount of time procuring specific gear, and also specific capacity and things like lubricants for much of our equipment (to optimize them for the cold weather). But at the end of the day, carrier operations are carrier operations, flight operations are flight operations, and while certainly in those environmental extremes we need to be cognizant of potential impacts and we need to be a little bit more methodical, quite frankly this ship was built to operate in those environments, and we operated here regularly in the mid- to late-80s and into the 90s. In many ways it was simply regaining our proficiency in those environments and then learning as we go, and I’m incredibly proud of the efforts of our sailors operating on a day-to-day basis in what I would argue is perhaps the most unforgiving environment that we operate in as an aircraft carrier.”

An MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopter assigned to the Proud Warriors of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 72 and the Royal Norwegian Navy Skjold-class fast patrol boat HNoMS Storm (P961) are underway alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) on Oct. 24, 2018, in the Vestfjorden region of the Norwegian Sea. US Navy photo.

The Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group sailed into the Arctic Circle on Oct. 19 and spent about two weeks operating there – conducting flight operations on its own before joining with Norwegian military forces in the Vestfjorden region and then participating in Trident Juncture 2018, the largest NATO exercise in years.

“Our support to Trident Juncture reflects NATO’s foundation of partnerships, cooperation and preserving lasting peace, and provided our strike group an invaluable opportunity to work closely with our NATO allies and partners – to learn from them on their home turf, or home waters, enhance our capabilities and become stronger together as we work toward mutual goals,” Black said.
“Over the past several months, in every area we’ve operated, I have relied on the skills, the capabilities and the dedication of a team of teams within the strike group. Our presence here in the eastern Atlantic Ocean, and previously in the North Atlantic around Iceland, the North Sea, in the Norwegian Sea, and then north of the Arctic Circle, demonstrates to our allies and partners that we will uphold our commitments, regardless of the vastness or the unforgiving nature of the sea. The practices we refine and the lessons we learn from this historic deployment will benefit those who follow Truman for years to come.”

The Royal Norwegian Navy Fridtjof Nansen-class frigate HNoMS Thor Heyerdahl (F 314), left, pulls alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) for a replenishment-at-sea in the Norwegian Sea on Oct. 26, 2018. US Navy photo.

Both Dienna and Black said participating in Trident Juncture and operating in the Arctic Circle were rewarding experiences for them and their crew.

“I think the biggest thing for me was one day when we operated in the fjords in company with multiple Norwegian ships, conducted flight operations in that environment fully integrated with our Norwegian partners after only a couple of days of being up there. The seamless way that we were able to, primarily through the efforts of the Norwegians, to be able to conduct full-spectrum operations in probably the most challenging area I’ve ever operated in was simply extraordinary, and I know everybody onboard is taking a lot of pride in that effort,” Dienna said.

Black agreed, adding, “the Norwegians went out of their way to partner with us: we got access to their ranges, our helicopters operated with their SEALs, our small ships operated with theirs, one of their frigates joined my carrier strike group and operated with every bit of the intensity and professionalism of one of our ships. And it was an absolute highlight that we could show up, never having operated together, and come together and operate at the highest level and in one of the most demanding environments that we could face.”

  • Marcd30319

    Back to the Future — From Ocean Safari 83 & 85 to Northern Wedding 86 and beyond!

    How about restocking pre-positioned supplies in Norway and carrier ops in fjords.

    How about reactivating Maritime Prepositioning Squadron 1 which was deactivating by the Obama adminsitration in 2012.

    It’s been done before and it is past time to remind the Russian about what can be done to counter their aggressiveness.

    • Ed L

      Amen to that

    • Curtis Conway

      Hear Hear . . . train the way you fight, and fight the way you train. If you didn’t go, then you didn’t get the training. It sure is hard to schedule combat under ideal conditions, particularly in this part of the planet. Arctic Operations are probably going to be on the increase.

      • Hugh

        Compare to the Arctic Convoys of WW2…….. and some of the capital ship encounters.

        • Curtis Conway

          Large formations (sometimes Dispositions) of cargo ships carrying supplies/troops to the Continent (and England) with (much smaller in displacement) escorts battled weather, German submarines (sometimes wolf-packs until air came on the scene) and safe stay time in the water (if your ship sinks) is measured in single digits minutes. The weather is as much the enemy as your adversary. Gotta go and do it, or you are not ready. This is not something you can just fake.

  • Ed L

    Refueling at sea on our old AO’s and AOE’s for rough weather our refueling rigs had the ability to reach over 300 feet fully extended. So in rough weather we could and did refuel out to 200 feet. But it was always dicey, Frigates and destroyers always dance about. we would just run on refueling rig with out most experience deck hands. We once did and UNREP in 20 plus foot seas transferring torpedo’s and missiles from an AE out chopping to home. Manage to get all of them over to our deck. Why do I remember this evolution? Because while getting one those mark 48’s on deck the transfer head suffer a lose of power (bad circuit board) the torpedo storage/shipping case slammed to the deck and the case split (defected) the torpedo started to roll out of the case. Luckily the slings kepted it from going too far and we were able to surround it with wooden shoring and kapok life jackets. The paper work that followed was horrible. Luckily our Embarked EOD team knew what to do

  • Arthur Vallejo

    This exercise sounds like Starfleet operations near the Romulan Neutral Zone.

  • Donald Carey

    The Destroyer shots make me think it would make a great water park ride!

  • Chesapeakeguy

    That Skjold-class fast patrol boat in the photo is classified as a corvette according to Wikipedia. Reading up on them, they appear to be quite capable craft. The only downside is a relatively short range, but that range is listed as 800 nautical miles at 40 knots!

    • vetww2

      You are,absolutely correct. The SKJOLD class is an SES very like our SES100A&B. In respose to a request by the Norwegian Navy, several others and I from PMS 304, consulted with them at Flouro, when they were building them. Great boats

  • vetww2

    This seems to be the appropriate time to comment that the Navy is handling ice breaking too lightly. Ours are of little value. If you would like to see what an ice breaker SHOULD look like, review the 4 classes of Russian ships, including the nuclear powered one.