Home » Aviation » USS John C. Stennis, USS Essex Conduct Joint Operations In Arabian Sea


USS John C. Stennis, USS Essex Conduct Joint Operations In Arabian Sea

An F-35B Lightning II, attached to the “Avengers” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 211, launches from the flight deck of Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD 2). Navy photo.

The John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group (CSG) and the Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) started integrated operations in the Arabian Sea on Wednesday, supporting operations in Afghanistan.

“Carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups are inherently flexible maneuver forces, and these high-end integrated operations illustrate our commitment to the Central Region and demonstrate our ability to deliver naval combat power at a time and place of our choosing,” Vice Adm. Jim Malloy, the commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command and U.S. 5th Fleet, said in a statement.

Enabling a political solution in Afghanistan is considered vital to ending U.S. military operations in the country, Army Lt. Gen. Austin “Scott” Miller, now the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan and of NATO’s Operation Resolute Support, said during his Senate confirmation hearing in June.

USS Mobile Bay (CG-53), right, approaches the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74). US Navy Photo

The crews and fighters from both Stennis and Essex are expected to conduct a series of joint exercises, including an in-flight refueling of an F-35 from an F/A-18F Super Hornet, and cross-deck training of deck, supply, intelligence, media, and medical personnel, according to a 5th Fleet statement.

USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) left Naval Base Kitsap, in Bremerton, Wash., for deployment in October, and will ultimately enter a four-year mid-life refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH) at Huntington Ingalls Industries Newport News Shipbuilding in Virginia. Stennis’ arrival marks the first time a Navy aircraft carrier operated in the region since March when USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) left the area.

Wasp-class amphibious assault ship USS Essex (LHD-2) transits the Gulf of Aden during a vertical replenishment while on a regularly scheduled deployment of Essex Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) and 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU). US Navy Photo

In October, Wasp-class amphibious warship USS Essex (LHD-2) entered the Persian Gulf, bringing for the first time a squadron of Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters to the region through the Strait of Hormuz.

Joining Stennis in the Arabian Sea is Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9, Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG-53) and Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Decatur (DDG 73) and USS Mitscher (DDG-57).

  • Ed L

    Great. But I think the Navy should add 4 or 5 more sponsons to the Essex for that swarm boat killer the Mk110. Fifty Seven MM gun

    • RunningBear

      25mm APEX from the F-35B may be more effective and less expensive.
      IMHO
      Fly Navy
      🙂

      • Ed L

        It would be nice if an F-35B can’t stand 24×7 watches. 4
        or 5 Sponsons: which are projections extending from the sides of watercraft to provide protection, stability, storage locations, mounting points for weapons or sensors. The four boat sponsons we had on the old Inchon during Nimbus Moon. The Marines we had aboard station their machine guns on the four sponsons. The Navy didn’t have 50 cal’s Mounts, on the Inchon back then. We had a few M-60’s

        • Duane

          The F-35s may not be flying 24/7/365, but we have radars and CIC operators who do. And in potentially contested waters, at least some kind of ISR aircraft is going to be aloft all the time looking for trouble too.

          A unmanned MQ-8C has a max endurance of 15 hours … they will be deployed on our amphibs, as well as our LCS.

      • Andy Ferguson

        30mm Goalkeeper. Proven GAU-8 based gun, and in service for decades.

        Much more effective than a Phalanx, IMHO.

        • MartinD

          Of course 30mm vs 20mm is always going to win out

        • Duane

          The Navy has settled on the Mk 46 30 mm gun system, based upon the Mk. 44 Bushmaster gun with integrated FLIR, optical (video) sight, and laser rangefinder. It is a standard weapon on the LCS and the Zumwalt DDGs.

          • Andy Ferguson

            NOT a CIWS…

            Can the Mk.46 engage AShM’s?

          • Duane

            Actually, though it’s not labeled a CIWS, the Mk 46 gun system IS functionally a CIWS in terms of how that is defined. It’s good to two miles range, fires 220 rpm (a lot slower than the multi barreled chain guns, but still fast enough for use against swarming small craft and low flying aircraft and incoming ASCMs), with self contained detection and ranging. It does not require an external fire control radar, and its all weather electro optical sighting system is not vulnerable to radar jamming, nor serve as a source of homing data for passive RF sensors, as is the radar sensor for both Goalkeeper and Phalanx.

            Compared to Goalkeeper, a Dutch system, the Mk 46 is slower firing but has a longer effective range (about double the Goalkeeper which is a bit over one mile). Less capable at shooting down very close in ASCMs due to its lower firing rate, but can hit them at double the range. And LCS has two of them, and they are just one element of a multi-layered defense system.

            And yes, a Mk 46 can engage an ASCM, or any low flying aircraft.

          • Andy Ferguson

            If it is NOT labelled a CIWS, it is NOT a CIWS.

    • Curtis Conway

      Spike NLOS.

      • Ed L

        Sure I bet you could put a Spike NLOS on a sponson maybe a mix of guns and Spike NLOS would give a LPH the ability to protect themself. Is the Navy testing them?

        • Curtis Conway

          Everyone is a shooter. The Navy is developing a retrofit package for the amphib fleet that will most likely include NSM, Mk41 VLS with ESSM, 9-RMA SPY-6 EASR radar to directly replace the SPS-48, and CIC & Comms upgrades. They will probably keep the configurations as common as possible for lifetime logistical support purposes. Hopefully some more EO/IR installations are included in that yard period particularly to support a video feed distributed by CANES to the command & control and other spaces.

          • Ed L

            In looking at the layout of the Essex. A hit just forward of the island and a hit on the stern. Then the Essex is defenseless

          • Curtis Conway

            The new designs have Mk 15 to port, ESSM in Mk 29 launchers amidships, and SeaRAM starboard on the fantail. SeaRAM and ESSM are also forward of the island with similar on USS America (LHA-6). It is an excellent setup, though I would like to see some Mk 41 VLS and some Standard Missiles to go with that 9-RMA rotating EASR (Enterprise) SPY-6 AESA radar.

          • And what magical weapon do you have that will bypass the defenses to score those two perfectly placed hits?

        • Curtis Conway

          The Spike NLOS should have been what went on LCS instead of Hellfire. Longer range, very mature, and lethality increases in the wings. The seeker upgrades could come later, and are already in the works for Spike.

          • Duane

            Spike NLOS is fine, but Hellfire has been our standard small killer missile against all manner of tanks, trucks, small watercraft, and low altitude aircraft for decades. The USN isn’t going to abandon what works great for a foreign made system that is not as well proven in actual combat as Hellfire.

          • Curtis Conway

            Look at cost and range.

          • Duane

            For attacks on small surface craft and low flying aircraft – which is what we use the Hellfires on LCS for in the SWMM 24-cell vertical launcher, a 5 nm range is sufficient. Besides, the MH-60s and MQ-8s deployed on LCS can also launch both Hellfires and the 2.75 in guided rockets at ranges far beyond what an NLOS can achieve. The Mk 110 57 mm also has precision guided rounds that can reach out to 10 nm.

    • old guy

      I’m glad to see that more people are recognising the Swarm boat danger, that I have been squalking about for10 YEARS.
      WELCOME ABOARD.

      • Ed L

        I remember going though the Suez and the Straits to the Arbian sea in the early 80’s on an AOE we didn’t man our 3’50” but we did assembly our 50 caliber Machine guns (hide them) and had them ready to mount. In addition to having our M-60’s hidden but ready.

    • Andy Ferguson

      I’ve always been a fan of the 30mm Goalkeeper.

    • RunningBear

      Essex- LHD-2 is not exactly defenseless:

      – 3ea. 20 mm Phalanx CIWS systems
      – 4ea. 25 mm Mk 38 chain guns
      – 4ea. .50 BMG machine guns

      Roll Your Own – Air Wings

      4ea. AH-1Z Viper attack helicopters
      – Guns: 1 × 20 mm M197 (750 round ammo capacity)
      – Hardpoints:
      Rockets: 2.75″ APKWS II rockets up to 28 guided rockets total
      Missiles: Hellfire up to 16 missiles total

      4ea. CH-53E Super Stallion heavy-lift helicopters
      – Guns:
      2ea. .50 BMG window-mounted machine guns
      1ea. .50 BMG ramp mounted machine guns

      6ea. MH-60R ASW helicopters
      – Hardpoints:
      Rockets: 2.75″ APKWS II rockets up to 14 guided rockets total
      Missiles: Hellfire up to 8 missiles total

      20ea. F-35B Lightning II strike-fighters with 15Klbs. of ordinance from the flight decks.
      – Guns:
      1ea. 25 mm externally mounted with 270 rounds
      – Air-to-surface missiles:
      Joint Air-to-Ground Missile/JAGM AGM-179
      – Bombs:
      4ea. Mk.20 Rockeye II cluster bomb CBU-99/100
      4ea. Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser/WCMD CBU-103/105
      24ea. Small Diameter Bomb/SDB GBU-39A/B

      IMHO “swarm boats” don’t mess with the LHA/D with the MEU aboard!
      Fly Navy
      🙂

      • Duane

        Yup – actually, our aviation amphibs are some of the most heavily defended turf on the planet.

        • RunningBear

          Wow, I totally forgot the couple of LCACs with a load of LAVs and a few Marines with weapons, the salt in the wound!
          IMHO
          Fly Navy
          😀

          • Duane

            Yup …. if there was a swarm boat attack on an amphib, a whole lotta Marine riflemen (they’re ALL riflemen) up on deck could put out a lot of lead inside a quarter to half a mile.

  • MartinD

    how come the USN has not yet adopted the Ski ramp for its F-35 based Warships? and didn’t for its AV-8B harriers?
    On the wasp for example the F-35 will be able to carry less payload than the RN F-35 due to the fact, that the Ski Jump helps get the F-35 Airborne, therefore being able to carry more ordinance and or Fuel?

    • Ed L

      I found this in an Key network aviation forum Selected bites; Senior U.S. naval officers over the decades have vetoed the idea, saying they don’t like how it looks and that it takes up three helicopter landing spots. British and American Marine officers say only one deck spot is lost to the “ski jump.” Another reason I can think of is some political non-sense of the navy not wanting to prove the effectiveness of a smaller STOVL carrier format that could threaten future funding for their highly desired supercarriers. If that’s the case, it still seems an awful waste to limit the full potential of those ships and their aircraft.

      • MartinD

        Seems much more politically driven than actual common sense

    • Andy Ferguson

      Takes up space a helo/V-22 wouldn’t be able to use.

    • RunningBear

      Todate, we have modified 3 Wasp and 1 America classes of LHA/D for the F-35B. The Brits have just completed their first 2 a/c tests on the QE, with more to follow. At some point in the near future we should have the definitive “numbers” from exactly what the Ski Jump buys you in saved energy or increased fuel/ordinance load for decision making. We are now constructing the 3rd LHA and should be able to provide a LHD for Ski Jump revisions, if it is justified. The cross decking with the USMC should also provide some additional data points from the QE.
      IMHO
      Fly Navy
      🙂

      • Duane

        Actually, the data have been available for years. We (US and UK) built a ski jump on land here in the US (NAS Patuxent) for testing of the F-35B with and without the jump, it’s been in operation for at least 3 years.

        There is no question that a ski jump has a net benefit for non-cat assisted launches. But it is the cost that also matters too, in terms of lost highly valuable horizontal flight deck space.

        • RunningBear

          As the USMC was developing their new helicopter carriers and consolidating the various ship types in the 1950s, it became opportune to consider a fixed wing jet for these aviation amphibious carriers. The obvious features of the Harrier allowed them to optimize their existing designs and a “Marriage was made in Heaven”, according to the Corp.

          As aviation design progressed and the vertical lift designs evolved into the present Osprey, the Corp had developed the finely tuned operations of the MEU and optimized the ship design into the America class with the F-35B.

          “The proof is in the pudding”, the future operations of the QE and America will make the case for the “necessity” of the ski jump, less the obvious benefits.
          IMHO
          Fly Navy
          🙂

    • Duane

      The Brits don’t combine Ospreys, choppers, and F-35Bs altogether on their carriers as we do on our aviation amphibs. A ski jump would eliminate a lot of valuable flight deck space for deploying multiple aircraft types in reasonable numbers .. just look at the photo above.

  • Duane

    Cool to see our new fixed wing STOVL best in the world attack fighters lined up on the deck of these amphibs! They have the world’s most lethal air unit of any carrier sailing the seas today. The Brit QE2s are of course coming on line now with their contingent of F-35Bs, and now the Japanese are thinking of converting their “helicopter destroyers” to platforms for F-35Bs that they now want to purchase. And in 2021 our CVNs will start to deploy with F-35C squadrons aboard.

    • El_Sid

      You’ll never see a squadron of F-35’s flying from the QE2.