All AboardFebruary 16, 2018
Last week, we had the honor to visit and present to some of our nation’s sailors for their courage, sacrifice, and service on our country’s newest operational Baseline-9 Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Destroyer, the USS Ramage (DDG 61) homeported in Norfolk, Virginia. The Atlantic Fleet ship, with close to 300 sailors aboard, operated recently in the CENTCOM Area of Responsibility (AOR) of the Middle East for the 5th Fleet in Manama, Bahrain. The new Baseline-9 system allows exponentially more processing, thus enabling exponentially all of the 21 multi-missions of an operational USS Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense Destroyer or Cruiser. These critically important ships are responsible for Air and Missile Defense over large areas, to include Aircraft Carrier Battle Groups, and with the new Baseline-9 processor, these ships can engage in intercepts using far away remote sensors with the firing of interceptors in vertical launch tubes on the ships made up of Standard Missile-6 (SM-6), SM-3 Block IA, SM-3 Block IB, and the new SM-3 Block IIA when it becomes operational.
During the visit to Norfolk, we were able to understand the Certification process at Afloat Training Group Norfolk. They are responsible for up to 22 mission area ships for all classes from Wasp Class LHD Amphibious Assault ships to Cyclone Class PC Patrol Coastal ships. Their efforts and processes to baseline a ship for deployment in the missile and air defense mission areas are absolutely required and necessary for the safety and complete mission competency of every ship and its crew before any and all deployments.
We also had the honor to visit and present to the sailors assigned to the Romania and upcoming Poland land-based Aegis Ashore sites. Both Aegis Ashore sites also have the new Baseline-9 Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense processor to enable launching of SM-3 Block IB interceptors and the new SM-3 Block IIA interceptor when it becomes operational to defend Europe from Iranian ballistic missiles. The new Baseline-9 system enables these inland Aegis Ashore sites in Eastern Europe to leverage the forward based TPY-2 radar in Turkey, overseeing Iran, as well as U.S. Aegis BMD ships in the Mediterranean Sea for queuing, tracking, and supporting firing solutions to intercept Iranian ballistic missiles that would threaten NATO Europe.
The Secretary of the Navies Surface Readiness Review (SECNAV SRR) along with the USFFC Comprehensive Review (USFF CR), released in October and December last year are directing a more capable warfighting navy. In doing this, these studies re-establish readiness as a priority, matching supply and demand, establishing clear command and control relationships, and becoming a true learning organization that is being embraced by the sailors. Further, force generation approaches to training and certification instructions will be enabled by cleaner command and control. Of those recommendations, relocating “lead” platform functions to align under Fleet Forces Command (FFC) and refocusing the Pacific Fleet to readiness and standards will pay off huge. Returning 2nd Fleet to the Atlantic will refocus the Atlantic units for tighter operational and training functions and results. These are changes that will refocus our Maritime Missile Defense posture in a positive way and strengthen the Navy as a whole in the myriad of other mission areas.
With Russian and Chinese military modernization, demonstrations, status quo challenging movements, and increased capability and capacity to compete to win against the United States on land, air, and sea, the deterrent of defense in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans that shields the United States Homeland is vital. The United States Navy secures our defense and has since the birth and existence of our nation. Alignments born out of the CR and SRR, but much more importantly are the Sailors in our fleets and their leadership will serve as a solid foundation to forge the way ahead to meet these threats.