PACIFIC OCEAN (Sept. 20, 2014) -
As the flagship of Commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5, the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS George Washington (CVN 73) is the hub of communication and control, making it a high-value unit (HVU).
What makes George Washington the most valuable ship in the strike group is not only its command and control capabilities but also the strike capability its airwing brings.
“It’s the largest ship in the strike group with more than 5,000 Sailors and more than 60 aircraft,” said Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Chapman, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15 Valiant Shield 2014 lead planner. “The strike aircraft aboard are major assets, capable of striking multiple targets both on land and at sea, in areas where there are no friendly airfields available. This is a capability which can only function if the carrier is around to launch and recover aircraft.”
A carrier’s main line of defense is its screening surface combatants, both in the exercises and in real-life situations.
“While cruisers and destroyers are capital assets, capable of shooting missiles at long range, they are smaller and there are a greater number of them throughout the Navy,” said Chapman. “They’re also more maneuverable and have a range of defensive systems because part of their job is to help protect the aircraft carrier so that it can continue to serve as a mobile airfield.”
There are many potential threats to HVUs that must be defended against in operations, and trained to in exercises.
“The submarine threat is present during most of the Valiant Shield events,” said Lt. Geoffrey Biegel, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15. “We have imposed some exercise limitations to get the most benefits from both the air and anti-submarine warfare portions of the exercise. Because in reality, the submarine threat would be present regardless of whatever else we are doing.”
Defenses are in place to protect the HVU from submarine attacks, first and foremost being the ability to detect them.
“We have destroyers that are equipped with passive and active sonar,” said Chapman. “We have MH-60R helicopters that are equipped with active dipping sonar. We also have shore support from the P-3 and P-8 aircraft. The torpedoes the cruiser and destroyers have can serve as an attack or self defense weapon.”
The main purpose of these events isn’t to test the George Washington Carrier Strike Group in a discrete and planned environment, but rather it’s meant to test how well they can flex levels of command and control and tactical decision making in a free-play scenario.
“What these events do is stress our planning, development and execution efforts through executing, assessing and getting lessons learned to improve our planning processes,” said Montgomery. “It’s our vulnerability periods that exercise our capability against adversary submarine and air forces that serve to stress our operational planning environment. This means that while we are simultaneously conducting significant planned evolutions, we separately have to account for an adversary force structure that is applied against us.”
Valiant Shield is a U.S.-only exercise integrating Navy, Air Force, Army, and Marine Corps assets in a blue-water environment aimed at refining the military’s ability to present a seamless joint force and respond to any contingencies in a timely manner.
Even though Valiant Shield is a U.S.-only exercise, its scope and location demonstrates commitment to the peace and stability of the Pacific. Such high-level, sophisticated training among multiservice forces ensures the U.S. military remains the preeminent military power in the region, capable of honoring its commitments to allies, partners and friends.