PACIFIC OCEAN – The ships of Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON) 11, part of the USS Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG), completed their participation in the joint U.S. forces training exercise, Valiant Shield 2016 (VS16), Sept. 23, 2016.
The Bonhomme Richard ESG is comprised of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), the amphibious transport dock ship USS Green Bay (LPD 20), the amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), and Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU).
Additional VS16 participants included USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), USS Curtis Wilbur (DDG 54) and eight additional surface ships, an estimated 18,000 personnel, and more than 180 aircraft from the U.S. Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps.
Valiant Shield is a U.S.-only, biennial field training exercise (FTX) with a focus on integration of joint training in a blue-water environment among U.S. forces. The training enabled real-world proficiency in sustaining joint forces through detecting, locating, tracking and engaging units at sea, in the air, on land and in cyberspace in response to a range of mission areas.
“Exercises like Valiant Shield allow us to improve our power projection capabilities through inter-service cooperation on a substantial scale,” said Capt. Ed Thompson, commander, PHIBRON 11. “Combining the abilities of an ESG and a carrier strike group, as well as Air Force and other Marine Corps assets, creates an extremely robust force, capable of responding to a number of different contingencies.”
The participating forces exercised a wide range of capabilities demonstrating the inherent flexibility of joint forces. The range of capabilities included maritime security operations, anti-submarine and air defense exercises and a variety of amphibious operations.
Among the capabilities showcased were amphibious boat and mechanized raids, simulated maritime interdiction operations and a live-fire missile exercise featuring Bonhomme Richard, Greenbay and Germantown firing NATO Sea Sparrow and Rolling Air Frame surface-to-air missiles at remote-controlled drones. The missile shoot successfully tested the self-defense capabilities of each ship.
Curtis Wilbur, a guided-missile destroyer which joined the ESG for the exercise, also participated in a naval surface fire support exercise firing their 5-inch, Mark 45 gun in support of a simulated 31st MEU landing.
“The exercise was an invaluable training opportunity for our ships and Sailors to practice supporting our Marines getting ashore and accomplishing their objective,” said Thompson. “Capabilities like naval surface fire support from a guided missile destroyer, aviation operations aboard all our ships and landing craft inserting the Marines ashore; those are the core tasks of the Navy component of this amphibious force.”
In addition to Valiant Shield, the Bonhomme Richard ESG will continue to take part in multiple unilateral and multilateral exercises in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations to enhance interoperability with regional partners and support security and stability in the Indo-Asia Pacific region.