CORAL SEA (NNS) -- Watchstanders hover over chart tables, plotting courses as they assess possible tracks of an Australian submarine posing as an opposing force.
Sailors at consoles "hook" tracks and report inbound aircraft, signaling to the tactical action officer that queries and other pre-planned responses need to be made.
For the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Sterett (DDG 104), the ship's combat information center is routinely abuzz as the ship manages a number of missions, often simultaneously.
But here at U.S.-Australian bilateral exercise Talisman Saber 17, Sterett is playing a different role than it normally would. It is taking commands and direction from an amphibious flagship, alongside Australian frigates with similar sensors and defense capabilities.
At the onset of Talisman Saber 17, Sterett joined a combined U.S.-Australia-New Zealand Expeditionary Strike Group, led by the forward-deployed amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6). The addition of Sterett moves forward the U.S. Pacific Fleet's 'Up-Gunned' Expeditionary Strike Group concept, where a traditional amphibious ready group (ARG) is escorted by multi-mission ships like Sterett.
Sterett and partnered Australian frigates are contributing a robust set of offensive and defensive capabilities to ensure the amphibious ships can move into the littorals and land forces ashore.
"Sterett has conducted numerous bilateral exercises during the course of our deployment, and Talisman Saber is another great opportunity to work with our Australian partners and allies," said Cmdr. Claudine Caluori, Sterett's commanding officer. "Talisman Saber provides our Sailors several unique opportunities to showcase the skills we've honed over the course of deployment, and we look forward to contributing to the ESG's defense."
Flight quarters, flight quarters, flights quarters.
It's 4 a.m. and Sailors aboard Sterett are manning up to launch one of its embarked helicopters, an MH-60R from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 49.
Within the construct of the exercise, Sterett and "Red Stinger," are hunting a submarine and need to remain extra vigilant.