USS Fitzgerald
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USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62) launches a standard missile (SM-2) during a missile exercise near Okinawa.
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DESRON 15 Ships Improve Warfare Capabilities during Multi-Sail Exercise

By Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brock A. Taylor, Navy Public Affairs Support Element West, Det. Japan

PACIFIC OCEAN (NNS) -- Several ships assigned to the forward deployed naval forces (FDNF) Japan completed the semiannual exercise Multi-Sail April 16 near the island of Okinawa.

Multi-Sail is a Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15-led exercise specific to the FDNF that enables ships the opportunity to train in several areas of surface, air and anti-submarine warfare. Ships participating included USS John S. McCain (DDG 56), USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS McCampbell (DDG 85), USS Stethem (DDG 63) and the Hawaiian-based frigate USS Reuben James (FFG 57). John S. McCain was the command ship for the exercise with DESRON 15 staff embarked.

"The whole purpose of the Multi-Sail is to provide a focused time for each ship to improve their warfighting readiness by accomplishing training and certifications in multiple warfare areas. We do that by bringing resources into the AOR (Area of Responsibility) that are not typically available to our forward deployed ships," said DESRON 15's Commodore, Capt. Charles Williams.

One of those resources included a portable acoustic range, which was set up by professionals based out of Hawaii. The acoustic range provided the ships an environment where they could test their skills in Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) and obtain instant feedback on their sensor and weapon performance.

Multi-Sail allowed all ships to hone their skills in various warfare measures, and countermeasures. Each ship underwent training in live-fire exercises, which tested individual performance in small arms, and on a larger scale the accuracy of firing the Mk 45 5-in gun. Fixed Wing aircraft provided each ship a chance to exercise their electronic warfare suites. During ASW scenarios each ship was pitted against a simulated submarine attack where they had to respond quickly using torpedoes and counter-measures. The biggest event however, was the Missile Exercise (MISSILEX), which tested the ships as a whole.

During the MISSILEX both Fitzgerald and Stethem had to react quickly against air attacks using SM2 missiles while at the same time countering sub-surface attacks using Vertical Launch Anti-Submarine Rockets (VLA). Drones launched from the McCampbell gave both ships targets that flew realistic "stream raid" profiles. The MISSILEX was coordinated by Lt. Justin Santos, the surface operations officer for DESRON 15.

"This scenario brought both ships into a very tactically relevant scenario where they had to engage two sea-skimming missiles coming from over the horizon with Standard Missiles, while at the same time having to engage a submarine contact using VLA and also maneuvering at high speed to avoid potential torpedo attack," said Santos. "You just can't duplicate that type of training in the classroom."

Williams credits the Surface Warfare Development Group (SWDG) for much of the MISSILEX planning and the final evaluation of the data gained. SWDG and DESRON 15 work together on events throughout the year, and the Multi-Sail exercise and MISSILEX in particular serves as the pinnacle of their efforts to evaluate and improve fleet tactics.

For the Sailors who deploy out here in the 7th Fleet quite often, the Multi-Sail offered an in depth analysis into individual and shipwide warfare capabilities.

"I think the ships that are forward deployed at DESRON 15 and the (Commander Task Force) CTF 70 ships here are without a doubt the most ready ships in the Navy. Just looking at the geographic area where we are stationed, it's an absolute must that we do this training" said Santos. "Every time we get underway from our homeport of Yokosuka, we're in an environment where we could have to use this," he added.

Although this training is held twice a year, not every ship is able to take part due to the high operation tempo of the forward deployed naval forces. Williams said that having opportunities to do this type of in-depth training is something Sailors should take full advantage of when they have that chance.

"I think it's a big job for the Sailors to be out here forward deployed," he said. "It's a challenge, and it's also a very rewarding experience being deployed to the FDNF and living and operating in this area. I think for the Sailors, especially, Multi-Sail was a great event. It gave them the chance to exercise in their areas of expertise, and improve their own individual skills. It also allowed everybody to come together as a destroyer squadron, part of CTF 70 and 7th Fleet, and really excel as a group of ships and squadron."

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