Surface Warfare Magazine
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Surface Action Group - A Key To Maintaining Maritime Superiority

Ships and units from the Sterett-Dewey Surface Action Group (Sterett-Dewey SAG) departed Naval Base San Diego for a regularly-scheduled deployment to the Western Pacific, Mar. 31.

The command staff of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 31 and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers (DDG) USS Sterett (DDG 104) and USS Dewey (DDG 105) deployed along with the embarked helicopter detachments from Helicopter Maritime Squadron (HSM) 49 and HSM 78.

The Sterett-Dewey SAG will operate with regional navies to conduct routine patrols, maritime security operations and theater security cooperation activities to enhance regional security and stability. In 2016, for the first time in many years, multiple DDGs were combined into a Pacific Surface Action Group (PACSAG) and deployed to the Western Pacific under operational control of U.S. 3rd Fleet.

“The value of a SAG cannot be overstated,” said Capt. David A. Bretz, commander, DESRON 31. “We are building upon the successes and applying the lessons learned from the inaugural PACSAG deployment. We are ready and able to support a variety of exercises and missions with our partners and allies in support of maritime stability and security in the Western Pacific.”

The International Date Line has long been the dividing border between 3rd and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility. Ships passing east to west would cross into 7th fleet and come under the operational control (OPCON) of that commander; conversely, a west to east transit held the same shift in command to 3rd Fleet. As part of the new 3rd Fleet Forward model, and in keeping with the inaugural PACSAG deployment, the Sterett-Dewey SAG will remain under 3rd Fleet control throughout its deployment.


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“What we’re doing is we’re experimenting with different command and control arrangements and different force relationships to be able to get the maximum amount of lethality, distributed lethality,” 3rd Fleet Chief of Staff Capt. John Beaver said in January at the annual Surface Navy Association conference. “We want to present a problem to a potential adversary beyond their ability to solve.”

Third Fleet operating forward offers additional options to the Pacific Fleet commander by leveraging the capabilities of both fleets. This operational concept allows these numbered fleets to complement one another and provide the foundation of stability in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region.

“What is really unique is that instead of sending independent deployers out, which is what you would normally do with (DDGs), you’re deployed together as a SAG,” U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Adm. Scott Swift said. “It’s part of that effort that you’ve been reading about called distributed lethality, meaning the combined lethality of a SAG is much greater than an individual DDG, as impressive as an individual DDG is.”

The maritime environment around the world is changing and in order to stay ahead of potential adversaries in tactics and technology, the Navy must be continuously developing new ways to maintain sea control. Distributed lethality achieves that. In an effort to take the Navy’s assets and put them in the most strategic places around the world, this ongoing SAG initiative hits close to home in achieving the Surface Navy’s constantly developing mission of distributed lethality.

“Last year’s SAG was revolutionary and a huge step toward realizing distributed lethality; it was new, different, presented challenges, and was a milestone and its mistakes and lessons learned have prepared us for another, more capable and lethal SAG this year,” Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Tom Rowden said. “We have the best ships and Sailors in the world. There is no question that the surface community serves as a primary integrator in today’s warfighting disciplines, from the tactical to the theater level – with capability for deterrence, sea control, and power projection around the globe.”

The Western Pacific offers a range of challenges from natural disaster response to maritime security threats, having both 3rd and 7th Fleet controlling ships and aircraft strengthens the ability of the Pacific Fleet to respond to challenges and work with partners in the region.

“Third Fleet was the forgotten fleet in the Pacific,” Swift said. “In fact, Bull Halsey, one of our most famous admirals in (WWII), commanded 3rd Fleet throughout the war and the vast majority of 3rd Fleet was forward deployed in the Pacific Islands fighting the island campaign all the way up to Japan. This is a little bit about returning to your roots — our roots — of having 3rd Fleet deploying forward throughout your entire cruise.”

The Navy maintains a presence in strategic places across the globe to help preserve peace and security, and to advance partnerships. The ever-developing Surface Warfare Strategy leverages the technological and tactical assets of the world’s most advanced warships and capable Sailors, allowing for a quick response to virtually any situation.

“In the midst of a rapidly changing security environment in the maritime domain, our Navy is delivering new ships and weapons systems while, at the same time, improving our training and tactics to address these new and sophisticated threats,” said Rowden. “Our Surface Forces are executing exciting missions all over the world and those ships and Sailors play a vital role in shaping the future of the maritime environment.” Surface Warfare Magazine

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