News - March 2004

News when it happens related to Naval vessels and aviation. Credit will be given to the information sources.

USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) Home From Record-Breaking Deployment
Kennedy Strike Group Now Surge-Ready 
USS Stephen W. Groves to Return from Deployment 
New flagships too tall an order 
HSL-44 Det Rescues Stranded Fishermen
JFK To Make Pensacola Port Visit 
Armed Forces of Malta orders OPV 
Philippine Sea to Return from Deployment
USS Ticonderoga to Make Final Deployment before Decommissioning
USS Thomas S. Gates Set for Deployment
Red Bull is the last of a breed
March - 2004
25/03/2004 USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) Home From Record-Breaking Deployment Mayport Mirror
USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG 58) returned to Naval Station Mayport on March 19 after completing a six-month deployment to the U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command Area of Responsibility. Interdicting 10.7 metric tons of cocaine and detaining 29 suspected drug traffickers, Roberts carried out the most seizures by any Navy ship during a single deployment: five. Beginning deployment on Sept. 25, SBR set sail with the Silverbacks of HSL-44 Detachment Seven and USCG Law Enforcement Detachment (LEDET) 401. After departing NS Mayport, the frigate immediately turned south and transited the Panama Canal, bound for a counter drug patrol in the Eastern Pacific. On station less than a fortnight, the wardroom and crew was rewarded with its first, much anticipated drug bust, seizing nearly three metric tons of cocaine and detaining eight men. Just a week later, SBR located a vessel outside of designated fishing grounds operating without navigation lights. After requesting and receiving permission to board the vessel from JIATF South, the agency responsible for counter drug operations in the Eastern Pacific and Caribbean waters, embarked USCG personnel from LEDET 401 went aboard to investigate. The fishing vessel had a hidden compartment containing more than 2,200 kilograms of cocaine. The eight Colombian men were taken aboard as detainees. In the following weeks, SBR conducted two more interdiction and just halfway through their engagement in the Pacific, it seemed SBR could set a new record for most interdictions in one deployment. The existing record, held by USS McInerney (FFG 8), also home ported in NS Mayport, was four. The wardroom and crew set one goal for themselves: they would get five busts to claim the title. Two weeks into the New Year, the frigate intercepted a speedboat laden with cocaine bound for North America. The vessel was set ablaze by its crew after being spotted by the SBR's SH-60B helicopter, Magnum 450 of HSL-44 Detachment Seven. Once alongside the fiberglass vessel, SBR's Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat (RHIB) was launched with Coast Guard LEDET 404 aboard, while the fire was put out by SBR's crew. Subsequently, five men were escorted aboard as detainees. The contraband, now visible due to the state of the speedboat, was badly charred but easily recognizable. Approximately one half of the 1.5 tons on board was recovered and seized as evidence. 
25/03/2004 Kennedy Strike Group Now Surge-Ready USS JFK Public Affairs 

The USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67) Strike Group is helping the Navy forge a new path into the future. They are the first strike group to train under the new Fleet Response Plan, or FRP. Under FRP, strike groups implement the training resource strategy and use existing east coast and Gulf of Mexico ranges and improved training technologies to simulate combat as a part of the composite training unit exercise, or COMPTUEX. After leaving Fort Lauderdale March 5, Kennedy Strike Group began phase two of the crucial training exercise. ''Phase two of COMPTUEX is a training series where the individual events are connected, and accelerated,'' said Rear Adm. Donald K. Bullard, strike group commander. During phase one, the strike group learned to fight together as a cohesive unit - battling individual surface, air and sub-surface threats. During phase two, the strike group fights against multiple threats. The strike group entered the Gulf of Mexico to complete phase two of the training, marking the first time a carrier strike group has conducted a planned training exercise in the Gulf of Mexico. The varied training range sites and constricted air space give the training more realism than past training ranges, said Cmdr. Jim Webb, commanding officer of Strike Fighter Squadron Eight One. ''When we go overseas, we work in different air spaces and different countries,'' he said. ''We have a lot of constraints on how we get in and out of the ranges. This training we're getting in COMPTUEX is a lot more like what we'll actually be doing on cruise.'' The second phase of COMPTUEX culminated in the final battle problem, a two-to-three day showdown between the strike group and a large enemy force, including frigates, aircraft and a diesel submarine. The final result of the final battle problem is surge readiness for Kennedy Strike Group, said Bullard. ''Now that we're out of this exercise, we're in a surge-ready status,'' he said. ''We will maintain this readiness for up to a year to fourteen months. This sets the baseline for the next 14 months, where we're at the president's beck and call.'' The strike group's COMPTUEX assets includes surface and sub-surface vessels from New Jersey to Florida: the guided missile cruiser USS Vicksburg (CG 69); the guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80); the destroyer USS Spruance (DD 963); the fast combat support ship USS Seattle (AOE 3); the attack submarine USS Toledo (SSN 769); and Carrier Air Wing 17.

17/03/2004 New flagships too tall an order News Scotsman 
AS the biggest and most expensive vessels ever built for the British Navy they will become the pride of the fleet. But the initial designs of two new aircraft carriers being constructed to ferry troops and planes to war zones across the globe may have been scuppered by a 114-year-old Scottish bridge before they even reach the drawing board. French designers of the two ships, HMS Queen Elizabeth and HMS Prince Charles, have had to carefully consider the height of the ships to ensure they can sail under the Forth Bridge after they are completed at Rosyth. It is understood preliminary designs of the two new aircraft carriers have had to be altered, to allow them to fit under the landmark rail bridge. The carriers are to be built in four separate "megablocks" at shipyards around the country, which will then be floated around the coast to the Rosyth for final assembly. The two 950ft long, 60,000 tonne aircraft carriers will be the biggest British warships ever built. With just 150 feet between the bridge and the surface of the Forth at high tide, the original designs would have made it a very close shave for the vessels. Shipyard insiders say the bridge's height was always likely to force a change in the design. "It is quite possible the designs have had to be changed," said one. "The Forth Bridge is not that high when you go under it, so it was always going to be close." Another said: "I heard that one of the designs was actually higher than the bridge, but that has been changed." Work on the aircraft carriers is not expected to start for another six years, as the "megablocks" are yet to be constructed. The £2.9 billion contract to build the ships is being undertaken by the Paris-based company Thales and BAE. It is the latest shipbuilding phase of the UK Ministry of Defence's future carrier programme. The ships will eventually replace the Royal Navy's three existing carriers - Illustrious, Invincible and Ark Royal. They are due to be completed no later than 2012, but the design process has already been fraught with problems over the size and scope of the ships and the budget for their construction. A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence admitted that the Forth Bridge had been a factor in the design. "The ships have not been definitively designed yet so it is untrue to say that the height has been lowered," he said. "However, the height of the Forth Bridge will be taken into account when the design is done. It will be a factor in any final design. "The ships have to be able to get under the bridge to get to sea when completed so they will not be as high as they might have been." However, both BAE and Thales have denied the height of the bridge had forced them to change the design. Bob Mulligan, platform director of the aircraft carrier team, said: "We have worked on a number of design iterations looking at cost and capability trade-offs throughout stage three of the assessment phase of the aircraft carrier programme," he said. "None of these design iterations have been driven by difficulties associated with the height of the Forth Bridge." It would not be the first time the bridge has caused problems for the Navy, however. The carrier USS Nimitz had to be anchored at sea when it visited Scotland in 1974, because its height of 207 feet meant it couldn't be taken near the bridge. 
11/03/2004 HSL-44 Det Rescues Stranded Fishermen Mayport Mirror
On Feb. 28, the crew of Lt.j.g. Marshall Chastain, Lt.j.g. Allyn Uttecht and AW2 Erick Bennett from HSL-44 rescued two fishermen from the Naval Station Mayport Jetties with their SH-60B Seahawk helicopter. Flying off USS Taylor (FFG 50) as part of the John F. Kennedy battle group COMPTUEX, the crew of Magnum 444 was on its way back from a tasking when a call came through from the U.S. Coast Guard. The Coast Guard was attempting to rescue two fishermen from the Mayport jetties using a small boat. High winds and waves had stranded two fishermen near the end of the jetties with no avenue for escape. After several futile attempts and conditions continuing to deteriorate, the USCG determined they would not be able to rescue the fisherman. The crew of Magnum 444 rigged their aircraft for rescue and took off from NS Mayport. After airborne, Magnum 444 was contacted by the Coast Guard for a final update of the situation. The crew of Magnum 444 was able to position themselves in a hover over the two stranded fishermen. After Search and Rescue (SAR) Aircrewman Bennett demonstrated to the two fishermen how to properly use the rescue strop lifting device from the cabin door of the helicopter, Magnum 444 quickly hoisted the two fishermen to safety. Once on board, Bennett assessed the condition of the two fishermen. Although both men were wet, cold and bruised from the pounding waves and rocks, they were in stable condition. After a short flight to the base airfield tower, the crew of Magnum 444 safely delivered fishermen to an awaiting ambulance. Shortly after, Magnum 444 departed the base for USS Taylor to continue exercises in support of the JFK Battle Group COMPTUEX. Knowing that none of this would have been possible without the support of a very capable maintenance team lead by AMC(AW) Michael Woods, the crew of Magnum 444 successfully demonstrated the true flexibility and broad spectrum of missions supported by the LAMPS community. By conducting a successful rescue under less than optimum conditions, the crew reaffirmed the motto all SAR crews train to support: ''So others may live.'' 
12/03/2004 JFK To Make Pensacola Port Visit From Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy (CV67) will make a four-day port visit to Pensacola, Fla., starting March 17. The ship will be open to the public for general visiting. "Pensacola is a great Navy city that, over the years, has been central to naval training. We are extremely pleased to be able to have the JFK visit Pensacola," said Vice Adm. Gary Roughead, commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet/NATO Striking Fleet Atlantic.The arrival of John F. Kennedy, commanded by Capt. Ronald H. Henderson Jr., marks the first visit to Pensacola for an aircraft carrier since June 2000, when USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and its crew pulled in for a brief stop during carrier qualifications. This much-deserved port visit will give the more than 5,000 JFK Sailors a chance to relax after taking part in the Carrier Strike Group's (CSG) Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX). COMPTUEX is an intermediate level exercise designed to forge the strike group into a cohesive fighting team, and is a critical step in pre-deployment training. "The strike group training we are able to accomplish in the Gulf of Mexico and in Florida is absolutely vital to preparing our naval forces for combat operations in support of the war on terrorism or any other tasking that may come our way," said Roughead. During COMPTUEX, more than a dozen ships and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17, embarked aboard John F. Kennedy, conducted war game exercises using training ranges along the East Coast of the United States and the Gulf of Mexico. The exercise took advantage of existing ranges under the Navy's comprehensive Training Resource Strategy. These ranges offer training facilities and realistic simulations, better preparing U.S. Navy ships and Sailors to participate in the global war on terrorism. "The global war on terrorism continues, but under the new Fleet Response Plan and with the effective training we provide our men and women, we are ready to carry out any mission assigned," said Roughead.

12/03/2004

Armed Forces of Malta orders OPV From "Times of Malta" via Stephen John Borg

The Armed Forces of Malta and Italian company Messrs Fincantieri C.N.I yesterday signed a contract for the construction and supply of an offshore patrol vessel. The contract covers the construction of the vessel together with an associated training and logistic support package. The multi-million euro project is being undertaken with technical advice and assistance from the Italian MoD and financed in its entirety with funding from the 5th Italo-Maltese Financial Protocol. The vessel is designed upon the Diciotti class patrol vessel (currently in service with the Italian Coastguard) but also embodies a number of significant modifications designed to meet specific requirements outlined by the AFM. The 54-mtr, 450-tonne craft will be capable of max speed of 20 knots and an unrefuelled range of over 3,000 nautical miles. Facilities are also available aboard for the landing and refuelling of light to medium helicopters as well as the deployment of a fast interception craft by means of a stern ramp. The main armament will consist of afully stabilized and electrical driven 25-mm OTO-Breda cannon. Extensive use will be made of the latest technology including a fully automated engineering plant management system as well as the latest in navigational, communications and surveillance equipment. The 25-man crew will work in an air-conditioned environment specifically designed to reduce fatigue and improve efficiency. The vessel will be constructed throughout to the standards set by RINA, the Italian classification society. Her delivery is scheduled for the third quarter of 2005 and, on entering service, she will complement the two coastal patrol craft financed by the US government, the second of which will enter service later this year.

11/03/2004

Philippine Sea to Return from Deployment From Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet Public Affairs

NORFOLK, Va. (NNS) -- The guided-missile cruiser USS Philippine Sea (CG 58) and embarked Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron, Light (HSL) 44, Det. 3 will return to its homeport of Mayport, Fla., March 12 after completing a five-month deployment with the USS Enterprise (CVN 65) Carrier Strike Group (CSG) in support of the global war on terrorism. During the ship's deployment, Philippine Sea served as the overall command ship for Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) in the Persian Gulf. The ship's Visit, Board, Search and Seizure team conducted more than 120 MIO vessel boardings in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom and the global war on terrorism. Most notable was Philippine Sea's simultaneous takedown of two dhows carrying more than two tons of illegal drugs with possible terrorist ties. In addition, Philippine Sea provided protection of the al Basra oil terminal, keeping more than $60 million of oil a day flowing into the Iraqi economy. Philippine Sea, commanded by Capt. Stephen J. Johnson, is 12th in a line of Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruisers, and was commissioned March 18, 1989. Modern U.S. Navy guided-missile cruisers are multi-mission [anti-air warfare, anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare] surface combatants capable of supporting carrier strike groups, amphibious forces, or of operating independently and as flagships of surface strike groups. The cruisers are equipped with Tomahawk Cruise missiles, giving them additional long-range strike mission capability. The Enterprise CSG deployed in support of the global war on terrorism Oct. 2. Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group (CCDG) 12, Rear Adm. J. G. Stavridis, commands the CSG, which consists of the following ships: the Norfolk-based aircraft carrier Enterprise with its embarked air wing, Carrier Air Wing 1; the guided-missile cruisers Philippine Sea and USS Gettysburg, (CG 64) homeported in Mayport, Fla.; the combat logistics ship USS Detroit (AOE 4), homeported in Earle, N.J.; and the attack submarine USS Miami (SSN 755), homeported in Groton, Conn. Other ships attached to the CSG returned to their respective homeports as follows: the flagship of the CSG, Enterprise, returned to Norfolk, Va., Feb. 29; Gettysburg returned to Mayport, Fla., Feb. 27; Detroit returned to Earle, N.J., March 1; and Miami returned to Groton, Conn., Feb. 12.

10/03/2004

USS Ticonderoga to Make Final Deployment Before Decommissioning Naval Station Pascagoula Public Affairs

PASCAGOULA, Miss. (NNS) -- USS Ticonderoga (CG 47) will depart its homeport at Naval Station Pascagoula for its final deployment March 10. The ship is scheduled to be decommissioned Sept. 30. While deployed, the ship will initially conduct counter-drug operations in the eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and then participate in UNITAS operations off the coast of South America. UNITAS is an annual series of multinational training exercises and operations conducted by the Navy, Marine Corps, Special Operations and U.S. Coast Guard forces with their counterparts from South and Central American countries of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Columbia, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. Although Ticonderoga will not be joining the carrier strike groups currently operating in the Middle East, the ship will be supporting homeland defense, working hand-in-hand with the U.S. Coast Guard. It will be patrolling coastal waters and airspace, standing watch over critical infrastructure, collecting intelligence and intercepting threats to U.S. national security. Ticonderoga is an Aegis guided-missile cruiser, one of three assigned to Destroyer Squadron 6, homeported at Pascagoula. It is a multi-mission surface combatant capable of supporting carrier strike groups, amphibious forces, operating as a flagship of a surface strike group, or operating independently. It has a crew of more than 350 men and women, and has the ability to carry out multi-dimensional, multi-threat combat missions. As part of its Aegis weapons arsenal, Ticonderoga is equipped with sophisticated displays and computer systems, and advanced surface-to-air missiles, and is ideally suited to perform duties as "Shield of the Fleet" against a complex and fast-moving air attack of any kind. Ticonderoga was built in Pascagoula and commissioned in January 1983. It was the world's first surface combatant equipped with the AEGIS combat system, the most sophisticated air defence in the world. During the ship's lifetime, its crews have been involved in major national and international events and several historic NATO exercises.

10/03/2004

USS Thomas S. Gates Set for Deployment Naval Station Pascagoula Public Affairs

USS Thomas S. Gates (CG 51) will leave its homeport at Naval Station Pascagoula, Pascagoula, Miss., for a five-month deployment March 10. The deployment will cover a variety of missions, including a circumnavigation of the South American continent. Gates' deployment will include counter-drug operations, high-profile port visits along the eastern Atlantic seaboard; escorting the nation's newest carrier, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), to her new homeport in San Diego; and international exercises with South American navy ships. "This is an unprecedented deployment with many training opportunities for Gates," noted Cmdr. Richard A. Rainer Jr., Gates' commanding officer. Gates' eastern seaboard tour will include a visit to New London, Conn., home of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy; Philadelphia, Pa., where Gates was commissioned in August 1987; and Annapolis, Md., home of the U.S. Naval Academy, where Gates will serve as the visiting ship for this year's graduation ceremony. Gates was selected to escort Reagan on her maiden voyage to San Diego, where Reagan will be homeported. Reagan is the ninth aircraft carrier of the nuclear-powered Nimitz class. Gates' escort duties will include a visit to Punta del Este, Uruguay, and a voyage around the southern tip of South America, one of the most hazardous and legendary passages in maritime history.Gates is an Aegis guided-missile cruiser, one of three assigned to Destroyer Squadron 6, homeported at Pascagoula. It is a multi-mission surface combatant capable of supporting carrier strike groups or amphibious forces, operating as a flagship of a surface strike group, or operating independently. It has a crew of more than 350 men and women, and has the ability to carry out multi-dimensional, multi-threat combat missions. As part of its Aegis weapons arsenal, Gates is equipped with SPY-1 radar, sophisticated displays and computer systems, and advanced surface-to-air missiles, and is ideally suited to perform duties as "Defender of the Republic" against a complex and fast-moving air attack of any kind. Gates is scheduled to return in early August 2004.

05/03/2004

Red Bull is the last of a breed Royal Navy News

It’s the end of the road for the Royal Navy’s venerable Big Dipper as maritime exercise ASWEX 04 saw the final flight of the anti-submarine variant Sea King Mk 6. Embarked in Type 22 frigate HMS Cornwall, 771 Naval Air Squadron B Flight’s ZA169 – known to its friends as Red Bull – notched up 35 hours in the air in just over seven days flying. Working alongside the new Merlin helicopter from 814 NAS, the Sea King still proved its value as a submarine hunter, using its 2069 Variable Depth Sonar to track ‘enemy’ submarines over significant distances despite poor acoustic conditions. With occasional minor problems leaving the Merlin on the flight deck, the Sea King was called on to ensure the flotilla was protected from the below-surface threat at all times. On completion of the exercise, ZA169 and the spare aircraft at 771 NAS, ZD634, had their sonar equipment removed – including the ‘dipper’ or sonar sensor which is lowered into the water to pick up the sounds of submarines. That act signalled the end of more than 30 years of service for the ASW (anti-submarine warfare) variant. The two aircraft will now become utility helicopters, with B Flight joining their sister flight as a Search and Rescue (SAR) and HDS (Helicopter Delivery Service) flight on board one of the carriers. “Over the last 30 years or so, the Sea King has provided the Royal Navy with an organic ASW helicopter second to none,” said Lt Nige Terry, Flight Commander of B Flight, shortly after he landed for the last time on the flight deck of HMS Cornwall. “And during ASWEX 04 the aircraft yet again proved itself to be a superb ASW platform.”His Flight Observer, Lt Rob O’Kane, said: “This is a sad day for pingers throughout the Royal Navy, although I am sure the submarine community will disagree – we could almost hear the champagne corks popping from beneath the waves!” The Westland Sea King is a British variation of the American Sikorsky SH3D, built under licence in the UK, using British engines and avionics on the basic American airframe. The first prototype ASW variant (HAS 1) flew on May 7, 1969, and the Intensive Flying Trials Unit formed up in the August of that year. The aircraft went front-line with 824 NAS in 1970, with 819, 826, 706, 810, 814 and 820 Squadrons all following suit. The helicopter has embarked in most aviation-capable ships of the Fleet since then, taking part in numerous operations around the globe. The Mk 6 had a major role in the Falklands Conflict in 1982, flying more than 5,000 hours, and it also proved to be a valuable asset in the waning Cold War and in the Gulf, former Yugoslavia, Sierra Leone, as well as the current and ongoing international war against terrorism. The aircraft also provided search and rescue cover for the Fleet, and were prominent in disaster relief operations such as the Mozambique floods. The aircraft has been extensively upgraded since it first flew with the Navy. The HAS 2 entered service in June 1976, and metamorphosed into the HAS 5 in November 1980. The final version of the ASW Sea King, the HAS 6, came into service in November 1989 – but now that the Merlin has spread its wings, the Sea King’s rule in the ASW field is over. Or in pingers’ parlance, the Sea King will now go down in history as the ultimate ‘Big Dipper’. 771 NAS B Flight will embark in HMS Cornwall for the final time on the ship’s forthcoming deployment to the USA for Exercise Aurora 04, with the Sea Kings embarked in the utility role – still with a key role to play in the major amphibious exercise. To mark the end of Type 22 Sea King operations, a celebration is to be held while HMS Cornwall is alongside in Falmouth next month.

   Copyright © 2004 Navies.org.uk All rights reserved.