A new floating sea base named after the most decorated Marine in history is being commissioned Thursday in Bahrain.
The USS Lewis B. Puller is an expeditionary sea base with a large deck that will be used to launch helicopters, amphibious assault vehicles and other smaller vessels to support regional maritime operations.
It will replace the USS Ponce, an amphibious transport dock that supported missions in the Persian Gulf and other areas in the 5th Fleet theater. It is scheduled to be decommissioned next year.
The new vessel is the second ship named after Lt. Gen. Lewis Burwell “Chesty” Puller, a World War II and Korean War combat veteran who earned five Navy Crosses and the Distinguished Service Cross. Those awards are second only to the Medal of Honor in recognizing valor.
“His example lives not just in every Marine but in every service member who faithfully serves our nation,” Navy Secretary Richard V. Spencer said in a statement. “Today’s commissioning of USS Lewis B. Puller continues that legacy.”
Capt. Adan G. Cruz will command the new vessel, whose crew will consist of both sailors and civilian mariners.
It will have two helicopter hangars, storage for four mine-sweeping hydrofoil sleds and cranes that lower vessels into the water instead of lowering the deck until it’s submerged.
Puller earned his first two Navy Crosses during combat in Nicaragua in the early 1930s; he earned his third and fourth in fierce battles against the Japanese in the in World War II. He was awarded his fifth Navy Cross and the Distinguished Service Cross for leading a regiment that fended off enemy forces in Korea, despite being heavily outnumbered.
The first ship named for Fuller was a guided-missile frigate used from 1982 to 1998. It was transferred to the Egyptian navy and renamed the Toushka.
The Puller will work with the USNS Hershel “Woody” Williams, a sea base under construction, to handle less-intensive missions so warships can focus on more demanding operations in the Middle East and Pacific, the Navy said.
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy is looking at ways to accelerate the phase-out of F/A-18C “Classic” Hornet strike fighters from its carrier air wings and replacing the last few squadrons with F/A-18E Super Hornets, a Navy spokeswoman said.
“As we balance operational requirements and our initiatives to build the most capable and ready forward-deployed force, we are identifying the most efficient and effective way to safely transition the last four Navy operational Hornet squadrons to Super Hornets,” Cmdr. Jeannie Groeneveld, public affairs officer for commander, Naval Air Forces, said in an e-mail to Seapower.
“In order to provide our most capable warfighting force forward, the Navy began the first of the final transitions of our four operational F/A-18C Hornet squadrons to F/A-18E Super Hornet squadrons in July, with an expected completion in [fiscal] ’19. Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 131, was the first of the four squadrons to begin the transition last month.”
The other three F/A-18C squadrons, all based at Naval Air Station Oceana, Va., are VFA-34, VFA-37 and VFA-83.
“Accelerating the transition to Super Hornets will allow cost savings and reduce depot maintenance workload,” Groeneveld said. “As the Navy approaches the end of the extended service life for Hornets, the cost per flight hour continues to increase. Additionally, there are shortages in the Department of the Navy’s spare parts and supply system that have contributed to flight line readiness challenges, as well as our ability to extend the service lives of these airframes.”
She also said the transitions give the Navy the opportunity to select its best-condition Hornets for use by the Marine Corps and by Navy support and reserve units, such as Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center, Fighter Composite Squadron 12, Reserve squadron VFA-204 and the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Squadron, the Blue Angels.
The Navy is confident it will be able to continue to support all operational requirements as it completes transition of the Hornet fleet to Super Hornets,” she said.
Congress has supported the Navy’s requirements for increased Super Hornet procurement to bridge the gap to the fleet introduction of the F-35C Lightning II strike fighter. The first fleet squadron to make the transition to the F-35C will be VFA-147 in 2018.
WASHINGTON — Marine Corps aviation units must cease flying for a 24-hour period within the next two weeks to review safety procedures following two recent Marine crashes that killed 19 troops, the service’s top general ordered Friday.
Gen. Robert Neller, the Marine commandant, has ordered aviators to review “the fundamentals of safe flight operations, standardization, and combat readiness” during the “operational reset,” said Capt. Ryan Alvis, a spokeswoman for the Corps.
“The intent is for flying squadrons to review selected incidents which occurred enterprise-wide and study historical examples of completed investigations in order to bring awareness and best practices to the fleet,” she said.
Unit commanders will determine when to conduct the stand-downs. Neller’s order instructed commanders to conduct the pause when it will not interrupt training or combat operations.
Fifteen Marines and a sailor were killed in the July 10 crash of a KC-130T tanker-transport aircraft into the Mississippi Delta. Three additional Marines died Saturday in the crash of an MV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft just off the coast of Australia.
The Marines on Wednesday announced they had determined the Ospreys were safe to fly following inspections and a preliminary investigation into Saturday’s crash. In that incident, the Osprey crashed into the deck of the USS Green Bay as it was landing on the amphibious transport dock before crashing into the ocean about 18 miles off the coast of Queensland.
The three Marines killed are believed to have been trapped inside the aircraft as it sank, officials said. Twenty-three others aboard the aircraft were rescued.
In the July crash, the KC-130T appears to have broken up in mid-air before it crashed to the ground leaving two debris trails each stretching more than a mile long, an initial investigation found. All of the personnel aboard the plane were killed.
The Marines grounded its entire fleet of 12 KC-130T aircraft following the incident.
Safety stand-downs of individual airframes or for particular units are not uncommon.
Last August, the Marines ordered a similar stand-down for all F/A-18 Hornets aircraft following several crashes of the fighter jets. The Marines also temporarily grounded AV-8B Harrier and Osprey aircraft in Japan last year following non-fatal wrecks.
The U.S. Navy now has its 76th secretary of the navy after White House nominee Richard V. Spencer was sworn in on August 3.
The former U.S. Marine pilot assumes the role two days after being confirmed in a Senate hearing.
Spencer most recently served as Managing Partner for investment company Fall Creek Management, LLC.
Spencer is Trump’s second Secretary of the Navy nominee after Philip Bilden, Trump’s first nominee for the role, withdrew himself from consideration, citing privacy and financial sacrifices as the main reason behind the decision.
Speaking before the Senate Armed Services Committee on August 1, Spencer indicated he would not be chasing Trump’s 350-ship navy goal at all costs pointing to the possibility of achieving the desired capability with a 300-ship navy.
Spencer is taking over from Sean J. Stackley who assumed the role of acting navy secretary after Ray Mabus, the 75th navy secretary, retired on January 6. With his eight years of service, Mabus became the navy’s longest serving secretary since World War I.
WASHINGTON — Retired Marine Gen. John Kelly is a battle-hardened commander who would bring a background of military discipline and order to President Donald Trump’s roiling White House as the new chief of staff.
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RAMSTEIN AIR BASE, Germany — The U.S. Air Force has yet to stand up a squadron of F-35s in Europe, but it’s already working on how to integrate the fifth-generation combat jet with some of its closest allies in the region.
U.S. Air Forces in Europe this week brought together about 50 senior military fliers and planners from eight nations, all with a stake in the newest and most expensive fighter aircraft on the block.
The two-day forum on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter served to promote cooperation among the U.S. and its European counterparts that are already flying the plane or plan to do so. The goal was to share lessons learned and build common approaches that will support integrated flying operations in Europe in the future.
“We have to find a way to nest it all together,” said Gen. Tod Wolters, USAFE and Air Forces Africa commander.
“At the end of the day, if we can say this is something that we’re fusing into the system … we’re in a great place,” he told the group, which included fighter pilots, base commanders and chiefs of staff. The Army, NATO and the Marine Corps also sent representatives, as did Lockheed Martin, the F-35 Lightning II manufacturer.
The forum, which concluded late Thursday, was the first of its kind in Europe, officials said. It followed a similar conference held in March in the Pacific, where Japan, South Korea and Australia have all purchased the F-35.
Joining the U.S. at the European forum were Israel, Italy, Denmark, Norway, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom and Turkey. Those nations have all purchased the aircraft. Israel and Italy are the first to be flying the plane in the region.
“We like to remind (people that) Italy was the first nation to fly the airplane overseas, across the Atlantic, so we are very proud of that,” said Maj. Gen. Aurelio Colagrande, chief of staff of Italy’s air command, noting that his country’s air force currently has three F-35s in its inventory.
The aircraft has had problems, he said, but that’s to be expected from a “brand-new machine.”
Despite those challenges, “we are very confident that the F-35 is a very capable airplane and all the issues that we are having right now will be solved in the future,” he said.
In the States, too, the F-35 program has been beset by technical and other problems. Most recently, F-35A flight operations at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., were temporarily paused last month when some pilots experienced symptoms similar to hypoxia, or oxygen deprivation.
The U.S. is expected to spend nearly $400 billion to buy about 2,443 aircraft, making it the Pentagon’s most expensive procurement program in history. President Donald Trump, Sen. John McCain and other prominent critics of the program have assailed its budget overruns.
But Lockheed Martin officials said Thursday the company is continuing to drive down costs because of manufacturing efficiencies gained through increased production rates. They expect to drop the cost for one aircraft to $85 million in 2019, about the same price tag as a fourth-generation fighter, said Bob Dulaney, a Lockhead Martin aeronautics representative.
The cost for the Air Force version of the plane fell below $100 million for the first time earlier this year, according to a February report in The New York Times.
The U.S. Air Force in Europe is still on track to stand up its first squadron overseas at Royal Air Force Lakenheath in 2020, said Col. Todd Canterbury, director of Headquarters Air Force F-35 Integration Office.
“Facilities are under construction as we speak,” he said, “as well as other infrastructure that comes with adding two more squadrons.”
It’s been a long time since the U.S. and some of its European allies and partners gained a new aircraft system around the same time, said Maj. Gen Timothy Fay, USAFE-AFAFRICA vice commander.
“Bringing the F-35 into this theater will really change the way we do business here in a way that we probably haven’t seen for decades,” Fay said.
The Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMPACFLT), Admiral Scott Swift co-hosted the Joint Strike Fighter Sustainment Summit alongside Marine Corps Forces, at COMPACFLT Headquarters June 27-28.
During the summit Rear Adm. John Palmer delivered remarks to more than 50 service members and civilians to include representatives from Lockheed Martin, who built the aircraft, Pratt and Whitney, who built the engine, Marine Corps Headquarters, Defense Logistics Agency, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Commander Naval Air Forces Pacific, Commander Naval Air Forces Atlantic, Commander Naval Surface Forces Pacific, and Military Sealift Command. The attendees focused on planning and preparing the logistical support for the F-35B Lightning II first deployment scheduled to happen within the next year.
“The summit was primarily built to maximize communication, elevate problems, and arrive at solutions. This aircraft has a unique maintenance and support structure, and it is unlike any aviation weapon system presently in the Navy and Marine Corps inventories,” said Palmer, U.S. Pacific Fleet director of logistics, fleet supply and ordnance.
According to Palmer, deploying the F-35B will require focused efforts by all stakeholders to ensure logistics resources are available to support the Fleet introduction to include funding, spares, tools, support equipment, information systems support, and training.
“The aircraft and engine are large and require keen planning for hangar and flight deck spotting & storage. The best strategy for overcoming the Joint Strike Fighter roll-out challenge is to engage in continuous communications across all stakeholders,” Palmer added.
After reaching initial operational capability, 10 F-35Bs were delivered to the fleet.
“The Marine Corps has been successfully operating the F-35B Lightning II in the western Pacific for almost 7 months now with VMFA-121 at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni in Japan. Next year, we will make the first shipboard deployment for the squadron as part of a Marine Expeditionary Unit. The F-35B is a tremendous upgrade from the legacy AV-8B and these new capabilities will be demonstrated in future operations. This aircraft, unlike any others in the past, brings unique challenges due to the global logistic network associated with this platform,” said Brig. Gen. Brian C. Cavanaugh, deputy commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces, Pacific.
The aircraft is a short takeoff, vertical landing (STOVL) variant, and is the world’s first supersonic STOVL stealth aircraft. It’s designed to operate from austere bases and a range of air-capable ships near front-line combat zones. It can also take off and land conventionally from longer runways on major bases. The F-35B will replace the AV-8B Harrier and F/A-18 Hornet.
Military exercises are underway between U.S. military forces and those of many other nations, Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, told reporters this week.
In the Pacific region, Exercise Talisman Saber 2017 involves more than 33,000 U.S. and Australian personnel who are participating in the biennial military training exercise in Australia, June 23 to July 25.
U.S. Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force personnel, as well as Australian forces and members of other government agencies in both countries are participating in Talisman Saber, which is jointly sponsored by the U.S. Pacific Command and the Australian military’s Joint Operations Command.
It features 21 ships, including the U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan, the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group, and more than 200 joint aircraft. This year’s seventh iteration of the exercise is focusing on training a combined task force of U.S. and Australian forces in a mid-intensity, high-end warfighting scenario, incorporating interagency participation, along with a command post exercise involving a transition between a three- and four-star headquarters.
“Talisman Saber provides an invaluable opportunity to conduct operations in a combined, joint and interagency environment that will increase both countries’ ability to plan and execute contingency responses, from combat missions to humanitarian assistance efforts,” Davis said.
In Africa, The U.S. military, in partnership with the South African military, will conduct Shared Accord 2017, a command post exercise and field training exercise at South Africa’s combat training center. It began today and runs to Aug. 3.
“Shared Accord 2017 is an annual, combined, joint military exercise that brings together U.S. forces and partner nations to foster security cooperation while improving operational planning and mission command capabilities,” Davis said.
“Shared Accord promotes regional relationships, increases capacity, trains U.S. and South African forces, and furthers cross training and interoperability,” he added.
The exercise will provide participating military forces the skills required to enable readiness in support of peacekeeping operations, Davis said, noting that the U.S. military is getting valuable training as well, in areas such as planning for peace support operations, combined command and expeditionary operations.
United Kingdom – Royal International Air Tattoo
In the United Kingdom over the weekend, U.S. airmen and sailors participated in flying demonstrations and static displays for the Royal International Air Tattoo at Royal Air Force Fairford.
“U.S. participation in RIAT highlighted the strength of the U.S. commitment to European security, the NATO alliance, our ever-strong alliance with U.K., and demonstrates interoperability with allies and partners from around the world,” Davis said.
This year’s airshow also was designated as a commemoration for the U.S. Air Force’s 70th birthday by U.S. Air Forces in Europe with the theme “American Airmen: Breaking Barriers since 1947.”
Exercise Saber Guardian 17, a U.S. Army Europe-led multinational exercise, is nearing completion in Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania. The exercise began July 11 and will end July 20. Saber Guardian 17 is larger in both scale and scope over previous iterations, Davis said. About 25,000 service members from 22 allied and partner nations are taking part, he added, and the exercise highlights participant deterrence capabilities — specifically, the ability to mass forces at any given time anywhere in Europe.
Davis also highlighted several enabling and integrated exercises:
— Tobruq Legacy 2017, a U.S.-led air defense artillery exercise July 12-22 at several Czech Republic, Lithuanian and Romanian locations;
— Swift Response 2017, a U.S.-led, airborne exercise involving the 173rd Infantry Brigade Combat Team at several Bulgarian, Hungarian and Romanian locations July 13-23; and
Allied and partner exercises involving about 40,000 personnel from 30 nations comprise the Black Sea Region Exercises for 2017, with Saber Guardian 17 being the largest, Davis said. While each is separate and distinct, the exercises as a whole demonstrate the commitment of the United States and its allies and partners as well as NATO’s superior joint and combined capabilities, and they highlight the collective will to defend against regional aggression, Davis said.
South America – UNITAS
Naval maritime forces from 18 countries gathered in Lima, Peru, for the 58th iteration of the annual multilateral exercise UNITAS, which starts today and runs through July 26, the captain said.
This year’s exercise is hosted by Peru. Participating countries include the United States, Peru, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Australia, Chile, Colombia, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Indonesia, Italy, Panama, Mexico, Spain and the United Kingdom.
UNITAS 2017 comprises two concurrent phases:
— UNITAS Pacific is designed to train each navy to conduct combined naval operations through the execution of littoral warfare, anti-piracy, maritime interdiction operations, countering transnational organized crime, anti-surface warfare, electronic warfare, communications exercises, and air and amphibious operations to increase the capabilities of participating naval and marine forces.
— UNITAS Amphibious is designed to enhance interoperability and improve partner nations’ ability to plan combined amphibious operations, stability operations, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions in the region.
UNITAS began in 1960, making it the world’s longest-running annual multinational maritime exercise. It has evolved over many years, Davis said, and now includes training for 21st-century threats that are encountered in today’s maritime environment.
Every year, Military Times recognizes five exemplary service members during an award ceremony on Capitol Hill. This year, Sen. Joni Ernst, along with many congressional, military and community leaders, came together to honor them.
Military Times honored the 2017 Service Members of the Year Wednesday evening in a ceremony held at the Reserve
Officers Association on Capitol Hill.
Gunnery Sergeant Daniel Robert, was the proud recipient of Marine of the year.
Staff Sgt. (now Gunnery Sergeant) Daniel Robert Philadelphia, Pa. Job Title: Platoon Sergeant Roberts joined the Marine Corps because he wanted to do his part on the war on terror and to become a better man upon his retirement. What he enjoys most is the brotherhood and bond created while serving. (Official Marine Corps graphic by Cpl. Chi Nguyen/Released)
The CH-53K King Stallion has completed its first long-range test flight from West Palm Beach to the base as it transitions to its next test phase.
The CH-53K King Stallion has completed its first long-range test flight from West Palm Beach, Fla. to Naval Air Station Patuxent River, MD. as it transitions to its next test phase, Lockheed Martin announced on Wednesday.
The flight was over 800 miles with a total flight time of six hour is the first of a planned series of long-range flight testing until 2018. The program will be overseen by Sikorsky, the Navy and Marine Corps during the transition to Patuxent River /
“This first movement of CH-53K flight testing to our customer’s facility denotes that the aircraft have achieved sufficient maturity to begin transitioning the focus of the test program from envelope expansion to system qualification testing,” Dr. Michael Torok, vice president of CH-53K programs at Sikorsky, said in a press release. “This has been the plan from the beginning and is another important step toward getting these fantastic aircraft into the hands of the U.S. Marine Corps.”
The CH-53K King Stallion is a heavy-lift transport helicopter being developed by Sikorsky for the U.S. Marine Corps. It is an extensive redesign of the CH-53E Super Stallion, featuring three powerful new engines that give it triple the lift capacity and a larger cabin than the Super Stallion.
The rotorcraft can carry an external load of up to 27,000 pounds more than 120 miles, giving it excellent mobility for heavy cargo lifts and is large enough to carry HMMWV vehicles internally.
The King Stallion has a composite airframe structure that is lighter and stronger than earlier models along with composite rotor blades. It is suitable for troop and cargo transport, medical evacuations, and search-and-rescue operations. The Marine Corps is expected to purchase 200 King Stallions, with the first six being delivered next year.
The Sea Stallion series of heavy lift helicopters has been in use with refurbishment and upgrades by the Marine Corps for over 50 years.