PHILIPPINE SEA -- The Navy and Marine Corps “blue-green team” composed of Commander Task Force Seventy-Six (CTF 76)/Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7 is underway with the embarked 31st and 11th Marine Expeditionary Units (MEUs), for training and operations in the Indo-Pacific region.
“Each ship sails with Sailors and Marines, supported by advanced sensors and combat systems, ready to operate as an integrated and cohesive littoral force. The complex and distributed operations we do every single day in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific region are foundational to this great team,” said Rear Adm. Chris Engdahl, commander, ESG 7/TF 76.
The unique composite nature of CTF-76 creates opportunities to develop and rapidly advance command and control (C2) capabilities across the Task Force. USS Essex (LHD 2) and USS America (LHA 6) amphibious ready groups, with embarked Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU), as well as other critical theater littoral warfare assets, littoral combat ships USS Charleston (LCS 18), USS Jackson (LCS 6) and USS Tulsa (LCS 16), and mine countermeasures ship USS Warrior (MCM 10) are all being led by CTF-76 from the expeditionary staging base USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5).
“It’s an incredible opportunity to be part of the operations in the region. Combining the expertise of professional mariners with the skill of our Navy and Marine Corps forces makes Miguel Keith a versatile warfighting asset,” said Capt. Brice. B. Behringer, ship’s master, “This incredible platform, with more than 7,000 meters of cargo storage and mission deck space, is perfect for this region due to the variety of missions we can support.”
Since arriving in theater last September, Miguel Keith has validated capabilities across a wide range of operations to include; joint aircraft landing procedures, support to special warfare tasking, mine clearance operations and maritime presence operations. With the second largest flight deck in the U.S. Fleet and an immense lift capacity, this will be the first time Miguel Keith is serving as the flagship for U.S. 7th Fleet’s Theater Littoral Warfare Commander.
“Executing amphibious and littoral command and control from a variety of platforms and locations allows me, as the commander, to employ coordinated and complex operations while experimenting with emerging systems and technologies that enhance naval integration,” said Engdahl. “My staff and I are beginning this underway period embarked on the USS Miguel Keith to demonstrate the platform’s versatility and expand its value as a command and control platform. I am looking forward to exercising the full range of the ESB’s capabilities alongside the rest of the Task Force.”
Command and control is one of four core capabilities the ESB platform was designed to perform. The ESG 7 staff, since embarking on board Miguel Keith, has established secure and reliable communications networks and already controlled amphibious operations from the waters off to Japan to the seas around the Philippines. Simultaneously, they have directed mine clearance operations and near shore LCS operations.
"While both Navy and Marine technological capabilities have improved and expanded in recent years, establishing communication between nodes and platforms distributed throughout the theater requires continuous training, testing, and assessment.” said U.S. Marine Corps Col. Patrick Eldridge, deputy for integration, ESG 7/TF 76. “We are stressing the Miguel Keith's C2 capabilities and learning valuable lessons that will inform our tactics, techniques and procedures, as well as other units who will learn from our experimentation."
“In addition to C2, the staff is also learning that the ESB is incredibly versatile and has the potential to directly or indirectly support the other warfighting functions to include logistics, fires, intelligence, and maneuver,” said Eldridge. “The Navy and Marine Corps team in the Indo-Pacific aggressively seek out advantages, such as the Miguel Keith, that shape the naval force into a more flexible, agile, and capable warfighting organization"
As the U.S. 7th Fleet’s primary advisor on amphibious matters in the Indo-Pacific, TF 76 routinely integrates with Marine expeditionary forces throughout the region postured to conduct full spectrum theater contingencies, ranging from humanitarian and disaster relief operations, to crisis response, to major combat operations.
Together, the forward-deployed ships of TF 76 and embarked 31st and 11th MEUs are operating in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of responsibility to enhance interoperability with allies and partners, and serve as a ready response force to defend peace, deter aggression and maintain freedom of the seas in the Indo-Pacific region.