SEA OF JAPAN - Ships assigned to Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) 7 participated in integrated mine-countermeasure training exercise Noble Vanguard May 12 to 21.
Noble Vanguard marks the first time the expeditionary sea base (ESB) USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5), Mine Countermeasure Squadron (MCMRON) 7 with Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Chief (MCM 14), and a littoral combat ship - Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Charleston (LCS 18) - have been used together to support mine warfare training in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.
"When all of the component parts of the U.S. Navy's deployable mine warfare team are on the scene and synchronized, the advances in U.S. Navy mine sweeping and hunting are clearly evident," said Rear Adm. Chris Engdahl, commander, ESG 7. "Noble Vanguard was not conceived to prove a single system off a single platform, but rather to optimize, analyze and advance all our mine countermeasure assets - LCS, unmanned underwater and aerial vehicles, explosive ordnance disposal divers, a mine countermeasures ship, and airborne mechanical and laser search - expertly commanded by mine warfare specialists onboard the same afloat expeditionary staging base that can resupply and refuel each of these assets ‘in situ’. This talented team has just set the standard for the next five years of mine hunting operations."
Operations were conducted in two phases. During the first phase, ships practiced rafting operations with the Miguel Keith for the first time, allowing mine countermeasures ships and landing craft utility boats an additional means to resupply at sea, extending their combat capability and time on station.
“Miguel Keith provides an afloat forward staging base for the Expeditionary Mine Countermeasure Company and deployable mine warfare units to operate,” said Capt. Scott Hattaway, commodore of MCMRON 7. “Having a mobile base that can support operations near the scene of action greatly increases the available operating time of the squadrons and embarked assets for mine hunting operations. Additionally, the rafting capability to resupply, refuel, or passenger transfer was demonstrated using a landing craft utility boat and an Avenger-class MCM as proof of concept for expeditionary logistics. By conducting these operations, an ESB can extend the endurance of smaller vessels or conduct operations in remote areas.”
Second phase operations saw the activation of Task Force (CTF) 77, for the first time, out of Surface and Mine Warfare Development Center (SMWDC), in San Diego. Operations for this portion included drills to enhance mine sweeping procedures and tactics to detect and neutralize sea mines, and enhance airborne mine countermeasures training.
“Activating CTF 77 as part of Noble Vanguard afforded SMWDC battle staff an excellent opportunity to exercise command and control (C2) of live mine-countermeasures forces for the first time in several years,” said Capt. Patrick Thien, deputy director SMWDC mine warfare. “Additionally, the ability to provide C2 of forces in 7th Fleet from San Diego demonstrates our ability to respond to any crisis as the global mine warfare commander. Finally, participation in Noble Vanguard gave us another opportunity to sharpen our planning skills, understand new capabilities joining the fleet and continue to improve our warfighting skills in preparation for future exercises.”
Personnel and assets participating in Noble Vanguard included USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5), USS Charleston (LCS 18), and USS Chief (MCM 14) conducting integrated mine countermeasure training with embarked detachments from Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25, Helicopter Mine Countermeasure Squadron (HM) 14, Mine Assembly Team from Naval Munitions Command Detachment Okinawa, and personnel from Expeditionary Mine Countermeasure Company (ExMCM) 11-2.
"Noble Vanguard was a benchmark event for the Navy's mine countermeasures community,” said Cmdr. Jake Keefe, commander, Task Group 75.5. “While the Fleets have routinely demonstrated ExMCM's adaptability, this was the first time we've been able to conduct full spectrum ExMCM operations from an Independence-class LCS. Noble Vanguard confirmed that integrating ExMCM with the Independence class enhances the Navy's ability to conduct mine countermeasure operations."
Noble Vanguard serves as an enabler to reinforce tactics and techniques of different mission sets that contribute to stability in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations.