Military


IDTC - Inter-Deployment Training Cycle

In the 20th Century British Navy, a ship commissioned for two years and could be deployed to one of Britain's Fleets anywhere in the world. On completion of two years, the ship returned to her home port in Britain, decommissioned, underwent a thorough refit and the recommissioned for another fixed commission. The two greatest advantages of the fixed commission were that officers and men remained together for the full commission, got to know each others strengths and weaknesses and got to know the capabilities and limitations of their ship's equipment. In the American Navy, ships remain permanently "in commission" until they were "decommissioned" and officers and men chang round every twelve to eighteen months.

Aircraft carriers and cruisers deploy overseas for six month periods. A typical carrier battle group consists of one carrier, two assigned Aegis cruisers, a destroyer squadron (four destroyers or frigates), two submarines and an oiler/replenishment ship.

During much of the 1990s and up to 2003, it had become practice to send a carrier group out with an Amphibious Ready Group (ARG). The ARG comprised a large deck multipurpose LHA or LHD class ship and three supporting amphibious ships with about 2,000 Marines total which comprise the Marine Expeditionary Unit-Special Operations Capable.

Each operating aircraft carrier typically completes a recurring cycle of events which culminates each time in deployment to the Fifth, Sixth or Seventh Fleet. This cycle, called the Inter-Deployment Training Cycle (IDTC), normally begins when the ship is transiting to its homeport from overseas deployment. After a leave and upkeep period, followed by local at-sea operations, the ship undergoes a planned depot-level maintenance availability (e.g., ROH/COH/PSA/SRA/PIA/DPIA), during which the majority of inter-deployment repairs and equipment upgrades occur. Upon returning to sea, the ship works up for its next deployment by completing a series of training exercises and events which increase steadily in complexity as the crew's operating proficiency increases.

When the aircraft carrier has restored unit-level proficiency and is fully integrated with the embarked air wing, the ship begins battle group training with the staffs and other units in the battle group. In addition to multi-unit training unique to battle group operations, the ship continues to conduct repetitive training to maintain individual proficiency and to integrate new crew members. Repetitive training continues in addition to operational commander training requirements throughout the overseas deployment.

The pre-deployment aspects of the IDTC are divided into three principal phases - basic, intermediate and advanced.

Basic Training The Type Commanders (TYCOMs) are responsible for the conduct of Basic Phase training. The focus is on unit-level training emphasizing basic command and control, weapons employment, mobility (navigation, seamanship, damage control, engineering, and flight operations) and warfare specialty following overhaul/major maintenance availability and before CHOP to the numbered fleet commander. The basic training consists of a Command Assessment of Readiness and Training II, the Tailored Ship's Training Assessment I, II, & III, specialty training, and a Final Evaluation Problem (FEP).

Intermediate Training The numbered Fleet Commanders are responsible for conduct of Intermediate phase training. The focus in this phase is on warfare team training and initial multi-unit operations under the traditional CWC concept or a modified concept of joint operations. During this phase, ships begin to develop warfare skills in coordination with other units while continuing to maintain unit proficiency. The intermediate training phase consists of Tailored Ship's Training Availability III and a Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX of C2X). Marine Units also take part in a Marine Expeditionary Force Exercise.

Advanced Training The focus of Advanced Phase training, also under the numbered fleet commander, is to continue to develop and refine integrated battle group warfare skills and command and control procedures needed to meet the supported CINC's specific mission requirements. The advanced training phase consists of the Joint Tast Force Exercise (JTFEX).

By the nature of their location, forward deployed naval force (FDNF) units have different training opportunities available to them as compared to CONUS units. However, their OPTEMPO affords them the opportunity to maintain tactical proficiency through dedicated training events and in conjunction with regional and exercise commitments. This results in a balanced training program between available schoolhouse and on-the-job training.

During early stages of the IDTC, readiness degradation is expected as ships and aircraft undergo maintenance and crews turnover. By design, surface ships, submarines and aircraft squadrons in the earlier stages of the IDTC must train with fewer resources, because units in the latter stages of the IDTC have priority to ensure combat ready status. As units progress through the IDTC, readiness should steadily improve as maintenance is completed and training opportunities increase. In the latter stages of the IDTC, units hone their warfighting skills by participating in exercises designed to ensure full combat readiness prior to deployment.

Beginning in 1998 under then CNO Adm Johnson, the Navy began to reform the IDTC to streamline the process and to remove redundant inspections and training exercises. By intitiating these reforms, non-deployed time at sea would be reduced as ships and units would have to get underway for training exercises fewer times within a training cycle. The hope was that this reduced time at sea would help improve personnel retention which had sufferred in recent years.


Effective Jan. 1, 2002, began training to specific standards that had been established for 21 different warfare and mission areas. Surface Force Immediate Superiors In Command (ISICs) on both coasts, with the assistance of Afloat Training Groups (ATGs), will use these standards to assess and measure when ships are ready to move on to the intermediate and advanced phases of the IDTC.

Certification in Anti-Terrorism/Force Protection and Planned Maintenance System (PMS) are the two new additions to the IDTC's basic phase.

The deployment cycle of a ship determines who the Commanding Officer reports to in the chain of command. Surface combatants and carriers are generally on an 18-24 month cycle. Six of those months are spent on forward deployments to either the Med. or Western Pacific/Indian Ocean area. The other twelve months are spent in training and routine maintenance. Every three years or so, a surface combatant will undergo a major overhaul. After returning from deployment, a ship enters an incremental ninety day period called 'Selective Restricted Availability' (SRA). The SRA consists of fixing the normal wear and tear that takes place after six months of constant steaming. The ship is also drydocked during this time for a hull cleaning. A ship in this condition can get underway within 7-10 days in an emergency. After completing SRA, the carrier begins a nine month workup training cycle for overseas deployment.

As the training for deployment begins, so does the shifting of responsibility for the unit. As an example of how confusing this can get, consider the workup cycle of the carrier ENTERPRISE from September 1995 until her deployment in June 1996.

ENTERPRISE began her training under Commander, Carrier Group Four, who reports to Commander, Second Fleet. This initial training began with the basics. The ship had a huge crew turnover since her last deployment (on a carrier, the typical turnover rate sees 200 new men arriving every month). After three months of training with plenty of flight operations, the ship was ready to move to the next level. The second phase of training consists of an exercise called COMPTUEX which stands for Comprehensive Tactical Unit Exercise. During, COMPTUEX, ENTERPRISE conducted simulated engagements against air, surface and subsurface targets. At one point, she "fought" another carrier battle group. Upon successful completion of this phase of training, ENTERPRISE was declared "ready carrier" for the East Coast. This meant that if an emergency developed, she was considered able to deploy on 48 hours notice and her crew is well trained to handle the situation. During this phase, ENTERPRISE 'chopped' from NAVAIRLANT to Commander, Second Fleet. Also, Commander, Cruiser-Destroyer Group 12 assumed command of the battle group from CARGRP4. The final phase of training consists of a Joint Task Force Exercise or JTFEX. This brings the carrier group together with the Marine amphibious group that will also be deploying with them. JTFEX lasts about a month and is the final training before deployment where the ship and air wing are honed to razor sharpness.

After leaving Norfolk to begin her deployment, ENTERPRISE steamed across the Atlantic and transits to the Med. through the Straits of Gibraltar. Upon entering the Med, she chopped to Commander Sixth Fleet. After cruising the Med for a month or so, ENTERPRISE is ordered to the Middle East operating area via the Suez Canal. Upon exiting the canal and entering the Red Sea, she chopped to Fifth Fleet. If she leaves the Red Sea or the Persian Gulf/Arabian Sea area and enters the actual Indian Ocean, then she chops to Seventh Fleet control. In sum, as the carrier group shifts from area to area, so does her tasking commander.


During their service lives, aircraft carriers progress through a maintenance cycle of alternating operating intervals and depot-level maintenance periods. An important constraint that bounds the ability to employ carriers in support of forward presence is Personnel Tempo of Operations (PERSTEMPO). The Navy initiated the PERSTEMPO Program in 1985 to balance support of national objectives with reasonable operating conditions for naval personnel, coupling the professionalism associated with going to sea with a reasonable home life. The Program is built around the following goals:

  • a maximum deployment length of 6 months,
  • a minimum turn around ratio of 2:1 between deployments, and
  • a minimum of 50 percent time in homeport for a unit over a 5-year cycle.

Ships returning from deployment can be retained for a period in a surge readiness status to meet contingency requirements. The interdeployment training cycle cycle progresses through three phases of training -- unit, ship and air wing, and battle group. The cycle also includes other activities such as in-port periods and preparation for deployment. Since fiscal year 1984 interdeployment training periods of conventional carriers have averaged 9.8 months while those of nuclear carriers have averaged 10.6 months.

If a carrier is required in an emergency, maintenance periods can be shortened by varying degrees, depending on the stage of the maintenance being performed. A conventional aircraft carrier can be surged out of an ongoing Selected Restricted Availability (SRA) and a nuclear aircraft carrier can be surged out of an ongoing Phased Incremental Availability (PIA).

In addition to the normal depot maintenance periods, nuclear-powered carriers must complete a refueling complex overhaul (RCOH) midway through their service lives. While the conventional carriers do not have a similar requirement, during the 1980s and early 1990s, six underwent modernization, five of which had their service lives extended through the Service Life Extension Program (SLEP). One conventional carrier was nearly continuously in SLEP while that program was underway. As the nuclear carrier fleet ages into the 21st Century, a similar situation will exist from a refueling overhaul standpoint.



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