Nimitz Strike Group WESTPAC 03 Deployment
"Teamwork - A Tradition"
This deployment was the 10th overseas assignment for the 28-year-old carrier. Her last deployment to the U.S. Central Command region was in 1997.
The Nimitz completed her refuelling in June 2001 and departed Norfolk on 21 September 2001 enroute for her new homeport in San Diego via Cape Horn. She arrived in San Diego on November 8.
Nimitz began a four-month Post-Shakedown Availability at Naval Air Station, North Island in January 2002. Nimitz ended her pier-side availability in May 2002 and conducted sea trials, the first step in preparation for her overseas deployment.
The Nimitz began her training in preperation for her WESTPAC deployment in August 2002 when she began TSTA I on Aug 13. TSTA One marked the first phase in a 16-week evaluation period of Nimitz crewmembers, as they were evaluated on their damage control knowledge and their ability to apply that knowledge to real life scenarios aboard the ship. In September 2002 Nimitz began TSTA II/III and also conducted exercises testing out its CEC system. This test of the CEC system was the first for the West Coast. The Nimitz returned to San Diego in mid-September.
In mid-October the Nimitz had left port for engineering work-ups.
Reports, both from the media and from the Navy through Fall 2002, indicated that the Nimitz was due to depart for WESTPAC in early FY'03 or by the end of 2002. However, as of mid-November the Nimitz had yet to take part in any additional major training exercises that would indicate that a deployment was forthcoming though there are indications that her crew has been alerted to the possibility of a January deployment if the need arises.
The Nimitz continued to depart San Diego for very short underway periods in late 2002 and it is possible that Nimitz was experiencing technical or engineering difficulties following her RCOH. An article in the Daily Press on November 17, 2002 reported that the Nimitz was experiencing significant technical problems and that its deployment would be unlikely to occur prior to Spring 2003. The report cited delays in completion of its RCOH in 2001, and various technical difficulties associated with its ICAN system.
On December 9, 2002 the Nimitz departed San Diego. It was believed that this was an additional week long cruise for engineering trials and other training.
The USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Carrier Battle Group got underway from San Diego Jan. 10 to begin a compressed three-week training exercise. By taking advantage of several efficiencies in the training pipeline, Commander, 3rd Fleet (C3F) was able to combine two normally separate training evolutions into one three-week exercise, expediting the battle group's availability for deployment. The first two weeks focused on a Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX), and the last week concentrated on a Joint Task Force Training Exercise (JTFEX). This exercise was the culmination of nine months of training and preparation.
Upon successful completion of the exercise, C3F certified the Nimitz battle group ready for deployment and capable of conducting the full spectrum of naval operations, including anti-submarine warfare, maritime interdiction operations, leadership interdiction operations, non-combatant evacuation operations, various air strike and support missions, theater ballistic missile defense, logistics support, search and rescue, and command and control.
An important element of the Nimitz COMPTUEX involved testing of the Integrated Communications and Advanced Networks (ICAN). Members of the Navy's Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COMOPTEVFOR), in coordination with the Program Executive Office for Aircraft Carriers, conducted an observation of capability of the machinery control systems, integrated voice systems, and navigation systems, all using the common ICAN core network.
The COMOPTEVFOR team observed Nimitz's, crew operating and maintaining the ICAN components, and spoke with several crewmembers about the daily operation and performance of the system components. According to the COMOPTEVFOR team, the crew was enthusiastic about the systems and felt they received the proper training in operation and maintenance procedures. The team noted that ship systems performed extremely well and observed no maintenance or reliability problems.
This was an important development as continued problems with the ICAN system could have prevented the Nimitz from deploying in support of a war on Iraq.
The battle group commander, Rear Adm. Samuel J. Locklear III, and other warfare commanders lead the different aspects of the battle group. They consist of Air Defense Commander Capt. Ralph Janikowsky, commanding officer of USS Princeton (CG 59); Sea Combat Commander Capt. Charles Martoglio, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 23; Information Warfare Commander Capt. Robert J. Gilman, commanding officer of Nimitz; Air Combat Commander Capt. Charles Wright, air wing commander of Carrier Air Wing 11; and Theater Ballistic Commander Capt. Richard Nolan, commanding officer of USS Chosin (CG 65).
In addition to certification of ICAN, Nimitz also had its Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC) certified.
The Nimitz returned to San Diego on or about January 30, 2003 having completed both her COMPTUEX and JTFEX. Visuals of the Nimitz indicated that her entire Air Wing was still present on the ship even though she was pier side at North Island. This seemed to indicate that the Nimitz would be deployed soon after her return to San Diego as standard procedure is for the Air Wing to return to Lemoore upon completion of exercises.
USS Nimitz (CVN 68) was the first ship outfitted with Ship Self-Defense System (SSDS) Mk 2. The battle group's equipped cruisers, USS Princeton and USS Chosin recently completed the final round of testing in preparation for deployment. The SSDS suite included, SPS-49A(V)1 radar; the SPS-48E radar; the SPQ-9B radar; the SLQ-32 electronic countermeasures system; identification friend or foe (IFF); the rolling airframe missile (RAM); and, the re-architectured NATO Sea Sparrow missile system (RNSSMS).
Testing for the battle group was coordinated by an action team headed by Cdr. Mark Kavanaugh, from NAVSEA's Program Executive Office for Integrated Warfare Systems. The tests were conducted in 13 events over the span of 18 months, on both coasts, and during transit around the South American continent.
The final test event was then followed by a compressed three week training exercise which combined the Composite Training Unit Exercise, designed to combine the many elements of a U.S. Navy battle group as a cohesive fighting unit, and the Joint Task Force Exercise, designed to provide realistic training to prepare U.S. forces for joint and combined operations.
However, on February 5, 2003 the 3rd Fleet issued a press release stating that the USS Nimitz would get underway on Feb 6 and that she would return on Feb 7. She would be departing without her Battle Group.
On February 27 reports in the media indicated that the Nimitz and her battle group would deploy for the Persian Gulf region on March 3, 2003.
Nimitz and other San Diego-based ships left on March 3. Bridge and Rodney M. Davis departed the Pacific Northwest and join Nimitz off the coast of Southern California for the transit West across the Pacific Ocean. Chosin departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and joined the battle group in the Pacific. The crews of USS Benfold (DDG 65) and USS Oldendorf (DD 972) were to join the Nimitz Battle Group later in the year as part of the Navy's Sea Swap Program.
The USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group entered the 5th Fleet Area of Responsibility on or about April 3, making it the fourth carrier strike group in the region deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
This deployment marked the first time the carrier has deployed to the U.S. Central Command region since 1997. As the lead ship in its class, Nimitz was the first to conduct a refueling complex overhaul, which required the ship to return to its birthplace of Newport News, Va., for three years in 1998.
The Nimitz made a port call at Jebel Ali on May 08, 2003 and departed on 13 May 2003.
On July 3, 2003 the Nimitz made another port call at Jebel Ali and stayed until July 09, 2003 after which it continued to conduct operations in support of Iraqi Freedom.
Throughout much of August and into early September the Nimitz transited back and forth from the North Arabian Sea into the Persian Gulf. On or about September 6 the Nimitz began heading east, enterring the Indian Ocean on September 8, 2003. On September 11 she was in the Andaman Sea and made a port call at Singapore on September 12.
After conducting operations in the Indian Ocean and the Andaman Sea throughout the rest of September into October the Nimitz made one final port call at Singapore on October 08, 2003, departing that port on or about October 13. On October 14, 2003 the Nimitz was in the South China Sea, and on October 20 she enterred the Pacific Ocean.
On October 23, 2003 the Navy announced that the Nimitz CSG would return to San Diego on November 5, 2003, following a highly successful eight-month deployment in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF). Aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) and combat support ship USS Bridge (AOE 10) will first make a brief port call in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, Oct. 27, before getting underway for their final leg home Oct. 31. The first ship from the Nimitz CSG to return home will be the Pearl Harbor-based Aegis cruiser, USS Chosin (CG 65), arriving Naval Station Peal Harbor Nov. 2.
As Nimitz approached the Southern California coast Nov. 4, Carrier Air Wing 11 squadrons were the next to make homecomings, as they conducted a "fly off" of more than 70 aircraft from the aircraft carrier. The aircrews and aircraft flew into the following four homeports: Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.; Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif.; Naval Base Ventura County Point Mugu, Calif.; Naval Air Station Whidbey Island, Wash.
The following day, Nov. 5, Nimitz pulled into San Diego Bay and moored at Naval Air Station North Island, Calif.
During the ship's deployment, Nimitz flew more than 6,500 missions in direct support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In addition, this was the first deployment of the F/A-18F Super Hornet (two-seat version) and E-2C Hawkeye 2000. Nimitz is also the first aircraft carrier to deploy with two Super Hornet squadrons. This was Nimitz's first deployment since their major overhaul in 1997 and its first since relocating to San Diego in 2001.
05 Nov 2003 - Return to San Diego
03 Nov 2003 - Pacific Ocean
31 Oct 2003 - Depart Pearl Harbor
27 Oct 2003 - Port Call @ Pearl Harbor
20 Oct 2003 - Pacific Ocean
14 Oct 2003 - South China Sea
08 Oct 2003 - Port Call @ Singapore
01 Oct 2003 - Indian Ocean
30 Sep 2003 - Andaman Basin
23 Sep 2003 - Indian Ocean
12 Sep 2003 - Port Call @ Singapore
11 Sep 2003 - Andaman Sea
08 Sep 2003 - Indian Ocean
04 Sep 2003 - Arabian Sea
18 Aug 2003 - Persian Gulf
15 Aug 2003 - Gulf of Oman
06 Aug 2003 - North Arabian Sea
09 Jul 2003 - Depart Jebel Ali
03 Jul 2003 - Port Call @ Jebel Ali
13 May 2003 - Depart Jebel Ali
08 May 2003 - Port Call @ Jebel Ali
03 Apr 2003 - Arrives 5th Fleet AOR?
14 Mar 2003 - Departs Pearl Harbor
11 Mar 2003 - Port Call @ Pearl Harbor
03 Mar 2003 - Deploy for WestPac/Gulf
07 Feb 2003 - Return to San Diego
06 Feb 2003 - Departs San Diego
30 Jan 2003 - Returns to San Diego
29 Jan 2003 - JTFEX Complete
22 Jan 2003 - COMPTUEX Complete
10 Jan 2003 - Begins COMPTUEX/JTFEX
19 Dec 2002 - Return to San Diego
09 Dec - EASTPAC
11 Nov 2002 - Battle Group Sustainment Ex
04 Nov 2002 - San Diego
01 Nov 2002 - EASTPAC
Mid OCt 2002 - ORSE
Mid Sep 2002 - returns to San Diego
Sept 2002 - CEC-10 / TSTA II/III
14 Aug 2002 - TSTA I
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