Third Fleet (COMTHIRDFLEET)
Third Fleet is one of five numbered fleets in the US Navy. The Second and Sixth Fleets serve in the Atlantic and Mediterranean, respectively. The Pacific Fleet is composed of the Third and Seventh Fleets. Seventh Fleet units serve throughout the western Pacific and Indian Ocean region, while Fifth Fleet units serve throughout the Persian Gulf and Middle East.
The U.S. Navy's Third Fleet will send more ships to East Asia to operate outside its normal theater alongside the Japan-based Seventh Fleet, a U.S. official said on 15 June 2016, a move that came at a time of heightened tensions with China. The Third Fleet's Pacific Surface Action Group, which includes the guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance and USS Momsen, was deployed to East Asia in April 2016. More Third Fleet vessels will be deployed in the region in the future, said a U.S. official who requested anonymity. He and a second official said the vessels would conduct a range of operations, but gave no details. China claims most of the South China Sea, through which US$5 trillion in ship-borne trade passes every year. The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei have overlapping claims, as well as close military ties with the United States. China has been angered by what it views as provocative U.S. military patrols close to islands that China controls in the South China Sea. The United States says the patrols are to protect freedom of navigation.
Naval forces trained by the Third Fleet Commander normally deploy to the Western Pacific/Indian Ocean for duty with Commander, Seventh Fleet and to the Arabian Gulf region for duty in support of Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. Forces certified as "ready to deploy" at the conclusion of Third Fleet training depart fully prepared to face the full range of missions from humanitarian and peacekeeping operations to full engagement in major regional conflicts.
Third Fleet's area of responsibility includes approximately fifty million square miles of the eastern and northern Pacific ocean areas including the Bering Sea, Alaska, the Aleutian Islands and a sector of the Arctic. Major oil and trade sea lines of communication within this area are critically important to the economic health of the United States and friendly nations throughout the Pacific Rim region.
The U.S. Third Fleet is assigned a number of missions and responsibilities. Third Fleet's primary mission is one of conflict deterrence, but in the event of general war, it would conduct prompt and sustained combat operations at sea to carry out the U.S. Pacific Fleet strategy in the theater. Such operations would be executed well forward and early in a conflict to carry out the primary wartime mission of Third Fleet -- the defense of the western sea approaches to the United States, including Alaska and the Aleutian Islands.
In addition, Commander, Third Fleet is designated as a Joint Task Force (JTF) Commander. In that capacity, the Commander and his staff may be assigned responsibilities for command of joint U.S. forces deployed in response to a specific event or contingency. As such, the JTF Commander reports via a joint chain of command to a unified commander. The Commander-In-Chief, U.S. Pacific Command is the unified commander in the Pacific theater.
In peacetime, Third Fleet continually trains Navy and Marine Corps forces for their expeditionary warfare mission. In keeping with the Department of the Navy strategic concept "Forward... from the Sea," these forces provide the flexibility and immediate response necessary to react to any emerging crisis from humanitarian and peacekeeping missions to major regional conflicts. These forces are prepared to provide the critical first response in a transition between peacetime operations and escalating regional tensions. If required, these forces carry the power and capabilities necessary to establish and hold an initial foothold to allow larger joint operations to follow on a large scale in the event a major conflict ensues. Finally, when the conflict is resolved, those naval expeditionary forces remain on the scene to help shape the peace and ensure compliance. Third Fleet training has been designed to ensure that deploying forces are fully prepared for joint operations. All training is conducted within a joint environment - employing joint terminology, doctrine, procedures, command and control - to ensure that forces are ready to join with other branches of the U.S. armed forces under a joint command structure.
Third Fleet was originally formed during World War II on March 15, 1943 under the command of Admiral William F. "Bull" Halsey. He opened his headquarters ashore in Pearl Harbor, territory of Hawaii, on June 15, 1944. Third Fleet planned and directed many of the decisive naval operations of World War II in the Pacific. The fleet operated in and around the Solomon Islands, the Philippines, Formosa, Okinawa and the Ryukyu Islands. It also operated in Japanese waters launching attacks on Tokyo, the naval base at Kure and the island of Hokkaido. Embarked aboard his flagship, USS Missouri (BB 63), Admiral Halsey led his fleet into Tokyo Bay on August 29, 1945. On September 2, surrender documents ending the war were signed on her decks. Third Fleet remained in Japanese waters until late September when its ships were directed to sail for the West Coast of the United States. On October 7, 1945 Third Fleet was designated a reserve fleet and decommissioned from active status.
On February 1, 1973, following a reorganization of the Pacific Fleet, the United States Third Fleet was recommissioned as an active fleet and assumed the duties of the former First Fleet and Pacific Anti-Submarine Warfare Force located at Ford Island, Hawaii. Third Fleet trains naval forces for overseas deployment and evaluates state-of-the-art technology for fleet use. Additionally, Third Fleet would deploy to the U.S. Central Command in the event of a major Arabian Gulf conflict. On November 26, 1986, Commander, Third Fleet shifted his flag from his headquarters ashore to resume status as an afloat commander for the first time since World War II, aboard USS Coronado (AGF 11). In August 1991, Third Fleet's commander, his staff and the command ship, USS Coronado, shifted homeports to San Diego, California.
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