Combined Naval Component Command
The Commander, Seventh Fleet, under CINCPACFLT, exercises operational control over assigned ships, aircraft, and submarines and plans and conducts fleet training (including combined, joint, and intertype) exercises. The Commander, Seventh Fleet conducts operations to ensure control of the sea in order to defend the United States against attack through the western Pacific and Indian Oceans. The Commander, Seventh Fleet also maintains the security of the Pacific command and supports the operations of adjacent allied and national commanders. In addition, at the direction of the Secretary of Defense via the Command in Chief, Pacific Command, Command, Seventh Fleet can activate a joint task force headquarters, Joint Task Force 507, to respond to regional contingencies.
In a rare move, the US is sent three aircraft carriers to waters near China as bilateral tensions rise, a move interpreted by foreign media as a warning to China. Chinese military experts said on 14 June 2020 that the US move exposed its hegemonic politics in the region, and China could counter it by holding military drills and showing its ability and determination to safeguard its territorial integrity. China possesses aircraft carrier killer weapons like the DF-21D and DF-26 anti-ship ballistic missiles.
The three US aircraft carriers, namely the USS Theodore Roosevelt, USS Nimitz and USS Ronald Reagan, together with other US naval warships and aircraft, were patrolling the Indo-Pacific waters. It has been nearly three years since so many US aircraft carriers have been simultaneously deployed in the region. This move came as tensions between China and the US are rising over topics like COVID-19, Hong Kong's national security law and the South China Sea. All three aircraft carriers were hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, which left the US with no aircraft carriers in the western Pacific region for more than two months.
In August 2017 the commander of the Japan-based 7th Fleet, Admiral Scott H. Swift, was relieved of his duties due to “loss of confidence” in his ability to command, after a chain of incidents plaguing the Seventh Fleet this year.
- On 31 January 2017 the guided-missile cruiser ‘USS Antietam’ [CG 54] ran aground in Tokyo Bay near the port of Yokosuka, Japan. No one was injured during the grounding, but the vessel damaged both its propellers and spilled 1,100 gallons of hydraulic oil, prompting environmental concerns.
- On 09 May 2017 [in an incident not connected to the Seventh Fleet], the guided-missile cruiser ‘USS Lake Champlain’ (CG 57) crashed into a 60-ft South Korean fishing boat. No one was injured during the open sea incident which happened while the guided-missile cruiser was conducting routine operations in international waters east of Korea.
- On 17 June 2017, seven American sailors were killed following a collision between the destroyer ‘USS Fitzgerald’ and a Philippine-flagged container ship some 56 nautical miles southwest of Yokosuka, Japan. The ship’s commander and executive officer were relieved of their duties following the probe into the incident, which was blamed on loss of “situational awareness” and poor seamanship.
- On 20 August 2017 the ‘USS John S. McCain’ destroyer was damaged and partly flooded after a collision with an oil tanker off the coast of Singapore, east of the Strait of Malacca. Five US sailors were injured and 10 went missing during the incident.
Established in 1943, the United States 7th Fleet is the largest of the Navy's forward-deployed fleets. At any given time, there are 40-50 ships, 200 aircraft and about 20,000 Navy and Marine Corps personnel in the U.S. 7th Fleet. This includes forces that operate from bases in Japan and Guam, as well as rotationally-deployed forces based in the United States.
Operating in the Western Pacific, Indian Ocean and Arabian Gulf -- up to 11,000 miles from the west coast of the United States, Seventh Fleet, with the support of its Task Force Commanders, directly supports the three principal elements of U.S. national security strategy: Deterrence; Forward Defense; and Alliance Solidarity.
Commander U.S. Seventh Fleet is embarked in USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) and forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan. The commander and flagship spend more than half of each year taking part in operations, exercises and port visits to allied and friendly nations.
The 7th Fleet's area of responsibility includes more than 52 million square miles of the Pacific and Indian Oceans -- stretching from International Date Line to the east coast of Africa, and from the Kuril Islands in the north to the Antarctic in the south. The region is more than 14 times the size of the entire continental United States.
Of the 40-50 ships typically assigned to 7th Fleet, 18 operate from U.S. facilities in Japan and Guam. These forward-deployed units represent the heart of Seventh Fleet and constitute a permanent, ready and highly capable presence, while reducing transit times and support costs by operating from overseas bases. Other ships are deployed on a rotating basis from bases in Hawaii and the U.S. west coast.
Commander Seventh Fleet (C7F) performs three jobs. First, C7F can be assigned as a Joint Task Force commander in the event of natural disaster or joint military operation. Second, C7F is the operational commander for all naval forces in the region; this is the job they do every day. Finally, C7F is designated as the Combined Naval Component Commander for the defense of the Korean peninsula; in the event of hostilities, all friendly naval forces in the theater would fall under C7F control.
Combined Naval Component Command
In 1994, Seventh Fleet was assigned the additional responsibility as Commander, Combined Naval Component Command for the defense of South Korea. Subsequently, Commander, Seventh Fleet was named one of three primary Joint Task Force Commanders responsible to Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Command.
The commander of the Combined Naval Component Command (NCC) of CFC is Korean vice admiral (three-star officer). He commands the three fleets consist of Republic of Korea Navy and two divisions and a brigade of the Republic of Korea Marine Corp. NCC is the only branch of the CFC that are solely under Korean command.
In organizing the defense of the ROK against North Korean aggression the CFC designated the Commander 7th Fleet (C7F): Commander, NCC and made him the supported commander for maritime interdiction operations. While NCC surface combatants are well organized to defend the blue-water areas surrounding the ROK, the littoral areas pose a different challenge. The littoral area, generally within 12 miles of the ROK shore, restricts ship movement. Also, ships that do move in the littoral area are more vulnerable to enemy land based weapon systems. It is in this littoral area that the North intends to move its tremendous numbers of maritime SOF forces to land on ROK soil.
The Navy command and control ship has control over all maritime activity in the naval operational area. The command and control ship exercises both functional and geographic control. The NCC establishes a functional Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW) command for each coast. Each ASUW Commander (AUSWC), located aboard a cruiser or destroyer, is responsible for functional control of surface warfare within his assigned geographic area.
The NCC Waterspace Management Scheme allocates each Naval surface and subsurface combatant decentralized responsibility for portions of the NCC's area. The NCC also establishes a separate Anti-Air Warfare (AAW) command, generally located aboard an AEGIS equipped cruiser or destroyer. The AAW Commander (AAWC) is functionally responsible for anti-air warfare in his area of operations. The AAWC coordinates engagement of hostile aircraft and protection of friendly aircraft within his respective area, similar to the ASUW function.
CFC naval forces intend to detect North Korean movement in the littoral area with their own helicopters, airplanes, shore based radars and patrol craft. However, the NCC's helicopters and airplanes are mainly for target detection and not interdiction. That role is assigned to the NCC's fighter aircraft, surface combatant ships, and submarines. The NCC simply doesn't have enough resources to detect, track and destroy every enemy surface vessel, submarine, and aircraft in both the "blue water" and the littoral. Yet, the NCC's ability to detect, track, and destroy all enemy vessels operating anywhere along the ROK coast and along sea lines of communication is critical to CFC's campaign during the early stages of hostilities.
The CFC now cross attaches Army AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, from its Ground Component Command (GCC), to its Naval Component Command (NCC) on a temporary basis, depending on the situation, to attack enemy maritime-SOF assets before they reach ROK shores. CFC initially experimented with the concept in October 1996 during its annual, theater wide, Combined Field Training Exercise: FOAL EAGLE. FOAL EAGLE is an ideal setting for practicing the anti-maritime SOF concept since the focus of the exercise is on rear area operations, and security and protection from enemy SOF. Following initial success on a small scale, CFC moved to expand the concept in time for ULCHI FOCUS LENS (UFL) 97. UFL is the CFC's theater wide, simulation driven, Combined Command Post Exercise designed to practice execution of various parts of the theater campaign plan. UFL 97 provided an opportunity to practice the anti-maritime SOF concept on a grand scale without being cost prohibitive.
The U.S. Seventh Fleet was established on March 15, 1943 when the Southwest Pacific Force was renamed. Today it is the largest forward-deployed U.S. fleet and its area of responsibility includes the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans. Commander U.S. Seventh Fleet participated in several Pacific campaigns, including the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines during World War II as the naval component commander under Supreme Commander Southwest Pacific Area, General Douglas MacArthur. After WWII, on Jan. 1, 1947 the Fleet's name was changed to Naval Forces Western Pacific. On Aug. 19, 1949 just prior to the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, the force was designated as U.S. Seventh Task Fleet. On Feb 11, 1950 the force assumed the name that it holds today -- United States Seventh Fleet.
Seventh Fleet units participated in every major operation of the Korean War. The first Navy jet aircraft used in combat was launched from a Task Force 77 carrier on July 3, 1950 and the famous landings in Inchon, Korea were conducted by Seventh Fleet amphibious ships. The battleships Missouri, New Jersey, Iowa and Wisconsin all served as flagships for Commander U.S. Seventh Fleet during the Korean War. During the Vietnam War, Seventh Fleet engaged in combat operations against enemy forces through attack carrier air strikes, naval gunfire support, amphibious operations, patrol and reconnaissance operations and mine warfare. After the 1973 cease-fire, the Fleet conducted mine countermeasures operations in the coastal waterways of North Vietnam.
In response to the Aug. 2, 1990 Iraqi invasion of Kuwait, President George Bush directed Commander U.S. Seventh Fleet to assume additional responsibilities as Commander U.S. Naval Forces Central Command. The Fleet Commander departed Yokosuka, Japan immediately for the Arabian Gulf and was joined by the remainder of his staff aboard his flagship, USS Blue Ridge, on Sept. 1, 1990. During Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm, COMUSNAVCENT exercised command and control of the largest U.S. Navy armada since World War II. At the peak of combat operations, more than 130 U.S. Navy ships joined more than 50 allied ships to form a multi-national maritime force to conduct maritime intercept operations, minesweeping and combat strike operations against enemy forces in Iraq and Kuwait. COMUSNAVCENT included six aircraft carrier battle groups, two battleships, two hospital ships, 31 amphibious assault ships, four minesweeping and numerous combatants in support of allied air and ground forces. After a decisive allied victory in the Gulf, Commander U.S. Seventh Fleet relinquished control of COMUSNAVCENT to Commander, Middle East Force on April 24, 1991 and returned to Yokosuka, Japan to continue duties as Commander, U.S. Seventh Fleet.
|Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list|