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NNS020715-02 Constellation Battle Group Kicks off COMPTUEX

Release Date: 7/16/2002 3:00:00 AM

By Journalist 2nd Class Chad Pritt, USS Constellation Public Affairs

ABOARD USS CONSTELLATION (CV 64), At Sea (NNS) -- Upon pulling away from the pier at Naval Air Station, North Island recently, Constellation, along with the entire Constellation Battle Group (CBG), began the next evolution in preparing for war: Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX).

"This is the intermediate phase of the inter-deployment training cycle," said Cmdr. Carroll LeFon, Constellation's Operations Officer. "The real goal is to work on command and control through comms [communications] and data-links; to integrate with other ships. During TSTA we looked at the question, 'can Connie fight and defend itself?' For COMPTUEX, we're preparing for the advanced training phase, with JTFEX [Joint Task Force Exercise] coming up in October."

For the first time since returning from its last six-month Western Pacific deployment, CBG, made up of two cruisers, two submarines, a five-ship destroyer squadron and a replenishment ship, is sailing together. More than 10,000 servicemembers and civilians are a part of the exercise, which pits the battle group against countries Red and Orange. All of this is under the scrutinizing eye of Commander, Carrier Group One (CCG-1), a training command, which assesses the readiness of each Pacific Fleet carrier battle group.

"The battle group's initial goal is to prevent tensions from rising," said LeFon. "But we'll soon find tensions rising, and the last three days of COMPTUEX is a hot war, which is called the final battle problem."

Unlike the real world, CBG will have the opportunity to test itself to gauge how well it is prepared to fight in the final battle problem.

"There will be two mini scenarios, which are four-hour battles, and we'll sit back afterwards as a battle group and see how well we've done, and what we might do differently," said LeFon.

One critical mission of COMPTUEX for both the carrier and the carrier air wing is to achieve No Divert/Blue Water Certification.

"We have to be able to prove that we can operate without having to divert airplanes to land ashore," said LeFon.

There are several contributing factors in gaining Blue Water Certification, such as the combat boarding rate. A CCG-1 representative will look at the daily air plan, as well as flights added over the course of a day, and assess Constellation's ability to execute that plan. Cancellations of sorties on the air plan, bolters and even foul-deck wave-offs, count against the Constellation,/Air Wing Two team.

"Our ability to get planes off and on the deck will be scrutinized," said LeFon. "Tactically, the air wing pilots will be graded on how well they can acquire a target, hit it, and get the bomb damage video back to the ship."

Sailors and Marines will notice a few extra ship riders during the COMPTUEX period.

"There are going to be a lot of ship riders looking over our shoulder," said LeFon. "They're there to make us better war fighters, and to see how prepared are we to carry out national tasking."

Coming on the heels of a highly successful Tailored Ship's Training Availability (TSTA) II and III, and Final Evaluation Problem (FEP), Constellation has already put some of the tasking behind it.

"There's a lot of small things that we've accomplished," continued LeFon. "We're ahead of the game, but we will be challenged. It's been designed to be challenging."

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