Exercises - Navy
The Navy participates in about 175 unit exercises annually. Ninety percent of these exercises involve operations with other U.S. or multinational forces. These deployments improve the ability of naval forces to conduct forward presence missions and to operate effectively as part of a joint or combined force. In addition, the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center in Fallon, Nevada, conducts four to five exercises annually for carrier air wings. This program provides predeployment integrated strike training for naval aviation units.
The role of the Navy and Marine Corps on the world stage is evident. From contributions to multilateral operations under United Nations/North Atlantic Treaty Organization auspices to cooperative agreements with allied Navies, international engagement efforts cross the entire spectrum of the Department's missions and activities. The Navy often participates with allies and other foreign countries in joint services exercises and port visits. Joint/international exercises include: Atlantic Resolve; Blue Advance; United International Anti-submarine Warfare Exercise (UNITAS), West Africa Training Cruise and Cobra Gold.
As a foundation to real-world operations, the U.S. Navy participates in over 40 joint naval and military exercises annually with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), other foreign allies and friends, as well as U.S. military forces in the region. Deterrence is the ultimate goal of this cooperative engagement, but preparing jointly as a team to quickly defeat any adversary remains a cornerstone of the Navy's strategy in the region should deterrence fail. By engaging allies with exercises, the various forces can, to the extent possible, develop common doctrine, operations and tactics, and, determine, before a real conflict, how we would go to war together and how we would operate.
Sea-based and self-sustained, amphibious forces take advantage of bilateral training opportunities in countries with limited infrastructure or ability to support large scale military deployments. These training exercises offer emerging democracies a unique opportunity to train with US forces. These same forward deployed amphibious forces give theater commanders a flexible, responsive force that can be positioned in key trouble spots for extended periods as a visible example of US resolve and commitment.
Training / Deployment Cycles
The Commanders-in-Chief, Atlantic and Pacific Fleets, have the primary responsibility for the training of naval forces provided to the Unified Commanders. Under the CINCs' overall direction, primary mission area tactical training is executed by the Type Commanders in the basic phase of the training cycle and by the numbered fleet commanders in the intermediate and advanced phases of the training cycle. The intermediate and advanced phases of the training cycle occur under the Numbered Fleet Commander (NFC) during which operational proficiency and combat readiness is reinforced through underway exercises and dedicated advance tactical training ashore.
Intermediate Training Marine Expeditionary Force Exercise [MEFEX] and Composite Unit Training Exercise (COMPTUEX) events comprise intermediate level essential combat training and represent the first opportunity for the Battle Group to train together as a cohesive team. Conducted in conjunction with Tailored Ship's Training Availability (TSTA) III, the COMPTUEX is the first time the entire air wing is aboard the aircraft carrier. It's the first time the ship has had to integrate with the air wing in a very robust fashion. COMPTUEX certifies the carrier and its embarked air wing for "blue water" operations. COMPTUEX is one of the final stages of the work-up cycle. Successful completion of COMPTUEX is a prerequisite for the Battle Group's Joint Task Force Exercise.
Advanced Training The Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) is a series of exercises previously named "FLEETEX." The current name reflects the increasing focus on preparing naval forces for joint operations with other U.S. military services. The exercise includes various air strike and support missions, maritime interdiction operations, humanitarian operations, operational testing of weapons systems, logistics support, search and rescue and command and control. Amphibious operations supporting the exercise culminate with an amphibious landing involving surface and helicopter assault forces. Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) training objectives are tailored to force structure, capabilities, and missions tasked by the supported CINC (i.e. CVBG, ARG/MEU (SOC) warfare skills). Training deficiencies noted during the Intermediate Phase training are also factored into the Advanced Phase syllabus. The JTFEX is the final portion of the Inter-Deployment Training Cycle (IDTC), focused on joint operations for an upcoming deployment. The JTFEX provides a chance to participate in all phases of a war including naval presence, show of force, and a final hostilities phase. CART II is an ISIC assessment, supported by ATG, conducted once per IDTC or not-to-exceed 30-month intervals for ships not in a regular deployment cycle. It is normally conducted after completion of regular scheduled maintenance periods. The focus is to validate existing strengths in the training team organization and watchteam performance and can be used to assist the Commanding Officer in establishing training priorities and requesting training assistance.
The unique situation of Forward Deployed Naval Forces (FDNF) ships, characterized by higher OPTEMPO and often complex operations without respect to particular training phases, requires greater flexibility in adapting the notional tactical training progression to their use.
The intermediate and advanced phases of unit training consist of multi-ship and battle group training under the numbered fleet commander and prior to the start of deployment. Emphasis is placed on integrated watch section training in a fully coordinated multi-threat environment. Included is the series of final predeployment evolutions required of all units.
The overall objective of the intermediate/ advanced phases is to become proficient in advanced watch team training/tactics and coordinated underway battle group operations, and to complete other inport and underway training evolutions in preparation for deployment. This includes the following major training/training-related events: inport battle group workup training, fleet exercises (i.e. COMPTUEX, MEUEX, JTFEX, etc.), integrated SMCM/EOD MCM/AMCM exercises, and inspections and grooms not completed earlier in the training phases.
An amphibious MEUEX will normally be completed before deployment and as a prelude to the amphibious pre-deployment exercise. It is designed to provide multi-ship/marine amphibious training and certification opportunities to increase tactical proficiency and sharpen amphibious skills. The PHIBRON commander may tailor training to the requirements of the ships involved, embarked marines, and any expected deployment contingencies.
Squadron Exercises (RONEX) and Gulf of Mexico Exercises (GOMEX) are scheduled quarterly for those mine countermeasures units that have completed the basic training phase. The RONEX is conducted during the intermediate training phase and is designed to bring ships who have mastered individual unit MCM disciplines together as a task Force under the MCM Squadron in a tactical exercise scenario, and provide additional training as required. The GOMEX is conducted as a part of the advanced phase and brings air, surface, and underwater MCM units together to focus on integrated MCM operations in preparation for participation with the battle group in major fleet exercises involving complex mine countermeasures operations. MCM Squadron Commanders will tailor the intermediate and advanced phases to the forces involved and will consider the types of scenarios to be encountered in upcoming major fleet exercises and deployments.
The Battle Efficiency Award recognizes sustained superior performance in an operational environment. Eligibility for this award demands day-to-day demonstrated excellence in addition to superior achievement during certifications and qualifications conducted throughout the competitive period. The ISIC has the responsibility and authority to select the Battle "E" winner(s) from among the ships in a squadron or group.
Prior to the advent of the Fleet Response Plan, the typical carrier deployment was based on an eighteen-month period: six months for predeployment exercises and "work-ups", six months deployed, and six months post-cruise stand down.
- Haze Gray and Underway - generally to the Western Pacific/Indian Ocean or to the Mediterranean.
- Upon returning from a deployment, most carriers will spend a predetermined time period in the shipyard for renovation work, also known as the Extended Ship's Restricted Availability (ESRA). At the end of the six- to eight-month deployment the embarked air wing disperses for the various home bases usually to a clamorous reception of awaiting family, friends, and onlookers who enjoy the dramatic multi aircraft "fly-in". Leave is strongly encouraged, and the tempo of operations is temporarily reduced while aircrew and maintenance troops become reacquainted with their families and share their sea stories with whoever will listen. During this transition period replacement personnel join the squadron, and the training syllabus for all aircrew starts a new cycle. Generally, squadrons train independently during this six-month period, with short detachments for bombing and gunnery practice, tactical exercises, and hosted operations with other Navy, Air Force, or Marine assets.
Landing aboard the carrier is one of the most dangerous evolutions pilots can perform. A new pilot requires 40 periods of "Field Carrier Landing Practice" (FCLP) prior to landing on a carrier. Each "period" represents about 8-10 landings. Landings are normally done as touch & goes. A "touch & go" is a landing followed by an immediate takeoff (without stopping). Touch & go's can be conducted on any flight if fuel permits. A touch & go is not a "graded" landing by anyone other than the pilot themselves. A FCLP is a "period" or series of touch & goes which are observed by a Landing Signals Officer (LSO) who grades and critiques each landing to prepare the pilot to land on an aircraft carrier. LSO's also grade every landing or touch & go on the carrier whether the carrier is on a training deployment or overseas deployment. To the layman, a touch & go appears to be any landing that an aircraft touches down and then "bounces" back into the air. When Navy pilots use the term, it refers to FCLP's since the repetitive touch & go evolution during these evolutions more accurately defines this event. For example, FCLP's are a series of touch & go landings and is called "bouncing". But a few touch & go landings at the end of a training flight are simply a "few touch and go landings".
- After upgrading and extended maintenance, the next steps in the lifecycle of a carrier are training and qualifications then the much-anticipated Composite Training Unit Exercise (COMPTUEX) and Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX). Although, prior to beginning these two major events, a carrier must take on its ordnance and other weapons. Predeployment work-ups reunite the elements of the air wing after six months of independent operations. After a major strike planning exercise at NAS Fallon, Nevada, the air wing rejoins the carrier for carrier qualifications, refresher training, weapons training, and an Operational Readiness Exercise (ORE), each representing about two weeks at sea. These evolutions find the squadron aircraft, personnel, medical records, and communication centers ferrying back and forth between home base and the carrier. When all these diverse training evolutions have been completed, the carrier and air wing enter a month of final preparations and a relaxed tempo of operations to prepare personnel and their families for deployment.
The ability of an aircraft carrier to remain on station in international waters for an extended period of time is a function of the Navy's logistic support forces. Although the ship carries great quantities of fuel, food and spare parts for sustained, unsupported operations, it must still be replenished on a regular basis. To resupply, Navy oilers and combat support ships bring boiler and aviation fuel, fresh food and weapons. Critical parts and mail are brought by C-2 cargo planes.
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