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The United States Navy has deployed it’s P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft to Nigeria to participate in the Obangame Express 2023 (OE23) martime exercise.
The P-8A Poseidon MPA arrives Lagos, Nigeria on Friday, 27 January, as part of the United States contingent for OE22.
A militarized version of the Boeing 737 commercial aircraft, the P-8A Poseidon is intended to replace the U.S. Navy’s ageing P-3 Orion fleet as the service’s front-line anti-submarine warfare aircraft.
According to Boeing, the P-8 is a multi-mission maritime patrol aircraft, excelling at anti-submarine warfare; anti-surface warfare; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and search and rescue.
Also, Vice Adm. Thomas Ishee, the commander of the U.S. Sixth Fleet, arrived in Lagos, Nigeria for the opening ceremony of Exercise Obangame Express (OE23), the largest multinational maritime exercise in Western and Central Africa, Jan. 27, 2023.
“The work accomplished during Obangame Express strengthens regional cooperation and trust, ensuring African nations can continue protecting their coastal resources and sovereign waters,” said Ishee.
Alongside African partners, U.S. service members also participated in practical demonstrations on combat defense tactics and life-saving medical care under fire.
U.S. Coast Guard Lt.j.g. Nicholas Didiano led a simulated vessel boarding on a Nigerian Navy small patrol craft. The demonstration rehearsed vessel entry, clearing and securing, and arrest techniques.
“The exercise is important because it allows forces to learn how to protect themselves and protect their units and boarding teams. If they encounter any kind of illicit activity, they’ll be better prepared for the risk and threat at hand,” said Didiano.
African partners found the expertise exchange and practical demonstrations helpful for operations that they conduct with their respective nations.
“This exercise is very interesting – rehearsing some methods we already know, while learning new techniques is incredibly helpful on a practical side,” said Maitre Major (MTM) Hermann Houngue, Benin Navy. “Especially the self defense techniques – you have to know them, to protect yourself, to do your job – I can’t stress how important it is in a very practical way.”
OE23, one of three U.S. Naval Forces Africa (NAVAF) – facilitated regional exercises, provides collaborative opportunities for African and U.S. forces, and international partners to address shared transnational maritime concerns. NAVAF’s ongoing maritime security cooperation with African partners focuses on overcoming the challenges of maritime safety and security in the region.
The exercise takes place across five zones in the southern Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Guinea – stretching from the West African island of Cabo Verde to the Central African shores of Angola, including the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) and Economic Community of Central African States (ECCAS).
Meanwhile, two United State’s Air Force (USAF) Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft, one from the 6th Air Refueling Wing (6th ARW) at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida made a brief stop in Cape Town on Wednesday 25 January as part of an endurance mission.
The two Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker aircraft, one from the 6th Air Refueling Wing (6th ARW) at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, and Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, are on a 32 200 km endurance mission across the Southern Hemisphere, under the title of “Delivering Hope, Projecting Lethality.”
A sonar system being installed on new U.S. Navy Constellation-class frigates could also protect merchant ships during a conflict and give them the ability to search for submarines, according to the company that manufactures the technology.
The towed-sensor system is already being used by U.S. allies and could be quickly installed on non-military ships.
“It’s a modular system that can be placed on vessels of opportunity,” said Mark Bock, vice president for strategy and business development at Thales’ Advanced Acoustic Concepts.
At the Surface Navy Association conference in Arlington, Virginia, this week, the company showed off a video of the technology being installed on a commercial ship within 48 hours, turning the vessel into an anti-submarine “asset,” Bock said.
“We believe we can repeat that turnaround [time],” he said.
The company believes the sonar system could be loaded on a military cargo plane and quickly flown to a ship that needs it.
“This is not a concept that is new or developmental,” Bock said. “It’s a concept of how to rapidly address [anti-submarine warfare] capacity from a DOD or navy perspective.”
U.S. Transportation Command boss Gen. Jacqueline Van Ovost said in October that the military would rely heavily on commercial cargo ships and aircraft to replenish troops during a war in the vast spaces of the Pacific. Van Ovost said the command is looking at placing military advisors on merchant ships along with special communications gear that gives the ships a better picture of enemy locations.
Last March, the Navy said it would install Advanced Acoustic Concepts’ CAPTAS anti-submarine sonar on its Constellation-class frigates over similar Raytheon-made technology.
The sonar system is made up of a long cable that tows a sensor in the water that pings for submarines. Unlike the Navy’s current bow-mounted sonars, the so-called variable-depth sonar can be “placed at a depth that has the highest probability of getting a target acquisition,” Bock said.
Thales acquired Advanced Acoustic Concepts, a undersea technology joint venture it previously had with Leonardo DRS, in July. The acquisition, Thales said at the time, was to “increase its engineering and industrial footprint in the U.S. defense market, with reinforced U.S.-based teams and capabilities.”
The anti-submarine technology is already used on British, French, Spanish, and Chilean ships.
“You’re talking about a system that’s mature, has a track record, past performance record against targets,” Bock said.
One might ask whether linking a merchant ship to a military sensor network would make it more of a target. The classification of civilian vessels into legitimate targets and illegal ones is an unsettled area of international law; much depends on circumstances. The U.S. Navy’s own guidance indicates that merchant ships “incorporated into, or assisting in any way, the intelligence system of an enemy’s armed forces” may be “attacked and destroyed” by aircraft or surface warships “with or without prior warning.”
Bradley Peniston contributed to this report.
Saufley, president and dean of the University of Maine School of Law and the former chief justice of the Maine Supreme Judicial Court, will break a bottle of sparkling wine across the bow to symbolically christen the ship at the Austal USA shipyard. Augusta’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Christopher Polnaszek, will represent the ship’s crew in the ceremony.
The principal speaker with be the Honorable Jerry Carl, U.S. House of Representatives (R-AL). Remarks will also be provided by the Honorable Mark O’Brien, mayor of Augusta; Vice Adm. John Mustin, chief of Navy reserve; Ms. E. Anne Sandel, acting principal civilian deputy to the assistant secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition; Mr. Rusty Murdaugh, president, Austal USA; and Mr. Stan Kordana, vice president of Surface Systems, General Dynamics Mission Systems.
“The future USS Augusta will honor the beautiful, capital city of the pine tree state,” said Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro. “The Honorable Saufley and the ship’s crew will forge a special connection with the fine people of Augusta. This future ship’s Sailors will stand the watch with pride and represent Augusta with the honor, courage, and commitment they deserve.”
Augusta’s motto, “Protecting the frontier”, continues the legacy of the first USS Augusta (SSN 710), a Los Angeles-class submarine that was in active service for 24 years and decommissioned on February 11, 2009. Augusta is the 17th Independence-variant LCS and 33rd in the LCS class. It is the second ship named in honor of the city of Augusta, Maine.
Independence-variant Littoral Combat Ships are fast, optimally-manned, mission-tailored surface combatants that operate in near-shore and open-ocean environments, winning against 21st-century coastal threats. LCS integrate with joint, combined, manned, and unmanned teams to support forward-presence, maritime security, sea control, and deterrence missions around the globe. Currently, Independence-variants USS Charleston (LCS 18) and USS Oakland (LCS 24) are on deployment in the Indo-Pacific.
The LCS class consists of two variants, Freedom and Independence, designed and built by two separate industry teams. Austal USA, which leads the Independence-variant industry team for even-numbered hulls, is a ship manufacturer headquartered in Mobile, Ala., with service centers in San Diego and Singapore, and a technology center in Charlottesville, Va. Austal USA has earned 21 safety excellence awards.
Media may direct queries to the Navy Office of Information at (703) 697-5342. More information on the Littoral Combat Ship Program can be found at: https://www.navy.mil/Resources/Fact-Files/Display-FactFiles/Article/2171607/littoral-combat-ship-class-lcs/
Saturday will bring the keel authentication ceremony for the fast-attack submarine Arkansas, which is under construction at the shipyard.
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. — An important milestone is at hand for the Navy, Hampton Roads’ largest industrial employer, Newport News Shipbuilding, and some civil rights pioneers.
Saturday will bring the keel authentication ceremony for the fast-attack submarine Arkansas, which is under construction at the shipyard.
When it’s completed, hopefully in 2025, the future USS Arkansas will become the Navy’s 27th Virginia Class submarine.
“It’s not just a warship we’re going to get, but it’s a fully trained crew, ready to go to battle warship. So, it’s a fantastic value for the American taxpayer,” said CDR Adam Kaunke, the Arkansas’ commanding officer.
The thousands of men and women who are constructing the $2.8 billion, 377-foot long vessel are proud, nobody more than Arkansas native Joe Holden, who is now a production foreman at the shipyard.
“Every day I look at it and say, ‘I get to build something that represents my home,'” he said. “Everything I am–bravery, courage, willingness to step up.'”
Also beaming with pride are Arkansas’ ship’s sponsors: the Little Rock Nine, who made history in 1957 as the first African American students to attend all-white Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas.
“Yeah, we’ve come a long way, but we still have a distance to go. And that is why I wanted to be a part of the change,” said Little Rock Nine member Ernest Green.
After all he and his school-mates went through, Green has one piece of advice for all people facing adversity.
“If you believe in it, stand up for it and things can change for the better,” he said.
Newport News Shipbuilding President Jennifer Boykin was thrilled to host these eyewitnesses to history.
“To be able to celebrate one the boats we build with the Little Rock Nine, their legacies, their struggles, what they’ve done for the nation, the challenges they went through to set the nation on the right path, it’s an incredible day for the shipbuilders,” she said.
The keel authentication ceremony takes place at 11 a.m. on Saturday. You can watch it live on 13NewsNow.com and 13News Now-plus.
The Navy has fired nearly a dozen officers in leadership positions in less than three months, including five in one week, due to a “loss of confidence” in their ability to command — an unusual string of terminations across land, air and sea teams, experts said.
At least nine commanding officers and two senior advisers have been relieved of their duties since April, when a cluster of suicides on the USS George Washington warship sparked widespread concerns of a mental health crisis.
A total of 13 commanding officers have been fired so far this year, including 12 in the Navy and one in the Marine Corps, the Navy said. Most recently, four Naval commanding officers and a top leader were ousted from June 8 to June 14.
It’s unclear what prompted the personnel changes, which the Navy said were unrelated to each other. The Navy did not elaborate further on specific conditions that led to the firings, but stressed the importance of “trust and confidence” across all levels of the chain of command.
“The U.S. Navy has long maintained high standards for all its personnel. Those who fall short of these standards are held accountable,” said Lt. Cmdr. Devin Arneson, a Navy spokesperson, who added that such an action is “neither punitive nor disciplinary.”
None of the leaders served the George Washington, where at least five crew members died by suicide in the last year, angering some sailors and advocates who work to reduce military suicides.
“How many service members have to die before this commanding officer is held accountable?” said Patrick Caserta, who along with his wife has been advocating for better mental health treatment in the military, after their son died by suicide while serving the Navy in 2018.
“You cannot hand-pick some commanders as fall guys and leave others untouched,” Caserta said.
At least one George Washington sailor, who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retaliation, said he partially blames his commanding officer, Capt. Brent Gaut, for the rash of suicides, which include three within a span of a week in April.
The sailor and the Casertas believe Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Russell Smith should also be fired, following controversial remarks he made during an address to a fragile crew in April. Smith, the service’s senior enlisted leader, is responsible for matters dealing with enlisted personnel and their families.
The sailor said his shipmates still talk about Smith’s comments that sailors should have “reasonable expectations,” and that they were not “sleeping in a foxhole like a Marine might be doing.”
In separate news releases, the Navy gave vague explanations in at least four of the cases and blanket “loss of confidence” statements for the others.
It said an “assessment” of the current climate at the Naval Justice School led officials to fire both the commanding officer and her second-in-command on May 31. However, the Navy said neither officer was involved in misconduct.
That commanding officer, Capt. Amy Larson, had held the role for about eight months. She has been temporarily reassigned, officials said.
Earlier, a “command investigation” resulted in the April 28 termination of the commanding officer in charge of the Submarine Training Facility in San Diego, the Navy said.
In Hawaii, a “series of leadership and oversight failures” at the government-run Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility led to the April 4 dismissal of the commanding officer of its Fleet Logistics Center.
Most recently, the Navy said the commanding officer of the USS Bulkeley destroyer and his third-in-command were relieved on June 10 due to a loss of confidence in their “ability to effectively function as a command leadership team.”
Military experts said it’s common for commanding officers on ships to be fired, but that it’s rarer to see them booted from teams that handle trainings, fleet readiness and supply centers.
The Navy said an average of about 17 commanding officers have been relieved each year since 2011. It’s unclear if the service plans to announce more terminations soon.
At least at sea, commanding officers are relieved so frequently that it’s become a long-running joke among sailors, said Benjamin Gold, who was a Naval officer for nearly seven years.
Gold said dismissals are easily triggered, especially when complaints of discrimination, sexual harassment and conditions of employment are filed with the Naval Inspector General’s office.
“You always hear about COs being fired for one reason or another,” he said. “We describe command at sea as kind of like an experiment in leadership.”
For commanding officers, there is a very low threshold for a personal infraction, said Gold, who is now a military law attorney. “You’re under the microscope,” he said. “As you get higher up in the ranks, the microscope intensifies.”
Patrick Caserta, 57, and his wife Teri, 56, are baffled that leaders on the USS George Washington are still on the aircraft carrier when other commanding officers have lost their jobs in instances that did not involve any sailor’s death.
“They need to be held accountable for this,” Caserta said. “What’s more indicative of a leader? DUI or people dying under your command?”
The Casertas said they know firsthand how poor leadership impacts a sailor’s decision to die by suicide.
Next week will mark the fourth year they’ve been without their son, Navy Petty Officer Third Class Brandon Caserta, who took his own life while serving a helicopter sea combat unit in Norfolk, Virginia.
The Casertas said their 21-year-old son, a naval squadron flight electrician, had been chronically bullied and abused by a toxic command that denied his requests for mental health services.
The string of dismissals comes as Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro faces pressure to look into toxic command cultures.
On May 17, Del Toro and Adm. Michael Gilday, the U.S. chief of naval operations, visited the George Washington and spoke to beleaguered crew members about living and working conditions.
At the time, a senior Navy official told NBC News that “several things” were in the works and that recommendations would be developed and implemented “as soon as possible.”
The Navy Secretary’s office has not responded to multiple requests for comment on the status of those changes since.
“There’s been no accountability, nothing, when all these changes could have happened,” Caserta said.
If you or someone you know is in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255, text HOME to 741741 or visit SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for additional resources.