The U.S. Navy, now in its 235th year, was present and engaged on the world’s oceans during 2009, earning the right to be called “a global force for good.” There are more than 60,000 sailors deployed on, above, and below the seas, and another 14,000 sailors on the ground in support of joint missions in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa. The Navy added new ships and aircraft to the fleet, developed new systems, and acquired new missions, and that demand for naval capabilities will continue in 2010.
The USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77) was commissioned Jan. 10, 2009, at Norfolk, Va. The United States continues to have 10 large nuclear-powered carriers in the fleet, which not only project power but can also respond quickly to conduct military as well as humanitarian assistance and disaster response operations.
CVN 77 was actually commissioned before acceptance, but additional time was needed for complete trials before actual delivery. The minor delay does not change the fact that George H.W. Bush, the final Nimitz-class carrier, will serve as a frontline warship for the next 50 years. The 1,092-foot, 100,000-ton carrier was berthed next to the Navy’s new littoral combat ship, the 337-foot, 3,000-ton USS Freedom (LCS 1), which had been commissioned several weeks earlier and had just arrived from the Great Lakes.
The Navy announced its intention to homeport a carrier in Mayport, Fla., as it has done for many years (USS John F. Kennedy was based there until it was decommissioned). The issue has become politicized, with the Virginia congressional delegation unwilling to part with a Norfolk-based CVN.
In January 2009, the United States established a multinational task force, CTF 151, to conduct counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean, and the Red Sea. A number of other navies participated in anti-piracy operations in the area, either as a part of the task force, with NATO, the European Union, or independently. The determined efforts of the U.S. Navy and other naval forces deterred many incidents of piracy, and thwarted such incidents as the M/V Maersk Alabama, whose master was rescued when Navy SEALs shot the pirates holding him. But piracy in that part of the world grows out of the lawlessness of Somalia, a failed state. Even with the increased presence of many navies, the number of incidents increased in 2009 over 2008.
Throughout the year, U.S. Navy forces were present around the world to execute A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower. While Afghanistan was far from the sea, carriers maintained station to provide precision strike missions in direct support of Operation Enduring Freedom coalition ground forces in Afghanistan.
The year 2009 was one of engagement, where the Navy worked alongside friends and allies around the world, as exemplified by Pacific Partnership Station (PPS), Southern Partnership Station (SPS), and Africa Partnership Station (APS).
The Navy was engaged with nations, navies, and people in need around the world. USS Nashville (LPD 13) led a multinational team on APS, visiting Senegal, Ghana, Gabon, Cameroon, and Nigeria. During later phases of APS 2009, USS Robert G. Bradley (FFG 49) visited Mozambique, Tanzania, and Kenya; USS Arleigh Burke (DDG 51), HSV Swift, and USCGC Legare (WMEC 912) continued the APS mission in West and Central Africa. The hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) deployed to the U.S. Southern Command in support of Continuing Promise 2009, while USNS Richard E. Byrd (T-AKE 4) took part in Pacific Partnership 2009, visiting Samoa, Tonga, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, and the Marshall Islands. Many people will remember 2009 as the year of “swine flu,” the H1N1 virus. USS Dubuque’s [LPD 8] participation in Pacific Partnership 2009 was canceled when a significant portion of the ship’s crew were confirmed to have H1N1 influenza.