What can you tell us about Puma or Griffin, which are relatively new additions to the PCs to give them some more ISR and firepower?
Anytime we can give a small ship like the PCs increased capability, we at Task Force 55 embrace that philosophy and that vision. Puma’s been a great add to the ship for ISR. And with Griffin missile, that just gives us another arrow in the quiver, an offensive weapon to employ should the need arise. We just concluded a Griffin missile exercise with five PCs shooting a total of 10 missiles. These shoots not only train the crew and demonstrate the capability, but helps us to refine our TTPs (tactics, training and procedures) for employing the weapon. The weapon engineers come out here from CONUS, and every time we conduct a missile exercise they learn something and bring it back to the production line.
The PCs here are the only ships that have Griffin.
What kind of targets were you shooting at?
We had a target detachment from CONUS that provided targets for the Missile-ex. They also provided a high speed maneuvering surface target, so we were able to get some gunnery in after the Griffin shoot, as well.
So how’d they do?
The ships performed flawlessly. These are young COs that don’t often get to employ a system like this. Every time we go out there we learn something new, all the way from basic SWO 101 range-clearance up to employing the weapon system itself.
I can say that this is a very, very unique staff to be a part of – 365 days a year you’re up on governor doing something.
The PCs have stabilized, remotely operated 25 mm guns. How are they working out?
They increase lethality an exponential amount. And equally as important, it keeps the gunner off the weather decks when employing the weapons system. So now the gunner has more protection inside and has better situational awareness from the EO/IR sensors than just staring down an iron sight.
The Navy’s plan is to deploy the littoral combat ship here in 5th Fleet. Are you looking forward to getting that capability?
5th Fleet exercises OpCon of any ship that is sent on a deployment order here through Task Force 55. So once the Fleet Forces Command makes that global force management decision to send LCS out here, we’ll be happy to take it and we’ll be prepared to exercise tactical control of LCS once it gets here.
The PCs have limited endurance, but can they be replenished at sea to provide extended time on station?
The PCs are expert at astern refueling because that is their primary method to refuel at sea. We can do some logistics movements to get them stores. But – probably surface movements – using small boats to get some stores over to supply thee have to always be mindful the crew fatigue over a sustained period of time. So we try to manage their patrol cycle to take that into account to make sure that those crews are well-rested and prepared for the next mission.
And that gets to the importance of having a standard way of doing things, whether it’s the rig or procedures, so that if you come alongside you’re not figuring it out.
That’s right. That’s where the NATO standard really has its strength. When everyone has commonality and equipment, and understanding of a common procedures–that is a force enabler, a force multiplier. Again, really distinguishes regional navies from expeditionary navies.
Here’s my last question. If junior officers were thinking about where to go for their next tour of duty and asked about coming here, what would you tell them?
Having previously been a department head here at DESRON 50, and now as deputy commander, I can say that this is a very, very unique staff to be a part of – 365 days a year you’re up on governor doing something. We have officers and senior enlisted traveling all over the region, to coordinate theater security cooperation events, and to liaison with some of the host nation navies we’re working with to conduct planning. There’s a constant conveyor belt of people in and out of the headquarters on travel, so it can be very exciting and professionally rewarding. And we not only plan with our partners when we go into execution, we’re out on the ships together. We’ll also execute command and control in exercises as an embarked staff. It’s unique among all DESRONs in the Navy.