Courtesy of Surface SITREP, published by the Surface Navy Association (www.navysna.org).
Lt. William Hughes is the Plans and Tactics officer on board USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), and one of the tactical action officers (TAO) during the Formidable Shield 2019 (FS-19) firing events.
Roosevelt completed an almost 18 month AEGIS Combat Systems modernization period from Baseline 6 to Baseline 9 from 2017-2018. Lt. Hughes was TAO for several firing events during the ship’s initial CSQT (combat systems ship qualification trials), but this was the first time he had the opportunity to fire an SM-2 or an SM-3 from the vertical launch system (VLS).
Hughes said the crew’s preparation and training paid off.
“Each of our two firing teams – Blue and Gold – did over 50 hours of training specific to our individual firing events. That training included everything from system setup, all the way through to event execution for those two missile shots,” Hughes said. “And while those two missile shots were a very important part of FS -19, they were a subset of a very complex technical and tactical exercise with our NATO allies. In addition to the BMD events, we participated in tracking exercises, surface warfare exercises, and ASW exercises, all proving our ability to operate jointly in a multi-domain, multi-warfare environment with our NATO partners.”
Hughes was the TAO for the SM-3 and SM-2 dual engagement. “It was a simultaneous SM-3 engagement against a simulated ballistic missile and an SM-2 engagement on a subsonic FireJet drone,” he said.
The MQM-178 Firejet simulates an enemy inbound anti-ship missile and can fly as high as 30,000 feet or skim the surface at 20 feet.
“We also participated in a separate BMD event where we launched an SM-3 at simulated ballistic missile target in space. So the ship launched three missiles in total – two SM-3s and one SM-2. There was another BMD tracking event, and Roosevelt tracked the drone as USS Carney did her live fire shots,” Hughes said. “We also did several events where we conducted tracking exercises as the other NATO ships were doing their firing events.”
It’s rare for a ship to conduct two live SM-3 missile shots on the East Coast, most missile testing take place at the Pacific missile range off the coast of Hawaii. “For an East Coast ship to be able to participate in this sort of event on the Hebrides range off the coast of Scotland is unique and challenging,” Hughes said. “The training that we received leading up to it was top notch and it paid off with a very successful missile firing.”
Hughes said the success of the exercise was a “100 percent team effort.”
“It’s not just a CIC (combat information center) ballgame. The engineers were making sure the plant was supporting the operations; the bridge team maintained safety of navigation; our technicians made sure all the equipment was working. We were communicating on all of our circuits and data paths to coordinate the complex events with our NATO allies. Within CIC, we coordinated with range safety personnel to make sure there were no fishing boats or planes that could potentially be harmed during the live firing events,” Hughes said. “Once the ship gained track on the targets, we stepped through our pre-planned responses and completed the missile engagement.”
“Within the U.S. Navy, we’re very comfortable to talking to each other, and we have a set way of executing events,” Hughes said. “But since our ship and crew just came out of a modernization period, we have not had the opportunity to work as much with the other foreign navies and our NATO allies. It was definitely a big help to be able to have such clear and open communications. It was refreshing to know that we could very seamlessly integrate into that sort of operation with very little changes in the way that we’re used to doing business. At all levels across all the participating ships, we experienced professional execution in a complex environment.”
Hughes said the Roosevelt is getting ready to execute a homeport shift to Rota, Spain. “Formidable Shield has given us a taste of what our future mission and interactions are going to be like in the 6th Fleet area of operations.”