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Apr 6 09 8:00 AM
Chief Master At Arms
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Gary Roughead said he intends to get the required congressional dispensation to decommission the ship in 2012 or 2013, taking
the flattop fleet down to 10 ships for a few years until the Gerald R. Ford comes online. That's expected in 2015.
"We really need to take Enterprise out of service," he told Navy Times. "That ship is old, and it has served extraordinarily well. It has
served longer than any aircraft carrier in the history of the United States Navy. And it's time. She's safe. She's going through an availability
now. But Enterprise deserves to go to pasture."
The Big E currently is slated for decommissioning in 2012, pending the congressional waiver.
"I've got to get relief from the law, but I'd like to get her out in '12 or '13," he said. "What we have to do is go before
the authorization committees and make the case [for 10 carriers]."
Commissioned in 1961, the Enterprise was the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. In 1962, it was part of the 2nd Fleet quarantine of Cuba
during the nuclear showdown with the Soviet Union.
In 1965, the carrier became the first nuclear-powered ship to engage in combat during strikes on North Vietnam.
Roughead said CVN 65 will deploy one last time - and then that's it.
Big E's age and number of reactors - eight - mean the decommissioning process will be long, labor-intensive and expensive.
"Enterprise just doesn't lay up like a conventional ship," he said. "We have never decommissioned a nuclear aircraft carrier, and
it's a significant undertaking. We have to get on with that process because it's going to take us a while to do that."
While Beltway insiders are speculating on an eventual reduction in the carrier fleet down to nine, Roughead said doing without the Enterprise will be
feasible until Ford joins the fleet.
"We have looked at our carriers and carrier schedules to meet the presence requirements from combatant commanders. And because of the Fleet Response
Plan we can do it with 10 carriers," he said. "I do believe that our carrier force of 11 is what the nation and the Navy needs to fulfill the
presence requirement and the response requirement."
Apr 7 09 7:11 AM
Despite apprehension from some defense analysts that the Navy could lose at least one carrier, the Zumwalt-class destroyer program or other major weapons in
Gates' budget this year, the service's plans escaped relatively unscathed. Although it will begin building carriers every five years, instead of four,
and drop down to a permanent force of 10 flattops in 31 years, the Navy's major programs are essentially unchanged.
It's possible, however, that technical problems with the aircraft-launching system aboard the Navy's next carrier, the Gerald R. Ford, could delay
its entering service as scheduled in 2015, denying that ship to the fleet as planned. Service officials said last week they think they can get the new
equipment to work, but they're also investigating the possibility of retrofitting the Ford with the steam catapults carried on the current fleet of
The Navy has asked, and plans to ask again, for permission from Congress to drop below the legally mandated force of 11 carriers from 2012, when the
Enterprise will be decommissioned, until 2015, when the Ford is scheduled to join the fleet.
Gates unveiled changes and cuts in this year's defense budget Monday in an unusual appearance at the Pentagon, to preview the overall spending plan
before the details are sent to Congress. The appearance was billed as a fundamental change to the way the Pentagon does business, and included deep cuts to
Army and Air Force programs, plus the addition of thousands of full-time DoD acquisitions professionals, to take the place of contractors.
Gates did not have an overall number for the amount of money the Pentagon would save as part of the changes he was making
He said the Navy would re-negotiate its deal for its advanced Zumwalt-class ships, with the idea that it could save money by building all three at General
Dynamics' Bath Iron Works shipyard in Bath, Maine. That's if the first ship is built on cost and schedule, Gates said; if not, the second and third
ships would be cancelled. The other yard that was to build a Zumwalt, Northrop Grumman's shipyard in Pascagoula, Miss., would get first dibs on the
Navy's new series of Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. Then, after the first few copies, further DDG 51s would be built at both Northrop and Bath.
Gates conceded he was not intimately familiar with the details of the Zumwalt program, also known as DDG 1000; that he has not been involved with the
details or talked with the contractors. But "people here in the building" - meaning Navy officials in the Pentagon - believe the Navy can save money
by having Bath build all three ships, Gates said. That would save the Navy from building two simultaneous first-of-class ships, one by Bath and one by
Northrop, and create efficiencies for all three by having them come from the same yard.
Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a Republican for whom Bath Iron Works is the largest private employer in her state, issued a statement praising Gates'
proposal to build all three DDG 1000s at Bath.
"My goal has always been to help ensure a steady work flow at BIW and a strong industrial base for shipbuilding," Collins said. "That is why
I worked hard to convince the president and the Navy to include full funding for a third DDG-1000 in the budget, and I am delighted that they have agreed. The
Pentagon's preference to have BIW build all three of the DDG-1000s demonstrates confidence in BIW and should also stabilize production costs for the
Gates' budget proposals could be radically different by the time Congress gets through with them. He acknowledged his ideas would be controversial,
especially where they would cut back on jobs in lawmakers' districts, but he said he hoped members of Congress would "rise above parochial interests
and best serve the United States."
Before he had even finished his remarks Monday, Rep. Ike Skelton, D-Mo., chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, released a statement saying that
Congress would have its own take on the changes Gates wanted to make.
"The buck stops with Congress, which has the critical constitutional responsibility to decide whether to support these proposals," Skelton wrote.
"In the weeks ahead, my colleagues and I will carefully consider these proposals and look forward to working with Secretary Gates and [Joint Chiefs
Chairman Adm. Michael] Mullen as we prepare the fiscal year 2010 defense authorization act."
In addition to the shipbuilding changes, Gates' proposal calls for the Navy to get money to add ballistic missile defense capability to six Aegis ships
next year, and the Defense Department will spend an additional $700 million on the SM-3 missiles they fire at incoming ballistic missiles, as well as other
missile defense systems.
On the aviation side, Gates said the Navy would buy 31 F/A-18 Super Hornets in fiscal 2010. Previous planning called for the Navy to purchase 18 Super
Hornets. The additional aircraft will help reduce the so-called "fighter gap" - the shortage of aircraft the Navy faces as the older Hornets retire
faster than the new F-35 Joint Strike Fighter arrives to replace them.
The Navy will also lease four joint high speed vessels next year, instead of two, until DoD takes delivery of its own ships in 2011, Gates said. The Navy
leases high-speed catamarans, such as the Swift, now on a humanitarian deployment in the Caribbean, but has ordered its own purpose-built JHSVs from the Austal
shipyard in Mobile, Ala.
That yard also builds General Dynamics' version of the ships competing in the Navy's Littoral Combat Ship program, along with a Lockheed Martin
design built in Marinette, Wis. LCS came in for no changes in Gates' presentation; the Navy will still built a fleet of 55 ships and award contracts for
three in fiscal '10.
The biggest cut to a Navy program was the VH-71 presidential helicopter, which has become a lighting rod for critics of bungled Pentagon acquisitions. The
program is to be eliminated altogether and then restarted next year, Gates said, reaffirming the need for a new presidential helicopter.
Gates also said the Navy would again delay work on the CG(X) cruiser, a large, next-generation surface warship that was to take many of its design and
technological cues from the Zumwalts.
Also delayed will be amphibious ships, including an 11th San Antonio-class amphibious transport dock; the Mobile Landing Platform ship; and other
"sea-basing programs," Gates said.
Apr 7 09 8:20 AM
Rear Adm. Terry McKnight, commander Expeditionary Strike Group 2, was relieved by Rear Adm. Michelle Howard in a ceremony Sunday aboard the amphibious
assault ship Boxer in the Gulf of Aden.
McKnight became ESG 2 commander in September 2007 and took on leadership of the counterpiracy Combined Task Force 151 when it was established in January. As
ESG 2 commander, Howard, like McKnight, will command two 5th Fleet task forces: CTF 51, which is responsible for area contingency operations, and CTF 59, which
handles humanitarian missions.
Howard walks into a tough job. As she took command, pirates likely operating out of Somalia hijacked five ships in the span of two days, prompting a Navy
spokesman in Bahrain to describe the surge of attacks as "unbelievable."
In 1999, taking the helm of the dock landing ship Rushmore, Howard became the first African-American woman to command a U.S. Navy ship, according to her
biography. She most recently served as senior military assistant to the Secretary of the Navy
Apr 7 09 8:40 AM
The People's Liberation Army Navy and the United States Navy just fought a running non-lethal battle off the coast of China,
and the PLAN scored a tactical victory. Much of American media coverage focused on a single case
of maritime harrassment, when some Chinese boats came way too close to USNS Impeccable, an unarmed Military Sealift Command sonar surveillance vessel. In
reality, U.S. and Chinese ships and planes engaged in an escalating jousting match that stretched over nearly a week, involving almost every conceivable means
of close-quarters physical engagement short of actually shelling or trying to board one another. Part of the action occurred 70 miles off China's new
underground nuclear submarine base at Yulin, at the southern tip of Hainan Island facing deep water in the South China Sea.
On the night of March 4, Impeccable's near-sister ship USNS Victorious was closed on by a Chinese Bureau of Fisheries patrol boat that blinded members of her crew
by shining a powerful searchlight in their eyes, then cut Victorious off aggressively by veering across her bow in the dark with no warning. That same night a
Chinese Harbin Y-12 maritime surveillance aircraft conducted a dozen low flybys over Victorious. On March 5, a heavily armed PLAN frigate crossed
Impeccable's bow at barely one ship-length's distance; minutes later a Y-12 did 11 flybys of her, too. On March 7, a Chinese intelligence collection
ship radioed Impeccable to leave the area, or else -- but she stayed. On March 9, in broad daylight, Impeccable was approached by a 5-vessel swarm.
They mobbed her, used poles and a grappling hook to try to sever and steal her expensive, classified towed array, threw chunks of
wood in her path to try to damage her hull, then stood in her way to physically bar her egress -- all while failing to respond to repeated calls on her radio.
Impeccable's use of fire hoses to dissuade one of the swarm only led to it closing the range even more in a reckless and threatening manner, coming within
25 feet. U.S. 7th Fleet sent the Arleigh Burke destroyer USS Chung-Hoon to the neighborhood "as a precaution." Finally, Impeccable was grudgingly
allowed to depart from her floating detention by the PLAN.
These events were concentrated and coordinated in time and space. Each side had clear-cut objectives. China's goal was to
exclude U.S. Navy ASW assets from a strategically critical theater of PLAN sub operations that lies within her 200-mile Exclusive Economic Zone. America's
goal was to gather vital intelligence on those burgeoning sub ops occurring well outside China's 12-mile territorial limit. Because Impeccable did withdraw
from the area, China scored an important tactical victory which might also create legal precedent.
The eventual strategic implications remain to be seen. The two sides have made accusations and counter-accusations; domestic
Chinese media coverage is whipping up patriotic pride. The Obama Administration seems eager to tone things down, but there are deeper implications that
mustn't be overlooked. Super-stealthy U.S. Navy fast-attack subs are ideally suited to snoop around Chinese undersea ops off Yulin. Congress needs to
maintain funding for the two-per-year build rate of the littoral-optimized Virginia class SSN. Otherwise, our tactical loss in this non-lethal naval Battle of
Yulin might lead to an eventual, irrecoverable strategic setback for America.
Apr 15 09 6:25 PM
Jun 9 09 8:32 AM
Admiral of this Navee
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