November 27, 2018 – The U.S. Navy’s Surface Fleet is more capable, ready and lethal today as surface combatants from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Group (ABESG) completed the Navy’s first East Coast Carrier Strike Group (CSG) Cruiser-Destroyer (CRUDES) Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercise.
“The first East Coast SWATT is a milestone event not only for the Surface Fleet, but also for the Navy as a whole as we continue to focus on the development of tactical proficiency and lethality which is of strategic value and importance in this era of great power competition,” said Rear Adm. John F. G. Wade, commander of Carrier Strike Group 12. “To be able to hear the reports of the increased capability of these warships through SWATT, and to lead their Live Fire With a Purpose exercises in conjunction with my prior command [SMWDC], was a great honor. The teams that worked together to put this together were exemplary of the best our Navy has to offer.”
SWATT exercises provide dedicated in port and underway training periods particularly focused on the development of Air Defense and Sea Combat Commanders, ships and watch teams. In particular, SWATTs provide focused training to support naval sea control including integrated air and missile defense (IAMD), anti-submarine/surface warfare (ASW/SUW), amphibious warfare, mine warfare and information warfare, all with an eye on CSG interoperability and increased lethality across the surface fleet.
Units involved in the SMWDC-led ABESG CRUDES SWATT were Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), and USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), USS Mason (DDG 87), and USS Nitze (DDG 94). Commands supporting the exercise include Fleet Forces Atlantic Exercise Coordination Center (FFAECC), Fleet Area Control and Surveillance Facility (FACSFAC) Virginia Capes (VACAPES), Naval Information Warfighting Development Center (NIWDC), Information Warfare Training Group (IWTG) Norfolk, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 4, Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Corona, Tactical Training Group Atlantic (TTGL), and Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 46 detachment 1.
SMWDC-based senior, post major-command mentors, warfare tactics instructors (WTIs), and technical community experts plan events, brief teams, and embark warships during underway periods to train and mentor teams during SWATT. Those teams lead a formalized plan, brief, execute, debrief (PBED) process to develop the training audience during the underway. After planning and completing a training event, as part of the PBED process, mentors and WTIs leverage technical community expertise to provide rapid debrief using replay tools enabling watch teams to critically assess their own performance and improve.
“Having the WTIs onboard is the key element to SWATT,” said Cmdr. Patrick Murphy, commanding officer of USS Bainbridge (DDG 96). “Ships operate at sea all the time, but we don’t take the dedicated time to replay our actions, discuss what we did and why, nor have the specific expertise onboard to help identify how we can do it better. SWATT brings all of that together.”
Since SMWDC’s establishment as one of five Warfighting Development Centers (WDCs) in 2015, SWATT has become the command’s premiere advanced tactical training event. As a result of the observed returns on investment in ships who have received an advanced tactical training period, the command’s reach across all of its lines of operation – advanced tactical training, doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures development, operational support, and capability assessments, experimentation, and future requirements – now extends to each of the Navy’s surface ships in all areas of operation.
While not always completed during SWATT, ships in the ABESG leveraged the underway training period to conduct Live Fire With a Purpose (LFWAP) exercises as well.
“[LFWAP] provided practical and effective training to the crew,” said Capt. William G. Musser, commanding officer of Leyte Gulf and the ABESG Air Defense Commander. “WTIs were very professional in their mentorship and provided us with knowledge to improve our lethality on established tactics and procedures.”
LFWAP is an enhanced missile exercise program that provides a more robust training engagement for watch teams and ships. SMWDC serves as the executive agent for Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet and Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command for the program, though tactical control of the events is exercised by the Strike Group Air Defense Commander and overseen by the Strike Group Commander.
“Working with the WTIs provided the ship an opportunity to increase our tactical proficiency in a realistic environment,” said Lt. Cmdr. Anthony R. LaVopa, combat systems officer aboard Leyte Gulf. “Through the preparation and execution of this event, Leyte Gulf learned a lot about our combat system capabilities and furthered our proficiency in a tactical environment.”
LFWAP training evolutions are designed to coach ship’s personnel from the Warfare Commander to individual watch standers. Lt. Lisa Malone, an embarked IAMD WTI aboard Leyte Gulf, served as the LFWAP execution lead aboard the ship.
“The purpose of SWATT is to instill competence and confidence of the combat watch standers and weapon systems of U.S. Navy warships,” said Malone. “SMWDC WTIs aboard Leyte Gulf worked with the crew to create an environment that replicates current tactics to use when called upon by our commanders.”
Overall SWATT and LFWAP exercises are designed for optimal learning for both the training audience – ABESG CRUDES ships in this case – and for SMWDC as the command strives to achieve its mission to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of the Surface Force across all domains.
“The first East Coast CRUDES SWATT was an important step forward in a journey that is going to take time and attention to fully realize,” said Rear Adm. Dave Welch, commander of SMWDC. “I am impressed with the teamwork exhibited in the development and execution of these exercises, and there is no time for a victory lap in today’s strategic environment. We will continue to press forward in the deliberate development of tactical expertise and lethality across the Surface Fleet without delay.”
SMWDC is a subordinate command of Commander, U.S. Naval Surface Forces, and is headquartered at Naval Base San Diego, with four divisions in Virginia and California focused on IAMD, ASW/SUW, Mine Warfare, and Amphibious Warfare.