ABECSG’s Air Wing of the Future

The USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group (ABECSG) participated in Exercise Noble Fusion, a joint and combined naval expeditionary exercise including multiple elements of the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force, alongside the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force, in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific, Feb. 3-7.

“Integrating the elements of the dual-MEU/ARG team with the power of the carrier strike group, joint elements and our Japanese counterparts in a distributed exercise demonstrates our ability to command and control lethal forces in contested areas, create strategic advantage and integrated deterrence,” said Col. Michael Brennan, operations officer, Combined Task Force 79. “Our sea-denial exercises with naval expeditionary integration and littoral allies prepares us to counter potential adversarial aggressive actions.”

This exercise marks the first time that ABECSG has operated alongside two Marine Expeditionary Units (MEU)/Amphibious Ready Groups (ARG) including the first Marine squadron to deploy the F-35C Lightning II.

The “Black Knights” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314 provided air support of simulated long-range maritime strikes during amphibious exercises in the Philippine Sea. VMFA-314 uniquely provides ABECSG and naval expeditionary forces the opportunity to refine its integrated naval power while leveraging the complementary strengths of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps.

“The integration of the F-35C serves as a valuable force multiplier for the Carrier Strike Group,” said Capt. Michael Langbehn, commanding officer, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9. “No other weapons system has the responsiveness, endurance, multi-dimensional might, inherent battlespace awareness or command and control capabilities of a full-sized, nuclear-powered aircraft carrier and its embarked air wing.”

When combined, the Air Wing of the Future (AWOTF) provides unprecedented capabilities with both its flexibility and maneuverability. Through the integration of organic 4th and 5th generation fighters onto a highly mobile aircraft carrier, ABECSG stands ready to launch and recover a variety of aviation platforms anywhere in the world and displace them to new strategic locations as needed.

“It was an exciting experience,” said Lt. Dante Vivilecchia, from Groveland, Mass., an E-2D Hawkeye pilot assigned to the “Wallbangers” of Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117 aboard Lincoln. “There was flawless coordination among the strike group, ARG and MEU. It was a great display of interoperability, proving our ability to operate alongside Marine Harriers and MV-22s.”

On Feb. 3, VAW-117 launched two aircraft to provide real-time actionable data that enabled power projection, theater air and missile defense (TAMD) and anti-ship missile defense (ASMD) for U.S.-led forces. The following days, F/A-18E/F Super Hornet squadrons, the “Tophatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14, the “Black Aces” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41 and the “Vigilantes” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151 conducted simulated strikes against live surface targets, further demonstrating the multi-dimensional might of the AWOTF.

Carrier strike groups are formidable naval forces that clearly and undeniably represent U.S. power projection. Throughout the next decade, naval aviation is adding a number of new platforms and capabilities to their air wings, making forces more lethal and survivable. These additions include the F-35C, E-2D aerial refueling, F/A-18 E/F Block III with Infrared Search and Track System, P-8 high altitude anti-submarine warfare weapon capability and P-8 Increment III, CMV-22, HSC/MQ-8C unmanned helicopter and mine countermeasure capability, an HSM anti-submarine warfare ship modification and the EA-18G Next-Generation Jammer.

VMFA-314 was the first Marine Corps squadron to transition to the F-35C variant of the joint strike fighter after retiring its legacy F/A-18A/C aircraft and receiving its first F-35C on Jan. 21, 2020. As the Marine Corps continues to develop as a modernized naval force, deploying squadrons, such as VMFA-314, to key strategic maritime locations demonstrates the Marine Corps’ capability to deter adversary aggression, and, if required, decisively win in conflict.

The Navy Marine Corps team regularly conducts integrated naval expeditionary training throughout the region to maintain readiness, reinforce our commitment to allies and partners, as well as continue to bolster shared security, stability and peace in the Indo-Pacific.

The ABECSG consists of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 3 including the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72); Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 9; Destroyer Squadron 21; the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53); and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62), USS Gridley (DDG 101), USS Sampson (DDG 102) and USS Spruance (DDG 111).

CVW-9 consists of an F-35C squadron, the “Black Knights” of Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 314; three F/A-18E/F Super Hornet squadrons, the “Tophatters” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 14; “Black Aces” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 41, the “Vigilantes” of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151; “Wizards” of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 133, operating the EA-18G Growler; “Wallbangers” of Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 117, operating the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye; “Titans” of Fleet Logistics Multi-Mission Squadron (VRM) 30, operating the CMV-22B Osprey; “Chargers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 14 operating the MH-60S Sea Hawk; and “Raptors” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71, operating the MH-60R Sea Hawk.

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