The Navy Is Gearing Up for 'Leaner, Agile' Operations in Arctic, North Atlantic

The guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham, left, approaches the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys (T-AO 188), Dec. 19, 2018. Jason Dunham is conducting operations in the U.S. 2nd Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)
The guided-missile destroyer USS Jason Dunham, left, approaches the fleet replenishment oiler USNS Joshua Humphreys (T-AO 188), Dec. 19, 2018. Jason Dunham is conducting operations in the U.S. 2nd Fleet area of operations. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jonathan Clay)

This is not your grandfather's 2nd Fleet.

The Navy's newest combatant command will be "leaner, agile and more expeditionary" than the U.S. 2nd Fleet that was deactivated in 2011, Rear Adm. John Mustin, the fleet's deputy commander, told attendants Wednesday at the Surface Navy Association's annual symposium.

The 2nd Fleet, which the Navy re-established in May, is designed to assert U.S. presence in the Atlantic and support operations in the North Atlantic and Arctic. While its actual makeup is still in the works, it is expected to reach initial operational capability this summer.

When it does, it will be a small fighting force that has taken lessons from the service's overseas fleets and II Marine Expeditionary Force, Mustin said.

"The focus of 2nd Fleet is to develop and dynamically employ maritime forces ready to fight across multiple domains in the Atlantic and Arctic," he said.

According to the service, the fleet will serve as the maneuver arm for U.S. Navy North in the Western Atlantic, "ensuring freedom of the sea, lines of communication and executing operational missions and exercises as assigned."

It also will serve as a maneuver arm for U.S. Naval Forces Europe in the Eastern and North Atlantic.

The idea is that the fleet will focus on force employment, capable of deploying rapidly, regardless of area of operations.

"When I say lean, what does that mean? The staff complement is organized and billeted to be operational. The majority of staff will focus on operations, intelligence, plans and training," Mustin said.

The Navy first established the 2nd Fleet in the 1950s, a response to deter Soviet interest in the Atlantic, especially Europe. It was disbanded in 2011, and most of its assets and personnel were folded into Fleet Forces Command.

But growing concern over potential Russian dominance in the North Atlantic and Arctic prompted Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson to reactivate the unit.

2nd Fleet version 2.0, however, won't look much like its historic predecessor.

Mustin said the command staff will be small, currently consisting of 85 members. The full number is still being determined, a 2nd Fleet spokeswoman said.

And while technically it will be headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, Mustin said sailors can expect that it will have the ability to deploy its command-and-control element forward, with a small team operating forward from a command ship or "austere offshore location."

The command also will integrate reserve forces on an as-needed basis and bolster its staff with personnel from allied nations, he added.

"This is not your grandfather's 2nd Fleet or, as my staff likes to point out, my father's 2nd Fleet," Mustin said.

It will resemble overseas fleets, he said, which means it will become responsible for forces entering the integrated phase of composite unit training exercises, and "we will own them through deployment and sustainment."

The ships will fall under operational control of U.S. Fleet Forces Command, but tactical control will be delegated to 2nd Fleet.

Standing up a fleet within a year has been a challenge, Mustin said, but there's excitement surrounding the concept. He noted that many surface warfare officers interested in being assigned to the command had approached him at the symposium.

"It's fast and furious, but we are getting there," he said.

At the symposium, some observers questioned how integration will work with other naval fleets with overlapping areas of responsibility.

Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of 6th Fleet, said the integration will be seamless.

"Our idea is not to make a line in the water. When you make lines, adversaries exploit them. Our idea is to figure out how to flow forces and how to address anything that flows our way," she said.

-- Patricia Kime can be reached at patricia.kime@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @patriciakime.

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