Navy's 2nd Fleet, Brought Back to Counter Russia, Is Now Officially Operational

The fast-attack submarine Hampton surfaces through the ice in the Arctic. U.S. 2nd Fleet, which declared initial operational capability on Wednesday, now oversees all military missions and training on the East Coast and in the North Atlantic, where the Russians and Chinese have been active. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tyler Thompson/Navy)
The fast-attack submarine Hampton surfaces through the ice in the Arctic. U.S. 2nd Fleet, which declared initial operational capability on Wednesday, now oversees all military missions and training on the East Coast and in the North Atlantic, where the Russians and Chinese have been active. (Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Tyler Thompson/Navy)

The Navy's 2nd Fleet has reached initial operational capacity, its commander announced Wednesday, and it's already gearing up for a big show of force in Russia's backyard.

The fleet, which oversees naval operations along the East Coast and in the Arctic -- where Russia has been particularly active -- hit the operational milestone less than a year after leaders announced the fleet would be resurrected.

With ice melting at faster rates in the Arctic, things are only going to get busier there, Vice Adm. Andrew "Woody" Lewis, 2nd Fleet's commander, said after announcing the milestone.

"This is a fact acknowledged by both our allies and competitors," Lewis said in a statement. "... It is critically important U.S. 2nd Fleet reinvigorates the way our forces are employed in this influential theater."

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Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson announced the return of 2nd Fleet in May 2018; it had been shuttered in 2011. It was re-established in July and designed to have about 250 personnel.

Now, it has the capability to command and control forces across the Atlantic. There's currently more Russian submarine activity in the North Atlantic than the U.S. has seen in decades, Richardson said last year.

Next month, Lewis and the fleet will lead Exercise Baltic Operations. It'll be the first time U.S. 2nd Fleet will operate in the Baltic region since being reactivated. Eighteen countries are expected to participate in the annual exercise, meant to demonstrate that NATO allies can defend the Baltic Sea region.

Lewis called the exercise an "unambiguous display of strength in the Baltic region."

"As an alliance, increasing our capabilities across all domains, as well as building a command-wide network, will give us the ability to deter aggression and project stability," he said.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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