SOUTH CHINA SEA (Oct. 3, 2016) The guided-missile destroyers USS Spruance (DDG 111) and USS Decatur (DDG 73) steam alongside amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6) as part of interoperability drills between the Pacific Surface Action Group (PAG SAG) and Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG). (Photo by PO3 Jeanette Mullinax)

SOUTH CHINA SEA: The Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group (BHR ESG) joined two guided-missile destroyers from the Pacific Surface Action Group (PAC SAG) for a series of interoperability drills in international waters, Oct. 3-4.

The BHR ESG employed the capabilities of USS Spruance (DDG 111) and USS Decatur (DDG 73) to practice defense in depth of the amphibious ships, including anti-submarine warfare and air defense scenarios and live-fire events with embarked helicopters from Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 49 and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit.

“As I said in April when the PAC SAG deployed, this type of training with the BHR ESG will pave the way for the inaugural deployment of an ESG embarked with joint strike fighters (F-35B Lightning II) and escorted by a SAG like this one, which I call an up-gunned ESG,” said Adm. Scott H. Swift, commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet. “Being able to concentrate and disperse all of that capability based on the situation will provide commanders with tremendous operational flexibility.”

The BHR ESG, commanded by ESG 7, consists of amphibious ships included in a traditional amphibious ready group along with the staff structure to deploy with surface ships, expanding the mission sets and survivability of the ESG.

The PAC SAG deployed in April as part of a three-ship group consisting of Spruance, Decatur, USS Momsen (DDG 92) and embarked helicopter detachments of HSM 49 to conduct maritime security operations in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region. While Spruance and Decatur conduct routine patrols in the Western Pacific, Momsen is conducting an Oceania Maritime Security Initiate (OMSI) mission.

Under the operational control of U.S. 3rd Fleet, the PAC SAG is commanded by Destroyer Squadron (CDS) 31, and assumed the role of sea combat commander during the time the two groups operated together. As sea combat commander, CDS 31 managed the maneuvering of all ships and oversaw execution of planned drills.

“Integrating with the ships of the BHR ESG and associated staffs has been a great experience for us as we wind up the PAC SAG’s deployment in the Western Pacific,” said Capt. Charles Johnson, commander, CDS 31. “As we operate in the South China Sea, building on the work the ESG and SAG have accomplished, it demonstrates the flexibility of our Navy to operate forward and bring the right capability to the arena.”

The BHR ESG is currently on a routine patrol in U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations in support of security and stability in the region. The BHR ESG is commanded by Rear Adm. Marc Dalton and the ESG 7 staff, headquartered in White Beach, Okinawa, Japan.

BHR ESG units include flagship amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay (LPD 20), amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown (LSD 42), Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25, and the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit. The 31st MEU consists of Battalion Landing Team (BLT) 2/4, Combat Logistics Battalion (CLB) 31, and Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (VMM) 262 Reinforced.

  • Freedom-of-Expression

    US and allies have to rally against Chinese military and political dominance in the region since the current Philippines president elect communistic ideology has threaten US-Philippine diplomatic ties along with other European nations. I guess US action has been to slow in enforcing UNCLOS decision branding Chinese as an international criminal and the perpetrator. You need to hit the rod while still hot.

  • Jason Smith

    No surprise here…Chinese rank U.S. #1 threat? – now why on Earth would that be? – Obama's 'pivot to Asia'? – this isn't basketball! – Now, the claim that the South China Sea is China's, is an aggressive posture, and unwelcome by many…now, was it a good idea to bring in a meaningless Hague court? – only if you wanted to add fuel to the fire…now, with Russia's annexation of Crimea…in response to missile shield, and NATO encirclement…standard policy, including a diplomatic denial…however, in both instances, American 'imperialism'; the belief in superior democratic morality…was spreading, unchecked…military bases, alliances, missile shields, and so forth…it was a natural reaction toward perceived aggression…next, of course comes Taiwan…and with it,…a clash of civilizations…brought about by none other than human nature…the answer, as always…is this: humans are animals first, and foremost; we are not superior beings at all…to claim authority…is to claim stupidity first.

    • Freedom-of-Expression

      Chinese naval forces recent sinking of SKorean coast guard without provation seems a challenge to US military resolve in the region. A test of US sincerity having military alliance to Asian countries is at stake compromising US credibility as world dominant military force. Sinking of SKorean surface combatant may have something to do with field THUDD along NKorean border where China construed as threat to nuclear deterrence.