US Navy Looks to Shake Up Traditional Carrier Strike Group Model

Foreign Affairs

Washington: When US Navy  destroyers The Sullivans and Delbert D. Black deployed in the fall to the eastern Mediterranean Sea, they joined the Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group that was already well into its cruise.

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The warships’ arrivals were part of an experiment the Navy is currently undertaking, where it swaps destroyers out mid-deployment, part of a broader concept that US Fleet Forces Command head Admiral Daryl Caudle is spearheading to supplement a carrier strike group with additional destroyers that the strike group did not initially deploy with — a departure from the traditional model.

Ford originally got underway from Naval Station Norfolk in May and encountered multiple extensions, adding up to an extra 76 days at sea in the eastern Mediterranean at the frontlines of the Israel-Hamas conflict.

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While the Ford’s initial strike group included the destroyers Ramage, McFaul, and Thomas Hudner, The Sullivans and Delbert D. Black inserted themselves into the strike group so that the original destroyers could return home.

“In large conflict, I’m going to deploy ready-up strike groups,” Caudle told reporters in January. “But eventually, as everybody knows, when you’re on station for a long time on a ship, you got to take a knee. And so as you roll out to take a knee and somebody rolls in, I have to have high confidence that they come in at the right level of training, certification, mastery and the ability to plug and play into that strike group.”

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Caudle said in a statement  that Fleet Forces is now incorporating lessons from The Sullivans and the Delbert D. Black following their deployments, and noted that the steps taken ahead of time yielded positive signs for the concept.

Before they headed out, the command evaluated the destroyers’ tactical and material status, and then ensured the ships received additional training based on real-world events as part of a task force deployment certification exercise, he said.

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The goal is to have more ships ready to respond in the event of crisis, while improving force flexibility worldwide and allowing aircraft carriers to remain deployed for longer periods of time if needed. A new concept would allow a deployed carrier strike group’s cruisers and destroyers to be swapped out with fresh ships during deployment.