US Navy ships meet up in South China Sea for interoperability drills

U.S. Navy’s Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group joined two guided-missile destroyers from the Pacific Surface Action Group (PAC SAG) for a series of interoperability drills in international waters of the South China Sea on October 3 and 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 expeditionary group consists of amphibious ships USS Bonhomme Richard, amphibious transport dock USS Green Bay and amphibious dock landing ship USS Germantown.

The PAC SAG deployed in April as part of a three-ship group consisting of Spruance, Decatur and 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.