Ronald Reagan strike group ships hone air defense skills in Philippine Sea

The Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 aboard the forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan and the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Milius (DDG 69) carried out an air defense exercise (ADEX) in the Philippine Sea July 6-7.

Aviation Boatswain's Mate (Handling) 3rd Class Briaunna Macari, directs an F/A-18F Super Hornet on the flight deck of USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). Photo: US Navy

Milius is the most recent forward-deployed Navy vessel, having joined US 7th Fleet after arriving from San Diego to Yokosuka, Japan, May 22.

The exercise was organized and planned by Commander, Task Force (CTF) 70 staff and crewmembers aboard the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Antietam (CG 54), the Air Defense Commander for the Ronald Reagan strike group.

“Conducting force air defense effectively requires us to train together to defeat the threats that exist in today’s complex environment,” said Lt. Cmdr. Jeremy Watkins, Antietam’s executive officer. “We push each other to operate at higher levels by taking advantage of each unit’s strengths in live scenarios. Training in such a way improves the overall air defense of the strike group.”

“Integrating with USS Milius during the recent ADEX allowed CVW-5 to execute a joint engagement zone pairing weapons and sensors to defend [USS Ronald Reagan] from all inbound threats,” said Lt. Cmdr. Andrew Crouse, Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 125 operations officer, ADEX lead. “Solid execution by the team resulted in mission success.”

During the ADEX, the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), Milius and CVW-5 worked together to train in warfare areas such as identifying aircraft, command and control, fires de-confliction and creating a common tactical picture with fused intelligence data.

“This event gave Milius a real opportunity to execute fleet air defense as a total ship,” said Cmdr. Jon Hopkins, Milius’ executive officer. “Success depended not only on the combat watchstanders; all hands played a part, from the bridge team’s ship handling, to the engineers and the supply department. It was a total ship effort and a great way for all sailors to gain experience.”

The Ronald Reagan strike group is currently on a Western Pacific patrol which started May 29 as the aircraft carrier got underway from its forward-deployed homeport in Yokosuka, Japan,