USS Antietam (CG 54), USS O'Kane (DDG 77) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) transits through the Gulf of Oman. All the ships are part of the John C. Stennis Carrier Strike Group on a regularly scheduled deployment in support of Maritime Operations. Maritime Operations help set the conditions for security and stability, as well as complement counter-terrorism and security efforts to regional nations. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Denny Cantrell
By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Mark Logico, USS John C. Stennis Public Affairs
U.S. Navy ships conducted a fast attack craft (FAC)/fast inshore attack craft (FIAC) exercise June 4 in the North Persian Gulf.
USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74), USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD 6), USS Antietam (CG 54), USS O'Kane (DDG 77), USS Denver (LPD 9) and USS Rushmore (LSD 47) participated in the exercise. Five landing craft air cushions (LCAC) from Assault Craft Unit (ACU) 5 played the role of the aggressor.
“The FAC/FIAC is an interesting exercise for the entire strike group,” said Cmdr. James Rentfrow
, Stennis’ combat direction center officer. “The exercise tests the strike group’s ability as a whole to defend itself against small boat attacks. What made this exercise unique was that we used LCACs from the Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group
to simulate the small boats attacking.”
An LCAC is a large hovercraft vehicle that uses twin gas turbines to power and lift itself over land and water. The primary purpose of the craft is to provide fast transport for military troops from an amphibious assault ship to shore.
“Aircraft carriers and destroyer squadrons typically don’t work with or deal with LCACs,” said Lt. Kevin Ralston, a Destroyer Squadron 21 operations officer and action officer for the exercise. “Our destroyers and Stennis haven’t seen these craft operate very often. This was a new experience for our strike group.”
According to Rentfrow, communication was the key to the exercise.
“The biggest challenge and reason why we practice this is to perfect our communications, as we have a lot of different elements working together to protect the strike group,” said Rentfrow. “From the helicopters to our escort cruisers and destroyers, from our force protection mounts to our security watch standers on Stennis, and from our bridge watch standers to the folks down in combat direction center -- all these people have to work together to defend the strike group against a small boat threat.
"It requires a lot of communication and a lot of coordination, and that’s what we focused on in this exercise.”
The LCACs’ mission was to try to attack every ship in the formation as they are restricted in their ability to maneuver in a strait.
“Just by looking at each ship’s capabilities, we try to put them in the most advantageous positions to defend the force,” said Ralston. “Each ship plays an important role. Each one collectively adds to the self-defense of the group.”
Both Rentfrow and Ralston agree that conducting this exercise is very important to the continuing mission of each ship in the strike group, as they recall the USS Cole (DDG 67) incident of Oct. 13, 2000.
“The threat is extremely real,” said Ralston. “We saw what happened to USS Cole when it was attacked by a small boat. We want to be ready at all times to handle whatever is out there. This was just another opportunity to refine our command and control procedures to respond to these types of threats.”
Rentfrow said the exercise provided good training for all the force protection teams and force protection action officers in both strike groups.
Stennis, Antietam, Bonhomme Richard, O’Kane, Denver, Rushmore and ACU-5 are participating in the Persian Gulf Expeditionary Strike Force exercise consisting of three Strike Groups; the John C. Stennis Strike
Group, Nimitz Carrier Strike Group and Bonhomme Richard Expeditionary Strike Group.