- The US Navy has emphasised dynamic force employment as a method to seem more unpredictable to foes.
- The Truman carrier strike group was the first to deployed under that new kind of employment.
- According to the Navy’s top officer in Europe, the method has already confused US adversaries.
The National Defence Strategy document released in January emphasised dynamic force employment as a method to maintain the US Navy’s combat capabilities while changing the duration and intensity of its deployments.
It was intended to be “strategically predictable, but operationally unpredictable.”
According to Adm. James Foggo, head of US naval forces in Europe and Africa and the chief of NATO’s Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, it’s already working – leaving Russia guessing about what the Navy is doing.
When asked for an example of the successful use of dynamic force employment on the latest episode of his podcast, “On the Horizon,” Foggo pointed to the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group’s recent maneuvers.
“They were originally not scheduled to be in the European theatre for the entire deployment. We had other plans,” Foggo said. “But because of dynamic force employment, they came here. They immediately proceeded to the eastern Mediterranean and conducted strike missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.”
“Then they moved to the Adriatic, and this was interesting because it was a move coincident with Vice Adm. Franchetti’s command of BaltOps 2018 in the Baltic Sea,” he said, referring to Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of the US 6th Fleet, which operates around Europe.
“So the Harry S. Truman, to my knowledge, is the first carrier to participate in a BaltOps operation with airpower from the Adriatic.”
Baltic Operations, or BaltOps, is an annual US-led exercise that was one of more than 100 NATO exercises this year, held during the first half of June. After that, Foggo said, the Truman strike group returned to US for about a month.
“I don’t think anybody, let alone the Russians, expected that, and that kind of puts them back on their heels,” he added.
“In fact, we were starting to see some articles in Russian media about the carrier heading back into the Mediterranean, but she didn’t go there. She went up north. She went to the Arctic Circle.”
The Truman left its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, at the end of August, and about six weeks later it became the first US aircraft carrier since the early 1990s to sail into the Arctic Circle.
“It was our intent at that time to put her into the Trident Juncture [live exercise], and she was a force multiplier,” Foggo said, referring to NATO’s largest military exercise since the Cold War.
“This is the first time that we’ve operated north of the Arctic Circle with a carrier that high up in latitude since the end of the Cold War,” Foggo added. “I think that she proved through dynamic force employment that she can be strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable.”
The Truman strike group eschewed the traditional six-month deployment that carrier strike groups have normally undertaken, sailing instead on two three-month deployments.
Between April and July, it operated around the 6th Fleet’s area of operations, including strikes against ISIS in Syria, as mentioned by Foggo.
After five weeks in Norfolk, it headed back out, operating around the North Atlantic and the Arctic – forgoing the traditional Middle East deployment.
Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said at the end of November that the first dynamic-force-employment deployment had gone “magnificently” and that the strike group had carried out more types of missions in more diverse environments that wouldn’t have been possible with a normal Middle East deployment.
“I would say that the Navy by nature is predisposed to being dynamic and moving around. It is very good to kind of get back into that game a little bit,” Richardson told the press in the days before Thanksgiving.
The stop in Norfolk this July was a working visit for the Truman and the rest of its strike group.
The strike group departed the 6th Fleet area of operations on December 11 and returned to Norfolk on December 16, marking the transition from its deployment phase to its sustainment phase, when the group’s personnel will focus on needed repairs and maintaining their skills.
In July, “we came back in working uniform and we got to work,” Rear Adm. Gene Black, the commander of the Truman strike group, said in late November, according to USNI News. “This time we’re going to have the whole homecoming with Santa Claus and the band and the radio station, and all the good stuff that comes with that.”