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SASEBO NAVAL BASE, Japan — It’s not their fathers’ Navy anymore. Doesn’t even belong to their older brothers.

About 150 officers attending a briefing here on Monday heard how the Navy is reshaping its warfare tactics and capabilities based on techniques being employed by America’s enemies, who frequently strike with little warning of a time, location or intensity.

One option is the Expeditionary Strike Group — “the future of the Navy,” according to Capt. Richard B. Landolt, the Commander, Amphibious Squadron 11 commodore.

The ESG is an element of Sea Power 21, the vision for future naval warfare issued in 2002 by Adm. Vern Clark, chief of naval operations.

“Future naval operations will … deliver unprecedented offensive power, defensive assurance and operational independence to Joint Force Commanders,” Clark states in his Sea Power 21 narrative. “Our Navy and its partners will dominate the continuum of warfare from the maritime domain — deterring forward in peacetime, responding to crises and fighting and winning wars.”

The ESG concept sports a highly mobile, self-sustaining force able to conduct expeditionary missions from humanitarian and disaster relief to combat operations, according to Cmdr. Bradley Martin, the amphibious squadron’s chief of staff, who presented the briefing in Sasebo.

Amphibious-assault ships and embarked Marines, combined with cruiser, destroyer and submarine assets, make the ESG capable of deploying independently, as well as part of a larger joint force, according to the military-oriented Web site

“Robust offensive and defensive capabilities offered by the additional ships, like Tomahawk cruise missiles and the AEGIS combat system, not only provide for better support of troops ashore but also enable the group to act autonomously,” the Web site stated.

Part of the Sea Power 21 vision is now reality, the Sasebo officers heard, with the Navy’s three fully operational ESGs: East Coast, West Coast and the ESG-Forward Deployed Naval Force comprising Navy and Marine units in mainland Japan and Okinawa, along with a nuclear submarine from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.

Although all three units feature a focus on speed, flexibility and lethal warfare capabilities, Landolt explained, the ESG “is very much still a work in progress. We are still working things out, and all the ESGs have set themselves up differently.”

Martin, considered an expert in the ESG’s tactical capabilities, agreed with the commodore, adding, “Nothing is set in stone at this point. Things are set more in something like Jell-O.”

Still, some ESG elements have been determined.

“As of a couple of weeks ago,” Martin told the officers, “there is no more Amphibious Ready Groups and the Carrier Battle Groups are no more. They are now ESGs and Carrier Strike Groups.”

He said both are organized to get Special Operations Forces “much more involved” while also using tools such as close-air support and time-sensitive targeting.

ESGs could be arranged a number of ways based on the needs of a specific mission, Martin added.

With a submarine, guided-missile cruiser and destroyer included in the ESGs, Tomahawk missile use becomes available. Other capabilities, Martin explained, include naval fire support, anti-air warfare, anti-surface ship warfare, anti-submarine warfare, maritime interception operations, helicopter anti-submarine warfare and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

“Before the ESGs, an ARG was good to have around, but not until about 45 days after a battle started,” he said. “Now, we have the initial strike capability.”

The forward-deployed ESG has matured since it first trained at Tandem Thrust ’03 in Guam, Martin said. On Sept. 1, the group of ships, Marines, submarine and other assets officially assumed the ESG title.

The current fine-tuning is expected to culminate during Talisman Sabre 2005, an exercise oriented toward ESGs. The exact date and location has not been released.

Martin summarized by saying the forward deployed team gives the Navy and Marine Corps a reliable, dominant strike force in the Pacific. He added, “Surface warfare officers now need to focus on, ‘How can I best fight a war with the tools I have around me?’”

And as the forum ended, Capt. Jan M. van Tol, the Essex commander, gave the officers some advice for navigating the Navy’s fluid, changeable new attack structure.

“Be radical in your thinking, and do not be afraid to speak up when you have interesting ideas,” he said. “Do not allow yourselves to be put off by those in authority.”


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