Truman carrier group emphasizes unpredictability during rare North Sea patrol
The USS Harry S. Truman Strike Group was conducting maneuvers Tuesday in the North Sea, a rare deployment in northern European waters as the Navy tests its ability to deploy on short notice and keep quiet about it.
Rear Adm. Gene Black, commander of the Truman strike group, said the Navy’s new “dynamic force employment” model, which is designed to make deployments more unpredictable for adversaries, has also introduced new challenges for sailors.
While those problems are not “insurmountable by any stretch, one of them is retraining and I guess re-embracing operational security to a much higher degree than previously,” Black said in a phone interview with reporters.
In the past, the Navy was more open about carrier group deployments, but a new defense strategy requires more secrecy to maintain an element of operational surprise, Black said.
The varying deployment times also presents challenges to families, who have for years scheduled their activities around sailors getting underway for between six and eight months at a time. Those periods were generally followed by maintenance and several months ashore, barring an unexpected mission
Earlier this year, the Navy formally introduced its new deployment strategy for its carrier groups, which came in response to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and his emphasis on building a more nimble force. The idea centers on being “strategically predictable and operationally unpredictable,” Black said.
It also means fewer announcements about the comings and goings of carriers as they maneuver from one area of operation to another.
“We’ve pretty much shattered that model,” Black said.
The Truman has been at sea since late August, deploying from its homeport in Norfolk, Va., just 38 days after its previous deployment.
The Truman strike group deployed on April 11 to the Mediterranean and north Atlantic and returned to Norfolk on July 21 for routine maintenance and training.
The Truman’s current deployment has included patrols in the waters off Iceland and now the North Sea.
“We’ve made the most of operating in an area where American aircraft carriers don’t typically frequent,” Black said.
The mission comes as U.S. European Command has sought to increase the combat readiness of forces because of concerns about a more aggressive Russia. In recent years, there have been numerous close encounters between U.S. and Russian ships and aircraft. The U.S. has repeatedly criticized unsafe Russian maneuvers and the buzzing of U.S. Navy ships.
Black said the Truman strike group has had no encounters with Russian ships during its current deployment.
Operating in northern European waters, the Truman has navigated through rough weather, but the ships are sailing well, Black said.
“We also have shown we can operate in fairly heavy seas and we are gaining confidence in that every day,” Black said.