USN Indian Ocean and West African exercise deployments demonstrate global forward presence

USS Somerset
(From right) Captain Michel Brandt, Commanding Officer of the US Navy amphibious ship USS Somerset, discusses the ship’s capabilities with Rear Admiral Joaquin Martinez (vice commander, US 7th Fleet) and the Indian Navy’s Rear Admiral Akash Chaturvedi, during Exercise ‘Triger Triumph’.

The US Navy (USN) has been participating in exercises in the Indian Ocean and off West Africa, demonstrating its global, forward-deployed presence even while strategic challenges mandate an operational focus on the Euro-Atlantic and Western Pacific.

The USN and Indian Navy (IN) have participated in the tri-service exercise ‘Tiger Triumph’, which took place off Visakhapatnam and Kakinda on India’s central eastern coast. Platforms participating in the exercise included two amphibious transport dock ships: the USN’s San Antonio/LPD17-class vessel USS Somerset; and the IN’s Austin-class vessel INS Jalashwa. Somerset embarked force elements from the US Marine Corps’ (USMC’s) 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), and was supported by the DDG 51 Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Halsey and a P-8A Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.

The exercise focused on delivering amphibious operations, developing large-scale joint and combined interoperability to generate humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HADR) response capacity, and working up joint and combined forces’ standard operating procedures and command-and-control processes. In a USN statement, Rear Admiral Joaquin Martinez – US 7th Fleet vice commander, and leading the US joint forces present for the exercise – underlined the opportunity to deepen interoperability while working together in the region, and to build relations to help “maintain a free and open Indo-Pacific”.

Off West Africa, the USN’s Lewis B Puller-class expeditionary sea base vessel USS Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams worked together with Ghanaian navy PB-class patrol ships GNS Volta and GNS Ankobra in the Gulf of Guinea, for Exercise ‘Sea Lion 2024’. The exercise included amphibious operations conducted by Ghanaian forces, as well as personnel exchanges.

Hershel ‘Woody’ Williams is forward deployed to Souda Bay, Greece, is assigned to the US Africa Command (AFRICOM) area of responsibility (AOR), and brings capability to support expeditionary, maritime security, and HADR operations.

The presence of US amphibious forces for both exercises in two different AORs underlines the scale of the global operational challenge the US naval service must meet. The USMC’s 26th MEU has just returned home from an extended mission in the US 5th Fleet and US 6th Fleet AORs, which included (in the US 6th Fleet AOR) exercises in the Mediterranean. For NATO’s recent ‘Steadfast Defender’ exercise, amphibious forces were deployed across the Atlantic Ocean into the High North, in US 2nd Fleet’s AOR. USMC forces are also forward deployed to the South China Sea, to provide deterrence presence.

by Dr. Lee Willet