By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Joe Bishop, USS Fort Worth Public Affairs
SOUTH CHINA SEA (NNS) -- The littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth (LCS 3) partnered with the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Lassen (DDG 82) to complete their first combined South China Sea presence operations, July 9.
"Our presence operations with USS Lassen demonstrates the U.S Navy's commitment to the Indo-Asia-Pacific region and emphasizes our ability to conduct maritime operations freely on the high seas," said Cmdr. Rich Jarrett, commanding officer of Fort Worth. "The 16-month deployment rotation for littoral combat ships like USS Fort Worth provides persistent presence that contributes to maritime stability throughout the region."
During combined presence operations in the South China Sea, Fort Worth and Lassen conducted joint maneuvering exercises at sea, working together to seamlessly share information between the two platforms.
"It's truly an honor to be part of the first joint presence operations in the South China Sea between an LCS and DDG," said Cmdr. Robert Francis, Lassen's commanding officer. "Lassen and Fort Worth complemented each other operationally, and the crews learned many great lessons that we will share with the fleet."
Fort Worth and Lassen also conducted joint flight operations with the ships' embarked MH-60R Sea Hawk helicopters providing critical maritime domain awareness for both platforms.
"LCSs are accustomed to independent steaming, so sailing with Lassen was a welcomed change to our daily routine at sea," said Cmdr. Christopher Brown, prospective commanding officer of Fort Worth. "The operating picture shared between both ships proved invaluable in increasing our situational awareness."
Presence operations also provide U.S. Navy ships the opportunity to practice the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea (CUES) with other nations' ships operating in the region. Since the CUES agreement was established in April 2014, Fort Worth, Lassen and other U.S. Navy ships have been using CUES to formally communicate maneuvering intentions with ships from other navies, to minimize the risk of miscalculations at sea.
"Codified formal communications really do help eliminate miscommunications and clarify intentions between units," said Brown. "We use both CUES and plain voice on the marine [very high frequency] radio to communicate with other ships operating in this region."
The U.S. 7th Fleet conducts forward-deployed naval operations in support of U.S. national interests in the Indo-Asia-Pacific area of operations. As the U.S. Navy's largest numbered fleet, U.S. 7th Fleet interacts with 35 other maritime nations to build partnerships that foster maritime security, promote stability and prevent conflict.