Sailors aboard the U.S. Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) conducted an expanded live-fire exercise, June 24, with the “Nightdippers” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 5 and the “Griffins” of Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 79.
The gunnery exercise (GUNNEX) required coordination between Abraham Lincoln, Commander, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, MH-60S Sea Hawk helicopters from the HSC-5 and an MH-60R helicopter from the HSM-79 to simulate a command and control environment within which these various components would defend Abraham Lincoln from multi-axis surface threats.
Tactical controllers on the bridge and watch floors throughout Abraham Lincoln, worked with both aerial and surface assets to repel multiple contacts simulating inbound approach toward the ship. Elements of Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7, HSC-5, HSM-79 and operations, weapons, security, navigation, air and deck departments participated in the exercise.
“In almost every exercise, communication is the biggest thing,” said Lt. j.g. Alana Delacruz, the lead Tactical Affairs Officer (TAO) during GUNNEX. “Everyone has to be able to hear the right commands at the right times and be able to engage.”
As the TAO, Delacruz was responsible for getting weapons release authority, verifying a green zone that is safe and clear for live-fire training, and communicating across the range of participating assets.
“This exercise was different, because we were shooting from Abe with the helicopters at the same time and at the same targets, which requires more coordination,” said Delacruz.
This is the first time since Abraham Lincoln Tailored Ship’s Training Availability/Final Evaluation Problem (TSTA/FEP) that an exercise of this sort has incorporated helicopters with ship’s defense to engage the same targets at the same time.
“If there is an opportunity to integrate among different warfare commanders, then we are going to do it,” said Lt. Ryan Rose, a tactical officer from Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2 present on the bridge during the GUNNEX. “There is value added in bringing it all together, because everyone has a piece of the pie.”
In addition to the aerial defense, the exercise included the following surface assets; two Phalanx close-in weapons systems (CIWS), 10 .50-caliber machine guns, four M240B machine guns and four Mark 38 machine guns, that fire at a practice target to increase shipboard weapons proficiency.
“I’ve been here since shortly after we got out of the yards, and from where we were then to where we are now, we have grown exponentially,” said Gunner’s Mate 1st Class Nathan Coffey, the leading petty officer of Weapons Department G-2 division. “Doing this as frequently as we are is making the capability to defend the ship muscle memory.”
Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of operations in support of naval operations to ensure maritime stability and security in the Central Region, connecting the Mediterranean and the Pacific through the western Indian Ocean and three strategic choke points. With Abraham Lincoln as the flagship, deployed strike group assets include staffs, ships, and aircraft of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 7.
Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Catie Coyle, Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group