Abraham Lincoln carrier strike group ships start first tactical drills

Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) conducts a Mk 45 5" gun shoot as part of Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercise. Photo: US Navy

US Navy cruisers and destroyers assigned to the carrier strike group assembled around aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) and other Norfolk-based units got underway from Naval Station Norfolk for the surface warfare advanced tactical training (SWATT) exercise on November 2.

SWATT is the Surface Force’s premier advanced tactical training exercise developed and led by Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC).

SWATT provides multi-ship, multi-platform, multi-warfare area training at sea to increase combat capability, lethality, and interoperability. Staffs and units participating in the exercise are Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2, USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), USS Bainbridge (DDG 96), USS Gonzalez (DDG 66), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Gravely (DDG 107), and USS Nitze (DDG 94).

“The establishment of SMWDC in 2015 represented the beginning of an important cultural shift in the Surface Fleet to rapidly increase Surface Force tactical proficiency, readiness, and combat capability,” said Rear Adm. Dave Welch, commander of SMWDC. “This first East Coast CSG SWATT represents our commitment to the entirety of the Surface Force. SWATT provides a critical path for Warfare and Strike Group commanders to develop the combat capability needed by our Numbered Fleet Commanders to compete effectively in an era of Great Power Competition.”

SWATT exercises provide dedicated in port and at sea training periods particularly focused on the development of air defense and sea combat commanders, ships, and watch teams. In particularly, SWATTs provide focused training to support naval sea control including integrated air and missile defense (IAMD), anti-submarine/surface warfare (ASW/SUW), amphibious warfare (AMW), mine warfare (MIW), and information warfare (IW).

“While our headquarters is located in San Diego, we have divisions on both coasts and team members in most fleet concentration areas. We are committed to increasing the combat power of naval surface forces, with focus on warship cohesion. It is a team-based approach to what a warship is designed to do – fight and win at sea as part of a Naval Task Group,” said Capt. Joe Cahill, SMWDC Sea Combat Division Direction and SMWDC’s Air Defense senior-mentor underway for the exercise.

SWATT is specifically designed to be a learning environment whereby teams receive over-the-shoulder mentoring throughout events, and where training vice certification or exit criteria are the basis of success.

Senior, post major-command mentors, Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI), and technical community experts, plan events, brief teams, and embark warships for underway to train and mentor teams. Those teams lead a formalized Plan, Brief, Execute, Debrief (PBED) process to develop the training audience during the underway. After planning and completing a training event, as part of the PBED process, mentors and WTIs leverage technical community expertise to provide rapid debrief using replay tools enabling watch teams to critically assess their own performance and improve. The most significant benefit to watch teams is they learn from the most accurate information and develop the critical thinking skills to continue learning throughout the integrated phase of training and deployment.

Ultimately, SWATT events provide high-fidelity system, tactics, and human performance data needed by the surface warfare community to improve combat power at and from the sea. After SWATT concludes, data recorded during the events is further extracted through a partnership between SMWDC and Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) – Corona. There the data is reviewed in a Data Analysis Working Group which analyzes system, operator, and tactics performance. The results are parsed out to appropriate entities within SMWDC and the surface warfare community to refine doctrine and tactical guidance, provide capabilities assessments, define future requirements, and to inform future training events.

SMWDC has four divisions focused on MIW, AMW, IAMD, and ASW/SUW. SMWDC is a subordinate command of Commander, Naval Surface Forces and exists to increase the lethality and tactical proficiency of Surface Force across all domains.

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