Space Operations a Key Focus for the Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group

USS Iwo Jima

USS Iwo Jima

The USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) basks in a tropical sunset at sea. Find the USS Iwo Jima (LHD-7) framed print, poster, postcard set or 12-month calendar at The PatriArt Gallery.

The Iwo Jima Expeditionary Strike Group (ESG) is blazing trails in the area of space operations and taking advantage of every opportunity to employ this concept.

Space operations integrates space-based capabilities to build situational awareness and enhance communications capabilities, navigation, defense, and weather information, which are all vital to a ship at sea.

Modern-day naval warships rely on space operations for five vital areas: satellite communications; navigation and timing; intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; meteorology and oceanography; and missile warning.

“In order to get information on and off the ship, we rely heavily on satellite communications,” said Wheaton. “To drive a ship, we need systems to help navigate and we rely on external communications, which is heavily satellite-based or space-based.”

“Much of the intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, capabilities are also space based,” he continued. “Additionally, there are space systems that forecast the weather, which supports our meteorology and oceanography missions.”

Missile warning is one of the most critical areas supported by space operations, which is mutually supportive with ballistic missile defense (BMD) capabilities.

“From a force protection point of view, missile warning is important for any strike group; especially when we operate in potentially hostile areas of the world,” said Wheaton. “Anything that helps us maintain our situational awareness and keep our ships safe is very, very important.”

Since its inception, space operations has been an asset for day-to-day underway operations.

“The ability to operationalize information that we get from space operations is very meaningful,” said Wheaton. “Having been a communications officer and a surface warfare officer, I see the value in being able to forecast potential problem areas. The whole reason I’m here as the space operations officer is to bring knowledge and understanding of the space environment to operational planners within the strike group so they can factor it into their combat plans and other operations.”

The Iwo Jima ESG consists of the multipurpose amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7); the amphibious dock landing ship USS Carter Hall (LSD 50); the amphibious transport dock ship USS San Antonio (LPD 17); the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72); the guided-missile destroyer USS Ramage (DDG 61); all homeported at Norfolk; the guided-missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG 80), homeported at Mayport, Fla.; and the fast attack submarine USS Hartford (SSN 768), homeported at Groton, Conn.; and a Marine landing force from the 26 Marine Expeditionary Unit.

The strike group is deployed to the Navy’s 5th and 6th Fleet areas of responsibility in support of Maritime Security Operations (MSO). MSO helps set the conditions for security and stability in the maritime environment, as well as complement the counterterrorism and security efforts of regional nations.

While in theater, the strike group will also support the other tenets of the Navy’s Maritime Strategy, which include forward presence, deterrence, sea control, power projection, and humanitarian assistance/disaster response. The Maritime Strategy represents a new vision for the 21st century and establishes new capabilities to codify longstanding challenges, while maintaining the focus on enduring missions.

Mike Starkey


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