The commander of U.S. 2nd Fleet declared the new command has achieved initial operational capability (IOC) on May 29 before a major international European exercise next month.
Vice Adm. Andrew “Woody” Lewis made the IOC announcement from Naval Station Norfolk, Va., the homeport of many 2nd Fleet assets, less than a year after the command was established.
The 2nd Fleet “exercises operational and administrative authorities over assigned ships, aircraft and landing forces on the East Coast and the North Atlantic,” the new command said in a statement.
It also “plans and conducts maritime, joint and combined operations as well as trains and recommends certification of combat ready naval forces for maritime employment and operations around the globe,” the statement added.
The Navy said in achieving IOC, the 2nd Fleet has reached the capability to command and control forces assigned, utilizing the functions and processes of the Maritime Operations Center and Maritime headquarters.
“By focusing on the high-end training and employment of assigned assets, the new 2nd Fleet will be postured to support the employment of forces, whether that is on the Western side of the Atlantic, the Eastern side of the Atlantic, or up into the Arctic,” the fleet statement said.
Lewis underscored the importance of its North Atlantic mission to include the Arctic.
“The North Atlantic has some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes, and with the opening of waterways in the Arctic, this traffic will only grow. This is a fact acknowledged by both our allies and competitors, and as such, it is critically important U.S. 2nd Fleet reinvigorates the way our forces are employed in this influential theater.”
Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson first reestablished the 2nd Fleet on the recommendation from the Secretary of the Navy’s Strategic Readiness Review, which suggested restarting the command as an operational and testing division under Fleet Forces. The CNO announced the fleet’s return last May (Defense Daily, May 7, 2018), Lewis was nominated to lead it last June (Defense Daily, June 12, 2018), and the official reestablishment occurred last August (Defense Daily, Aug. 24, 2018).
The 2nd Fleet was originally disestablished in 2011 while most of its assets, personnel ,and responsibility were transferred to the U.S. Fleet Forces.
In November, Lewis said the Navy is pushing to get a staff of 80 people to reach full operational capability in 2019. At the time Lewis said 2nd Fleet will operate as the Atlantic Naval operational arm of U.S. Northern Command for operations like training and disaster relief and also work with the 6th Fleet as part of the operational arm for U.S. European Command (Nov. 30, 2018).
The new command is set to focus on intelligence, operations, planning, training, and logistics, while leaving higher headquarters functions to U.S. Fleet Forces.
2nd Fleet is now set to lead the annual Baltic Operations Exercise (BALTOPS), the first time it will operate in the European theater while integrating its capability with allies and partnersi n the region.
“BALTOPS 2019 is our collective opportunity to promote peace and security through cooperation, collaboration, interoperability, and an unambiguous display of strength in the Baltic region,” Lewis said in a statement.
“As an alliance, increasing our capabilities across all-domains as well as building a command-wide network will give us the ability to deter aggression and project stability,” he added.
The exercise is planned to include maritime, air, and ground assets from 18 countries. The Navy said BALTOPS is designed to improve training value for participants, enhance interoperability, and “demonstrate resolve among allied and partner forces in defending the Baltic Sea region.”
This likely alludes to the threat from Russia. In November, Lewis said Russia is adept at acting below the level of war and the U.S. Navy is trying to increase the costs to Russia to react to U.S. Navy activities.
“Let’s be frank, the Russian undersea threat is real. They are very competent and operationally capable,” Lewis said.