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Ships of the America and Essex Amphibious Ready Groups, and Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 3, sail in formation with the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force during exercise Noble Fusion, led by Combined Task Force 79 (3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade) and CTF 76. Front row: Landing craft, utility from USS Essex (LHD 2). Second row, left to right: USS America (LHA 6), USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), Essex. Third row, left to right: USS Dewey (DDG 105), JS Kongō (DDG 173), USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), USS Spruance (DDG 111). Back row, left to right: USS Ashland (LSD 48), USS Miguel Keith (ESB 5). Noble Fusion highlights that Navy and Marine Corps forward-deployed stand-in naval expeditionary forces can rapidly aggregate Marine Expeditionary Unit/Amphibious Ready Group teams at sea, along with a carrier strike group, as well as other joint force elements and allies, in order to conduct lethal sea-denial operations, seize key maritime terrain, guarantee freedom of movement, and create advantage for US, partner and allied forces. Naval Expeditionary forces conduct training throughout the year, in the Indo-Pacific, to maintain readiness. (U.S. Navy photo)

Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew Cavenaile

CTF-76/79 Highlights Joint and Allied Naval Expeditionary Force Capabilities during Noble Fusion

9 Feb 2022 | 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade

OKINAWA, Japan - Two Amphibious Ready Groups with embarked Marine Expeditionary Units along with a Carrier Strike Group, operated together in the Indo-Pacific during Exercise Noble Fusion 3-7 February 2022. The exercise, led by Combined Task Force 76/79, ranged from the Luzon Strait to the Miyako Strait and the East China Sea, encompassing a wide swath of the First Island Chain, including littoral areas in the vicinity of Okinawa.

The exercise showcased joint and allied naval expeditionary forces’ ability to rapidly aggregate as a combat force to conduct lethal sea-denial operations, seize key maritime terrain, guarantee freedom of movement, and create all-domain advantage for US, partner and allied forces.

“The exercise was about using the sea as maneuver space to achieve positional advantage. It was about exercising our ability to maneuver critical capability to locations in the time and space of our choosing. We achieved positional advantage with the integration of two ARGs with their associated MEUs enabled by a carrier strike group. These capable warships must remain a critical component of our integrated deterrence strategy. Rest assured, we proved as an integrated, Naval, Joint and Allied force that we are completely committed to a free and open Indo-Pacific region. We are effectively contributing to that goal now and our operational prowess will only improve. Finally, what was clearly reinforced to me is our center of gravity remains our people. The Sailors, Soldiers, Airmen, and Marines are professional, mission-focused and committed to maintaining peace in support of our national interest and the interest of our allies. These men and women are truly impressive. Our nations can rest easy knowing a powerful joint force comprised of true professionals are in overwatch,” said Brig. Gen. Kyle Ellison, Commanding General, 3rd Marine Expeditionary Brigade and CTF-79 Commander.

On Feb. 3rd, to kick off the exercise, the 11th MEU/USS Essex (LHD 2) ARG and Carrier Strike Group-3’s USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN-72) conducted an amphibious maneuver highlighting the ability to seize key maritime terrain with AV-8B Harriers, MV-22B Ospreys and a Navy E-2D Advanced Hawkeye flying through the Luzon Strait.

"Integrating the Carrier Strike Group and Air Wing of the Future with joint and combined forces in the Indo-Pacific enhanced our collective warfighting readiness, strengthened our interoperability, and advanced our technological capabilities," said Rear Adm. J.T. Anderson, Commander, CSG-3. "Exercise Noble Fusion gave us the opportunity to project naval power across all domains in a dynamic environment."

The following day, the 31st MEU/USS America (LHA-6) ARG conducted strikes in the First Island Chain with F-35B Lightning Fighters. Additionally, F-35B’s of Marine Aircraft Group 12 out of Iwakuni, Japan, as well as F-15C Eagles with the U.S. Air Force’s 18th Wing out of Kadena Air Base, teamed up with a P-8 Poseidon from Task Force 72, to conduct a maritime strike. Then on Feb. 5th, the 11th MEU coordinated with the Essex to refuel a Navy P-8 Poseidon aircraft in a simulated landing zone not favored or supported by allied forces.

“Noble fusion has been an incredible opportunity to rapidly, and at a time and place of our choosing, demonstrate that when our allies and U.S. joint forces come together we are the premier fighter force in the region," said Rear Adm. Chris Engdahl, Commander Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76. "Seamlessly integrating our advanced platforms alongside our professional staffs at sea and ashore, allowed us the chance to reinforce our command and control in the air, on the ground, at sea, and below the surface.”

During the exercise, JGSDF coordinated with the 31st MEU to exercise landing procedures with their CH-47 Chinook helicopters aboard the amphibious assault ship USS America (LHA 6). Operations continued with Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations training in northern Okinawa. Two Landing Craft, Air Cushioned departed the America and landed on the shore to deploy a High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, set up the launch site and establish control over a sector of littoral terrain.

The capstone event was a night strike in the First Island Chain by F-35C Lightning aircraft from Lincoln and AV-8B Harriers from Essex, along with F-18E Super Hornets acting as an aggressor force. Night aerial refueling supported the strike, with 11th MEU AV-8B Harrier attack aircraft being refueled by KC-130J Hercules aircraft of Marine Aircraft Group 12.

On the final day of the exercise, nine of the ships involved, including the Essex, America, Lincoln and JS Kongo, sailed in formation through the Miyako Strait in a display of integrated sea power. U.S. Joint Special Operations Forces, including Army, Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps operators, provided tactical planning and execution expertise during Exercise Noble Fusion as well.

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3D Marine Expeditionary Brigade