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Navy's 7th fleet forms Surface Action Group in South China Sea

Sailors assigned to the littoral combat ship USS Tulsa and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 conduct flight operations while sailing with the guided missile destroyer USS Kidd on July 9. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chase Stephens/U.S. Navy
Sailors assigned to the littoral combat ship USS Tulsa and Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 21 conduct flight operations while sailing with the guided missile destroyer USS Kidd on July 9. Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Chase Stephens/U.S. Navy

July 28 (UPI) -- Three U.S. Navy task forces joined in the South China Sea to form a Surface Action Group for countermine operations, the 7th Fleet said on Wednesday.

The littoral combat ship USS Tulsa, guided-missile destroyer USS Kidd and a detachment from Commander, Task Group 75.1/Explosive Ordnance Disposal Mobile Unit are elements of the new group, fleet officials said in a press release.

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SAGs are defined as temporary or standing organizations of combatant ships, other than aircraft carriers, tailored for a specific tactical mission.

"Combining the capabilities of these teams into one networked node demonstrates our commitment to regional stability across the entire theater," Rear Adm. Chris Engdahl, commander, Expeditionary Strike Group 7/Task Force 76 said in the release.

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"The demonstrated adaptability of these deployed forces are clear indications of U.S. 7th Fleet's continued support of a free and open Indo-Pacific [Ocean]," Engdahl said.

The SAG is involved in exercises involving surface warfare, mine countermeasure [MCM] and anti-submarine warfare, including dynamic maneuvering, MCM techniques with an unmanned underwater vehicle.

The group will also participate in flight operations with MH-60S and MH-60R helicopters and replenishment with fleet replenishment oiler USNS Tippecanoe.

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"These types of SAG operations are exceptional opportunities to harness the combined lethality of the fleet," said Capt. Chase Sargeant, commander, CTF 71/DESRON 15.

"Destroyers integrating with LCS and amplified by the NEF [Navy expeditionary forces] push the boundaries of how we tactically employ our forces and builds a common understanding of our integrated warfighting capabilities," Sargeant said.

The ships involved in the group are on rotational deployment.

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The USS Tulsa, deployed from San Diego, supports Task Force 76; the USS Kidd, homported at Everett, Wash., supports CTF 71; and the ordnance disposal unit is deployed from Guam.

The organization of the Surface Action Group is an example of an end to limiting numbered U.S. Navy fleets to specific geographic regions, officials said.

"We have largely associated numbered fleets with geographic areas, but the power of the fleet, the power of a three-star fleet commander and that three-star fleet commander's staff is not in the geography or in the ships that they're in command of," Adm. Sam Paparo, U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander, said in a June speech during the WEST 2021 conference.

"Every numbered fleet is a tactical three-star headquarters that can be deployed worldwide against any task," Paparo said.

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