Gone are the times of the War On Terror, as the US secretary of the Navy Kenneth Braithwaite said that U.S. Fleet Forces Command will be renamed to U.S. Atlantic Fleet.
For those wondering what’s so special about it, this is a return to the US Navy’s full focus on maritime operations in the Northern Atlantic, rather than acting as if its fighting terrorists in the Middle East and elsewhere.
“As the world changes, we must be bold, evolve, and change with it. Instead of perpetuating a structure designed to support yesterday’s Joint Forces Command, we are aligning to today’s threat. To meet the unique maritime challenges of the Atlantic theater, we will rename Fleet Forces Command as the U.S. Atlantic Fleet, and we will refocus our naval forces in this important region on their original mission: controlling the maritime approaches to the United States and to those of our allies,” Secretary Kenneth Braithwaite told the Senate Armed Services readiness subcommittee hearing.
“The Atlantic Fleet will confront the reassertive Russian Navy, which has been deployed closer and closer to our East Coast, with a tailored maritime presence capability and lethality.”
Russia is, according to the US, an issue that’s gaining force, when terrorists around the world appear to be subsiding, despite massive issues in Africa, and terrorism not being gone from the Middle East.
Sen. Tim Kaine, the top Democrat at the subcommittee, reviewed the history of Fleet Forces Command and asked Braithwaite if the move was “to recognize the reality of this increased Russian presence and the fact that great power competition is now sort of the dominant concern of the National Defense Strategy?”
The Secretary of the Navy simply confirmed that it was true.
The Atlantic Fleet existed in Norfolk, Va. from 1906 until 2006.
Though those 100 years brought various iterations of fleet organization, by 2006 LANTFLT remained the naval component commander for U.S. Strategic Command as well as U.S. Northern Command. The Commander, Fleet Forces Command title was tacked on to LANTFLT just after the September 11th attacks in 2001 “to improve alignment and organization structure to ensure the Navy’s fleets, staffs, systems and processes delivered a combat capable Navy ready to respond to all contingencies,” according to a Fleet Forces timeline.
In 2006 then-Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Mullen overhauled the organization, doing away with the LANTFLT title and creating U.S. Fleet Forces Command to “serve as the primary advocate for fleet personnel, training, requirements, maintenance and operations issues.”
Fleet Forces is the chief readiness organization for the fleet, as well as the naval component for NORTHCOM and STRATCOM.
The move to bring back Atlantic Fleet comes after a 2018 decision to reestablish U.S. 2nd Fleet in Norfolk as a means of focusing more on anti-submarine warfare in the Atlantic and with European allies on the other side of the ocean.
This is in order to rein in Russia, which developed the Knyaz Vladimir a Borei-A-class nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine and other incoming projects.
Braithwaite also discussed the re-establishment of U.S. 1st Fleet, which he announced last month at the Naval Submarine League annual conference.
Secretary of the Navy said that 1st Fleet would be “an agile, mobile, at-sea command” compared to U.S. 7th Fleet, which has its headquarters in Japan but can also deploy and operate at sea aboard command ship USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19).
7th Fleet will remain active in attempting to counter China’s expansion in the South China Sea.
1st Fleet will be more focused on the convergence of the Pacific and Indian Oceans and out towards the border with U.S. 5th Fleet near the Northern Arabian Sea.
It should be reminded that the Russian Navy is to establish a naval logistics center that can house warships in Sudan.
“This will reassure our allies and partners of our presence and commitment to this region, while ensuring any potential adversary knows we are committed to global presence to ensure rule of law and freedom of the seas,” he said during the hearing.
“We are determined today to make the bold changes required to ensure that our forces are prepared to dominate any potential battlespace and return home safely.”
“We are going to recommission the 1st Fleet, which like the 7th Fleet would operate in the greater Pacific region under the command and control of the United States Pacific Fleet, headquartered in Hawaii. It wouldn’t necessarily take ships from the 7th Fleet or from the 3rd Fleet; it would be a sharing, that’s how our numbered fleets operate, predicated on the demand and the threat that emanates in the part of the ocean in which those respective fleets operate,” he added.
Earlier, at a press briefing NATO Secretary Jens Stoltenberg said that NATO plans to increase its presence in the Black Sea, by improving relations and cooperation with Georgia and Ukraine.
This also goes in line with the attempt to pressure Russia from all directions, both from the South and North.
Likely the US hopes for Japan and South Korea to also cooperate in a potential war scenario, and provide maritime support from the East.
Apart from maritime forces, the ground forces deployed in Europe, and notably in Eastern Europe and the military activity in terms of exercises and deployments near Russia’s borders increased in 2020.
The justification is the same as it has always been – the “Russian threat” needs to be contained. After all, it is expected for Moscow to secure its borders when bases are popping up near them faster than mushrooms after a rainstorm. Turkey deploying Syrian militants to South Caucasus also is cause for concern, as well as the entry of militants in the CSTO states that are in or close to Central Asia.
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