VS22 Looking Flat
It is just a little bit over 80 years after the Plum/Pensacola/Republic Convoy was ordered to make for Australia instead of reinforcing the Philippines– a good call because the 2,000 mobilized National Guardsmen and two warships (the cruiser USS Pensacola and gunboat USS Niagra) of Task Group 15.5 would have had little-to-no effect on the disastrous Dec. 1941-May 42 Fall of the Philippines, only adding to the number of 78,000 surrendered American and Allied troops.
However, in a reboot of naval power on display, Valiant Shield 2022 was just held in the Philippine Sea and the ninth biennial U.S.-only exercise was a decent show of strength, at least in terms of carrier power.
VS22 this year included both two carrier strike groups —USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) with Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 embarked, and USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) with CVW 9 embarked– along with USS Tripoli (LHA-7), the latter of which recently showed off a 16-strong F-35B loadout as part of the “Lightning Carrier” concept.
Roll that beautiful bean footage:
How about those stills:
On the downside, I would love to see two or three times that amount of escorts around three flattops, as the carriers are only trailed by two elderly Ticos (which are soon to be retired)– USS Mobile Bay (CG 53) and USS Antietam (CG 54)— and three Burkes: USS Benfold (DDG 65), USS Spruance (DDG 111), and the recently-rebuilt USS Fitzgerald (DDG 62).
It really is sad that the vast squadrons of CGNs, CG-converted DLGs, DDG-2s, Spru-Cans, Knoxes, and FFG-7s were slaughtered in the 1990s and early 2000s without replacement other than the Navy continuing to order $1.8-Billion-per-hull Burkes.
Appropriately, the pinnacle event of VS22 was the sinking exercise (SINKEX) on the decommissioned FFG-7, ex-USS Vandegrift (FFG 48).