By Rear Adm. Bruce H. Lindsey
Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic
Just the other week, I had the great honor and privilege to be the keynote speaker for USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72)’s change of command ceremony. Just days after completing her sea trials following a four year long refueling and complex overhaul (RCOH), it was a wonderful opportunity to stand among some of the world’s greatest Sailors aboard one of the world’s greatest warships – the Navy’s most modernized and capable Nimitz-class aircraft carrier.
Lincoln’s return coincides with a paper released by the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson, entitled “The Future Navy” that lays out a road map for the direction we need to take in order to meet the renewed maritime competition that has been developing over the past decade. He writes, “We must get more capability out of what we already own and bring new technologies and platforms into the mix as rapidly as possible.”
Lincoln is a great example of that! Sailors, shipyard workers and contractors worked side-by-side refueling the ship’s propulsion plant, modernizing combat systems and upgrading infrastructure to allow CVN-72 to support embarked F-35Cs, the Navy variant of the Joint Strike Fighter. She also has enhanced air search and air traffic control radars, Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services (CANES), a modernized Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) suite and even new crew galley equipment.
Altogether, more than 25 million man-hours have been reinvested into this amazing ship that now proudly rejoins the fleet.
The CNO goes on to write, “Most importantly, the future fleet must be on station ASAP!” That is something we are striving to do and I am proud to say our CVNs are excelling in this respect.
Right now, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) and USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) carrier strike groups (CSG) are operating in the Western Pacific while the USS George H. W. Bush (CVN 77) CSG is in the Arabian Gulf conducting combat operations against ISIS. Additionally, the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) and USS Nimitz (CVN 68) CSGs are fully trained and ready to deploy in support of America’s national interests. Meantime, our CSGs at home are hard at work training to become combat ready as evidence by USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) completion of her tailored ship training availability while both USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75) and USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) are tracking to on-time completions of their maintenance availability.
This increasing pace of our force development to force generation to force employment is reflective of the investments we have made in/by our Optimized Fleet Response Plan.
We are accomplishing great things as a Navy and it is all thanks to the professional, dedicated Sailors who work diligently to ensure the security and prosperity of our great Nation and stability in the global commons around the world. This is why we have a Navy and it is why we continue to have the strongest Navy in the world.
As we look to the future, it is not hard to see that the operational environment is fast evolving. According to the CNO, “These changes are shifting the character of naval competition, and warfare and are being exploited, to varying degrees, by a range of competitors.” To combat this, now more than ever, our nuclear-powered aircraft carriers with their embarked air wings and their associated surface combatants will continue to serve as visible reminders of America’s capability and capacity to conduct prompt and sustained combat operations at and from the sea.
In closing, I’d like to extend a hearty “Bravo Zulu” to all those who breathed new life into Abraham Lincoln and to thank you for your tireless efforts in getting the ship back to the fleet, as well as every other Sailor across the Navy that continues to train and stands ready to fight for America’s security and prosperity.