Atlantic Ocean - The amphibious assault ship USS Iwo Jima (LHD 7) successfully completed a missile exercise (MISSILEX) off the coast of Virginia, Feb. 9. Following the detection of the simulated threat, Iwo Jima fired one Rolling Airframe Missile (RAM), striking a remotely controlled, subsonic missile drone meant to simulate an anti-ship cruise missile.
SSDS is Iwo Jima's primary defensive weapon, making maintenance on radars and weapons a top priority for the Combat Systems team. Year round, the crew tests the system's sensors and missile cells, performs maintenance on its gears and motors, and conducts corrosion control checks. The system's daily exposure to sun and salt requires a higher level of attention to ensure the integrity of the unit is not compromised.
"There have been countless hours of preparation for this exercise," said Fire Controlman 2nd Class Damian Blackwell. "That's everything from scenario trainings throughout the entire year in the combat information center (CIC) to a plethora of maintenance hours to include daily operability tests, bi-weekly checks, and monthly checks to ensure that the RAM launchers are performing at their best condition."
Led by the Iwo Jima Amphibious Ready Group's (ARG) Air and Missile Defense Commander and Iwo Jima Commanding Officer, Capt. Joseph O'Brien, the exercise also demonstrated the Navy's continued efforts to train for today's warfighting environment.
The RAM system is scheduled to fire once prior to deployment, ensuring Iwo Jima is ready for any aerial threat it might encounter.
"The MISSILEX will demonstrate the proficiency of our air-side combat watch team in CIC," said Blackwell. "It will test the ability of our radars to track an inbound drone, assign a missile system and most importantly prove to the Navy that the Iwo Jima has the ability to defend its self when operating in our area of responsibility."
Tracking an inbound target and ensuring it's brought down involves more than just the fire controlmen. The entire watch team in CIC plays a very critical role.
"It is CIC's job to successfully identify and track the drone or missile as it is headed inbound so that we can safely and effectively engage it," said Operations Specialist 2nd Class Tim Koester, a CIC watch supervisor. "Without those efforts, we couldn't possibly take down a threat."
While Combat Systems and bridge teams play a major role, every Iwo Jima department is a stakeholder in a successful MISSILEX.
"This MISSLEX is the culmination of our training efforts prior to deployment," said O'Brien. "It really takes the entire crew to make this evolution safe, efficient and effective. From the Fire Controlmen conducting pre-fire maintenance and loading the weapons to the watch standers on the bridge and in the Combat Information Center tracking the drone to ensure a good missile intercept, I'm proud of everyone's efforts today."
The Iwo Jima ARG is deployed in support of maritime security operations and theater security cooperation efforts in Europe and the Middle East. The Iwo Jima ARG embarks the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit and includes Iwo Jima, the amphibious transport dock ship USS New York (LPD 21), the dock landing ship USS Oak Hill (LSD 51), Fleet Surgical Teams 4 and 8, Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron 28, Tactical Air Control Squadron 22, components of Naval Beach Group 2 and the embarked staff of Amphibious Squadron 4.