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230215-N-ZQ263-1189 SOUTH CHINA SEA (Feb. 15, 2023) Ships and aircraft from Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (NIMCSG) and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group (MKI ARG), with embarked 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit (MEU), operate in formation in the South China Sea. NIMCSG, MKI ARG and 13th MEU, are conducting combined expeditionary strike force (ESF) operations, demonstrating unique high-end war fighting capability, maritime superiority, power projection and readiness. Operations include integrated training designed to advance interoperability between the two groups while simultaneously demonstrating the U.S. commitment to our alliances and partnerships in the Indo-Pacific region. NIMCSG is in U.S. 7th Fleet conducting routine operations. 7th Fleet is the U.S. Navy's largest forward-deployed numbered fleet, and routinely interacts and operates with Allies and partners in preserving a free and open Indo-Pacific region. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kenneth Lagadi)

Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Kenneth

13th MEU Conducts Expeditionary Strike Force Operations in the South China Sea

15 Mar 2023 | Capt. Kevin Buss 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit

The 13th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group conducted Expeditionary Strike Force operations with the USS Nimitz Carrier Strike Group in the South China Sea. ESF operations combines the ARG/MEU amphibious capabilities with the naval combat power of a Carrier Strike Group, forming an Expeditionary Strike Group. Together, these Navy and Marine Corps forces can create unmatched global impacts.

During ESF operations, we combined the USS Nimitz (CVN 68), Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Decatur (DDG 73), USS Chung Hoon (DDG 93), USS Wayne E. Meyer (DDG 108) of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9, and the squadrons of embarked Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 with the amphibious capabilities of the USS Makin Island (LHD 8), USS Anchorage (LPD 23), USS John P. Murtha (LPD 26), and embarked 13th MEU. The Nimitz Expeditionary Strike Group conducted simulated maritime domain strikes, integrating Marine F-35B’s with Navy F/A-18’s, an amphibious assault, and integrated ship formations. The mixture of naval combat power and amphibious capabilities demonstrated high-end war fighting capability, maritime superiority and next-level naval integration.


“The Nimitz Expeditionary Strike Force operations reinforce our integrated joint force capabilities,” said Rear Adm. Christopher Sweeney, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 11. “Combining the capabilities of CSG 11 with the ARG/MEU, we expand the options this blue-green team provides the joint force commander, and increase our ability to create theater-wide effects in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific.”


Combining the separate and complex operations of CSG 11 and the ARG/MEU team starts with integrating daily battle rhythms. A network of liaison personnel, cross-pollinated between the USS Makin Island and the USS Nimitz, further enabled the commander to orchestrate the amphibious upgrades to CSG 11. The distinct heart beats of nine ships become one, as the Expeditionary Strike Group fuses capabilities and synchronizes operations. “This integration demonstrated what it means in the Indo-Pacific theater to combine the fighting power of the ARG and CSG, creating a force that can operate over land and sea,” said Lt. Cmdr. Simone Mims, plans and tactics officer, USS Makin Island. “We can talk about what we think ESF is or looks like, but when we actually operate together, we unlock possibilities that help redefine what it means for US forces to operate from sea.”

The Nimitz ESG executed division tactics, maneuvering ships and aircraft into formation, symbolizing the visceral integration of the Makin Island ARG/13th MEU team and CSG 11. Aircraft from the USS Makin Island and USS Nimitz joined the formation, as a symphony of rotary-wing and jet noise echoed through the South China Sea. Aircraft included P-8A’s and F/A-18’s off the USS Nimitz and MV-22B’s, MH-60’s and F-35B’s off the USS Makin Island.

“The CSG has much to offer the 13th MEU’s embarked Aviation Command Element, such as air-to-air refueling, airborne command and control, Electromagnetic Attack (EA), and weapons that the F-35B cannot carry,” said Capt. Murphy Mosley, F-35B pilot, Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 122, 13th MEU. “Our F-35B’s offer a much more advanced sensor suite and low-observable capability. We offer the ability to fly into a contested environment, one that may not be permissive to 4th Generation aircraft, and create a permissive environment for follow-on tasking.” The combination of these complimentary aircraft provides a strategic advantage when tackling diverse tasks, the ARG/MEU may be called to respond to as the Department of Defense’s premier crisis-response force.  

The unique amphibious capabilities of the Makin Island ARG/13th MEU were employed during the amphibious assault exercise, launching Marine Corps light-armored reconnaissance vehicles (LAV’s) aboard landing craft, air cushion (LCAC’s) from ship to a notional shore. MV-22B Osprey’s flew above the LCAC’s, simulating projecting a company of Marines ashore. The exercise displayed the ship-to-shore capabilities of the ARG/MEU team, highlighting the unique amphibious enhancements the ARG/MEU brings to ESF operations.

An adaptable blue-green team that complements the joint force, amphibious ships and embarked Marines, bring an afloat Marine Air-Ground Task Force anywhere in the world. Throughout ESF operations, we demonstrated the value the ARG/MEU brings to a Carrier Strike Group. “The 13th MEU brings the full capabilities of an afloat Marine Air-Ground Task Force,” said Col. Samuel Meyer, commanding officer, 13th MEU. “Synchronizing all warfighting functions from amphibious ships enables the mobility, sustainability and flexibility to respond to emergent threats and crises anywhere required.”

The ARG/MEU team combined with the expansive capabilities of a CSG deters malign activity, ensuring a free and open Indo-Pacific. ESF operations were conducted by the Nimitz CSG, Makin Island ARG and 13th MEU to demonstrate the U.S. commitment to maintaining freedom of the seas and upholding peace and stability in the region.

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