SAN DIEGO, Calif. The guided missile cruiser, USS Bunker Hill (CG-52), recently returned with the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group (TRCSG) to their home port. The troops were greeted by cheering, sign-toting families and friends. Sailors in dress whites lined the ship’s starboard side, as it made its commanding approach to the dock.
For the captain and crew of the Bunker Hill, only minutes remained for a well-deserved break and reunion.
“We’re excited to be back in San Diego with the team of the USS Bunker Hill,” said CAPT Joe Cahill. “We’ve been gone now since October 7th, executing sea control and power projection in 3rd [Northeast Pacific], 5th [Arabian Gulf], and 7th [Southwest Pacific] fleets. The team has just done a tremendous job, along with carrier strike group nine, of conducting operations forward, visible, and ready. I can’t tell you how proud I am of this team.”
Cahill has served in multiple commands at sea, including support of Operations Noble Eagle, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom. His knowledge and savvy of surface warfare and tactical operations has landed him various executive positions on land. A recent assignment was serving as Director of the Distributed Lethality Task Force for the Commander of Naval Surface Forces.
The U.S. Navy projects its broad spectrum of power to support maritime security and combat operations, reassure its allies and partners, and to preserve the freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce. In the Arabian Gulf, the crew of the USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) put their training and skills to the test each day as an integrated air and missile defense asset.
A floating arsenal of power – here is the USS Bunker Hill
President Theodore Roosevelt said:
“The unforgivable crime is soft hitting. Do not hit at all if it can be avoided; but never hit softly,”
Stuffed with courage and familiar with pain, Roosevelt encouraged Americans to be great and take strenuous action, better to “run the risk of wearing out, than rusting out.”
As the watchdog of the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group, a Ticonderoga class Aegis guided missile cruiser, like the USS Bunker Hill, is not designed to hit softly. Cahill explains cruisers are multi-mission warships. They execute air, surface, anti-submarine, and strike warfare using Tomahawk cruise missiles, standard missiles, Harpoon cruise missiles, and other weaponry.
The Tomahawk and the 1991 Persian Gulf Crisis
A number of Ticonderoga class guided missile cruisers were deployed in the Persian Gulf crisis in 1991, a conflict triggered by Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait on August 2, 1990. In 1993, Tomahawk missiles were fired against Iraqi targets, enforcing restrictions of the ‘no-fly zone’. The Tomahawk missile was deployed in Bosnia in 1995, as well as deployed by other cruisers during Operation Iraqi Freedom, in a series of cruise missile launches during combat operations.
The Tomahawk missile has a length of 5.56m, a diameter of 51.8cm and a wingspan of 2.67m. The weight of the missile is 1,315kg. It can operate at very low altitudes, achieving high subsonic speeds. Numerous warheads, guidance and control systems can be integrated, and the payload can be nuclear, unity, or conventional.
The Tomahawk can strike high value or heavily defended land targets.
“The cruiser is the air warfare commander for the Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group,” affirms Cahill, adding “… [it’s] designed to control those overall air warfare missions and work with the strike group to effectively protect the carrier as we’re executing our sea control and power projection operations.”
On board, these sleek ships of firepower is a wife and mother, far away from her husband and four children. She is using her training as a Quartermaster Navigator, to make sure the Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group stays on track, on time, and gets to where they need to go safely. Programs the Navy provides help her navigate months of separation from her family.
Emails, phone calls at port calls, and FaceTime are available to connect to home.
“I was able to read to my kids and send them videos, so they were able to see me,” says Petty Officer 1st Class Jones. Her kids sweetly gush, “I’m proud she came back. It feels like she’s been gone for a year. I really miss her.”
It takes a lot of talent and technology to run a guided missile cruiser
The Arabian Gulf was the final destination of the TRCSG, in a 56,000-mile transit including five port calls in four different countries. Six thousand Sailors and Marines demonstrated more than just mission accomplishment but actually gave back, in community service, to the countries they visited.
Rear Admiral Steve Koehler, Commander, Carrier Strike
Group (CSG) 9, says.
“This team has embraced a culture of excellence that comes directly from their routine professional approach to everything they do. They continue to exceed expectations and set a phenomenal standard for all to emulate,”
The sight of an aircraft carrier alone can deter malign plans. This floating city and its sister ships employ multitudes of Sailors, each trained to mitigate threats on or under the water, or in the air above.
These skills are inextricably woven into each ship’s potential and purpose. The group underway conjures up a feeling of strength and rule – it’s a majestic sight unless you are the enemy. One should never underestimate its lethality.
Ticonderoga class cruisers are equipped with the Aegis Combat system. According to Naval Technology online, the Aegis Combat System “integrates the ship’s electronic sensors and weapons systems to engage anti-ship missile threats.”
A computer ‘federated architecture’ includes a weapons control system, multi-function radar, Aegis display system, and a command and decision system. All at the fingertips of a team dedicated to tactical excellence.
USS Bunker Hill: Leading the way to open computer architecture
In 2018, Bunker Hill was the first vessel to equip with the latest, Aegis Open Architecture (OA).
According to Global Security.org, OA is an open business model, “that implements sufficient open specifications for interfaces, services, and supporting formats.”
This enables “properly engineered components to be utilized across a wide range of systems with minimal changes.”
This can help eliminate long years of delay updating and replacing traditional Naval platforms, proprietary in design and engineering. Commercial computer architecture standards are leveraged for better innovation and interoperability, affordability, and seamless connectivity with other U.S. military services, foreign partners, and allies. Rapid response without computer glitches – sounds good.
USS Bunker Hill war-fighting experts are important force multipliers
On board the Bunker Hill was Chief Warrant Officer 3 Troy Woods, wearing the black and red Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) patch earned at Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) in Dahlgren, Virginia. Woods completed the Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD) course, designed to train junior officers at a high level to improve warship capabilities to fight and win.
“For a guy like me, someone who served as a senior chief doing missile defense with forward-deployed naval forces, some of the pipeline was a refresher,” said Woods. “After the first test, I had to eat a big slice of humble pie. It was a serious course.”
Woods also writes weapons doctrine for TRCSG, a key factor in Arabian Gulf operations. Unit level capabilities are maximized for more effective group tactics.
Lieutenant Caesar Mize, a Plans and Tactics officer on the Bunker Hill, is another WTI graduate contributing the wealth of information and experiences gained at SMWDC. Mize was all smiles at the homecoming, not ruffled by undisclosed challenges in the Arabian Gulf, where violent extremism poses a threat to every Arab state and where approximately 50 percent of the world’s oil reserves lie.
“That is what we train for – what we prepare for – it’s exactly what we executed.”
Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Group: Guided missile cruisers serve humanity at risk, far from national gun control debates
The main guns on the USS Bunker Hill are two BAE systems Mk 45 mod 2/ 54 caliber guns. The Mk 45 is the lightest, most compact, 5-inch fully automatic naval gun in the world. It is lightning-quick with a firing range of 13nmi, up to 20 rounds a minute. Two Raytheon Phalanx Block 1B radar-guided 20mm Vulcan cannons are mounted on a swiveling base for defense against anti-ship missiles.
Phalanx close-in weapons systems (CIWS) have a 53-caliber six-barrel gun, able to shoot 3-4,000 rounds a minute.
We are centuries past a broadside of red-hot cannon balls splintering a ship deck and the people on it. Yet, Naval gunfire still lives. Advancements are underway with new shells, bigger guns, a next-generation hypervelocity projectile, and electromagnetic railguns. As is, U.S. surface combatants deliver a lethal gunpowder punch, the sounds alone are terrifying.
The guided missile cruiser’s armament negates air threats, while its 360 degree radar sees MiGs and unexplained radar blips called Bogies (may indicate hostile aircraft). Two Sikorsky MH-60R Seahawk helicopters, with Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System (LAMPS) avionics, are ready for maritime warfare to direct tactical actions by the ship and air team.
James W. Follmer, Command Master Chief (CMDCM) aboard the Bunker Hill, is senior Enlisted on board and reports to the captain on the welfare and performance of the crew. Refraining to comment on Bunker Hill’s counter-terrorism operations in the Arabian Gulf, he says,
“We’re home safe, we have everybody back here. I call this mission success.”
At the Battle of Bunker Hill, American forces lost, yet inflicted more casualties on the formidable British than in any other single engagement during the American Revolutionary War. The colonists claimed a moral victory. Their thunder of independence was loudly heard then, as it is now, from its namesake warship the USS Bunker Hill.
Lead Image: SAN DIEGO (Sept. 12, 2016) Sailors and Marines man the rails and render proper honors as amphibious assault ship USS Boxer (LHD 4) passes guided missile cruiser USS Bunker Hill (CG 52) while returning to its homeport. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Eric Burgett/Released)