Story by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Dugan Flynn
Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Crishanda McCall

Carrier Air Wing 9 (CVW-9) is training with Stennis during Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) to prepare for deployment.

CVW-9 is comprised of many components which have come together for JTFEX to prove battle readiness.

“In my opinion, JCS Strike Group has greatly advanced US Navy warfighting with their outstanding performance in JTFEX,” said Commander, Strike Force Training Pacific Rear Adm. Tom Cropper. “Great attention to detail, solid teamwork and quick improvements to identified problems made the difference. So did good old-fashioned, on-the-scene deckplate leadership.”

CVW-9 is comprised of Fighter, Helicopter, Electronic Warfare, Early Warning, and Logistics Support squadrons, each specifically designed to accomplish multiple tasks to conduct war fighting operations and defend the ship.

The Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron (VAW) 112 Golden Hawks, flying the E-2C Hawkeye, are part of the Early Warning component of CVW-9.

“The E-2s look over the horizon and paint the picture for us,” said Deputy Commander, Carrier Airwing 9, Capt. Dell Bull. “They are going to look for any surface or air contacts. That way when we launch our fighters, bombers, and our helicopters, we know what’s out there.”

The MH-60R Seahawks flown by the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 71 Raptors have unique radar capabilities to detect and destroy submarines.

“The Seahawks don’t have the range that the E-2 Hawkeyes have, but they have equipment and radar on board that helps us fill in the gaps,” said Bull. “They can detect submarines’ periscopes, and they have certain equipment that can dip into the water to hear submarines. That’s putting a protective shield around the bottom of the ship from submarine threats.”

The Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 8 Eightballers fly the MH-60S Knight Hawks to conduct combat search and rescue missions as well as provide additional support during vertical replenishments.

“If a plane crashes anywhere around the Stennis, those guys are specially trained to come and get us,” said Bull. “If they have to come get us in a hostile area, they are armed with machine guns on either side of them. Additionally during JTFEX, we had a team of Navy Seals on board Stennis to work with the Air Wing, and HSC-8 delivered them to their targets.”

The Carrier Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron (VAQ) 133 Wizards flying the EA-6B Prowlers are part of the Electronic Warfare component of CVW-9 and use their special abilities to jam enemy radar to protect the fighter squadrons.

“If we have to go after targets on shore that are threatening the strike group, the EA-6B squadrons are imperative,” said Bull. “They’ll fly in with us and carry specialized missiles to destroy the enemy’s radar so we can get in and out unseen. They’re there protecting us as well.”

Stennis has four fighter squadrons, two that fly the F/A-18C Hornet; Strike Fighter Squadrons (VFA-97 Warhawks and VFA-192 Golden Dragons), one that flies the F/A-18F Super Hornet (VFA-41 Black Aces), and one that flies F/A-18E Super Hornet (VFA-14 Tophatters).

“All four squadrons are very capable in both air to air and air to ground combat,” said Bull. “All the squadrons, when launched, will link up through a link 16 network with Stennis to the rest of the ships, and E-2, so we can see what’s on their radar and vice-versa and then we have this network centric warfare with Stennis in the center of it.”

VRC-30 Providers flying the C-2 Greyhound, which is also known as the Carrier Onboard Delivery Squadron (CODS) provide logistics support to Stennis supplying vital personnel and equipment to the ship even when many miles away from land.

“Last but not least, we have the COD detachment,” said Bull. “They are an integral part to keep us supplied with parts, mail and anything the strike group needs. You can fit a lot in the back of that airplane. They’re a great part of the team; we couldn’t do it without them.”

The Air Wing is a combination of many different capabilities that when brought together is greater than any of the capabilities alone said Bull.

“We are here for COMPTUEX and JTFEX to sharpen that sword,” said Bull. “We are going out shortly on deployment to kill the people that need to be killed, and protect our military and our allies’ forces on the ground, and frankly to protect the people that can’t protect themselves.”

Stennis, CVW-9, and John C. Stennis Strike Group have been working together during JTFEX to ensure fleet and mission readiness and the needs in preparation for deployment to accomplish US maritime strategy at home and abroad.

“I am confident that the proven warfighters in this strike group will aggressively implement their lessons learned from JTFEX in the time before deployment,” said Cropper. “When they do, JCSSG will be unbeatable in combat.”