"They are signaling us and warning us that the maritime domain is contested space," Adm. Mark Ferguson, the head of Naval Forces Europe-Africa, said. "In statements in public they have talked of establishing permanent presence in the Mediterranean, and breaking out from their perceived military encirclement by NATO, economic sanctions and political isolation."
"Right now, for peace-time steaming operations, we are balanced about right with the forces that we have," he said in an exclusive phone interview with Navy Times "Would I like to have an [amphibious ready group/Marine expeditionary unit]? You bet. Would I like to have more carrier presence here? You bet. The United States aircraft carrier and its five associated support ships are just phenomenal in their capabilities. But are there other theaters that need that capability? Yes."
Still, Foggo said, he and Ferguson have been trying to draw attention back to Europe.
Vice Adm. James Foggo, head of the 6th Fleet, would welcome a carrier presence in the Mediterranean.
Photo Credit: Navy
"If [more forces are] needed, you better believe that both Adm. Ferguson and I will ask," he said. "But we are raising the level of sensitivity, however, to what we see as increasing movement and forward-leaning operations of Russian forces. This is both on the surface and in the undersea domain."
"The Russians have always fully funded their submarine capabilities and as they've evolved, they've become better," he said. "They've become quieter and more capable adversaries. So we need to watch that more carefully and we need to watch our presence in the undersea domain."
"So when a sailor gets underway, we may have a set mission: say, intelligence preparation of the environment in the eastern Mediterranean," Foggo said. "But you could be vectored off to do something different in a crisis — somewhere in the Black Sea, somewhere in the Adriatic or somewhere up North.
"It's a great training environment and it's a maturing experience for a sailor operating out here."
"It's a fantastic capability because we can keep two of those guys comfortably out to sea at any one time," Foggo said of the new destroyers. "I can send one up north, I can send one to the Eastern Med — I can be in hotspots in a matter of hours, not days, because we are in the theater."
"What we are seeing is a much more confident, assertive and expeditionary Russian navy," Hudson said in a Sept. 29 phone interview. "And Operational activities in places like the Baltic and the Black Sea, Eastern Mediterranean, heading out across the Indian Ocean … gives an indication of the emphasis that Russia is putting on its military forces.
"So what does that mean for NATO? We'll go about our legitimate business to ensure the cohesiveness of the alliance … and we'll continue to go about the business of making sure that our unity of purpose — the strength of NATO as a collective defense organization — is suitably demonstrated."
"Just two weeks ago we did an [anti-submarine warfare] training exercise in the central Mediterranean, and seven submarines, including a U.S. [attack submarine] and a great bunch of surface ships and [maritime patrol aircraft] doing complex submarine-on-submarine, surface ship-on-submarine and MPA-on-submarine undersea warfare exercises," he said. "So we're upping the ante, and I think that's welcomed by all the allies."
"It allows us to drive a much more sophisticated exercise program when they participate," Hudson said. "We're always trying to build our capability to generate readiness, to help some of the smaller nations evolve their forces. The presence of those types of ships, regularly, in and around the Mediterranean is a great force multiplier for exercise design."
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.