STRAIT OF MALACCA (NNS) -- The aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68) and Nimitz Carrier Strike Group (CSG) navigated through the Strait of Malacca, July 6, while transiting toward India in preparation for Exercise Malabar 2017.
The Strait of Malacca is a narrow, 500-mile strait that connects the Pacific Ocean with the Indian Ocean.
"The Strait of Malacca borders four major countries: Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia," said Lt. Nathan Lee, Nimitz' assistant navigator. "All four of those countries at some point touch the Strait of Malacca and have waterways running from the strait. So it's a major international strait."
The strait is one of the busiest sea lanes in the world with nearly one million vessels passing through every year.
"More than 60 percent of world commerce flows through here, so it's important to let everyone know that we're keeping it free and open," said Intelligence Specialist 2nd Class Stephen Russell.
This is a chance for Nimitz to project their power and show a presence so that other countries know that the U.S. is maintaining freedom of the sea lanes worldwide.
"We got really polite calls from the Singapore military saying, 'Thank you from coming through. We hope you have a good day and safe travels,'" said Lee.
The Nimitz CSG has practiced strait transits multiple times recently during Composite Training Unit Exercise. But it has been nearly four years since the Nimitz CSG performed a strait transit of this scale and complexity.
"At one point we were crossing the stern of one vessel, had another on our port side, one on our starboard side and multiple ships behind us," said Lee. "We were trying to thread our way through all of them and had a cargo ship stop dead in the water in front of us and we had to quickly maneuver to get around him. That is the part that makes this so challenging. But it is also what gets everyone trained up and thinking about how new this experience is."
The passage through the strait requires the strike group to utilize strict maneuvering postures and have Sailors constantly on lookout for hazards or smaller ships.
"You can never have too many lookouts," said Lee. "Having more watches gives us one more set of eyes to watch all the ships around us so that way everyone else can focus on their primary responsibilities."
Due to the activity in the strait, extra watch stations have been manned to assist in the safety and security of the group. It is an all hands effort, from the bridge team and all the lookouts around the ship to the Sailors from weapons department manning the ship's self-defense weapons.
"It's a heavy tasker for everyone because we have to have the extra support keeping an eye out for any potential terrorist activity or any incidents that may occur," said Russell.
The Nimitz CSG, which consists of the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN 68), the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59), Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 11, CSG-11 staff, and Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 9. The deployed units from DESRON 9 include the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Howard (DDG 83), USS Shoup (DDG 86), USS Pinckney (DDG 91) and USS Kidd (DDG 100).
Exercise Malabar 2017 is the latest in a continuing series of exercises between the Indian Navy, Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force and the United States Navy that has grown in scope and complexity over the years to address the variety of shared threats to maritime security in the Indo-Asia Pacific.
The Nimitz CSG is currently on deployment in the U.S. 7th Fleet area of operations. The U.S. Navy has patrolled the Indo-Asia Pacific routinely for more than 70 years promoting regional peace and security.
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