Fleets in the United States Navy take on the role of force provider; they do not carry out military operations independently, rather they train and maintain naval units that will subsequently be provided to the naval forces component of each Unified Combatant Command. While not widely publicized, groups of ships departing U.S. waters for operational missions gain a Task force type designation, almost always with the Second or Third Fleets. On entry into another numbered fleet's area of responsibility, they are redesignated as a task group from that fleet. For example, a carrier task group departing the Eastern Seaboard for the Mediterranean might start out as Task Group 20.1; on entry into the Mediterranean, it might become ('inchop') Task Group 60.1.
The United States Navy has six active numbered fleets. These six numbered fleets are grouped into operating forces: the U.S. Pacific Fleet's 3rd Fleet and 7th Fleet, Naval Forces Europe's 6th Fleet, Naval Forces Central Command's 5th Fleet, Fleet Cyber Command's 10th Fleet and Naval Forces Southern Command's 4th Fleet.
Task Force 20 (TF20) operates in the Atlantic Ocean from the North to South Pole, from the Eastern United States to Western Europe and Africa, and along both the eastern and western shores of Central and South America. TF20 is the sole operational fleet within Fleet Forces Command, providing force training and exercises of assigned maritime forces and providing combat-ready Naval forces to support Service missions and global requirements. TF20 works with the Combined Joint Operations from the Sea/Center of Excellence to complete its mission.
Military Sealift Command (MSC) serves not only the United States Navy, but the entire Department of Defense as an ocean carrier of materiel. It transports equipment, fuel, ammunition, and other goods essential to the smooth function of United States armed forces worldwide. Up to 95% of all supplies needed to sustain the U.S. military can be moved by Military Sealift Command. MSC operates approximately 120 ships with 100 more in reserve. Ships of the command are not manned by active duty Navy personnel, but by civil service or contracted merchant mariners.
Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC), established in January 2006, serves as the single functional command for the Navy's expeditionary forces and as central management for the readiness, resources, manning, training and equipping of those forces. NECC capabilities include; Explosive Ordnance Disposal, Maritime Expeditionary Security, Riverine, Diving Operations, Naval Construction, Maritime Civil Affairs, Expeditionary Training, Expeditionary Logistics, Expeditionary Intelligence, Combat Camera, Expeditionary Combat Readiness, and Maritime Expeditionary Security. The Maritime Expeditionary Security Force’s (MESF) (formerly known as Naval Coastal Warfare) primary mission is force protection conducted through fleet support with operations around the world. Two Maritime Expeditionary Security Groups in San Diego and Portsmouth, Va. supervise integration of coastal warfare assets trained to operate in high density, multi-threat environments. Coastal and harbor defense and protection of naval assets are placed under the jurisdiction of two Naval Coastal Warfare Groups: one for the Pacific Fleet and one for the Atlantic Fleet.
The Sixth Fleet is deployed in the Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea, under the administrative direction of U.S. Naval Forces Europe (NAVEUR), and the operational command of U.S. European Command. Sixth Fleet is based in Naples, Italy and its flagship is USS Mount Whitney (LCC-20). Sixth Fleet also provides the Mt Whitney as an Afloat Command Platform for Naval Striking and Support Forces NATO, a Naples-based Maritime headquarters that serves as a deployable Maritime Component Commander as directed by Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE).
Type commands, including Submarine Forces Pacific, Surface Force Pacific, and Naval Air Forces Pacific
Third Fleet's jurisdiction is the Northern, Southern, and Eastern Pacific Ocean along with the West Coast of the United States. Normally, units assigned to Third Fleet undergo training cruises prior to deployment with either the Fifth Fleet or Seventh Fleet and are not intended for immediate use in battle. Only in the event of general war does Third Fleet participate in active combat operations. Forming part of the Pacific Fleet, Third Fleet is based in San Diego, California and is a part of U.S. Pacific Command.
Seventh Fleet, the largest forward-deployed U.S. fleet, operates in the Western Pacific and the Indian Ocean, stretching to the Persian Gulf and including much of the east coast of Africa. It forms the fully combat ready part of the Pacific Fleet and provides naval units to the U.S. Pacific Command. At any given time, Seventh Fleet consists of 40-50 ships operating from bases in South Korea, Japan, and Guam. It is headquartered at Yokosuka, Kanagawa, Japan with USS Blue Ridge (LCC-19) as its flagship.
Fifth Fleet's area of responsibility is the Middle East, including the Persian Gulf, Red Sea, Gulf of Oman, and parts of the Indian Ocean. Consisting of around 25 ships, including a carrier strike group and an expeditionary strike group, Fifth Fleet is effectively fused with U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, which is the naval component of the U.S. Central Command. Fifth Fleet is headquartered at Manama, Bahrain.
U.S. Naval Forces Central Command includes a number of Task Forces which are not part of the Fifth Fleet. These include Combined Task Force 150, carrying out maritime surveillance activities in the Gulf of Oman and around the Horn of Africa, and Task Force 152, covering the southern Persian Gulf with the same role. Both Task Forces report to Commander NAVCENT in his role as Combined Maritime Forces Component Commander.
The Fourth Fleet has operational responsibility for U.S. Navy assets assigned from east and west coast fleets to operate in the U.S. Southern Command area. The Fourth Fleet will conduct varying missions including a range of contingency operations, counter narcoterrorism, and theater security cooperation (TSC) activities. TSC includes military-to-military interaction and bilateral training opportunities as well as humanitarian assistance and in-country partnerships.
U.S. Naval Forces Southern Command's (USNAVSO), the Navy component command for U.S. Southern Command, mission is to direct U.S. naval forces operating in the Caribbean, and Central and South American regions and interact with partner nation navies to shape the maritime environment.
The Tenth Fleet has functional responsibility to achieve the integration and innovation necessary for warfighting superiority across the full spectrum of military operations in the maritime, cyberspace and information domains. Tenth Fleet has operational control of Navy cyber forces to execute the full spectrum of computer network operations, cyber warfare, electronic warfare, information operations and signal intelligence capabilities and missions across the cyber, electromagnetic and space domains. Tenth Fleet also partner with and support other fleet commanders to provide guidance and direction to ensure coordinated, synchronized and effective preventative and response capability in cyberspace. U.S. Fleet Cyber Command / Tenth Fleet is a subcomponent of U.S. Cyber Command.
Commissioned on 16 April 1987, at Naval Amphibious Base Coronado, in San Diego, California. It acts as the Naval component of the United States Special Operations Command, headquartered in Tampa, Florida. Naval Special Warfare Command provides vision, leadership, doctrinal guidance, resources and oversight to ensure component maritime special operations forces are ready to meet the operational requirements of combatant commanders. The NSW has 5,400 total active-duty personnel, including 2,450 SEALs and 600 Special Warfare Combatant-craft Crewmen. NSW also maintains a 1,200-person reserve of approximately 325 SEALs, 125 SWCC and 775 support personnel.
The Navy maintains several "Naval Forces Commands" which operate naval shore facilities and serve as liaison units to local ground forces of the Air Force and Army. Such commands are answerable to a Fleet Commander as the shore protector component of the afloat command. In times of war, Commander Naval Forces Korea becomes a Task Force (Task Force 78) of the United States Seventh Fleet. Other Naval Force Commands may similarly augment to become number fleet task forces.
The organization of the Navy has changed incrementally over time. During World War II administrative organization for many ship types included divisions, for example Battleship Divisions (abbreviated BatDivs), Cruiser Divisions, Destroyer Divisions, or Escort Divisions (CortDivs), usually composed of two ships, often members of the same class. These made up squadrons (e.g. Battle Squadron, Cruiser Squadron, Escort Squadron (CortRon) etc.) of several divisions. Yet the exigencies of World War II forced the creation of the task force system where ships no longer fought solely as part of same-type divisions or squadrons. This was gradually reflected in administrative arrangements; by the 1970s, formations such as Cruiser-Destroyer Groups (CruDesGrus) came into existence.
"The shore establishment provides support to the operating forces (known as "the fleet") in the form of: facilities for the repair of machinery and electronics; communications centers; training areas and simulators; ship and aircraft repair; intelligence and meteorological support; storage areas for repair parts, fuel, and munitions; medical and dental facilities; and air bases."
The relationship extends to the operational theater as well. As amphibious assault specialists, Marines often deploy on, and attack from, Navy vessels; while being transported on Navy ships, they must obey the orders of the captain of the vessel. Marine aviation tailhook squadrons train and operate alongside Navy squadrons, flying similar missions and often flying sorties together. Other types of Marine air squadrons operate from amphibious assault ships in support of Marine amphibious operations. Navy and Marine squadrons use the same NATOPS aviation manuals and procedures. The USMC does not train chaplains, hospital corpsmen or medical doctors; thus officers and enlisted sailors from the Navy fulfill these roles. They generally wear Marine uniforms that are emblazoned with Navy insignia and markings to distinguish themselves from Marines. Corpsmen and chaplains enjoy a great sense of camaraderie with the Marines due in part because they work closely with them and often are embedded with Marine units. They operate under the command of the Marine Corps under the auspices of the Fleet Marine Force, often called the "green side".
Because of the lack of full-scale amphibious operations in recent conflicts, there has been pressure to cut the "gator navy" below the two-regiment requirement of the Marines. This is a reduction from the programmatic goal of 2.5 Marine Expeditionary Brigades and actual structure of 2.07 MEB equivalents in 1999.
The relationship between the US Navy and US Marine Corps is also one of mutual respect, and that respect is manifested in various policies and procedural regulations. For example, per US Marine and Navy drill manuals, in a formation consisting of both Marines and Sailors, Marines are to be present at the front (in column) and left (on line), regardless of rank. This is a symbol of the special status and honor granted to US Marines, and is a unique aspect of the Navy-Marine relationship.
United States Coast Guard
Although the Posse Comitatus Act, which prevents federal military personnel from acting in a law enforcement capacity, applies only to the Army and Air Force, Department of Defense rules effectively require the Navy and Marine Corps to act as if Posse Comitatus did apply, preventing them from enforcing Federal law. The United States Coast Guard fulfills this law enforcement role in naval operations. It provides Law Enforcement Detachments (LEDETs) to Navy vessels, where they perform arrests and other law enforcement duties during Navy boarding and interdiction missions. In times of war, or when directed by the President, the Coast Guard operates as a service in the Navy and is subject to the orders of the Secretary of the Navy until it is transferred back to the Department of Homeland Security. At other times, Coast Guard Port Security Units are sent overseas to guard the security of ports and other assets. The Coast Guard also jointly staffs the Navy's Naval Coastal Warfare Groups and Squadrons (the latter of which were known as Harbor Defense Commands until late-2004), which oversee defense efforts in foreign littoral combat and inshore areas. Additionally, Coast Guard and Navy vessels sometimes operate together in search and rescue operations.
^This term is a compound of CHOP, which is short for Change of Operational Control. A CHOP line is a line at which operational control of forces transfers from one command to another. Sean Maloney thesis, 'To Secure the Command of the Sea,' University of New Brunswick, 1991, p.iii
^The United States Coast Guard is sometimes believed to act as the First Fleet in wartime; however, the United States has never officially used this reference and it is informal at best. "Numbered Fleets". There was a time in history in which the Navy was disbanded 1790-1798. The only warships protecting the country were Revenue Cutters, the predecessor to the USCG. This is why USCG ships are referred to as Cutters. Federation of American Scientists: Military Analysis Network. Accessed April 8, 2006.