AUGUST 22, 2016, NORFOLK, Va. – Bold Alligator is widely known as the largest joint, multi-national amphibious assault exercise series on the East Coast. However, a lesser-known aspect of the series includes limited objective experimentation to expose participants to new technologies, applications and concepts that will inform future warfighting capabilities.
During Bold Alligator 16, which is taking place along the eastern sea board Aug. 15-26, one new concept being tested involves the aviation logistics support ship SS Wright (T-AVB-3).
Col. Sean Salene, the commanding officer of Marine Aircraft Group 29, is taking part in the exercise and playing an integral role in evaluating the platform’s potential.
“We don’t often sail the SS Wright, so when we do, we want to get the most out of it,” said Salene. “In addition to doing our normal aviation logistics, we’re going to take this opportunity to experiment.”
The Wright is traditionally outfitted and manned to provide intermediate aircraft maintenance, a role it will fill in supporting 2d Marine Expeditionary Brigade as it exercises joint forcible entry operations during the exercise.
The experiment will test the ship’s suitability as a potential command and control platform, providing integrated air and ground logistics support, and as a possible hub for unmanned air and maritime vehicles providing support to the landing force.
“There’s been some very good work with unmanned vehicles, both on sea and in the air, and the early returns are promising,” said Salene.
While experiments such as this conducted through the conduit of Bold Alligator have potential for long-term change to practices and doctrine, Salene said it’s too early to say whether integrated, sea-based air-ground logistics support ships are necessarily the way of the future.
“We recognize that it’s an experiment, and we probably have to have some modifications to the shipboard systems, which haven’t matured as fast as technologies ashore have,” he said.
Brig. Gen. Robert F. Castellvi, 2d MEB commanding general, said Bold Alligator provides the platform through which those details can be flushed out.
“We’re going to continue to work together and keep looking at ways we can improve our interaction and interoperability, so that we can ensure we can serve as a crisis response force to our Combatant Commanders and start to shape those capabilities we need in the future operating environment,” said Castellvi.
The Wright’s play in the exercise reinforces the larger goal of Bold Alligator – reinvigorating and improving naval amphibious core capabilities.
“Using the SS Wright in this manner is really going back to our roots. – our amphibious roots – the naval identity we share between the Navy and Marine Corps,” said Salene.