USS George Washington has been forward deployed
in the U.S. Seventh Fleet area of responsibility since
2008 and conducted numerous patrols in that region,
including a deployment in support of exercise
Talisman Sabre just prior to arriving in San Diego.
Washington is due for her mid-life refueling complex
overhaul. In order for the three-carrier swap to work,
George Washington needed to arrive in San Diego Aug.
10 to begin a comprehensive crew and gear swap with
USS Ronald Reagan, which precluded a U.S. Fifth Fleet
deployment. USS Ronald Reagan is scheduled to serve
as part of the Forward Deployed Naval Forces in the
U.S. Seventh Fleet area of responsibility after she
departed San Diego Aug. 31.
USS Theodore Roosevelt, which left Norfolk in March
to conduct an around-the-world deployment, is currently operating in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.
Budget constraints have affected flight hours in
recent years. Are you satisfied with the number
of flight hours your aviators are receiving?
SHOEMAKER: I believe we are at the right number of
flight hours and need to maintain that baseline in
order to maintain combat readiness. Building credible
combat readiness for all contingencies is the benchmark for which flight hours are established. To be sure,
my emphasis is on the right amount of flight hours to
develop our junior aviators and prepare them for all
missions. We are already accepting risk through tiered
readiness as defined in the Optimized Fleet Readiness
Plan, so the key is ensuring that the highest quality
training is achieved in every flight hour.
As an example, today’s junior officer receives higher
quality flight hours than those of a generation ago as a
result of the acute focus on programs such as the Air
Combat Training Continuum, which consists of three
pillars — the Weapons and Tactics Instructor program,
the Air Combat Weapons and Tactics syllabus and Air
Combat Training System. Despite these improvements,
flight hours and airborne experience still matter and it
is my charter as the Air Boss to ensure each and every
aviator gets the requisite flight hours to be combat
ready, even in a fiscally constrained environment.
Are you increasing the amount of simulation
that aviators and crews are receiving to maintain proficiency? Is there a danger in too high
a ratio of simulation to flight?
SHOEMAKER: As I said before, flight hours and airborne experience are essential, but we must take
greater advantage of simulation, especially as we move
toward the Live Virtual Constructive (LVC) environment. In naval aviation we “train like we fight” in
order to be prepared for any mission. Technological
advances and future capabilities of our aircraft have
made it so we have outgrown our training ranges; this
has driven the need for LVC training in naval aviation.
LVC is in development and will be designed to connect aircraft with simulators and allow for sharing of
information between platforms over the horizon to
replicate combat scenarios pilots might encounter
when forward deployed. Training cost, complexity and
classification drive the need for Live Virtual
Constructive training. ■
Shoemaker pilots an F- 35 Lightning II demonstrator while
a Lockheed Martin representative points out features on
the display June 8 in San Diego. The Lockheed Martin F-
35 cockpit demonstrator was made available June 8-10
at Naval Air Station North Island to provide naval aviators
and aircrew an opportunity to gain familiarity with the aircraft’s unique capabilities.