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Professional Knowledge Week 7: The Surface Warfare Community

professional knowledge Oct 11, 2019

The 7th Week of Pro-Know transitions into teaching the plebes more about a few of the Navy service communities that they can eventually join. The following weeks will teach plebes about Surface Warfare, Submarine Warfare, and Naval Air Warfare!

First up for Week 7 is the Surface Warfare community.

If you want to learn about the life of a junior officer in the surface warfare community from the Naval Academy check out my podcast with LTJG Teresa Meadows ‘16.  We talk service selection, SWO practicum class, ship selection, her first tour and now her staff tour in Rota, Spain.

This section of Pro-Know is absolutely critical because at the end of the day, the Navy revolves around the surface fleet.  The majority of our history, tradition, and etiquette comes from the surface Sailors of the past and drives our present operations.  The mission of surface warfare is “to provide combat ready ships to the fleet; and to supply those ships and supporting commands with the leadership, manpower, equipment, training, and material needed to achieve operational excellence and conduct prompt, sustained combat operations at sea to ensure victory.”

Surface ships conduct a multitude of Naval Warfare operations in both peace and wartime environments.  The US Navy’s modern surface fleet possesses unique capabilities including stealth, endurance, firepower, mobility, and enhanced command, control, and communication. 

Plebes will then learn about the various surface and amphibious platforms, which must be visually identified as part of the Pro-Know quiz. Additionally, plebes must know the mission, weapons capabilities, aircraft (if applicable), lift capability (if applicable), and the number of crew for each platform.

Now we won’t go into full detail, but I’ll give you a brief rundown of all the ships they will learn about!

CVN-68 Nimitz Class Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier

CVN-78 Gerald R. Ford Class Nuclear Powered Aircraft Carrier

Both platforms serve as the highest value asset of America’s naval forces and execute the same mission sets, including strike warfare, power projection, deterrence operations, and humanitarian assistance.  The Ford Class Carriers, however, have new and improved launch and landing systems, and the most modern radar and self-defense systems. Carriers can have up to 5000 people onboard for deployment.

CG-47 Ticonderoga Class Guided Missile Cruiser

These warships, known as “cruisers,” have a multi-mission role within a carrier strike group.  With a primary focus on Air Defense, they are also used for strike missions amongst numerous other mission sets. Cruisers have roughly over 300 people in their crew.

DDG-51 Arleigh Burke Class Guided Missile Destroyer


Destroyers, while they do operate independently frequently, perform primarily a Strike Group role as well.  As the main Anti-Submarine and Anti-Surface Warfare asset, destroyers are capable of supporting carrier strike groups and amphibious forces in a variety of ways.  They also carry and can shoot a lot of missiles, just like the USS Porter and USS Ross back in 2017.

DDG 1000 Zumwalt Class Guided Missile Destroyer

This new destroyer class is tailored for multiple different missions sets and is designed as the jack of all trades, with a tagline of being a 100 percent globally deployable asset to the Fleet. There are under 200 people onboard this warship.

Littoral Combat Ship

This ship, with its designed based on maximizing speed and shallow draft, support mine, undersea, and surface warfare missions. The LCS has a crew of roughly 100 people depending on the mission.

Mine Counter Measure (MCM) Ship

These wooden hulled ships are designed as minesweepers capable of finding, classifying, and destroying moored and bottom mines.  These ships have a crew of roughly 80 people.

 Amphibious Platforms

Amphibious platforms, more commonly known as “Amphibs,” are the Naval Platforms we use to support Marine Corps Amphibious Operations. Additionally, Amphibs are frequently called upon to support humanitarian missions and provide support to global disasters. 

LSD-49 Harpers Ferry Class Dock Landing Ship

LSDs are used to transport and launch Marine Corps amphibious craft and vehicles in Amphibious assault operations.  The Harpers Ferry class differs from the Whidbey Island class by having a smaller well deck and larger cargo storage spaces.  I am particularly fond of Amphibs because I spent my Youngster Cruise onboard the USS Oak Hill (LSD-51), pictured above, and had a tremendously positive experience with the crew.  

LPD-17 San Antonio Class Amphibious Transport Dock

Consistent to the mission of Amphibs in general, LPDs are used to transport and land Marines, their equipment, and supplies.  These ships have permanent crews of close to 400 people.

LHD-1 Wasp Class Landing Helicopter Dock

LHA-6 America Class Amphibious Assault Ship

The Largest of all Amphibs, the LHDs and LHAs resemble small aircraft carriers that are capable of multiple variations of aircraft operations.  With multiple helicopters and jets embarked on the platform, these ships have crews of over 1000 people and up to 2000 with embarked Marine Corps personnel.

The last section entails some victories in the “Surface Warfare in the Spotlight” section, such as USS Bainbridge ending the pirate siege of the Maersk Alabama; aid to the Japanese people after the 2011 earthquake and tsunami; 2017 hurricane response and disaster relief in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico; and the USS Mason warding off cruise missile attacks off the coast of Yemen. 

As one of the largest communities in the world’s greatest Navy, it’s important that plebes are knowledgeable about surface warfare. This professional knowledge module may be a plebe’s first introduction to their eventual Naval career. 

If you want to learn about the life of a junior officer in the surface warfare community from the Naval Academy check out my podcast with LTJG Teresa Meadows ‘16.  We talk service selection, SWO practicum class, ship selection, her first tour and now her staff tour in Rota, Spain.