Navy to reactivate 2nd Fleet, with an eye towards an expanding Russia

Matt Saintsing
May 07, 2018 - 1:48 pm

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Raymond Maddocks/Released

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Years of icy tensions between Russia and the U.S. has led to a reemergence of the once-thawed Cold War, and the Navy is reestablishing a disbanded Fleet to oversee operations in the northern Atlantic Ocean and U.S. Eastern seaboard.

Chief of Naval Operations, Adm. John Richardson, announced the establishment of U.S. 2nd Fleet last week at a change of command ceremony for U.S. Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk, Va., and illustrated a renewed priority for the Navy as it seeks to counter encroaching powers, like Russia.

"Our National Defense Strategy makes clear that we're back in an era of great power competition as the security environment continues to grow more challenging and complex," said Richardson. "That's why today, we're standing up Second Fleet to address these changes, particularly in the north Atlantic."

After 65 years as part of a cost-saving effort, 2nd Fleet was deactivated in 2011 and its equipment and mission were folded into U.S. Fleet Forces Command, but its resurgence “will exercise operational and administrative authorities over assigned ships, aircraft and landing forces on the East Coast and northern Atlantic Ocean,” said Richardson.

The fleet will come on line formally on July 1.

U.S. Naval efforts along the east coast and Caribbean, in recent years have been limited to humanitarian and disaster relief missions, as has drug interdiction efforts. But in 2104 the calculus in Washington was forced to change when Russian forces invaded and occupied the Crimean peninsula in Ukraine.

“This is a dynamic response to the dynamic security environment,” said Richardson, who added “the Atlantic Ocean is as dynamic a theater as any and particular the North Atlantic, so as we consider high-end naval warfare, fighting in the Atlantic, that will be 2nd Fleet’s responsibility.”

Russian military activity has seen a spike in recent years and they’ve sent the Viktor Leonov, a spy ship, up and down the east coast. In January and March of last year, it was spotted 20 miles south of the U.S Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay, in Georgia.

Prior to 2011, 2nd Fleet conducted military exercises with NATO partners and trained ships and crews for deployment. The fleet also oversaw the blockade of Cuba during the Cuban Missile Crisis.

With an eye towards Russia, the Defense Debarment also announced that U.S. officials will host NATO’s newly proposed Joint Force Command for the Atlantic at Norfolk, Va.

Are you a veteran who served with 2nd Fleet prior to its disbandment in 2011? We'd like to hear from you, email me at [email protected], or give your thoughts in the comments