By Lt.j.g. Sarah Claudy
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) successfully completed an Air Defense Exercise (ADEX) with an Italian naval air squadron, Nov. 4, 2020.
In the Gulf of Taranto, Donald Cook rendezvoused with four Italian AV-8B Harrier II Plus fighter and attack aircraft based in NAS Sigonella, Italy. Air Intercept Controllers onboard the ship took tactical control of two Italian fighter aircraft and directed their employment against hostile aircraft simulated by the other two fighters. The air-to-air training exercise provided realistic training in combining maritime and air assets to achieve a common mission.
“The ADEX was an excellent opportunity to train with our NATO partners,” said Ensign Frank Butler, Combat Information Center Officer of Donald Cook. “This was my first time conducting an exercise with Italian aircraft. Practicing with our international allies forces us to review our NATO procedures, learn new tactics, and sometimes think outside of the box. These are all great ways to build our combat team.”
Cmdr. Kelley Jones, commanding officer, also emphasized the exercise’s contribution to joint interoperability. “It’s always a great opportunity when we get to train with other ally units in this region,” she stated.
The U.S. Navy maintains an incredibly close relationship with Italy. U.S. Sixth Fleet, headquartered in Naples, Italy, conducts the full spectrum of joint and naval operations, often in concert with joint, allied, and interagency partners in order to advance U.S. national interests and security and stability in Europe and Africa. Commander, Task Force 67, stationed at Naval Air Station, Sigonella, Italy, executes the maritime patrol and reconnaissance mission with P8-A Poseidon aircraft. The Sixth Fleet flag ship, Blue Ridge-class amphibious command ship USS Mount Whitney (LCC20), forward deploys from Gaeta, Italy. The U.S. Navy’s partnership with Italy enables a dynamic, flexible force posture to execute maritime missions in support Allies and partners.
Donald Cook recently began its eleventh patrol of the U.S. Sixth Fleet area of responsibility in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe and Africa. The ship typically operates independently, but also regularly works alongside NATO allies and partners in the region, as in the case of today’s ADEX.
Donald Cook is one of four U.S. Navy destroyers based in Rota, Spain, and assigned to Commander, Task Force 65 in support of NATO’s Integrated Air Missile Defense architecture. In support of Sixth Fleet, these Forward-Deployed Naval Forces-Europe ships have the flexibility to operate throughout the waters of Europe and Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope to the Arctic Circle, demonstrating their mastery of the maritime domain.