The littoral combat ship USS Forth Worth underway. Navy photo
The littoral combat ship USS Forth Worth underway. Navy photo

The San Diego-based littoral combat ship USS Fort Worth unexpectedly practiced new rules for maritime conduct with the Chinese frigate Hengshui earlier this week in the South China Sea.

The two warships practiced what the Navy calls the Code for Unplanned Encounters at Sea, or CUES, instituted earlier this year. The two ships were conducting routine training and operations in international waters when commanders realized a training opportunity was present.

CUES provides standards for communication, safety procedures and maneuvering instructions for naval ships and aircraft.

“The interaction with the Hengshui was safe and routine, and the professionalism that was on display by both ships is commendable,” said Cmdr. Matt Kawas, commanding officer of the Fort Worth. “This was a real-time situation where we relied upon our months of training in San Diego to execute.”

Fort Worth and Hengshui rendezvoused and used CUES as a signaling protocol to indicate ship maneuvering in a part of the ocean that has seen tensions among the Chinese, Vietnamese and Philippine navies.

“Having a standardized protocol of safety procedures, basic communications and basic maneuvering instructions is critical as we work together to prevent mishaps and miscommunications at sea,” said Capt. Fred Kacher, commodore of Destroyer Squadron 7. “This will likely not be the last time Fort Worth conducts CUES as she continues to operate extensively throughout Southeast Asia and expand her operational footprint to Northeast Asia during the remaining 12 months of her deployment to the Asia-Pacific.”

Fort Worth departed Singapore Feb. 19 with a new crew flown in from San Diego and is now headed north for an exercise with the Republic of Korea navy.

Fast, agile and mission-focused, littoral combat ships are designed to operate in near-shore environments and employ modular mission packages that can be configured for surface warfare, mine countermeasures or anti-submarine warfare.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.