Independence-variant littoral combat ship USS Jackson (LCS 6) returned to Naval Base San Diego Dec. 12 after leading a manned-unmanned team and integrating with Marine Corps aviation assets during exercise Steel Knight 23.

Jackson’s participation in the 1st Marine Division-led exercise provided the joint force with expanded maritime capabilities by accessing critical operating areas that shape actions across the range of military operations to resolve conflict, conduct humanitarian assistance or combat the adversary.

“Jackson is pushing the tactical envelope through simultaneous control of multiple manned and unmanned air and surface vessels,” said U.S. Navy Cmdr. Michael Winslow, Jackson Gold crew’s commanding officer. “Combined with the installed Naval Strike Missile, Jackson’s operations with the Medium Unmanned Surface Vessel, MQ-8C Fire Scout, and MH-60S Sea Hawk significantly enhanced Jackson’s ability to conduct persistent, over-the-horizon search and destroy missions.”

The flexible design and dynamic maneuvering capabilities of Independence-variant LCS like Jackson gives the Navy-Marine Corps team an asymmetric advantage over adversaries in a maritime environment.

“Last week, for the first time, we demonstrated the ability to spot two H-1s on an LCS flight deck, conduct arm and de-arm operations, and refuel prior to taking off again. That capability allows us to extend the operational range of Marine Corps Light Attack helicopters in the maritime environment and potentially provide greater standoff for the amphibious ships that we might launch from,” said U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Michael Harper, Marine Light Attack Helicopter Squadron 369 detachment officer in charge. “Ultimately, what we are doing is giving the Joint Force Maritime Component Commander a greater range of expeditionary maritime fires solutions. Last week’s incredibly smooth execution highlights a solid and ever improving Blue-Green relationship, and we are excited to continue to expand our interoperability.”

The ship’s integrated deterrence and sea denial events during Steel Knight 23 continue U.S. Third Fleet and I MEF’s combined efforts to refine and strengthen fundamental amphibious and expeditionary combat support capabilities to reinforce the Navy and Marine Corps team in multiple domains.

“Jackson’s successful demonstration serving as a lily pad for simultaneous USMC AH-1Z Viper and UH-1Y Venom aircraft provides operational planners with expanded options as we look to increase Naval and Marine Corps integration in contested environments,” said Winslow. “The pilots’ precision and the flight deck team’s adaptability ensured a safe evolution, paving the way for future Marine Corps interoperability with Littoral Combat Ships.”

Jackson is homeported in San Diego as part of Surface Division Eleven and Littoral Combat Ship Squadron One. LCS are versatile, mission-focused platforms designed to operate in near-shore environments and win against 21st-century coastal threats. These ships provide forward presence and conduct maritime security, sea control, and deterrence missions both near-shore and on the high seas.

Conducted annually since 1991, Steel Knight began as a tank battalion exercise before growing into 1st Marine Division’s annual large-scale exercise. Over the past 30 years, Steel Knight has grown to include additional regiments and battalions, modernized weapons systems, distributed operations, and aviation and Naval support. This year’s iteration will enable Marines to further refine emerging concepts related to the Marine Corps’ Force Design modernization efforts. The modern global security environment demands ready and trained Marines ready to respond to crises and contingencies anywhere in the global littorals.


This piece is written by the Commander, Littoral Combat Ship Squadron ONE. Want to feature your story? Reach out to us at [email protected].