This week, the Surface Navy Association (SNA) hosted its first annual symposium in-person since 2019. With much of Navy and Coast Guard leadership participating in the event, there are several stories of importance to come out of the event:
CNO Blames Culture of Poor Self-Assessment for Major Navy Problems
The reluctance across the Navy to be self-critical and a tendency to hide mistakes and minimize flaws have resulted in systemic problems in the service and stalled efforts to improve, Chief of Naval Operations Adm Mike Gilday said on Tuesday.
“We have seen examples of significant organizational drift – instances of unsatisfactory unit performance, late completion of shipyard maintenance availabilities and failure to deliver game-changing, innovative technologies and concepts at pace.”
Gilday highlighted the inconsistency in performance from unit to unit. Those faults contributed to public failures, like the 2020 fire aboard the former USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6), which showed that sailors and their commanders weren’t ready to fight a fire on a ship undergoing maintenance.
Gilday’s proposed fix is to have commanders and sailors be more realistic about their performance and not ignore or minimize problems.
SWOBOSS Unveils New Surface Vision; Announces New USV Command
Naval Surface Forces commander Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener on Tuesday formally unveiled a new strategic vision for the surface force.
“Surface Warfare: The Competitive Edge,” lays out multiple lines of effort to have more ships ready for tasking and do a better job training its sailors. Kitchener declined to provide the number of ready ships the Navy needs, arguing the service has more work to do. But he said the number is helping the Navy get a better picture of the surface fleet enterprise, from ships to spare parts.
While the Navy uses OFRP to generate Navy tasking for the combatant commanders, Kitchener said he wants the surface fleet to evaluate what assets would be available for other tasking.
Kitchener also noted that the Navy will stand up Unmanned Surface Vessel Division One this summer to shape the service’s decision-making process before the acquisition of USVs.
“Division One will be focused exclusively on USV experimentation and fleet advocacy with our program,” he said. “The future of our service force is a formidable manned and unmanned team where unmanned elements enhance the decision speed and lethality of our commanders and surface forces.”
USV Division One will report to Surface Development Squadron 1, operating out of Port Hueneme, CA. The first two Overlord vessels, Nomad and Ranger, were at sea last month prototyping USV kill chains as a part of Exercise Steel Knight, Kitchener said, and 5th Fleet’s Task Force 59 has been experimenting with small and agile unmanned systems to achieve persistent maritime domain awareness.
RELATED: SCO ends Project Overlord, Shifts Unmanned Vessels to Navy
Navy Targeting April Construction Start for Lead Frigate
The Navy is targeting an April start of construction for the first Constellation-class frigate but won't begin construction before the design is fully ready, Capt. Kevin Smith, the frigate program manager, said Tuesday.
“As I said, we’re coming through design, so there could be some risk to that. One thing we want to make sure is we don’t start building a ship where the design is not mature. But right now, we’re looking at this year,” Smith said.
Smith said the program is aiming to conduct its critical design review in the second quarter of fiscal year 2022 and the production readiness review in the third quarter of FY-22.
“The biggest thing about a lead ship class is you’ve got to get the design right before you start building it,” he said. “So that’s our mantra.”
Navy Unveils Next Generation DDG(X) Warship Concept with Hypersonic Missiles, Lasers
The Navy wants its next warship to fire hypersonic missiles and lasers that would be ten times more powerful than the service’s existing laser weapons, according to the most detailed outlook to date of the DDG(X) next generation warship issued by the service.
The warship, the largest the Navy’s attempted in more than 20 years, is designed to provide the service with the power to drive a new generation of directed energy weapons and high-power sensors that will follow the Navy’s current fleet of Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers. The warship is estimated to start construction in 2028.
The Navy is developing the DDG(X) using the combat system developed from the Flight III Arleigh Burkes that incorporated the new SPY-6 air search radar and the Baseline 10 Aegis combat system. You can view the presentation from the DDG(X) program manager HERE.
RELATED: Navy Unveils Latest Concept for Future Destroyer, DDG(X)
HASC Lawmakers Forecast ‘Bloodbath’ for Navy FY23 Budget
Two House Armed Services Committee lawmakers forecast a difficult upcoming budget cycle for the Navy and criticized the service for not coming to Congress with a strategy to build a fleet that can counter China.
Reps. Elaine Luria (D-Va.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) voiced concern over the Navy’s impending Fiscal Year 2023 budget submission.
“Everything I hear from inside the building, not with details, is that the next one is actually going to be worse,” Luria said of the Fiscal Year 2023 budget, comparing it to the FY 2022 plan that asked for fewer battleforce ships than previously projected.
“And it really frightens me. It frightens me when we have … increased aggressive actions of China against Taiwan, not only in rhetoric, but their sorties,” she added.
Gallagher echoed Luria’s concerns and said he has heard similar rumblings about the budget slated for release in the coming months.
“It could be a bloodbath for the Navy,” he said.
Luria, a former nuclear-qualified surface warfare officer, argued the threat from China means more resources should get allocated to the Navy and the Air Force for a conflict in the Indo-Pacific theater and that the Pentagon should depart from the traditional even budget split between the Army, Air Force and Navy. Gallagher said that when asked what legacy systems should be divested, Pentagon officials cite both Army force structure and Pentagon civilian force structure.
The two lawmakers, who both sit on the HASC seapower and projection forces subcommittee, also expressed concern over the potential for a year-long continuing resolution for FY 2022. Gallagher described CRs as “incredibly damaging,” while Luria said a year-long CR would have “disastrous” consequences for the Navy.
Navy’s Amphib Force Structure Study Could be Completed by End of March
The Navy will complete its force structure assessment on amphibious warships by the end of March, Capt. Cedric McNeal, amphibious warfare program manager, said on Wednesday.
The force structure assessment will evaluate the Navy’s requirements for quantities of amphibs in the future, McNeal said. “That study will inform where we go with future procurements and acquisition strategies to ensure we buy those remaining platforms in the most affordable and smartest way possible,” he said.
The fiscal year 2022 National Defense Authorization Act authorized $250 million for long-lead-time material for LPD-32, but Ingalls wants to see LPD-32 fully funded in the FY-23 budget.
Ship to Shore Connector Program to Reach Four Deliveries Per Year
The Navy expects to deliver four Ship-to-Shore Connector amphibious craft per year, Capt. Scot Searles, SSC program manager, said on Wednesday.
The program is positioned “very well” to reach four deliveries per year and if it doesn’t get to four in 2022, it will be three with one that barely misses, Searles said.
Described as a “flying ship,” the SSC can conduct amphibious operations and move over ice, mud, rivers, rocks, boulders and obstacles up to four feet high, Searles said.
The program faced issues in 2020 after the original propeller blade experienced “composite micro-cracks” when the craft was loaded with weight. The Navy conducted studies of what caused the cracking in 2020 and developed a solution to both strengthen the blade design and modify the propeller control software, according to Searles.