WASHINGTON: The senior admiral overseeing the Navy’s surface forces says the service needs to use the next year to prepare sailors for the raft of unmanned and advanced technologies planed for fleet integration throughout the next decade.
“We’ve got FFG-62. We’re going to have another DDG variant at some point and then we’ve got the unmanned stuff. How do I introduce it to the fleet? What does that look like?” Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, the service’s top surface warfare officer, told reporters during a roundtable last week.
Lawmakers and service officials are frequently asked about the Navy’s high profile acquisition programs, such as the Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle, which made waves on Capitol Hill due to an overly aggressive procurement schedule. But what is discussed less frequently is how sailors will ultimately be trained on dozens of new vehicles and weapons programs once they reach the broader fleet.
Kitchener, as the current “SWO Boss,” will be integral to the Navy’s efforts for developing those plans now to ensure things run smoothly down the line. He was frank with reporters on Thursday, saying preliminary discussions are ongoing and that over the next year, “we’ve got to get our hands around” the issues.
Will the Navy establish separate training departments for unmanned vehicles? “No, I would say I want to integrate all that what we have in place in the afloat training group,” he said.
Could there be a special rating for unmanned technology? It’s been discussed, but no decisions have been made, with Kitchener saying “I’m not sure that is something we’re ready to go down the road on, but I think it’s worth looking at.”
An issue that has come up repeatedly during congressional hearings with Navy leadership is pinpointing how the service plans to use the unmanned vehicles it is acquiring. Asked about how the Navy should take training for multiple new unmanned technologies into account, Rep. Wittman, R-Va., said the service should not distract sailors at the deck plate level who need to remain focused on the mission at hand.
“That being said, we maintain a robust and rigorous training pipeline for our commanders and department heads that dives deeper into future capabilities such as unmanned and hypersonics,” Wittman told Breaking Defense on Monday. “They take this wealth of knowledge with them to sea-going commands, and as the requirements change, they bring the crews they serve into alignment with these new requirements.”
Regardless of what happens behind the closed doors, in public, lawmakers have appeared unconvinced the service has completely connected the dots between each acquisition program and what role it will play in the future fight. That could make developing the training procedures infinitely more difficult.
“This really depends upon having an idea of what you’re going to do with the technology and having the resources both to create the technology and the training and exercising that goes along with it,” said Seth Cropsey, director of the Center for American Seapower at the Hudson Institute.
Cropsey posed a series of questions about contesting China in Pacific — a particularly popular topic among lawmakers interested in the Navy’s portfolio. Does the service’s strategy include a blockade? What role will the carrier strike groups play? How will unmanned systems fit into those elements? What do we expect from our allies?
“I don’t see” a real plan, he said. “And I don’t see that the Navy sees it.”
Navy Needs To Prep For Unmanned Integration, Says SWO Boss – Breaking Defense Breaking Defense is written by Justin Katz for breakingdefense.com