Within the USS Enterprise (CVN-65) Battle Group, we have designated two commands to explore the idea of adapting the aviation weapons and tactics instructor (WTI) concept to the surface Navy. In early 2003, as we prepare for deployment, the USS Stout (DDG-55) and Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA)-86 will colead a project to explore several ideas, working as well with Commander, Destroyer Squadron 18, the designated tactical development squadron within Second Fleet.
The basics of naval aviation's highly successful WTI program are straightforward. Selected officers receive concentrated tactical training and then provide it to warfighting squadrons. On average, one lieutenant per fighter (VF), strike fighter (YFA), or carrier airborne early warning (VFW) squadron every second year will be selected to attend Top Gun, generally after completion of his or her initial (CAT I) sea tour. After graduation from the WTI curriculum, the aviator will be designated as a strike fighter tactic instructor (SFTI) and will either remain on staff as an instructor or report to one of the YFNFA weapons schools. After this first shore tour, the trained aviator will return to the fleet to fill the single CAT-l A training officer billet per squadron-becoming the "super junior officer" who leads tactical training for the command.Graduates of WTI programs also obtain an additional qualification designation (AQD) code that is placed in their official service records and reflects the specialized training and skills obtained through the program. The AQD code identifies graduates for specialized billeting in demanding positions, possible promotion considerations, and assistance with manpower distribution.
In addition, all aircrew are designated on a scale of tactical proficiency. A concurrent system, designated Strike Fighter Weapons and Tactics Syllabus (SFWT), delineates qualifications among aircrew. This qualification process is administered within the squadron, under the direction of the weapons schools. Specific SFWT designations are:
- SFWT I-Fleet Replacement Squadron Graduate
- SFWT II-Combat Wingman
- SFWT Ill-Combat Section Lead
- SFWT IV-Combat Division Lead
- SFWT V-SFTI (Top Gun graduate)
As the Stout and VFA-86 undertake a look at potential adaptation of these concepts to the surface Navy, they will begin by having the surface combatant commanding officer identify a superior performing officer in his or her first division officer tour. This process would then parallel the highly successful SWO community "early roller" program where our top second-tour division officers are identified and sent directly to Department Head School. One approach would be for an officer so identified to complete several months of concentrated tactical training before reporting for his or her second division officer tour as the tactics and training officer (TTO). This training would be tailored to ship type and may include, but not be limited to: the Aegis Control Operator Course, the Naval Surface Fire Support Course, the Tomahawk Course, antiair warfare and strike training at Dahlgren, the Antisubmarine Warfare Watch and Evaluator course, and the Expeditionary Warfare Training Group course. The prospective TTO also would train on simulators at Newport, Norfolk, and Dahlgren to the fullest extent possible. With the major reduction in the initial SWOS curriculum, some time may exist in a competitive officer's career path to attend these schools, although clearly the challenge in adapting this program will be finding sufficient training time for the individuals selected.
The TTO could serve as a source for surface warfare tactical knowledge and training in a particular ship. He or she also could act as a liaison with the Surface Warfare Development Group, Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, Special Project Evaluation and Antiair Warfare Research, Afloat Training Groups, and other centers of tactical excellence. The TTO will further the tactical training of each officer in the wardroom by utilizing simulators and resources of their home port. The training officer would organize lectures and administer tactical warfare personnel qualification standards. Again, this plan mirrors the highly successful program administered in tactical aviation.
Surface warfare officers could be designated surface warfare tactics instructors (SWTI) as follows:
- SWTI I-Unqualified Senior Watch Officer
- SWTI II-Qualified Senior Watch Officer
- SWTI III-Tactics and Training Officer / Department Head / Tactical Action Officer
- SWTI IV-Commanding Officer / Executive Officer / Combat Systems Officer / Destroyer Squadron Tactics and Training Officer
A tactics and training officer rolling to shore ideally would serve as an instructor at one of the training schools or courses. These designated tactical experts could then continue on in select department head tracks that focus on warfighting and tactics.
While there are detailing and distribution challenges in undertaking such a concept, our objective at this stage within the Enterprise Battle Group is to model the concept and provide lessons learned by the end of 2003 for the consideration of the surface Navy leadership.
This article benefited significantly from work done at the Navy Operations Group/Deep Blue by Lieutenant Matt Duffy.