Last month we focused on the myriad challenges facing the Navy. In this issue we narrow the lens to examine one particular community in greater detail: surface warfare. These sailors have a proud heritage, dating back to the Navy’s very beginnings, and a long roll call of decorated heroes. And while centuries of technological progress have brought submarines, aircraft, and missiles into the arena, many would argue that the surface Navy still provides the most visible symbol of America’s presence and power in the global commons.
But the surface force is facing many of the same hurdles as other communities and services: trying to plan for the future while wrestling with the uncertainties of the present. Rear Admiral Thomas Rowden, Director, Surface Warfare Division, who wrote for us last year on the progress of the littoral combat ship program, returns this month to offer his insight into the complicated balancing act of maintaining today’s surface force while procuring tomorrow’s. Laying out what hardware and systems the service will field in the near-, mid-, and long-term, Admiral Rowden emphasizes that decisions made today must not hamper the ability of his successors to react to fiscal and security conditions in the decades to come.
Meanwhile, Vice Admiral Thomas H. Copeman III, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, and Commander, Naval Surface Force, Pacific Fleet, presents a novel idea for a new component of the surface Navy. It’s called the Naval Surface and Expeditionary Warfare Command, and its implementation is already under way. With the future force-structure budget charts stamped “Dangerous Ground,” the best investment that can be made is in the tactical training of the force’s people, and the new command will do just that.
Just as the Navy’s personnel need to be adaptable, so too must its ships. Lieutenant Commander Matthew Smidt and Captain Michael Junge, a frequent contributor to Proceedings, argue that the warship of tomorrow must not only be able to switch out configurations for a range of disparate missions, but be able to do so rapidly. They envision a baseline hull design that can be modularly adapted for multiple scenarios—essentially rendering the Navy’s traditional “Hi-Lo Mix” shipbuilding concept a thing of the past.
But whatever ships populate the surface fleet, they will face potential adversaries possessing advanced antiship weapons. In response, the Navy must improve its offensive antisurface warfare capability, according to retired naval officers Commander Robert Crumplar and Lieutenant Commander Peter Morrison. “The Navy must avoid the tendency to require capabilities that exceed practical requirements and drive program cost, operational complexity, and technical risk to unsustainable levels,” they caution. The options currently under consideration by the Navy include upgrading the battle-proven Tomahawk Block IV missile and developing the Long-Range Antiship Missile-A, which is based on the adaptation of preexisting technology. Both have pros and cons. The authors ask, “Is the development of additional air-launched capability the optimum path when the aviation community already has multiple options for the maritime strike mission—especially in an austere budget environment?”
When a new ship type joins the Fleet, it features state-of-the-art technology. As the years pass, that technology becomes obsolete and must be upgraded. Retired Captains Jim Adams and Jon Greene want the Navy to examine its acquisition process for new systems. As Numbered Fleet and Type Commander N-6s during periods when the Navy was rapidly acquiring new technology and experiencing problems with surface combat systems, they observed many inefficiencies with the command, control, communications, combat systems, and intelligence (C5I) modernization process. Similar situations still occur. “Unfortunately, the speed of delivery of the latest and greatest technology often exceeded the emphasis on quality and mission assurance,” they report. The authors suggest that in order to resolve the problems associated with this approach, the Navy should pay for system engineering up front, rebuild its engineering capability, encourage the acquisition effort to make decisions focused on warfighting capabilities rather than individual platforms, and enlist the help of the Navy’s best systems engineers.
We’d like to mark two special accomplishments this month. When retired Lieutenant Commander Thomas J. Cutler submitted his “Lest We Forget” column for this issue, it marked the 125th installment of this popular feature, which debuted in September 2003. That many of anything is a crowning achievement, so we hereby send a Bravo Zulu Tom’s way and look forward to learning much more about the nation’s maritime heritage.
We’re also pleased to announce that Captain John Cordle and Dr. Nita Shattuck have won the Surface Navy Association Literary Award for their January 2013 Proceedings article “A Sea Change in Watch Standing,” which spelled out how best to maintain a healthy and combat-ready crew. Bravo Zulu to them on this singular honor!