Editor's Page

Paul Merzlak, Editor-in-Chief

The CNO’s discussion of integrity is important—and timely. Despite the impressive safety record of the Naval Nuclear Power Program (NNPP), recent incidents have put its integrity under close scrutiny. Navy Command Master Chief Paul Kingsbury thinks he knows the cause of the NNPP’s problems and points specifically to risk tolerance and what he identifies as “normalized deviance.” Kingsbury lists several reasons for this phenomenon and prescribes actions that would reestablish “operator commitment to operational excellence.” The author claims “we have the brainpower to make things better, but,” he asks, “can we overcome the bureaucratic inertia to do so?”     

As warfare evolves in the 21st century and new weapons are deployed, questions of morality and ethics will continue to arise. This is just one of the issues surrounding the increasing use of unmanned systems by U.S. forces.

Rear Admiral Mark Darrah, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons, offers us a look at how unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) will transform future Navy operations. “Many view UAS as a capability,” he explains, “when in fact it should be viewed as a means of employing payloads to achieve particular capabilities. In simple terms, an unmanned aircraft is, quite frankly, a ‘truck’—simply a platform to host sensors and weapons.” These aircraft offer advantages in persistence, expendability, scalability, capacity, and affordability and will complement manned aircraft in composite detachments. Autonomy will also be key going forward, especially as the service transitions to a “system-of-systems” approach in which fewer operators oversee more vehicles, allowing for the vehicles to manage themselves. The ultimate goal, Admiral Darrah says, is to “get to a place where every individual on the ground uses UAS as organic assets and naval ships will employ one or more unmanned systems to get the full picture of the battlespace.”

But for all the advantages unmanned systems bring to the warfighter, they can present a host of thorny political, moral, and ethical issues as well, according to Ensign Sam Lacinski. While he recognizes the military benefits of UAVs and their ability to strike designated targets with precision, he also sees the need for operators to “be highly competent in identifying proper targets and in recognizing and avoiding potential collateral damage.” The author stresses the importance of discrimination and proportionality when conducting unmanned attacks. If a commander has an option that presents increased risk to his or her own forces but less danger to civilians, then this is the option the commander must pursue, since the “technical capabilities and perceptions of precision surrounding UAVs do not exonerate them from ‘the determination of legal or ethical legitimacy.’”

Meanwhile, back in the manned world, might the Navy-Marine Corps team be missing the proverbial boat? Navy Lieutenant Andrew Roscoe—a helicopter pilot flying the MH-60S—thinks so. “The paradigm under which we operate must be challenged,” he asserts, “and we must allow programs currently in place to mature. One example is the MH-60S Knighthawk.” The author is especially adamant that, while the MV-22B tiltrotor Osprey “brings some obvious benefits,” the aircraft is simply unsuitable for rapid insertions, a critical capability in modern warfare. One compelling answer for the Amphibious Ready Group/Marine Expeditionary Unit (ARG/MEU) team, he emphasizes, is the Knighthawk, which has been around since 2002. In short, it’s a ready-made rotary-wing aircraft perfect for ARG/MEU missions.



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