CNO: Fleet Must Grow and Innovate Faster
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy must not only build a larger fleet, but innovate at a faster rate, the Navy’s top officer said.
“The Navy must get to work now to both build more ships, and to think forward — innovate — as we go. To remain competitive, we must start today and we must improve faster,” Adm. John M. Richardson, chief of naval operations (CNO), said in a document called “The Future Navy,” released May 17.
In the paper, Richardson addressed the numerous studies — including the Force Structure Assessment and three commissioned fleet architecture studies — and concluded that they arrived at two consistent conclusions.
“First, the nation needs a more powerful Navy, on the order of 350 ships, that includes a combination of manned and unmanned systems,” the CNO said. “Second, more platforms are necessary but not sufficient. The Navy must also incorporate new technologies and new operational concepts.”
Richardson noted the increasing capabilities of the Russian and Chinese navies and the threats posed by North Korea, Iran and non-state terrorist groups. Also, noting the flexibility of forward-deployed naval forces, he said the Navy “must provide a balanced fleet that offers U.S. leaders credible options, in places of strategic importance, at relevant speed. … Our advantage is shrinking — we must reverse this trend.
“[A] 355-ship Navy using current technology is insufficient for maintaining maritime superiority,” he said. “We must grow, yes. But we must also implement new ways of operating our battle fleet, which will comprise new types of ships. The clear conclusion is that linear expansion and improvement will not achieve the exponential pace that will enable us to win in the future.”
Richardson said the Navy “must be able to operate in the blue sea outside the range of shore attacks, where there is primarily fleet-on-fleet action. Moving closer to land, the Navy must be effective in the intermediate seas, where long-range shore-based missiles contribute to the threat, and in the littoral zones where the variety and density of fires is more intense. In each zone, the Navy must be able to operate with sufficient numbers of the right kinds of capabilities to attack, deceive, and defend against adversary missiles, submarines, and cyber and electronic attack. So the future fleet will need to be larger and more capable, and arrive more quickly, than recent studies suggest.”
The CNO said the fleet will need 12 aircraft carriers in order to field five to six carriers in a short time frame. He also stressed the importance of unmanned systems, increased electric power-generation capabilities, directed-energy weapons, cyber tools and advanced missiles to counter the future capabilities of adversaries.
He pointed out that “today’s industrial base has the capacity to construct 29 more ships and almost 300 more aircraft over the next seven years than our current plan.”
Richardson said the inherent cost of systems and platforms would decline as the fleet shifted more to unmanned platforms, directed-energy weapons and open-architecture systems, all of which would make upgrades more rapid.
“We need a year to consolidate our readiness and achieve better balance across the Navy,” the CNO said. “2018 will be that year, and even as we restore wholeness, we’ll ensure that we continue to grow the Navy and establish a firm foundation for accelerating growth in following years. Next, as we move forward, we must remain open to the likelihood that achieving the Navy we need cannot be accomplished within historical levels of funding for ship construction — more will be needed.”