CNO: ‘Access to Data at the Speed of Combat’ Needed
By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — The Navy’s top officer said that its platforms, sensors and people need to be networked to keep ahead of the capabilities of competitor nations.
Speaking July 21 to an audience at the Naval Future Force Science & Technology Expo in Washington, Adm. John M. Richardson, chief of naval operations (CNO), said that the Navy will need “access to data at the speed of combat.”
Richardson said the Navy needs to grow its power by in three ways: increasing the number of platforms, increase the capability of each platform and “network everything to everything.”
The CNO noted that the number of unique combinations of networks is growing not just exponentially but in terms of a factorial curve.
“We’re moving toward a scheme that treats sensors as a service,” he said. “This idea of sensing is becoming ubiquitous,” with such things as CubeSat spacecraft and on-demand imagery now available.
A fourth factor, he said, is the Navy’s Sailors, keeping them trained to meet the challenges of the future.
“As long as you’ve got trained people, you’ve got capability,” he said, noting that technological advancement has to be made “with people in mind.”
Using the quadrennial hardware and software upgrades of submarine combat systems as an example, Richardson said it is hard to keep people trained and to manage the periodic refreshing of a submarine’s combat systems across the entire force.
Richardson said numerous studies of the needed size of the fleet all point to the mid-300s (in terms of ships), “350 in the late 2030s, which is way too late. We need to get it in the 2020s. The industrial base is ready to handle this challenge.
“The momentum of the game is not in our favor,” Richardson said, noting the rapid advancements of the navies of peer competitors such as China.
The CNO described the People’s Liberation Army Navy as “a global navy,” mentioning that a Chinese destroyer and support ships participated in an exercise this summer with the Russian Navy in the Baltic Sea.
“Without a doubt, we have returned to an era of maritime competition,” he said, noting that until now the U.S. Navy enjoyed uncontested control of the seas for 20 to 25 years.