Posted: January 9, 2018 5:47 PM

Future Naval Combat Capabilities Will Require Maximum Integration of Forces

By OTTO KREISHER, Seapower Correspondent

ARLINGTON, Va. — Acquiring the naval combat capabilities needed in the future will require greater integration of all the Navy and Marine components, and commonality of systems, better man-machine integration and improved modeling and simulation to speed up fielding of new systems, the directors of surface and expeditionary warfare said Jan. 9.

Appearing together on the opening day of the annual Surface Navy Association National Symposium, Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall, director Surface Warfare Division, N96, and Marine Maj. Gen. David Coffman, director, Expeditionary Warfare Division, N95, said they have to work together in setting requirements to ensure maximum integration of their forces.

In discussing the plans for the future fleet, Boxall appeared to divert from the traditional approach of classifying warships by their historic designations, such as cruisers or destroyers.

“Let’s stop this platform-for-platform replacement,” but look at what the Navy needs the future surface combatants to do, and how their capabilities can be synergized, he said. “The replacement for the cruisers may not be a cruiser.”

But Boxall supported the Navy’s plans to modernize some of the Ticonderoga-class cruisers, calling them a key part of achieving the goal of a 350-ship fleet. He also said they were considering ways to keep the USS Bunker Hill in service beyond its scheduled decommissioning date.

Boxall said the future fleet design being examined did not just involve surface combatants, but also aircraft carriers, submarines and amphibious ships and weapons. That was how “we take the next step to distributed maritime environment” and maintenance of sea control.

He did, however, note the plans for fielding the Flight III Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyers were on track and said a panel was working on the requirements for the proposed future frigate.

Boxall also emphasized the need for a greater commonality of systems for surface ships so they could be used on any platform, which would reduce cost and time to acquire and enhance integration. And he promoted better modeling and simulation capabilities, including in shipboard systems, to speed up the development and fielding of new systems.

The increasing speed of modern weapons will require combat systems to do the integration of threat data to free the humans to make the crucial decision on how to respond, he added.

Coffman spoke extensively about the Marine Corps’ commitment to using the combat capabilities of the embarked Marine Air-Group Task Force (MAGTF) to help the amphibious ships get through the anti-access threat of potential future adversaries. He repeated the warning from Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller that the amphib force “will have to fight to get to the fight.”

The combat power of the MAGTF and the gators would be meaningless if they were sunk.

“Let’s not go to the bottom together, let’s go to victory together,” he said.

Coffman described the goal of fielding an amphibious fleet of 38 ships, consisting of 12 “big-deck” amphibious assault ships, 13 LPD 17 amphibious platforms and 13 ships of the proposed LX(R) replacement for the aged and limited dock landing ships.

He said another N95 priority was more “expeditionary fires. For us, that means high-volume suppressive fires. We have a paucity.”

Coffman also extolled the capabilities of the other components of N95, including Naval Special Warfare, which includes the SEALs, the mine warfare command, and the Naval Expeditionary Combat Command, which includes riverine forces and the Seabees.

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