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US Navy surface force commander discusses three points to own future fight

Vice Adm. Richard A. Brown, commander of Naval Surface Forces and Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (Source US Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Millar)

Commander of the US Naval Surface Forces, Vice Admiral Richard Brown, has used an address to the 32nd Annual Surface Navy Association (SNA) Symposium in Arlington, Virginia, to outline how the US Navy plans to “own the future fight”.

Commander of the US Naval Surface Forces, Vice Admiral Richard Brown, has used an address to the 32nd Annual Surface Navy Association (SNA) Symposium in Arlington, Virginia, to outline how the US Navy plans to “own the future fight”.

The US Navy has "the premier surface force in the world – second to none – that controls the seas and provides the nation with combat naval power when and where needed", VADM Brown stated when addressing naval leaders, government officials and members of private industry, setting the scene for his address to the 32nd Annual SNA Symposium.

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The professional development event provides an opportunity to highlight the Surface Navy’s vision for the future. VADM Brown drew on US Naval heritage, current initiatives and future lines of effort in support of the theme of this year’s symposium: "Owning Tomorrow’s Fight Today."

"It’s all about readiness to fight. We are once again in great power competition, and that competition requires us to operate forward, control the seas and always be ready. To do that we must own tomorrow’s fight today," VADM Brown stated. 

Building on this, he identified the three lines of effort moving towards the future: 

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  • Current readiness of the force will always be our collective number one priority – "Combat ready ships and battle-minded crews are the products that the Surface Force provides to the numbered Fleet Commander," VADM Brown articulated. 

This statement echoes a growing sentiment within the US Navy and broader Armed Forces regarding the increasing importance of a battle ready force –indeed recently, Defense Secretary Mark Esper explained the importance of balancing readiness with force and platform modernisation, explaining to the Senate Armed Services Committee:

"This need to balance current readiness with modernisation is the department's central challenge and will require strong leadership, open and continuous dialogue with others, and the courage to make tough decisions."

  • Enhancement of mariner and warfighting skills emphasising professionalism will continue – "With the help of the Congress and Navy leadership, the Surface Force made substantial and lasting mariner skill investments over the last few years. While we are not declaring ‘mission complete’, the pace of the enhancements — coupled with their initial results — are cause for optimism," VADM Brown explained. 

A few examples include committing $3.8 billion to individual, watch team and strike group training; enhancing bridge and Combat Information Center (CIC) simulators; building state-of-the-art training facilities, such as the Maritime Skills Training Centers; building the Combined Integrated Air and Missile Defence and ASW Trainers (CIAT) in San Diego and Norfolk where watch teams of specific AEGIS baselines train with the exact system and tactical program with real-life environmentals; and delivering On Demand Trainers (ODT) pier side in San Diego and Norfolk where watch teams can continue tactical training during availabilities or combat systems upgrades.

  • Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) leads the Maritime Warfare Officer Tactical Training (MWOTT) working group – "This group is charged with determining the skills required for each tactical milestone in a Surface Warfare Officer’s career and how these skills will be trained to, developed and assessed in order to fully-prepare officers and warfare commanders for tomorrow’s fight, today, creating a maritime warfare training continuum second to none," VADM Brown said. 

While each of these factors is critical to the ongoing maritime dominance of the US Navy and by extension, that of its allies, including the Royal Australian Navy, VADM Brown stressed the importance of developing new warfighting concepts and capabilities – leveraging new technologies across traditional kinetic platforms, decision making and data analytics. 

One initiative to help identify future warfighting is Surface Development Squadron (SURFDEVRON) One. Established by CNSF in May 2019, SURFDEVRON One supports fleet experimentation to accelerate delivery of new warfighting concepts and capabilities to the fleet. 

SURFDEVRON’s primary functions will be to:

  • Execute experimentation to support development of new and emerging surface warfighting capabilities;
  • Develop material and technical solutions to tactical challenges; and
  • Co-ordinate doctrine, organisation, training, material, logistics, personnel and facilities requirements for unmanned surface systems.

"To ensure we remain the premier surface force, we are investing today for tomorrow’s fight. Flight III DDGs, FFG(X), a full inventory of SM-6, SPY 6, Maritime Strike Tomahawk, integrated combat systems, large and medium unmanned surface vessels, and lasers on ships. SURFDEVRON One’s charge is to figure out how best to employ these new systems and capabilities," VADM Brown said.

In addition to SURFDEVRON One’s future experimentation, VADM Brown outlined current efforts already underway to increase lethality as fast as possible.

He explained, "For example, USS America (LHA 6) completed her (Composite Training Unit Exercise) last year with 13 embarked F-35 aircraft, and she can carry more than that. I don’t think those 13 aircraft are just there for defence of the Amphibious Task Force. A big deck with that many F-35s is beginning to look a lot like an aircraft carrier to me. Any other country would call it an aircraft carrier, and it is part of the Surface Force."

US Navy surface force commander discusses three points to own future fight
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