The Chief of Naval Operations has pushed up the timeline to field multiple major ship and weapon platforms to as soon as possible (ASAP) in a new updated strategy document while also looking to make organizational changes

The updated Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority Version 2.0 is the first reevaluation of the January 2016 version 1.0 issued by Adm. John Richardson. It namechecks several programs the Navy seeks to deliver and deploy ASAP.

Whereas the initial document argued the Navy must maintain and modernize the undersea leg of the U.S. strategic nuclear deterrent triad, Version 2.0 wants to be ready to deploy the USS Columbia (SSBN-826) as quickly as possible “beating the current schedule – in order to preserve our ability to defeat the threat.”

The Navy is planning to build 12 of the new SSBNs at a total cost of over $100 billion. The Navy estimates the lead boat will cost about $8.2 billion. In September the CNO said the program schedule was on track, but only “right on track” and “we need to find some margin in that program, some margin in schedule in particular,” (Defense Daily, Sept. 5).

The Navy plans to start construction on the submarines in 2021 and hopes they start patrolling by 2031.

Version 1.0 listed a line of effort focused on achieving “high velocity learning at event level” that did not name particular programs. In contrast, this update specifically aims to award the Future Frigate (FFG(X)) contract in 2020, Large Surface Combatant in 2023, Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle in 2023, Future Small Auxiliary in 2023, and award the Future Large Auxiliary (CHAMP) contract in 2023, and deliver all of those new programs “ASAP.”

Richardson is also looking to contract for and field the family of underwater unmanned vehicles like Orca, Snakehead, Razorback, and Knifefish as soon as possible but no later than 2025.

The CNO said the MQ-25 should reach first flight in 2021 and reach initial operating capability (IOC) as soon as possible while MQ-4C Triton should reach IOC in 2021.

In August the Navy awarded Boeing (BA) an $805 million engineering and manufacturing development contract to design, build, test, and deliver four test MQ-25A unmanned tanker aircraft. The Navy expects to eventually receive 72 aircraft and pushed IOC to 2024 (Defense Daily, Aug. 31).

Richardson also has an aggressive goal to identify requirements by the end of this upcoming year to replace the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler by 2030.

Beyond specific vehicles and platforms, the report wants high velocity outcomes in weapons systems. Richardson said the Navy will seek to develop and field an offensive hypersonic weapon by 2025 and develop and field the family of laser weapons starting in 2019 and no later than 2025. This includes low power lasers, high power lasers, and the Surface Navy Laser Weapons System.

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson, the 31st CNO. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Nathan Laird)

Organizational Changes

The document also pushes several organizational changes. The Navy expects to build 2nd Fleet to full operational capability by 2019 while both the 2nd and 3rd Fleets will be expeditionary, meaning “they will have the capability to command and control their forces while deployed forward.”

2nd Fleet was only reestablished earlier this year to conduct expeditionary operations and work with NATO allies in the North Atlantic, using ships based out of Norfolk, Va. (Defense Daily, Aug. 24).

The CNO also said to retain a capability for force generation while 2nd and 3rd Fleets are deployed Carrier Strike Group-4 and 15 will develop the capability to generate forces while reporting directly to the commanders of Fleet Forces Command and Pacific Fleet, respectively.

The document said the Navy will continue to mature the Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO) concept and develop a “Large Scale Exercise (LSE) 2020” to test the effectiveness of DMO.”

This exercise is directed to include a plan to incorporate feedback and advance concepts in following wargames, exercises, experiments, and demonstrate advances in subsequent LSE events.

The service will design and implement a “comprehensive operational architecture” to support the DMO.

Richardson said this will “provide accurate, timely, and analyzed information to units, warfighting groups, and fleets” like a tactical grid to connect distributed nodes, data storage ad processing power at the nodes, an overarching data strategy, and analytical tools like artificial intelligence and machine learning to support faster decisions.

Separately, Richardson wants to stand up a new three-star admiral as Director for Warfighting Development on the OPNAV staff, OPNAV N7.

The document said this office will be “responsible for coordinating and aligning the Navy’s education, experimentation, exercise, and analytic efforts. It will align leader development across accession sources.”