Navy Destroyer Modernization Program Could Cost $17B, Take Up to 2 Years Per Hull

ARLINGTON, Va. – The plan to upgrade the Navy’s fleet of Flight IIA Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyers with new radars and electronic warfare suites is estimated to cost about $17 billion and take anywhere from a year and a half to two years to upgrade each warship, USNI News has learned. The service has been […]

USS Pinckney (DDG-91) undocks SEWIP Block 3/SLQ-32(V)7 structures under either bridge wing on Aug 26, 2022. Screengrab of a General Dynamics NASSCO Video

ARLINGTON, Va. – The plan to upgrade the Navy’s fleet of Flight IIA Arleigh Burke guided-missile destroyers with new radars and electronic warfare suites is estimated to cost about $17 billion and take anywhere from a year and a half to two years to upgrade each warship, USNI News has learned.

The service has been working for the last several years to develop a plan to back fit about 20 Flight IIAs with the AN/SLQ-32(V)7 Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block 3, the AN/SPY-6 air and missile defense radar and the Baseline 10 version of the Aegis Combat System.

The DDG MOD 2.0 effort is starting with the first installation of SEWIP aboard USS Pinckney (DDG-91) during a $121 million modernization period currently underway at General Dynamics NASSCO shipyard in San Diego, Calif.

“We’re kind of in a little bit of a crawl, walk, run process,” commander of Naval Sea Systems Command Vice Adm. Bill Galinis told USNI News earlier this month.
“We’re installing SEWIP on Pinckney in San Diego right now and that effort is going very well.”

US Navy Graphic

Service officials have told industry that the cost estimation to do the installations aboard 20 ships is about $17 billion, three sources familiar with the conversations told USNI News.

A Navy official confirmed to USNI News that the estimated time to install all three major systems – the Raytheon-built radar, Northrop Grumman’s SEWIP Block 3 and Lockheed Martin’s Baseline 10 combat system, along with other modernizations – could run from 18 to 24 months.

SEWIP will be a major upgrade to the surface Navy’s electronic attack arsenal and service has said it’s key to defeating incoming attacks on surface ships.

“SEWIP Block 3 will include improvements for the electronic attack by providing integrated countermeasures against radio frequency-guided threats and extending frequency range coverage,” the Navy said in a statement 2015 after issuing a $267 million award to Northrop Grumman.

The Navy has been incrementally improving the electronic warfare systems on its destroyers over the 1970s era AN/SLQ-32 “Slick 32s,” with Block I awards to General Dynamics and Block II to Lockheed Martin.

SEWIP will be housed in a sponson between Pinckney’s existing SPY-1D(v) faces. A video released in August from NASSCO shows the destroyer undocking with white plastic over the areas where the system were installed.

NAVSEA told USNI News that the DDG Mod 2.0 program will use the Raytheon AN/SPY-6(v)4 radar, a version of the active electronically scanned array radar that the service is building its new Flight III guided-missile destroyers around.

SPY-6 is based on two-foot squared cubes that are linked together to create the radar. The version for the Flight IIIs is made up of 37 blocks per radar face, while the Flight IIA back fit will include 24 blocks.

AN/SLQ-32(V)7 Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program Block 3 array in 2019. Northrop Grumman Photo

“The engineering has already been done and matter of fact is what the shipbuilders will do is they’ll remove all the SPY-1 equipment off the ship. Our 24-[cube] array configuration has an adapter plate that goes on the array that actual bolt into the exact location where the SPY-1 was and there’s no weight issues at all from a topside perspective,” Raytheon SPY-6 program director Mike Mills told USNI News on this month.

It’s unclear when the Navy will move ahead with the back fit program in earnest beyond the SEWIP installations. The Navy is approaching DDG MOD 2.0 as a major acquisition program, Galinis told USNI News.

“What we’re really looking at doing is trying to manage [DDG MOD 2.0] more like an acquisition program where we determine the contractor that’s going to do that work, to provide that on a repeatable basis to drive learning, and to lower the costs and scheduling applications to the ship,” he said.

For their part, some in Congress have been skeptical of the program based on the Navy’s largely unsuccessful attempt to modernize its guided-missile cruise fleet.

“It is unclear to the [Senate Armed Services] committee how the Navy’s more ambitious near-term modernization plans for destroyers, including back fitting a SPY-6 radar and installing a larger electronic warfare system, could succeed if the Navy cannot manage the cruiser phased modernization program,” reads report language from the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

Australians, French Avoid AUKUS Talk in Paris Ministerial Meeting, Commit to More Pacific Operations

Australian and French defense ministers pledged to produce artillery shells to support Ukraine against the ongoing invasion from Russia in the first meeting between the two countries since Canberra walked away from a conventional submarine deal with French sub-builder DCNS. French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu and his Australian counterpart Richard Marles met in Paris Monday just […]

(left to right) Australian foreign minister Penny Wong, defense minister Richard Marles, French foreign minister Catherine Colonna and defense minister Sebastien Lecornu. Australian Government Photo

Australian and French defense ministers pledged to produce artillery shells to support Ukraine against the ongoing invasion from Russia in the first meeting between the two countries since Canberra walked away from a conventional submarine deal with French sub-builder DCNS.

French Defense Minister Sebastien Lecornu and his Australian counterpart Richard Marles met in Paris Monday just over two years after plans to replace the Royal Australian Navy’s Collins-class submarines with DCNS’ Barracuda diesel-electric attack boats were dropped in favor of a nuclear submarine agreement with the U.S. and the U.K., signed in 2021.

“It is the first time that our consultations have taken place at this level — in the so-called 2+2 format – since an incident I shall not come back to,” French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told reporters in a press conference with the defense ministers and Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong.

The meeting series was a reset in diplomatic relations following the rift between the two countries following the May election of Australian Prime Minster Anthony Albanese and the installation of a new national security team.

Rather than talk submarines, the defense ministers agreed to produce thousands of 155mm artillery shells for use by the Ukrainian military against the Russian invasion.

“There are actually complementarities between our defense industrial bases, which allows this to happen,” Marles told following the meeting. “It’s also true that we wanted to act together as a statement about how importantly Australia and France regard the support of Ukraine in the current conflict.”

Marles also fielded questions from the French press on if Australia would consider buying diesel-electric submarines. The questions were prompted by reports the Navy had closed four of its submarine repair dry docks at the Puget Sound Naval Shipyard & Intermediate Maintenance Facility in Bremerton, Wash., according to a report in Sky News.

“We’re obviously working closely with the United States and the United Kingdom to develop a nuclear-powered submarine capability and develop the optimal pathway to achieve that capability,” Richard Marles said.
“There are no plans for any interim conveniently powered submarine capability.”

The first outline for the plan to produce nuclear attack submarines for the Royal Australian Navy is due in March.

First steps under consideration for the partnership include basing a number of U.S. nuclear attack boats at the RAN’s submarine base near Perth in Western Australia. Those attack boats could be manned by a blended crew of RAN and U.S. sailors, several sources familiar with the ongoing discussions have told USNI News.

The timeline for the Australians to field their own nuclear attack boats is unclear, but U.S. officials have said those subs could be decades away.

In a joint statement, France and Australia committed to continuing to operate in the Pacific and join in international exercises in the region.

“Ministers reiterated their strong opposition to any coercion or destabilizing actions in the South China Sea, including the militarization of disputed features,” reads a joint statement from the meeting.
“They reaffirmed their intention to continue transits and deployments in the Indo-Pacific in accordance with international law.”

To that end, Paris and Canberra pledged greater military logistical support in the Pacific for each other’s forces. Additionally, Australia will take part in the Croix du Sud exercise series off of New Caledonia while France will join the Talisman Saber 2023 drills off of Australia, the Monday statement reads.

The statement also opposed “unilateral changes in the status quo” regarding Taiwanese sovereignty and the statement echoed concern with human rights abuses in Xinjiang and the “erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy, rights and freedoms.”

White House Nominates New Commanders for Pacific, Middle East Fleets

Two admirals currently serving in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff have been nominated to lead numbered fleets in the Middle East and the Pacific, the Department of Defense announced on Friday. Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, currently the vice director for Operations (J-3) on the Joint Staff, has been nominated for a third star and […]

Rear Adm. Fred Kacher (l), Rear Adm. George Wikoff (r)

Two admirals currently serving in the Pentagon on the Joint Staff have been nominated to lead numbered fleets in the Middle East and the Pacific, the Department of Defense announced on Friday.

Rear Adm. Fred Kacher, currently the vice director for Operations (J-3) on the Joint Staff, has been nominated for a third star and to command U.S. 7th Fleet based in Yokosuka, Japan, according to the announcement. He would succeed the current 7th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Karl Thomas.

Rear Adm. George Wikoff, current vice director of the Joint Staff, has been nominated for a promotion to vice admiral and to lead U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain. He would follow the current U.S. 5th Fleet commander, Vice Adm. Brad Cooper.

Kacher, a career surface warfare officer, has served on cruisers and destroyers and deployed to both the Atlantic and Pacific, according to his Navy bio. At sea, he commanded guided-missile destroyer USS Stockdale (DDG-106) and served as the executive officer of USS Barry (DDG-52). He commanded Destroyer Squadron 7 based in Singapore and commanded Expeditionary Strike Group 7. Leading ESG-7, Kacher sailed on four patrols aboard amphibious warship USS America (LHA-6). During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, America was underway often in the Western Pacific while carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN-71) was pier side in Guam coping with a COVID-19 outbreak.
He is a 1990 graduate of the Naval Academy.

Wikoff is a career fighter pilot with experience flying F-14 Tomcats and F/A-18s. He has deployed aboard the former aircraft carriers USS America (CV-66), and USS Kitty Hawk (CV-63). He commanded the “Fighting Checkmates” of Strike Fighter (VFA) Squadron 211 aboard USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the “Flying Eagles” of the fleet replacement squadron VFA-122. He also commanded Carrier Air Wing 3 that was embarked aboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75), according to his bio. Ashore his assignments include time as an instructor at Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (TOPGUN, battle director for the Combined Air and Space Operations Center in Qatar, chief of staff for U.S. Naval Forces Central Command as chief of staff in Bahrain, executive assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations and Joint Staff as deputy director for operations.
He is a 1990 graduate of Catholic University.

The following is the complete Jan. 27, 2023, announcement from the Pentagon.

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III announced that the president has made the following nominations:

Navy Rear Adm. Fred Kacher for appointment to the grade of vice admiral, with assignment as commander, Seventh Fleet, Yokosuka, Japan. Kacher is currently serving as vice director for Operations, J-3, Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.

Navy Rear Adm. George Wikoff for appointment to the grade of vice admiral, with assignment as commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command; commander, Fifth Fleet; and commander, Combined Maritime Forces, Manama, Bahrain. Wikoff is currently serving as vice director, Joint Staff, Washington, D.C.

Marines Buy 2 XQ-58A Valkyrie Drones for ‘Collaborative Killer’ Concept Testing

The Marine Corps used a new Pentagon program designed to quickly prototype systems for conflict in the Pacific to buy two unmanned aerial vehicles last month for $15.5 million, a service official told USNI News on Tuesday. The contract to Kratos for the pair of XQ-58A Valkyrie “loyal wingman” drones was bought through the Naval Air […]

The Kratos XQ-58 Valkyrie is an experimental stealthy unmanned combat aerial vehicle designed and built by Kratos. US Air Force Photo

The Marine Corps used a new Pentagon program designed to quickly prototype systems for conflict in the Pacific to buy two unmanned aerial vehicles last month for $15.5 million, a service official told USNI News on Tuesday.

The contract to Kratos for the pair of XQ-58A Valkyrie “loyal wingman” drones was bought through the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division under the Department of Defense Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve (RDER) and wasn’t part of the Navy’s ongoing Next Generation Air Dominance program, Marine Maj. Jay Hernandez told USNI News.

“This purchase is part of ongoing USMC efforts to look at future autonomous collaborative platforms and is not tied to the Next Generation Air Dominance Program, or any other Air Force or Navy programs. The base contract was awarded primarily for the baseline aircraft—a decision for future modifications and operations has not been made as these aircraft are for experimental use,” he said.
“This project officially started with the award of the base contract and will develop into experimentation in [Fiscal Year] 24.”

The Pentagon awarded the contract on Dec. 30, and the initial announcement did not say the purchase was for the Marine RDER effort. Naval Air Systems Command did not respond to a request for comment when asked by USNI News in December. Breaking Defense first reported the contract’s connection to the Marines on Monday.

The UASs should have “sensor and weapon system payloads to accomplish the penetrating affordable autonomous collaborative killer” mission, according to the DoD announcement.

The two drones are part of the RDER experimentation program that allows services to military items to quickly test concepts with systems already in use in other arenas with an emphasis on the needs of commands in the Indo-Pacific.

2018 Kratos data sheet on the XQ-58 UAVs

“RDER is really a whole of [Defense Department] effort that’s focused on the exploitation of advanced technologies in order to provide capabilities that address some of our most pressing or difficult military challenges,” Air Force Col. Corey Beaverson said at the National Defense Industrial Association’s Future Force 2022 conference in September, reported National Defense Magazine.
“The focus is going to be on long-range kill chains, long-range fires, command and control capabilities: how do we operate in a contested logistics environment? How do we defend forward fixed bases?”

The Valkyries were developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory to be a high-speed, low-cost aircraft developed for the AFRL’s Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft Technology (LCAAT) project.

“The LCAAT portfolio was established to break the escalating cost trajectory of tactically relevant aircraft and provide an unmanned escort or wingman aircraft alongside a crewed fighter aircraft in combat,” according to Kratos.

The XQ-58As can operate without a runway and carry a variety of payloads from weapons to communication relays at a range of about 3,000 nautical miles with a cruising speed of about 550 miles per hour, according to a 2018 datasheet from Kratos. In addition to launching from land, Kratos developed a version of the UAV that can be moved in a standard shipping container.

Both the Air Force and Marines are developing expeditionary aviation concepts for their respective services. The Air Force is refining its Agile Combat Employment – a concept that disperses combat air power across several expeditionary bases. The Marines have also experimented with the Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) that will be key to how it says it will fight in the island campaigns in modern conflict. The Marines have tested assembling remote airfields to support F-35s in austere locations.

The Marines are also experimenting with other unmanned vehicles like the MQ-9 Reaper UAV, unmanned ground vehicles and is developing its own large, unmanned surface vessel program.

Iranian Navy Flotilla Heading to Rio de Janeiro

A two-ship Iranian surface group is set to arrive today for a port visit in Rio de Janeiro as part of a round-the-world cruise, local and Iranian press reported this weekend. Frigate IRIS Dena and IRIS Makran, Iran’s largest warship, deployed from the Persian Gulf last year and has traveled east through the Indian Ocean, South China Sea, the […]

IRINS Makran. FARS Photo

A two-ship Iranian surface group is set to arrive today for a port visit in Rio de Janeiro as part of a round-the-world cruise, local and Iranian press reported this weekend.

Frigate IRIS Dena and IRIS Makran, Iran’s largest warship, deployed from the Persian Gulf last year and has traveled east through the Indian Ocean, South China Sea, the Pacific and around Cape Horn into the Atlantic, ship spotters told USNI News on Monday.

Brazilian defense writer Guilherme Wiltgen posted on social media that the two ships are set to arrive on Jan. 23 and depart on Jan. 30.

Brazil and Iran have an ongoing trade relationship. The port visit to Rio follows one that the pair of warships made to Jakarta, Indonesia on Nov. 5., as part of the ongoing deployment of Dena and Makran.

Earlier this month, Navy Commander Rear Admiral Shahram Irani said the Iranian Navy is set to operate in and around the Panama Cana, while Tehran would set up commands in the Indian and Pacific oceans.

“We have been present in all the strategic straits of the world and we have not been present in only two straits, in one of which we will be present this year and we are planning to be present in the Panama Canal,” Irani told Fars News this month.
“We have formed three oceanic commands, including the Indian Ocean Command, the Pacific Ocean Command, and the Atlantic Ocean Command. Today we are present in the Indian and Atlantic oceans and soon we will be present in the Pacific Ocean.

Behnam Ben Taleblu, an Iran expert at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, told USNI News last week that much of the rhetoric related to the deployment was to counter the ongoing civil unrest in Iran.

“If anything, the statement tells one more about Iranian intentions than capabilities, as the regime tries to project strength abroad when it is increasingly looking weak at home,” Taleblu said.

Iranian state media has played up the deployment and compared it to the 2021 Atlantic deployment of Makran and IRIS Sahand.

“The 86th flotilla is expected to break the record in the distance an Iranian flotilla has sailed in international waters. Last year, the 75th flotilla, including Sahand and Makran warships, set a new record of navigation for 250,000 kilometers after a trip to Saint Petersburg in Russia,” reported Tehran Times.

CNO Gilday: Next-Generation Air Dominance Will Come Ahead of DDG(X) Destroyer

ARLINGTON, Va. – First the fighter, then the destroyer and finally the submarine. That’s the order the Navy is set to introduce its next three major acquisition programs in the 2030s, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said last week. The Navy’s next large surface warship program – now known as DDG(X) – might […]

Notional Navy DDG(X) hull design. PEO Ships Image

ARLINGTON, Va. – First the fighter, then the destroyer and finally the submarine. That’s the order the Navy is set to introduce its next three major acquisition programs in the 2030s, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said last week.

The Navy’s next large surface warship program – now known as DDG(X) – might not be ready for a contract award until Fiscal Year 2030. The Navy’s Next Generation Air Dominance program will start acquisition in the late 2020s and will enter service in the 2030s. The so-called “pathfinder” program for NGAD development is the MQ-25A Stingray aerial tanker that will replace F/A-18F Super Hornet fighters as tankers after the Stingrays reach initial operational capability.

“We are on a path right now with MQ-25 on our aircraft carriers to go IOC in 2025. That is a significant capability in terms of extending the lethality of the wing, freeing up jets that would typically be used – strike fighters – to refuel and to turn that back to their original missions,” Gilday said during the Surface Navy Association’s annual symposium. “That, for us, is the pathfinder for Next-Generation Air Dominance. And that is a phased program through the late 2020s, into the 2030s, that we need to deliver for the sixth-generation manned and unmanned aircraft.”

As of last year, the next-generation destroyer program was set to buy the platform in Fiscal Year 2028 but will be pushed beyond the Future Years Defense Plan for the next budget into 2030.

Following his remarks, Gilday confirmed to reporters that NGAD would enter the fleet ahead of DDG(X) and the next-generation nuclear attack submarine, now known as SSN(X). He stressed that the development would happen simultaneously.

The Navy has said little about its plan for NGAD, classifying the program’s development costs in the last three budgets. The effort will be centered on a manned fighter known as F/A-XX that will act in concert with unmanned aircraft. The so-called family of systems will eventually replace the Super Hornets in the 2030s.

US Air Force F-X concept from 2018. Air Force Research Lab Image

For the DDG(X), the Navy will refine the requirements for the service’s next major warship ahead of the 2030 contract award and in the meantime continue to build Flight III Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile warships.

“My priority right now is making sure that we get the Flight III DDG lines humming. The latest signal from Congress has been three a year. What the industry has to do is prove to us that they can produce three ships a year. We’re not there yet,” Gilday told USNI News.
“We really need to get stability in the DDG Flight III line. And that’ll help us, I think, inform the transition timeline in the DDG(X). What I don’t want to do – as long as I’m in this job – is to introduce a new platform too quickly. That transition plan needs to be graceful.”

Later during the conference, Rear Adm. Fred Pyle, the director of surface warfare on the chief of naval operations’ staff (OPNAV N96), gave more details on the progress of DDG(X).

“With DDG(X), we have a good set of top-level requirements,” Pyle told reporters last week.
“We are focused on, with DDG(X), the high-end fight. [We need] the capabilities like larger missiles, longer range, hypersonic strike missiles, the ability to employ higher power directed energy, whether those are laser or microwave, and you need DDGs with the power, and the space, and the weight and the cooling to land that kind of capability.”

The DDG(X), as its planned now, will use the Integrated Power System from the Zumwalt-class guided-missile destroyer, the Baseline 10 Aegis combat system and the AN/SPY-6 air and missile defense radar.

“We’re in preliminary design. So, we have about … seven years to iterate on this, as we go from preliminary design to a more detailed design later in this decade,” Pyle said.

While the service continues to develop the hull that would wrap around the new systems, a study from the Congressional Budget Office published in November estimates the ships could cost up to $3.4 billion each.

“The new DDG(X)’s combat capabilities would be equivalent or superior to those of the DDG-51 Flight III; it would also have a larger hull, substantially more power, more stealth characteristics, and a greater capacity to accommodate the installation of new weapon systems and other capabilities in the future,” reads the report.
“The Navy has indicated that the initial design prescribes a displacement of 13,500 tons. If that is the case, then the Navy’s estimates imply that the DDG(X) would cost 10 percent more than the DDG-51 Flight III but would have a full-load displacement that is 40 percent greater.”

The Navy has started the early development work on the SSN(X) attack submarine and is set to start acquiring the boats in the mid-2030s.

“Navy officials have stated that the Navy wants the SSN(X) to be an ‘apex predator.’ More specifically, they have stated that the Navy wants the SSN(X) to incorporate the speed and payload [of] the Navy’s fast and heavily armed Seawolf (SSN-21) class SSN design, the acoustic quietness and sensors of the Virginia-class design, and the operational availability and service life of the Columbia-class design,” reads a December report from the Congressional Research Service.
“These requirements will likely result in an SSN(X) design that is larger than the original Virginia-class design, which has a submerged displacement of about 7,800 tons, and possibly larger than the original SSN-21 design, which has a submerged displacement of 9,138 tons.”

BREAKING: Navy Training Aircraft Crashes in Alabama, Pilots Ejected Safely

A Navy training aircraft crashed in Alabama Tuesday morning, a service spokesperson told USNI News on Tuesday. The two-seat T-6B Texan II flew from Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla., and went down near Gateswood, Ala., — about 45 miles away, a spokesperson confirmed to USNI News. “At approximately 10:50 a.m. CST, two pilots ejected […]

The last T-6B Texan II in production arrives at Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi on Feb. 1, 2018. US Navy Photo

A Navy training aircraft crashed in Alabama Tuesday morning, a service spokesperson told USNI News on Tuesday.

The two-seat T-6B Texan II flew from Naval Air Station Whiting Field, Fla., and went down near Gateswood, Ala., — about 45 miles away, a spokesperson confirmed to USNI News.

“At approximately 10:50 a.m. CST, two pilots ejected from a T-6B Texan II, assigned to Training Air Wing 5, in the vicinity of Barin Naval Outlying Field near Foley, Ala.,” the Navy said in a statement.
“The pilots successfully ejected from the aircraft and are in the process of receiving medical attention for potential injuries. No other injuries have been reported at this time. The cause of the incident is under investigation.”

TV station WKRG said local emergency services were called to assist.

“NAS Whiting Field has made contact with the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency, which has responded to the scene, along with the Baldwin County Sheriff’s Office, Gateswood Volunteer Fire Department, and Robertsdale Fire Department,” reported the television station.

The T-6B Texan II is a tandem-seat, turboprop trainer used to train Navy and Marine Corps pilots in flight school.

“There are currently 245 Navy T-6Bs serving the Chief of Naval Air Training at NAS Whiting Field and NAS Corpus Christi, Texas,” according to the service.

In 2020, a Navy and a Coast Guard aviator died in a T-6B crash near Pensacola, Fla.

Fleet Forces Studying ‘Plug and Play’ Destroyers in New Carrier Strike Group Concept

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. Fleet Forces is rethinking how to deploy carrier strike groups by changing how it would train and maintain its guided-missile destroyers, commander Adm. Daryl Caudle said on Wednesday. The study is looking at the efficiencies Fleet Forces could find by deploying formations to the Atlantic and removing the strike group’s guided-missile […]

USS Milius (DDG-69) sails alongside U.S., Japanese Maritime Self-defense Force and Royal Australian Navy ships as seen from USS Chancellorsville (CG-62) in the Philippine Sea on Nov. 20, 2022. US Navy Photo

ARLINGTON, Va. – U.S. Fleet Forces is rethinking how to deploy carrier strike groups by changing how it would train and maintain its guided-missile destroyers, commander Adm. Daryl Caudle said on Wednesday.

The study is looking at the efficiencies Fleet Forces could find by deploying formations to the Atlantic and removing the strike group’s guided-missile destroyers from operating in lockstep with the capital ship, Caudle said in a speech during the Surface Navy Association symposium on Wednesday.

“Fleet commanders and combatant commanders require command elements that can seamlessly integrate into the battlespace, into existing communications and data networks, and into existing battle rhythms without skipping a beat,” he said.

“This requires our surface combatants to be much more plug-and-play inherently. Our ships should not have to work up together to fight effectively together.”

USS Bainbridge (DDG-96) transits alongside USS Harry S. Truman (CVN-75) on July 3, 2022. US Navy Photo

Now, the strike group – a guided-missile cruiser, an air wing and up to five guided-missile destroyers – moves together through the Navy’s Optimized Fleet Response Plan. The rigid 36-month-long maintenance, training and deployment was introduced in 2014 to maximize the surge capacity of the Navy’s carrier strike groups, but has struggled to keep pace with the demand for forces.

Caudle’s idea, which Fleet Force’s readiness officer Rear Adm. Robert Westendorf is now studying, would break off the destroyers from the OFRP cycle for their own training and deployment regime. Notionally, under the new concept the carrier would keep a guided-missile cruiser that would serve as the air defense commander for the strike group, an oiler for resupply and take on destroyers as needed.

“Each surface ship would be trained and certified on their pre-determined set of warfare area competencies beyond basic operations, enabling them to deploy independently and plug into a strike group seamlessly at the point of need,” he said in his speech.
“In conflict, this will be absolutely necessary. So, why aren’t we building our force to mirror that today – especially given the distributed and dispersed nature of strike group operations we currently see in practice in each theater already?”

Following the speech, he told reporters that while the entire strike group training together at once is still the ideal scenario, advances in technology like live, virtual, constructive (LVC) training make it possible to tailor a training package that would make a “plug and play” destroyer concept possible.

USS Decatur (DDG-73) steams alongside the aircraft carrier USS Nimitz (CVN-68) during a refueling-at-sea on Dec. 19, 2022. US Navy Photo

“I want our networks to be able to work regardless if you work up together. I want us to build a plug-and-play regardless if you work together. If a ship is ready to go to U.S. 6th Fleet, we send it to 6th Fleet. When it’s over there and it needs to plug into a strike group, then it just plugs into the strike group. By decoupling the destroyer and cruiser OFRP from the CVN OFRP I think I can deliver more deployed forces to the European theater and model the way we’ll actually fight in the future.”

The plug-and-play study follows the Navy’s Large Scale Exercise 2021, which used LVC tools that allowed decisions made by sailors on ships at the pier Norfolk to affect a wargame consisting of 25 ships in the Atlantic and Pacific. The exercise tested the Navy’s Distributed Maritime Operations concept and the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations and Littoral Operations in a Contested Environment concepts.

Those LVC lessons can now get applied to a specific training regime for guided-missile destroyers that would be able to train on their own like they were in a strike group.

“I can immerse that unit by itself into whatever environment I want … including a virtual carrier, the number of any kind of [enemy threats] that I want,” he told reporters.
“That technology has allowed me to get all the things that we have garnered through working up as a strike group.”

SECNAV: New Virginia Attack Boat Contracts Still Stalled Over Missile Insurance Issue; Lockheed, Northrop Clear Hypersonic Deal with Navy

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Navy and General Dynamics are still at an impasse over an insurance spat that has resulted in the 11-month delay to contracts for two Virginia-class attack submarines, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro told USNI News on Wednesday. The service and the submarine builder disagree on the share of responsibility […]

Rendering of Block V Virginia-class submarine with Virginia Payload Module. General Dynamics Electric Boat Image

ARLINGTON, Va. – The Navy and General Dynamics are still at an impasse over an insurance spat that has resulted in the 11-month delay to contracts for two Virginia-class attack submarines, Secretary of the Navy Carlos Del Toro told USNI News on Wednesday.

The service and the submarine builder disagree on the share of responsibility in the event of an accident occurring either during construction or operations aboard attack boats that field Tomahawk Land Attack Missiles. Until 2018, the Navy had financially protected General Dynamics Electric Boat from liability in the event of a Tomahawk accident in new submarine construction under an unusually high-risk provision due to its higher energy propellant.

The Navy says that EB should cover the risk, while General Dynamics has said they are unable to secure an insurance policy that would cover any accidents with high-energy propellant in the missiles that could cost billions in damages and be an existential risk for the company, several sources familiar with the negotiations have told USNI News.

“The American taxpayers have the right that when a company does something that is willful and wrong … and it results in a catastrophic event, that they not be the ones to be held accountable, that industry be held accountable for that. That’s my responsibility to the American taxpayer, as a U.S. government official,” Del Toro told reporters during a press roundtable at the Surface Navy Association symposium.
“I’m going to hold the ground and I’m willing to compromise on some things. I’m not willing to compromise on everything. They’re going to have to come to the table with reasonable language that the American taxpayer can accommodate on that ground.”

A spokesman for General Dynamics declined to comment on the contract dispute when contacted by USNI News.

Del Toro would not elaborate on the specific divisions between EB and his office when asked by USNI News.

“I’m not going to go into the details of what the negotiation is exactly over. What I’m saying is, you need to come back with reasonable language that is acceptable to the American taxpayer and that myself and the Secretary of Defense and everybody else is comfortable with before we sign the agreement,” he said.
“We continue to have those discussions and I just spoke to one of their senior VPs and basically encourage them to come to the table with language and compromises that make sense for the U.S. government.”

The split between the service and the shipbuilder has stalled the advance procurement contracts for two Block V Virginia-attack boat that were set to start in Fiscal Year 2024 and are now almost a year late, several sources confirmed to USNI News over the last month.

The lag in the contracts for the submarines and indemnification issues from Tomahawks and the emerging hypersonic missiles came up in the Fiscal Year 2023 defense policy bill.

“We remain concerned with the lack of resolution regarding open indemnification requests related to the Conventional Prompt Strike program, other weapons programs, and the associated planned employment platforms. We note these delays could lead to significant delivery delays for both Navy and Army hypersonic weapons programs, the next block of Virginia-class submarines, and other programs,” reads the explanatory statement accompanying the compromise Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act.

In terms of hypersonic missiles, which will be fielded on attack boats with the Virginia Payload Module and the Zumwalt-class guided missile destroyers, the Navy signed an indemnification agreement on Tuesday with Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin, Del Toro told USNI News.

“Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman came to the table in a reasonable way and we came to an agreement on what the language should be,” he said.
“So, there’s no reason why General Dynamics can’t do the same.”

USNI News Interview: Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Linda Fagan

WASHINGTON, D.C., – The new Coast Guard commandant has a message for the country – she’s hiring. The Coast Guard is feeling an acute recruiting crunch across both officer and enlisted ranks, so reforming the service workforce is at the top of Adm. Linda Fagan’s agenda and the centerpiece of the Coast Guard’s latest strategy […]

Adm. Linda Fagan in front of the Coast Guard Cutter Eagle in New London, CT, Aug 19, 2022. US Coast Guard Photo

WASHINGTON, D.C., – The new Coast Guard commandant has a message for the country – she’s hiring.

The Coast Guard is feeling an acute recruiting crunch across both officer and enlisted ranks, so reforming the service workforce is at the top of Adm. Linda Fagan’s agenda and the centerpiece of the Coast Guard’s latest strategy that rolled out in October.

“As we come out of COVID, there’s been a coming together of a number of different challenges that are creating the recruiting challenge that we are facing [not only] as a Coast Guard, but frankly the entire U.S. workforce,” Fagan told USNI News in a Dec. 29 interview.
“In our case, it’s a shrinking propensity of people with an interest to serve. A shrinking group of people that physically qualify to serve, COVID [and] the workforce has strong feelings with regard to conditions of work. All that kind of coalesces into a recruiting challenge for the force.”

Since 2019, the Coast Guard has fallen short of its goals for getting new active-duty members. In 2022, the service recruited 2,793 service members out of a goal of 4,200. That’s a little over 66.5 percent of its annual objective.

With an active-duty total of about 42,000 – fewer than the 51,000 employees of the New York Police Department – the Coast Guard has little personnel margin to play with.

Much of the focus of the service in the last decade has been on its major acquisition programs – like the $10 billion, 25-hull Heritage-class Offshore Patrol Cutter program and the three-hull, $2.7 billion icebreaking Polar Security Cutter program. Now, with an acquisition path for its cutter fleet laid out for the foreseeable future, Fagan wants to put more attention on fixing recruiting.

“My predecessors have done the hard work to get the support that we need for the major acquisitions that we’ve got going on now … We’re on budget for them moving forward. The timelines aren’t in all cases what we’d hoped they would be, but we’re moving forward with clarity as an organization,” she said.
“That does free some of my time and commitment to focus on workforce. The reality is those acquisitions are interesting, but they do not contribute to the operational success of the organization without the people that we need to operate those assets.”

Making it Easier to Join

Graduates from recruit company X-202 complete basic training at U.S. Coast Guard Training Center Cape May, N.J., Nov. 18, 2022. US Coast Guard Photo

In 2022, the Navy raised the age of enlistment to 42 and eliminated its high-year tenure requirement. That was after the Coast Guard had already taken those steps to expand potential recruits and improve retention. Pentagon officials have closely monitored the Coast Guard’s push to make it easier to join.

A major barrier is the up-or-out system of the American military – those who don’t promote to the next rank are pushed out of the service, Fagan said.

“It’s quite rigid on the officer side, a little less rigid on the enlisted side. But still, the expectation is you’re going to come in, go to boot camp. We’ll send you down into the fleet for a year, a year and a half, then you’ll go to ‘A’ school, get your technical training and then start to move forward as a petty officer. That system does not serve us well,” Fagan said.
“We’re looking for opportunities to lateral people in. Let’s say you’re an aircraft mechanic, and you’re federally certified aircraft mechanic, taking that civilian credential and bringing you into the services as an E-4 or E-5 with a four-year contract right onto a hangar deck is an example of an opportunity we’re looking to create.”

For example, the service has experimented with a pilot program with both cooks and health services technicians to get experienced civilians into the service quickly.

“We’ve had good success out in [California] with medical petty officers and cooks. People have enlisted in the Coast Guard, they arrive out there to the ‘A’ school. In some cases, they’re paramedics, others, they’re credentialed from the Culinary Institute of America. The team is then assessing what skills they actually have. In some cases, they’ve got 75 or 80 percent of the skills that we would have taught them in an 18-week program. They customize a program of two to three weeks to get them current with Coast Guard policy, say around the medical rating, and work them in the clinic out there for two weeks and bam – they’re out in the fleet,” Fagan said.

Adm. Linda Fagan, 27th commandant of the Coast Guard, poses for a photo with the son of Cmdr. Piero Pecora, commanding officer of CGC Tahoma (WMEC 908) after a change of homeport ceremony at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, on August 19, 2022. US Coast Guard Photo

“Let’s acknowledge the experience in technical credentials that people may be joining the Coast Guard with, as a way to accelerate that expertise into the petty officer ranks and into the technical ranks that we need. How much of that do we do? I don’t know the answer. I tell the team we’re not going to 100 percent lateral everybody in but we’re not going to stay at zero. We’re piloting that and stepping forward as a way to just increase opportunity for individuals who see themselves serving,” she said.

Following a RAND study that resulted in changes like expanding childcare options and making it easier for women to serve on smaller cutters, Fagan has tasked the service with looking for other ways to eliminate barriers to staying in the service.

“Whether it’s that you’re forced to move every three to four years, this up or out system, assumptions around assignments and what a successful career looks like… We’re unpacking a lot of that … Eliminating barriers is just good for the workforce. It makes it easier for everyone to serve honorably and support their families. We recruit an individual, we retain families.”

Acquisition

USCGC Argus (WMSM-915). Eastern Shipbuilding Group Photo

The service’s two highest-priority acquisitions are progressing along in the Gulf Coast. The first OPC Argus (WMSM-915) is under construction at Eastern Shipbuilding in Panama City, Fla., with three more planned from the yard. The service awarded a second phase contract to Austal USA in Mobile, Ala., to build the fifth through 10th OPCs, a decision that prompted a lawsuit from Eastern. Fagan didn’t address the ongoing legal tussle but praised the program.

“Having been down to visit Argus at Eastern, it is an exceptional ship, the quality of the workmanship. We’re really excited about bringing those into the fleet. The ships that they’re replacing the [Medium Endurance Cutters] are 50 plus years old,” she said.

Fagan stressed the importance of nailing the design for the Polar Security Cutter under construction at Bollinger Mississippi Shipbuilding — the former Halter Marine Shipyard — in Pascagoula.

“The key to successful shipbuilding is don’t get ahead of your detailed design. We’re working hard to get there so that we can start cutting big pieces of thick steel and putting the ship together. These are super complex ships,” she told USNI News after producing two thick slugs of hardened steel stacked six inches high to illustrate the thickness of an ice breaker’s hull.
“For OPC it takes 17 units to put that ship together. This ship will be 85 units, which just speaks to the density and complexity [of the cutter].”

In terms of aviation, the service is moving to phase out its fleet of MH-65 Dolphin helicopters – which entered the service in 1985 – in favor of a fleet of MH-60 Jayhawk helicopters based on the same airframe used by both the Army and Navy.

Maritime Security Response Team (MSRT) members conduct fast-roping training exercises while aboard the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Bertholf (WMSL 750), in the South Pacific Ocean, Sept. 24, 2022. US Coast Guard Photo

“We are accelerating into a single fleet of H-60s. It’s interesting, I was down at our aviation logistics center in Elizabeth City, seeing what we’re doing to ensure that those [H-65s] continue to stay airworthy and safe, as they were operating those longer than any, any other service has,” Fagan said.
“It is impressive, the work that they’re doing to ensure the airworthiness of the 65. But the vision for the future is a single fleet of tail-fold, blade-fold 60s, so shipboard capable. The 60s just have got much longer range and more lift. It’s really right now what we’re focused in our rotary wing fleet.”

The Coast Guard has used unmanned platforms like ScanEagle aboard its cutters and is considering future applications. But more importantly, Fagan wants to better use the data the service has already collected as part of the competitive edge tenant in the latest service strategy.

Coast Guard members offload MH-65 Dolphin helicopters from an Air Force C-17 aircraft at Coast Guard Air Station Miami in Opa Locka, Fla., Sept. 11, 2017. Two of the Coast Guard Air Station Miami helicopters were partially disassembled and transported from Mobile, Ala., following Hurricane Irma. (U.S. Coast Guard photo, by Petty Officer 1st Class Mark Barney.)

“We’re sitting on tons and tons of data, but it’s not warehoused in a way that’s particularly useful for us to use AI, use machine learning for us to understand that. ‘Hey, here’s a blind spot. and this is a sensor and an unmanned system that would fill that for us.’ We’re working with a sense of urgency to get after the governance in the warehousing of data so we can begin to take advantage of the data we’ve already got. And then that will help us with the clarity on unmanned systems,” she said.
“For me, the success looks like you’ve gotten to the point where you’ve got predictive analytics in place … that you understand – having run through 20 years of counternarcotics seizures in the Eastern Pacific – what time of day, what time of the month and where you’re most likely to find the next low-profile [narcotics] vessel … It’s kind of the unfun behind-the-scenes work, but it’s critical so that we can begin to illuminate some of the rest of that.”

International Operations

Sentinel-class fast response cutter USCGC Oliver Henry (WPC-1140) crew arrives in Port Moresby for a port visit on Aug. 23, 2022. US Coast Guard Photo

In addition to its enduring counter-narcotics operations in U.S. Southern Command, the Coast Guard has been expanding operations in the Western Pacific largely through deployments of its Legend-class National Security Cutter fleet and in the Middle East with six Fast Response Cutters based in Bahrain, co-located with the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

In U.S. Central Command, the Coast Guard was initially slated to help provide protection for two Iraqi oil terminals in the west part of the Persian Gulf 20 years ago, but those missions have expanded.

“There are now six Fast Response Cutters in Bahrain. They’re 154 feet [long], incredibly capable, state-of-the-art [and] technically sophisticated… There’s something much more than the patrol boat that they replaced, but they are not a medium endurance cutter,” Fagan said.
“That is a challenging part of the world with regard to the many neighboring countries there. We’ve had some weapons interdictions. We’ve had some counter-narcotics interdictions and we continue to make sure that those crews are ready, working in support of the fleet commander.”

In the Pacific, the Coast Guard is expanding partnerships with island nations to help provide support to contest illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing.

“At its most basic, it’s theft of natural resources. It is nation-state actors taking advantage of a state’s inability to protect their own sovereignty,” she said.

A boarding team from USCGC Legare (WMEC-912) conducts a boarding in support of a counter-narcotics patrol in the Eastern Pacific Ocean on Feb. 22, 2022. US Coast Guard Photo

In one example from 2021, a National Security Cutter took on a local official from Fiji that gave the cutter the authority to interdict illegal fishing in their territorial waters.

“As it pertains to IUU fishing, we provide the platform and the access and the ride. They bring their authorities on board,” she said.
“It’s just a nice way to sort of package authority and capabilities.”

The Coast Guard is looking at more agreements to take on ship riders in the Pacific to expand the legal authority to interdict illegal activity.

The service has cutters based in Hawaii and Guam and is studying expanding that footprint to other areas.

“We are a global Coast Guard and how do you force posture to ensure that you’re in the right areas, that you’re able to support the crews that you have and you’re providing relevance and support,” she said.
“Those are all healthy, ongoing conversations.”

Getting the Word Out

Adm. Linda Fagan, commandant, U.S. Coast Guard speaks during a ceremony at Naval Station Newport, Rhode Island, August 19, 2022. US Coast Guard Photo

With a portfolio that touches myriad of realms, high among concerns with leadership is simply explaining the Coast Guard to future service members, Fagan said.

“One of the big challenges we have as a service is people don’t know who we are. If you live along the East Coast of the United States – I grew up in the Boston area – the Coast Guard’s everywhere. If you’re a boater you see us everywhere. If you live down in Florida and the Gulf Coast of the U.S., you know what we do for hurricane response. You’re a fisherman in Alaska, you know who we are. There are pockets in the country where the Coast Guard is well-known and understood by the population,” Fagan said.
“But there’s a much broader group of Americans out there that don’t understand who the Coast Guard is.”

While it’s a military service, the Coast Guard falls under the Department of Homeland Security and has a complex role as a search and rescue service, a regulatory agency and a law enforcement entity that makes it difficult to explain even to Fagan’s peers in the Pentagon and the geographical combatant commands what the service does.

“We’re also talking about what does the marketing strategy look like to help people understand, ‘hey, this is how the Coast Guard contributes to your overall well-being, your economic prosperity, your national security and some of the mission space that we do.’ That’s not just counter-narcotics. That’s not just search and rescue’,” Fagan said.

The service is now rethinking how it will sell itself to potential recruits as it retools its marketing plan, Fagan said.

“I’d end with ‘Hey, we’re hiring’,” she said.