Each panelist was given time to discuss key and important programs that will define the U.S. Navy’s (USN) and U.S. Coast Guard’s (USCG) future surface ship force.
The “Building the Future Force Panel” consisted of Vice Admiral (VADM) William Galinis, USN, Commander, Naval Sea Systems Command; Mr. Tom Rivers, Executive Director, Amphibious, Auxiliary, and Sealift Ships, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships; Rear Admiral RDML Chad Jacoby, USCG, Director of Acquisition Programs and Program Executive Officer; Rear Admiral Casey Moton, USN, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Systems and Small Combatants; and Mr. Bob Shevock, Executive Director, Program Executive Officer for Integrated Warfare Systems.
Mr. Bob Shevock, Executive Director, Program Executive Officer for Integrated Warfare Systems, started by stating that putting sensors on new ships that have already been put on existing ships increases commonality and technological maturity and cuts down on technological risks, costs, and a repeat of what happened with the highly complex and over budget Ford-class nuclear-powered aircraft carriers and the stealthy Zumwalt-class destroyers. By using the same sensor technology, the U.S. Navy can scale it up or down depending on the size and cost of the ship. It is cutting edge technology, Mr. Shevock said, but it is also common parts and common technology. Thus, the Integrated Combat System (ICS) is taking the best of the sensor technology and incorporating it into other ships to have a common sensor and combat system and therefore ICS adds agility. Mr. Shevock said that the ICS interface will look the same across the U.S. Navy’s ships similar to iPhone apps that look the same across different iPhones.
Mr. Shevock addressed a question on if enemy hypersonic missiles will require the use of ship railguns, lasers, and Close-in Weapon Systems (CIWS) for defense. Mr. Shevock said not really for railguns, but missiles and lasers (lasers as they mature) will be required for anti-hypersonic missile ship defense, and the U.S. Navy needs to rely on ship sensors and overhead sensors (i.e.: satellites) to provide advance warning to these multitude of weapons (hence the benefits of the Integrated Combat System).
The panel responded to a question on what role Artificial Intelligence (AI) will have in the U.S. Navy. Rear Admiral Casey Moton, USN, replied, “We are not the AI PEO, but it applies to some specific things that we are doing. We have to be careful not to overcontrol it [AI]. I think it is going to permeate throughout the force and it’s going to be a game changer in everything. We have to be careful to find that balance and not control it too much and be careful with ethics and bias.” RDML Moton cited that AI can tie into the design of the systems and Mr. Tom Rivers agreed, alluding that AI can help in ships and ship design such as additive manufacturing. Mr. Bob Shevock mentioned that AI is good for Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) because BMD with AI happens so fast and utilizes multiple sensors. When there are multiple missiles in the air, the Navy wants the allied ships to talk to each other (with AI such as the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC)). “There is a lot of bang-for-the-buck where we can get that integration.” And that is just one ship [so when you have multiple ships, it is a force multiplier]. AI can do things Humans can’t, noted Shevock. VADM William Galinis noted that AI can help with ship design and get more predictive analysis and Fleet sustainment metrics and availability.
The U.S. Coast Guard Rear Admiral Discusses Past Summer Encounters and the Future Force
Rear Admiral (RDML) Chad Jacoby, USCG, Director of Acquisition Programs and Program Executive Officer said that the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter (USCGC) Polar Star, America’s only heavy Polar-class icebreaker is 46 years old in January 2022, so getting the new Polar Security Cutter (PSC) class designed, scheduled, managed, and built correctly is important.
“We’re building our tenth and eleventh National Security Cutter. We’re building our 47th through 64th Fast Response Cutter; our first three Offshore Patrol Cutters, and we’re designing a fleet of Polar Security Cutters at about 23,000 tons, [an] ice-capable vessel, and then contracting for waterways commerce cutters for inland operations. We work closely with the [U.S.] Navy on these acquisitions so that means this updated [USCG] fleet is going to carry 49 common systems across Coast Guard assets and Navy assets like gun weapons systems, communication systems, [and] sensors.”
—Rear Admiral Chad Jacoby, USCG, Director of Acquisition Programs and Program Executive Officer
Rear Admiral Chad Jacoby, USCG, showed a slide of USCG cutter engagement during the past Summer .
Photos Number One and Two show a National Security Cutter (NSC) transiting the Russian declared Northern Sea Route “Sometimes we shadow Russian vessels and sometimes we do exercises with Russian vessels,” said RDML Jacoby. Photo Number Three shows the Chinese government’s Xue long 2 ice-capable research vessel operating near our [Alaska’s] territorial waters. Photo Number Four is the USCGC’s medium Arctic icebreaker, Healy, patrolling the maritime boundary line before sailing the Northwest passage and circumnavigating North America in the Summer of 2021. Photos Numbers Five, Six, and Seven show the USCG sailing and working with the Canadian Coast Guard, the Canadian Navy, and Japanese naval force ships. Photo Number Eight shows a Chinese Navy’s surface action group that conducted Freedom of Navigation Operations through the straits of the Alaskan Aleutian Islands during the Summer of 2021. The U.S. Coast Guard sent two National Security Cutters (NSC) to shadow the Chinese group for three days. RDML Jacoby said that this single slide shows the importance of financing and delivering the National Security Cutters and Offshore Patrol Cutters for the future USCG large cutter force.
RDML Jacoby fielded a question on if the USCG will field more unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). Yes, the USCG is working with UAVs, but the USCG hasn’t yet decided on if it wants UAVs that are contracted out or “USCG owned” and the USCG hasn’t made that decision yet, RDML Jacoby said.
PEO Ships and the Future U.S. Navy Surface Battle Force
Mr. Tom Rivers, Executive Director, Amphibious, Auxiliary, and Sealift Ships, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships said that 45 Battle Force Ships are under construction, 30 connectors, and over 500 boats or crafts under construction (see top slide under main title).
“We have a lot of work on our plate right now, and even more on the horizon.”
— Mr. Tom Rivers, Executive Director, Amphibious, Auxiliary, and Sealift Ships, Program Executive Office (PEO) Ships
Mr. Rivers gave an overview of what is on PEO Ships’ plate. Rivers said that the USCG’s Polar Security Cutter is a Joint Program Office with the Navy and that future Navy submarines may go joint too.
Landing Platform Docks
Mr. Rivers also mentioned the amphibious Landing Platform Docks (LPD) 28 and 29. LPD 28 was launched on March 28, 2020, and LPD 29 that was launched on January 5, 2022. Also, the first Sea to Shore Connector (SSC) hovercraft was delivered to the Navy.
DDG 51 Flight III
The first Aegis Arleigh Burke-class DDG 51 Flight III destroyer is due to be delivered in FY2023. The next-generation destroyer, DDG(X) will use the commonality of the Flight III DDGs and DDG(X) is expected to still be in service and relevant into the 2060s.
Light Amphibious Warship (LAW)
NAVSEA also awarded an additional design efforts contract for the Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) to the six qualified LAW contenders.
Next Generation Logistics Ship (NGLS)
PEO Ships is also conducting new studies for the Next Generation Logistics Ship (called NGLS) and these studies will address ship design tradeoffs and tradeoffs between capability and affordability. “NGLS ships are envisioned to be smaller and less vulnerable while operating near contested environments sustaining afloat surface action groups and assure expeditionary advanced bases with the requirements being to re-arm, resupply, and refuel,” said Rivers.
New Submarine Tender AS(X)
AS(X), or the new submarine tender, was also mentioned by Mr. Tom Rivers. “The [AS(X)] mission is to conduct forward-based tending, resupply, and intermediate level repair operations on assigned submarines while at anchor or at port with a Request for Proposal for industry design studies. I’m not going to say much more about that program at this point in time.”
On-time delivery is top priority
The on-time delivery of combat ships will continue to be a top priority for PEO Ships, stressed Rivers. Mr. Rivers responded to a question regarding the Light Amphibious Warship (LAW) program status by saying that PEO Ships is working with LAW industry partners to refine the Requirements and that the LAW’s Phase II contract was awarded for different parent designs for NAVSEA PEO Ships to review and learn from these new LAW designs. “We’re looking to make sure that we understand what we want to buy first before we identify how that’s going to impact the industrial base. Depending on the quantities and how quickly we want to field that asset, that will determine how big of an industrial base impact that will have if it’s one shipyard or more than one shipyard,” said Rivers on building the LAW.
Commonality between current and future platforms
Another question on how to address challenges of new technologies that plagued the Zumwalt destroyers and Ford-class aircraft carriers produced a panel response. Mr. Tom Rivers said that with the next-generation destroyer, DDG(X), and the Constellation-class frigate, the commonality of technology is the key. The DDG(X) will share commonality with DDG 51 Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers and the Frigate, and enlarging the DDG(X) hull will provide a future capacity option for the next 50 years. VADM William Galinis and Rear Admiral Casey Moton said that current and future U.S. Navy ships will have evolving technologies versus radical change such as used on the Zumwalts. Some ships such as the DDG 51 and the new Frigate have land-based system test sites because manned ships don’t have prototype opportunities such as unmanned vessels. The new Frigate will use technology systems already in existence.
Future Hospital Ships
Mr. Rivers answered a question on the potential replacement for the aging T-AH Comfort and Mercy Hospital ships saying that both ships are undergoing major overhauls to upgrade their systems to keep them in the Fleet a little longer while plans to replace them are in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) 14 and 15 will bring Role 2, but not Role 3 medical capability, as these two EPFs will have different medical capabilities than the Hospital ships. EPF 14 and 15 will act as the interim until the U.S. Navy determines what it really needs as a Hospital Ship replacement in the long-term based on future Requirement needs.
U.S. Navy’s Unmanned Systems and Small Combatants, Frigate, and LCS Mission Modules
Rear Admiral Casey Moton, USN, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Systems and Small Combatants said that the Constellation-class future frigate (FFG 62) and unmanned combat ships have accomplished significant milestones in 2021. FFG 62, or “Frigate” as RDML Moton called it, is the pinnacle program and of key importance to the Navy’s future surface fleet. Frigate requirements remain stable and controlled, and the U.S. Navy and industry partners in the next few months will do critical design reviews on Frigate. Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Philadelphia will be FFG 62’s land-based testing site for its future systems. Frigate will have a Baseline 10 Aegis combat system similar to DDG 51 Flight III destroyers. RDML Moton believes that Frigate can be a U.S. export ship if the Navy decides to choose to do so in the future.
“Frigate will have [an] installed condition-based maintenance system, and the ship’s specifications have a focus on reliability and maintainability, addressing lessons of the past [such as building Zumwalt destroyers].”
—Rear Admiral Casey Moton, USN, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Systems and Small Combatants
Regarding the Littoral Combat Ships (LCS), RDML Moton offered a brief summary of the two Mission Module packages that are currently in development.
The LCS’s Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Mission Module was tested as Initial Operating Capability (IOC) in 2021 and in 2022 the U.S. Navy will test a mine hunting sonar towed off an unmanned surface vessel (USV) to demonstrate the entire mission package together.
For the LCS’s Anti-Submarine (ASW) Mission Module, the U.S. Navy and Raytheon are working together to address hydrodynamic issues on the variable depth sonar.
RDML Casey Moton concluded that USVs are focused on prototyping and maturing the fundamentals before any full-scale production. The two Sea Hunter drones have been regularly testing alongside the Fleet. Finally, two more Large Unmanned Surface Vessels (LUSV) are in production and the first Medium Unmanned Surface Vessel (MUSV) is in production.
The Biggest Hurdles to the U.S. Navy’s Shipbuilding Plans
Finally, the panel answered a question as to what are the largest impediments to the U.S. Navy’s shipbuilding plans. Mr. Shevock, PEO Integrated Warfare Systems noted, “We’re getting a lot of mileage with common systems,” and said that ICS is partnering with major Defense partners to overcome such hurdles. RDML Chad Jacoby, USCG, mentioned that supply chain issues have been impacted due to COVID-19 and that the naval forces and industry are seeing COVID’s impact across all of the supply chain. Furthermore, there are limitations to moving the funds around to programs each fiscal year. Mr. Tom Rivers, PEO Ships, surmised that every phase of the shipbuilding process has challenges, but one lesson PEO Ships learned is to bring industry in early. “Making smart steps instead of big leaps,” said Rivers, who also said that PEO Ships needs to ensure that the full design is in place before starting the production process. In addition, the U.S. Navy has to keep the critical supply chain vendors busy. RDML Casey Moton USN, spoke that a Shipbuilding plan is required and needs to be stable, ready, and mature with a good schedule and a good baseline. RDML Moton does worry about shipbuilding labor and workforce issues [COVID-19’s impact, morale, quantity, quality, Unions, etcetera].