Home » Aviation » CNO Richardson Wants Aggressive Timelines for New Weapons, Operational Concepts in Updated Navy ‘Design’

CNO Richardson Wants Aggressive Timelines for New Weapons, Operational Concepts in Updated Navy ‘Design’

Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. John Richardson visits Indonesia to meet with Indonesia navy leadership and to reaffirm the U.S. Navy’s commitment to strengthen the strategic partnership between the U.S. and Indonesia on Oct. 20, 2018. US Navy Photo

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson lays out aggressive acquisition goals and overhauls in how the Navy develops new technologies and implements operating concepts in a sweeping 2.0 revision of his Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority. The push to field new kit and concepts is his effort to ready the Navy for not only high-end warfare but also gray-zone conflict and other challenges related to Russian and Chinese aggression that the service and joint force will have to confront, according to a copy of the document reviewed by USNI News on Monday.

2.0 updates the original document, released in January 2016, to account for changes in the fleet, changes in the operating environment and changes in the administration’s priorities.

Chief among the changes in the new document is a list of acquisition goals that sets a faster than usual timeline for Navy/industry team’s ability for key programs:

Tests of Boeing’s MQ-25A Stingray prototype in St. Louis. Boeing Image

  • Award the frigate contract in 2020 to deliver as soon as possible.
  • Award the Large Surface Combatant contract in 2023 to deliver as soon as possible.
  • Award the Large Unmanned Surface Vehicle contract in 2023 to deliver as soon as possible.
  • Award a Future Small Auxiliary contract in 2023 to deliver as soon as possible.
  • Award the Future Large Auxiliary (CHAMP) contract in 2023 to deliver as soon as possible.
  • Contract for and field the family of Underwater Unmanned Vehicles (Orca, Snakehead, Razorback, Knifefish) as soon as possible, and no later than 2025.
  • Reach MQ-25 first flight in 2021 and initial operating capability as soon as possible.
  • Reach MQ-4C Triton initial operating capability in 2021.
  • By the end of 2019, identify requirements across the family of systems to replace the F/A-18E/F and EA-18G by 2030.
  • Develop and field an offensive hypersonic weapon by 2025.
  • Develop and field the family of laser weapons (low power lasers, high power lasers, Surface Navy Laser Weapons System) beginning in 2019 and no later than 2025.
  • Improve the performance of our current enterprise networks in 2019. Modernize these networks under the NGEN-R contract.

Some of these timelines, such as buying the first large surface combatant under the Future Surface Combatant family of systems, have already been announced by the Navy. Other programs, such as the CHAMP auxiliary ship design, have been discussed but are in more nascent stages of development now; others, such as the small future auxiliary, have not been publicly talked about before.

USS Boxer (LHD 4) transits the Pacific Ocean. Boxer is underway in the U.S. 3rd Fleet area of operations on Oct. 3, 2018. US Navy Photo

Importantly, the Navy is making changes to tie these and other acquisition development efforts to concept development efforts. U.S. 3rd Fleet will stand up a capability development hub called DEVGRUWEST, and U.S. 2nd Fleet will stand up a concept development hub called DEVGRUEAST. Each will be the center of excellence for their respective efforts, but they will collaborate to ensure that the Navy is building the right tools for how it wants to fight, and is using the tools it has in the smartest way.

The service will also stand up a Warfighting Development Directorate on the chief of naval operation’s staff (OPNAV N7) that “will be responsible for coordinating and aligning the Navy’s education, experimentation, exercise, and analytic efforts. … Synergy between how we fight and how we learn will accelerate our combat effectiveness.”

Taken together, these changes align the Navy with what the Marine Corps has been doing the last few years with its Sea Dragon experimentation series. Run by the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, the experiments have looked at both capability and concept development in tandem and have led to changes in acquisition, manning, education and other areas.

Specifically, the Navy wants to focus on refining its Distributed Maritime Operations concept and other supporting concepts. A Large Scale Exercise 2020 will test the effectiveness of the concept and lay the groundwork for follow-on wargames, exercises, experiments and other large-scale events.

An additive manufacturing machine at Huntington Ingalls Industries shipyard in Newport News, Va. HII Photo

Design 2.0 looks at applying new technologies to the Navy now. Whereas the service has talked about additive manufacturing and machine learning for a few years now, the document puts a hard timeline on their application: by the end of 2018, the fleet must identify five warfighting problems that artificial intelligence and machine learning (AI/ML) can solve, the chief of personnel must identify five training problems, and the vice chief of naval operations must identify five corporate problems; by the end of 2019, the Navy must figure out a way to apply AI/ML to address these challenges. Similarly, on additive manufacturing, the Navy must 3D-print and field metal parts for at least five different current programs by the end of 2019.

On the operational side, the Design 2.0 looks at what the Navy will need to do to sustain itself for a drawn-out conflict or operation. One priority is to “posture logistics capability ashore and at sea in ways that allow the fleet to operate globally, at a pace that can be sustained over time. Assess and develop options for improved ability and resilience to refuel, rearm, resupply, and repair.”

The document also calls for 2nd Fleet and 3rd Fleet to operate as expeditionary commands, deploying ships forward and retaining command and control over them. If a scenario arose where 2nd or 3rd Fleet was focused on forward operations, Carrier Strike Groups 4 or 15, respectively, would step in to oversee force-generation efforts and would report directly to U.S. Fleet Forces Command or U.S. Pacific Fleet, respectively. While 3rd Fleet has already conducted “Third Fleet Forward” deployments to practice this construct and 2nd Fleet Commander Vice Adm. Andrew Lewis alluded to a similar idea for his new command, Design 2.0 lays out the trickle-down effect of having the force-generating fleets focused on overseas operations.

An undated artist’s rendering of the planned Columbia-class submarine. Naval Sea Systems Command Image

On the massive in-development Columbia-class ballistic missile submarine program, which will begin construction in 2021 and had been set for a first deployment in 2031 – already a tight timeline that Navy leadership has said will be a challenge to meet – the Design 2.0 calls for deploying the lead ship as soon as possible and “beating the current schedule” to address threats around the globe.

  • Ed L

    The FFGX contact is not to be awarded until 2020? unbelievable.

    • sid

      Bet it will turn out the delay has to do with allowing time for Lockheed to come up with their new design since they are no longer going to use waterjet propulsion.

      • Ed L

        Bet Lockheed does a rehash of the OHP. I am still a fan of the FREMM. Does anyone think that Ingalls does a different version of the National Security Cutter with enclosed spaces over the fantail and focle like the FREMM. Wonder if the CNO read David Poyer “Deep War The War with China”?

        • DaSaint

          I think Ingalls will surprise. Why else not publicize your design if it’s the well-known NSC? Could be a major rework of the NSC, or a version of the Burke. Or my fantasy Type-26. I can dream can’t I?

          BTW, Lockheed is the selected prime for the Canadian Frigate program…with the Type-26.

          • Hugh

            And also variants of the Type-26 for the RN and RAN.

          • Ed L

            Or maybe Ingalls will put a design base on the Iver Huitfeldt class Frigate? Which cost the RDN 325 mil US

          • Lazarus

            That ship is like the sunken Danish frigate in that it has wide passageways, and lots of other breaks in material condition that could allow for rapid flooding. There is a reason that European/Asian ships are cheaper than their US counterparts. No other nations has the same deep scrutiny of naval designs and service-based OT&E program. U.S. warships cost more because of these features. They also seem to be more durable.

          • Ed L

            From what i’ve read the Iver Huitfeldt FFG’s were cheap due to the use of proven electronic and weapon systems that were acquired from payed off warships and refurbished thus saving money. The wide passage ways does make it easier to move stores, casualties, Marines, Etc. Just add some wide WTD like we used on the Austin class LPD. I believe they were 60×36 with 3 sets of hinges. The gasket for them were longer than the standard WTD As a DCPO I remember needing a wavier signed off by the DCA to replace a single door gasket with a two gaskets when the required gasket was NIS (not in stock).

          • Duane

            Even without all the required GFE as well as general upgrades required of a warship versus a civilian cutter, the cost of NSC is nearly equal to the cost cap that the Navy wants (under $800M). Add in all the required equipment and upgrades and NSC will be well over a billion per copy.

          • Curtis Conway

            The thing to look at is ‘what you will have’ after the investment. The NSC is 80% built to USN survivability of the Surface Combatant standard.

        • Lazarus

          FREMM is built much like the sunken Nansen class FFG.

      • Duane

        There is no delay in the program.

      • Lazarus

        Acquisition decisions do not get made that way. Biggest problem is lack of $$$ for the next two years and a focus on modernization vice force growth.

        • Duane

          Yup. Congress does some squirelly things with appropriations bills. For instance, the 2019 NDAA called for full funding of the final testing and integration of the ASW and MCM mission module equipment … then the very same Congress enacted FY-2019 appropriations bills that completely zeroed out all of the funds for that testing and integration work, despite the fact that all of the equipment for the ASW MM was just delivered to the Navy last month. The appropriators declared that the testing and integration of the system was “ahead of need”.

          So now the Navy is forced to sit there with a completed ASW system for its LCS but no means of integrating it to the ships, for at least one more year, and at a time of a fast growing submarine threat from the Chinese, Russians, North Koreans, and Iranians.

          And then of course the LCS trolls go nuts charging that the program is all effed up and isn’t real and will never work blah blah blah blah.

        • sid

          It does when the favored contractor realizes they have to totally revamp their design…

    • DaSaint

      That was the plan. RFP in 2019, award in 2020.

    • Duane

      The designs are to be submitted by the builders later this fiscal year – 2019 – and then evaluated by the Navy with selection next fiscal year. That’s been the plan all along. It’s extremely fast, actually, not slow as you suggest.

      Selecting a design within a year of submittal is actually very fast work. It is a massive effort to fully review just one warship design, let alone five competing designs, inside of a year.

    • KellyJ

      That’s only a year away and still within the original timeline of the concept. I suspect the recent sinking of the Helge (a derivative of one of the parent designs being considered for the FFGX) may have given a few months pause as NAVSEA reviews the accident and what the impact may be on the FFGX.

    • Lazarus

      An upgraded LCS (with or without waterjets) remains a good choice. a 7000 ton ship is essentially a DDG-light and at 2/3 the cost of the DDG 51 but with less than 1/2 its capability (in VLS cells and fire control at least,) a poor investment.

      • Curtis Conway

        I’m wondering ‘where’ you have read words like that before?

  • Pete Novick

    In “How Not to Build an Aircraft Carrier,” The National Interest, June 5, 2017, Dan Grazier, a journalist and former Marine Corps officer who served tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, pinpoints the sources of pervasive mismanagement in Navy ship acquisition programs:

    “Dearth of in-house technical expertise – badly needed to prevent major contractor design engineering mistakes – due to 20 years of deliberate outsourcing;

    Deliberate incorporation within the design requirements of unproven, high-risk major systems as selling points to justify large new acquisition programs;

    Deliberate scheduling of maximum concurrency between design and development, prototyping, engineering tests, operational tests and full-scale production, all in the interest of cancellation-proof program funding.”


    Good luck Admiral Richardson. Lots of folks are hoping the Navy succeeds.

    • andreajva

      DRT77 important

  • Wondering

    Whatever you do don’t simply develop these systems and ships, build two or three, say they are too expensive and start all over.
    We need more ships, now

    • We need to go back to what we did before the 1990’s (and what the Chinese are doing now) and start ordering a dozen surface ships every year. But instead we see talk about extending destroyer service lives to 50+ years and having “sustainable” (i.e. low) build rate for new ships.

  • Viktor Tupolev

    Based on 1+ year old CRS report the Navy planned to procure the FFG-X in FY2020, which always meant that a CY 2020 contract award was a high possibility. The CNO has just confirmed that it is indeed still the plan.

  • CharleyA

    F/A-XX / family of systems deliverable by 2030? Better get (re)started. It can and should be done, just not the way the JSF was managed.

  • Duane

    Replacing all of the Super Hornets and Growlers beginning in 2030 is a pretty radical plan. The wording is not clear, but I’ll presume CNO means to “begin replacing” by 2030, and not complete replacing by then.

    Given that the F-35C is planned for 50 years of service, and is just entering service in 2019, seems to suggest that a big piece of the replacement plan is perhaps some kind of upgrade on the F-35C, or just buying more of them as the Navy learns to use their capabilities which far exceeds that of the Super Hornets. I would have thought that a sixth gen that clearly exceeds the capabilities of the F-35 would not be ready until at least the mid to late 2030s.

    • It’s not radical – in 2030 the oldest Super Hornets will be over 30 years old and will have to be replaced (not to mention they will effectively be a 60 year old design at that point). The real problem is that at current procurement rates the Navy isn’t going to reach the planned 320 F-35C’s (which were actually supposed to replace the already retired C/D Hornets) until nearly 2040. Naval aviation is on the brink of disaster and I don’t see any real recognition of that fact.

      • Marauder 2048

        “in 2030 the oldest Super Hornets will be over 30 years old ”

        The new build Block III Hornets are being acquired so the Navy can pretend those Block I Hornets never existed .

      • Duane

        It is radical in the sense that the Navy has not identified which aircraft will begin the replacement of Super Hornets .. and given that the Navy is still buying brand new Super Hornets and plans to continue buying Super Hornets at least through 2023.

        It makes far more sense to cut the Super Hornet purchases, knowing that as of today they are obsolete and destined for replacement in but 11 years .. and then commit to buying more F-35s starting this next fiscal year (2020). The F-35Cs are going to be IOC less than two months from now, the F-35 production lines are already gearing up for full rate production starting next year, and will be capable of completely supplanting any planned Super Hornet purchases.

        The Navy is doing one of those proverbial “caught ‘twixt the boat and the dock” scanarios, and it is doing so on purpose. Either stay on the dock, or much better yet, climb onto the boat! Otherwise, you end up in the water.

        Stop buying Super Hornets now, buy only F-35s from now until the sixth gen aircraft – be it a “Super F-35C”, or whatever it is that will be available come 2030.

        This is planned, and purposeful, obsolescence of the naval air fleet.

  • OGBobby

    I like the “as soon as possible” timeframe mentioned by the CNO for some of these efforts. It is specific, measurable and by most accounts achievable.

  • Zorcon, Fidei Defensor

    What are we going to fundnall this with? Borrowed money? With a new congress bent on allowing unfettered immigration and more social spending what’s another 20 trillion?

    • Ron Snyder

      At this point all money we spend is borrowed money- borrowed from your children, your grandchildren and almost certainly your great-grandchildren.

  • Mark Thomason

    All this bring to my mind the King Board, which faced up to the utter lack of AA weapons for the fleet, picked the 40mm Bofors and 20mm Oerlikon, laid out a program of massive re-arming of ships, and then made it happen on the industrial side and on the ships.

    We are dancing around that, but not really quite doing it today.

  • Roger

    “Reach MQ-4C Triton initial operating capability in 2021.”

    I thought the Triton’s were already operational?

  • airider

    Out of everything listed the one I see least likely to occur is this:

    Improve the performance of our current enterprise networks in 2019. Modernize these networks under the NGEN-R contract.