Navy to Hold Large Scale Fleet Exercises In Summer 2020

December 5, 2019 4:04 PM - Updated: December 6, 2019 10:26 AM
The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) leads a formation of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5 ships as U.S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortress aircraft and U.S. Navy F/A-18 Hornets pass overhead for a photo exercise during Valiant Shield 2018 on Sept. 17. US Navy photo

WASHINGTON, D.C. — When the Navy returns to holding large-scale fleet exercises in summer 2020, the operations will involve information warfare and tactical cyber teams, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday said Thursday morning.

The summer 2020 large scale exercise will test how the Navy can best handle current and emerging threats. An integral part of this test involves a pilot program establishing information warfare cells and tactical cyber teams to work inside the existing fleet maritime operations center, Gilday said while speaking at the U.S. Naval Institute’s 2019 Defense Forum Washington

“We don’t do anything in the U.S military today without leveraging space,” Gilday said. “It’s the same thing with cyber. It’s why I want small tactical fleet cyber teams.”

The Navy has talked about setting up large scale exercises for some time. The Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority 2.0, the Navy’s overarching strategy document released a year ago, called for setting up such an exercise in 2020. Earlier this week, Gilday released a fragmentary order updating Design 2.0, which keeps the planned large scale exercise.

The exercise falls into the time period of the Navy’s traditional biennial Valient Shield drills near Guam that typically comes after the Rim of the Pacific international exercise off Hawaii.

NATO regularly schedules large-scale live exercises of similar scope to test how member nation militaries can integrate their efforts. Last June, roughly 27,000 military personnel participated in Saber Guardian, an exercise held every two years, according to NATO.

Gilday’s intention is for the Navy to resume large scale exercises starting this summer. He wants this to be an annual event, involving several strike groups – both amphibious ready groups and carrier strike groups. With the cyber domain, he wants the Navy to explore what’s possible and how well these activities can be scaled.

“We have to do a better job of integrating all domains into how we’re going to fight,” Gilday said. “It’s not just bringing everything you can out of the iron you have; it’s leveraging everything you can out of your joint forces.”

The challenge for the Navy, Gilday said, is while threats are evolving, in a decade the Navy will be asked to face these new threats with the systems it currently has. Three-quarters of the current fleet will be in use in 2030, Gilday said. The Navy has to determine how to best use those hulls effectively in future conflicts.

“We can’t continue to use strike groups and [amphibious ready groups] around the world in these constabulary positions,” Gilday said. “The fleet is too small, alright; our capabilities are stacked onto too few ships that are too big. And that needs to change over time.”

Until that change materializes, the Navy has to practice using what it has available. This means integrating aircraft carriers, amphibious warships, surface combatants and submarines into coordinated action. The Navy invested heavily in developing maritime operational centers at fleet commands, and Gilday said now is the time to let fleet commanders test this capability.

“What we need to do is exercise that. We need to do more than wargame it; we need to exercise it,” Gilday said. “And the only way to do that is with iron out there at scale.”

Ben Werner

Ben Werner

Ben Werner is a staff writer for USNI News. He has worked as a freelance writer in Busan, South Korea, and as a staff writer covering education and publicly traded companies for The Virginian-Pilot in Norfolk, Va., The State newspaper in Columbia, S.C., Savannah Morning News in Savannah, Ga., and Baltimore Business Journal. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Maryland and a master’s degree from New York University.

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