CNO Franchetti: Navy Exploring Robotics Rating as Unmanned Systems Expand

February 13, 2024 6:15 PM
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti speaks at the AFCEA International and U.S. Naval Institute West 2024 conference in San Diego, Calif., Feb. 13, 2024. US Navy Photo

SAN DIEGO – A new robotics rating is likely coming to the Navy, the sea service’s top leader said on Tuesday.

The Navy is exploring the option of a robotics rating in order to build a team that would be responsible for the Navy’s unmanned platforms, Adm. Lisa Franchetti said during her keynote speech at the West 2024 conference, cohosted by AFCEA and the U.S. Naval Institute.

The sea service wants “a team who has the reps and sets in sensors, platform autonomy, and mission autonomy programs … and can provide input in machine learning feedback processes,” Franchetti said in her speech.

Although Franchetti previewed the forthcoming rating, little information is available about what the rating will look like.

A spokesperson with the Office of the Chief of Naval Personnel said that the Navy is still exploring the rating and nothing is yet official.

It is unclear where the robotics rating will fall. The Navy’s unmanned program is under Naval Air Systems Command.

The possibility of a robotics rating comes as the Pentagon writ-large is planning to expand its stable of unmanned systems in the near term.

A prime focus of the Defense Department in the near term is the Replicator initiative, the creation of a swarm of unmanned vehicles to solve specific battle problems the U.S. faces over the next few years. The first major challenge will be to disrupt the amphibious invasion of Taiwan by China using a combination of lethal unmanned surface and aerial vehicles.

In the longer term, the Navy is set to field a fleet of medium and large unmanned surface vehicles that will add sensors and magazine capacity of the fleet. The service is also expanding its unmanned aerial portfolio to include the MQ-25A Stingray refueling tanker, which will be the first unmanned aircraft to operate from a U.S. aircraft carrier.

The Navy is also working with robotic systems as part of its emerging mine countermeasures systems both expeditonary and part of its Littoral Combat Ship.

Franchetti said the new rating could be part of the future manned and unmanned teaming for the future fleet using examples of the unmanned systems tests with systems in U.S. 5th Fleet in the Middle East and U.S. 4th Fleet in the Caribbean.

“Unmanned systems have enormous potential to multiply our combat power by complementing our existing fleet of ships, submarines, and aircraft through manned-unmanned teaming,” she said.
“Especially in areas like maritime surveillance and reconnaissance, mine countermeasure operations, seabed exploration and carrier air wing support.”

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio

Heather Mongilio is a reporter with USNI News. She has a master’s degree in science journalism and has covered local courts, crime, health, military affairs and the Naval Academy.
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