- “Slam Stick”T Helps NAVAIR Engineers Troubleshoot Aircraft
- FRCSW Engineer Wins 2016 Lasswell Award for Fleet Support
- NAVAIR veteran seeks to make a difference for other vets
- PHOTO RELEASE: FRCSW Completes PMB Bay Renovations (link)
- Pentagon Brass Demand Culture Change, Innovations In Buying Weapons
- Get To The Fleet Faster – Big Changes Coming To A Schools
- Navy Gives Fleet Commanders More Control Over Who Gets Training – And When
- Visiting the Prowler: USMC Electronic Warfare Capabilities in Transition
- Navy Cyber Chief: Network Protection, Data Assurance Top Priorities; Investments Needed in A.I.
- Link Army, Navy Missile Defense Nets: Adm. Harris
- DoD Will Create Diverse Teams To Cut Out Duplicate Offices In Military Services
- Navy Shifts SeaPower Strategy
- Trump’s F-35C Vs. F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Idea: An Interesting Debate … Four Years Ago
“Slam Stick”T Helps NAVAIR Engineers Troubleshoot Aircraft
From FRC Southwest Almanac – Volume 9 – February 9, 2017
The proverb “Good things come in small packages” may very well be the new mantra of the avionics department of Naval Air Systems Command’s (NAVAIR) In-Service Support Center-North Island.
An engineering tool called “Slam Stick”T is helping to identify some of the perplexing maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) issues NAVAIR engineers face every day. Manufactured by Midé and designed to measure and record vibrations, temperature and air pressure, the lightweight Slam Stick is a sensor that is 3 inches in length and less than 2 inches in width. And with a depth of slightly over one-half an inch, the device can be placed virtually anywhere in an aircraft from the pilot’s shirt pocket, to the least accessible bay.
“It has a three axes accelerometer which basically measures acceleration and vibration. It also has a DC
accelerometer which means that it can also account for gravity,” said avionics engineer and Avionics Advanced
Technologies Investment (ATI) Team Lead Brett Gardner.
“I saw this technology at a Small Business Innovative Research conference. The device there was just the accelerometer. It didn’t have the pressure or temperature capacity and was a 16 gigabyte model that
was basically useless to us,” he said.
To adapt to NAVAIR’s purposes, Gardner contacted the Office of Naval Research in 2012 and secured backing
through a Rapid Innovation Fund (RIF). The RIF program funds innovative technologies that support
warfighters. Modification and development of the Slam Stick took about one year and was held in conjunction with Midé at Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW). Cost was approximately $450,000.
The device is now available in four different models: 25g, 100g, 500g and 2,000g. Each model is applicable to the range of acceleration to be measured. “We use all models,” Gardner said. “The idea behind these was to give the engineers a way to go out and look at the environment on the aircraft. For example, what kind of G loading is there in the avionics bay? Is there a pressure or a temperature problem?”
The Slam Stick is used in a variety of airframes including the F/A-18 Hornet, T-45 Goshawk, F-35 Lightning II, E-2 Hawkeye and C-2 Greyhound. The maiden use of NAVAIR’s Slam Stick at FRCSW was last year in locating the cause of a vibration reported by a C-2 Greyhound pilot during ground turns at the flight line.
Team lead engineer Vu Buu placed nine Slam Sticks throughout the aircraft and after the first application,
ruled out the vibration as being caused by the plane’s engines.
A Midé “Slam Stick”T (orange device) is pictured in the engine housing of a C-2A Greyhound. The device was used last year to locate and correct a vibration that prevented the aircraft’s availability to the fleet. The second application led the team to focus on the tail of the airplane where they found a faulty dampener on one of the flight-control surfaces. The dampener muffles the vibrations from the flight control surface to the yoke, or stick of the aircraft. Once replaced, the vibrations stopped.
“Graph 1 shows 18 Hz energy in the tail area nearby the outboard vertical fin. Graph 2 is on the control column with the same 18 Hz signature,” said Buu. “The flight control cables/pushrod connects the tail area structure
directly to the crossover tube, which both control columns attached to. Structures in the cockpit and fuselage areas have a very low 18 Hz energy compare to the control column and outboard fin area,” he said.
“Graph 3 shows the control column vibration collected at a later ground turn, indicating the 18 Hz power is significantly lower.” Gardner said that locating and correcting the vibration took about two weeks.
The Slam Stick is manufactured in either a plastic or metal version. NAVAIR uses both. Because the metal version is stiffer, it has a tighter tolerance on vibration profiles making it more accurate than the plastic model.
In addition to initially designing its specifications, Gardner also contributed to the software development of the device. “We had a basic version of the software. The original accelerometer was highly inaccurate and was a three channel device. The one we have now is an eight channel. It has two different accelerometers in it, so that’s six channels and a channel for the temperature and one for the atmospheric pressure,” he said.
NAVAIR engineers are currently using Slam Sticks to investigate physiological events in F/A-18 Hornets. Specifically, they are targeting the aircraft’s cockpit pressurization system. Because the F/A-18 is a closed-loop self-regulating pressure system, measuring cockpit pressure during flight is not possible.
“There’s no way to record that data because there’s no computer connection that will allow engineers to record systems behavior. It’s a stand-alone system,” Gardner said. “However, there is a stand-by analogue meter that the pilot can look at to see what the cockpit pressure is, but it isn’t recorded anywhere. And it’s slow and inaccurate.”
Slam Sticks may be placed in an aircraft by using two-sided tape. After the flight, the Slam Stick’s data is matched to the aircraft’s file by layering one on top of the other to reveal the profile the aircraft flew and the
profile of the cockpit pressurization system. The data reflects a real time tracing of the factors.
“This way we know what the cockpit pressurization theoretically should schedule to and layer that over the top and look to see if there were any anomalies,” Gardner said. This summer Slam Sticks were used to obtain data on F/A-18 Hornets of Strike Fighter Squadron 37 (VFA-37) at Naval Air Station Oceana, and a pilot program targeting physiological events will conclude soon at Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 232 (VMFA-232) aboard Marine Corps Air Station Miramar. Data from both events are currently being analyzed.
“We’re finding that the aircraft don’t exactly regulate the way we thought they were designed to regulate. There are small anomalies that are probably going to be the new normal,” Gardner said.
Downloading and retrieving Slam Stick data currently requires use of a stand-alone computer. To improve the process, Gardner said that efforts are underway to establish research, development, test and evaluation (RDT
and E) network authorization across the industrial/engineering side of the FRCs.
“The pilots bring back the aircraft memory unit (MU) and download all of the data by plugging the MU into a PEMA stripping station. We’re in the process of getting the Slam Sticks approved to plug into those stripping stations so the squadrons can upload the Slam Stick data to the servers for the engineers to access directly,” Gardner said.
Data compiled from the F/A-18 cockpits is passed to the Environmental Control Systems (ECS) subsystems engineers who are not only responsible for overseeing the processing, but for creating a solution to the problems found, as well.
The ECS team created software in a .matlab file which syncs the Slam Stick data to the aircraft file. “Data such as weight off wheels and the cockpit canopy opening and closing allowed measuring of some of the different aircraft events to the duration of the flight. The .matlab program matches up the events to the recorded MU data files and allows engineers the opportunity to fine tune cockpit pressure graphs,” Gardner said.
NAVAIR’s F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265) purchased ,approximately 160 Slam Sticks to assist with cockpit pressure testing. Overall, approximately $500,000 worth of the devices have been sold, Gardner said.
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FRCSW Engineer Wins 2016 Lasswell Award for Fleet Support
From FRC Southwest Almanac – Volume 9 – February 9, 2017
Brett Gardner, a senior avionics engineer assigned to Fleet Readiness Center Southwest (FRCSW), is the recipient of the 2016 A. Bryan Lasswell Award for Fleet Support.
Sponsored by the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), the award recognizes individuals who provide
exceptional support through in-service engineering procedures or technical innovation to Navy, Marine Corps or
Coast Guard forces based in San Diego. Gardner received the Lasswell Award at the NDIA Awards
Program Oct. 25 at the Sheraton Mission Valley Hotel and Conference Center.
“I am excited and proud to be chosen (for the award),” Gardner said. “It is an honor to be recognized by industry
peers for my contribution to naval aviation in support of the warfighter.”
For the past 23 years, Gardner has worked at FRCSW to ensure the readiness of the Navy’s aircraft. During his second year on the job, in 1995, an F/A-18 Hornet fighter lost its airborne self-protection jammer (ASPJ) system
during flight. The ASPJ is an electronic system used to thwart enemy radar by emitting signals that obscure radar
returns while simultaneously disguising the its jamming signal.
Two years later, at a considerable expense, a test-equipped aircraft was used to determine that the ASPJ failure was caused by vibration up the aircraft’s keel during catapult launches. Meanwhile, before the issue was identified and the ASPJ was prohibited for carrier use, fleet-deployed aircraft were experiencing millions of dollars in keel damages.
Factors such as vibration, air pressure and temperature not only affect aircraft performance, but safety as well.
While attending a Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) forum in 2011, Gardner noticed an accelerometer
manufactured by Midé that sparked his interest. One year later, in partnership with Midé, the Slam StickT
was created-a lightweight sensor and data logger that measures vibration, temperature, and atmospheric pressure.
Since, the device has served more than 300 flights, saving approximately $1.5 million vice conventional test flight methods, and increasing the availability and readiness of the Navy’s aircraft.
Gardner said that he is currently working with the F/A-18 and EA-18G Program Office (PMA-265) and Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron 101 (VMFAT-101) to pilot Slam Stick use at the squadrons to measure cockpit pressure as part of a project to assess physiological events in Hornet aircraft.
“We most recently received approval from PMA-265 to download Slam Stick data to F/A-18 AME data strippers,” he said. “This new capability will allow for cockpit pressure data collection around the globe.” Marine Corps Maj. A. Bryan Lasswell was a translator and cryptologist, who in 1942, worked relentlessly to decipher the communications of the Japanese navy. His efforts were instrumental in the American victory at the Battle of Midway Island.
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NAVAIR veteran seeks to make a difference for other vets
NAVAL AIR SYSTEMS COMMAND, PATUXENT RIVER, Md. – It took a few minutes for Ryan Daniels to realize what had happened.
The former Marine Corps Staff Sergeant was traveling with a convoy in May 2011 in a restive part of southwestern Afghanistan that had seen plenty of combat action. His mine-resistant ambush protected vehicle, or MRAP, had just hit a large, improvised explosive device, blowing off the front end of the massive vehicle, disorienting the crew and pelting them with shrapnel.
Moments after regaining consciousness and checking on his fellow Marines, Daniels moved himself to within his vehicle’s turret and began returning fire at the insurgents.
“They had an almost machine gun-like fire trained at our vehicle,” Daniels, an eight-year veteran with two combat tours now working as a Naval Air Systems Command Naval Acquisition Development Program intern, said, remembering the event. “The windshield was bulletproof, but the bullets left marks on the windshield. The windshield was covered with marks.”
Following treatment for concussions, post-traumatic stress and other injuries, Daniels left the Marine Corps as a Wounded Warrior. But the memories and horrors of war sometimes still visit him in the middle of the night.
“I’m trying really hard to make the transition [to civilian life], but sometimes I have my moments,” Daniels said. He said he values the support he receives from his co-workers at the Maritime Patrol and Reconnaissance Aircraft Program Office (PMA-290), where he is a logistics management specialist, as well as the support of his family.
To better help veterans understand the effects military service and combat can have on a successful transition to civilian life, Sonny Fann, NAVAIR Veteran and Wounded Warrior Program Senior Outreach Coordinator, volunteers with a program called Semper Fi Odyssey (SFO) that helps veterans such as Daniels make that adjustment.
“We help the veterans with coping skills and help them understand themselves,” Fann said. “We also give them career advice, to include resume tips, interviewing skills and immediate feedback.”
Founded by a retired Marine Corps general in 2008, SFO takes place at a former Boy Scouts of America camp near Boswell, Pennsylvania. The six-day, holistic transition-assistance event is designed to prepare participants – mostly post-9/11 combat veterans – for life after military service.
Events are held throughout the year, and Fann, a two tour Vietnam War veteran, has volunteered at several of them. Daniels expects to attend an event this year as well.
Many of the volunteer team leaders have had the same struggles as the participants, Fann said. Almost all have something in common: They are combat veterans with traumatic brain injuries, post-traumatic stress, loss of limbs or other debilitating injuries.
“I can say I definitely buried some emotions and issues for some time,” Daniels said. “When I got home from Afghanistan in June 2011, I was getting married and dealing with my physical, medical and emotional issues from the deployment. That all kept me busy and out of my own head for a time. Issues persisted until 2014 when I was convinced to ask for some help. When I found out how messed up I really was, and I was failing in my relationships, that’s what made me start looking into some of these retreats.”
SFO offers a variety of tools to teach veterans – broken into groups of three or four people like fire teams – how to make a successful, productive transition from the military to civilian life, despite their illnesses and injuries, Fann said.
“The end-game in Semper Fi Odyssey is to help them understand they still have value, despite what has happened to them,” Fann said. “The attributes all veterans have, along with their life experiences, which cannot be replicated anywhere else, makes them valuable assets for the NAVAIR mission.”
One thing participants learn is how to write a personal and professional goal-oriented operations order, also known as a Situation, Mission, Execution, Administration, Command (SMEAC), to set objectives and hold the warriors accountable for their results. The SMEAC at SFO is written based on the preamble to the U.S. Constitution.
“Everyone in the military understands an op order, so we use something that is familiar for the veterans,” Fann explained.
SMEAC helps participants:
. Analyze their situation.
. Set their mission.
. Determine the steps to execute.
. Administer the steps.
. Communicate the actions needed to complete their mission successfully.
Included in SFO is a trip to the Flight 93 National Memorial in nearby Shanksville, Pennsylvania.
“It is important that service members understand the reason that their sacrifices are so important to our nation’s defense and that they are valued. This is where the War on Terror started and why so many veterans wanted to serve,” Fann said.
“One of my favorite quotes from President George Washington really encapsulates what drives me to help veterans,” Fann said. “Washington said, ‘The willingness with which our young people are likely to serve in any war, no matter how justified, shall be directly proportional to how they perceive the veterans of earlier wars were treated and appreciated by their nation.'”
“I basically just hope to talk about things and get things off my chest,” Daniels said. “I’ve had to deal with some pretty gnarly stuff. So being with people who have been there, who understand, and who care will really make a difference (for me).”
“There is no shame in seeking assistance,” Fann said. “Rather, it’s a sign of strength.
“This is a tragic lesson learned from Vietnam era veterans and resulted in significant challenges and a high suicide rate, which the SFO seeks to combat,” he said “This program literally saves lives.”
NAVAIR wounded, ill and injured veteran employees can contact Fann at firstname.lastname@example.org if they believe they can benefit from SFO. For more information, visit https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qonrvWTja3I.
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Pentagon Brass Demand Culture Change, Innovations In Buying Weapons
(SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE 23 FEB 17) … Carl Prine
When retired Navy Vice Adm. David “Decoy” Dunaway thinks about failures in the Pentagon’s procurement programs, he also contemplates what killed once great civilizations.
“They get incredibly bureaucratic. There’s a fair amount of corruption that occurs in their bureaucracies. They get invested in huge amounts of infrastructure that they can’t maintain and sustain, and it’s too expensive to update. And they’re run by a bunch of lemmings,” said Dunaway, the moderator of an introspective gathering of the nation’s top military procurement bosses Wednesday at West 2017.
Dunaway’s fears played a minor chord in a lyric that’s buzzed through the halls of San Diego’s Convention Center throughout the course of the annual military convention and trade show: The Navy and Marine Corps need to do more to fix readiness problems as rival nations loom to challenge their military superiority.
Military acquisition is the way the service bureaucracies manage the procurement process to buy products and services. Congressional legislation sculpts some of the process, but other regulations stem from the Pentagon itself.
While the goal for all the services is to deliver the best weapons for the troops at reasonable prices for taxpayers, in recent years many programs have been plagued by massive cost overruns and long delays, including the much-maligned Joint Strike Fighter program, the Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, the Zumwalt class of destroyers and the littoral combat ships.
A career fighter aviator, the highly decorated Dunaway also served as a test pilot and helmed the Naval Air Systems Command in Patuxent River, Maryland, so when he called for the services to “blow the culture up” he was taking direct aim at a process he knew intimately.
Echoing Dunaway were Navy Vice Adm. Thomas Moore of Naval Sea Systems Command, Rear Adm. David Lewis of San Diego’s Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, Rear Adm. DeWolfe “Bullet” Miller III of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, U.S. Coast Guard assistant commandant Rear Adm. Bruce Baffer and Brig. Gen. Joseph Shrader of Marine Corps Systems Command.
Moore pointed to the gutting of the Navy’s ranks of uniformed and civilian design engineers and other technological experts – from 1,300 in 1990 to under 250 in 2005. That forced the service to rely ever more on outside contractors to plan increasingly complex programs such as the littoral, Zumwalt and Ford ships.
“While speed and costs are certainly things to concentrate on, the way to not do that is to completely cut the government out of oversight and expertise and throw things over to the defense industry and say, ‘Build me this and send it back to me,'” Moore said.
Baffer said the acquisition process often gets “mired in bureaucracy,” where “things take forever.” He stressed that the services’ procurement experts need to become less “risk-averse.”
A career aviator like Dunaway, Miller noted that the Navy also has notched procurement wins such as the MQ-25 Stingray drone refueler. That was part of a real cultural shift inside the Navy that led to trimming the fat and delivering weapons that work for the military, he said, but more needs to be done and Congress can help.
“Programs right now take too long and they cost too much,” Miller said. “So that realization is there. So what are we going to do about it? Well, we need to change our culture.”
Shrader, a Marine who rose from enlisted grunt to flag officer, called for more “disruptive thinkers” in the ranks – service members who can make the system work better. Scanning an audience filled with defense contractors, he told them that they need to deliver what they promise in their contracts because “there’s no time for do-overs.”
Shrader said the Marines need weapons that are easy to operate and maintain, and that the services must own the rights to the technology to keep future replacement costs down. He urged wider adoption of 3-D printing, which allows Marine crews to fashion metal parts in hangars and depots instead of depending on logistical chains that can stretch across continents.
Lewis said the services could learn a few tricks from the private sector. He pointed to the makers of video games, who understand their customers very well.
“That customer expects to be an expert at that game in 10 to 15 minutes,” Lewis said. “If it takes longer than 20 minutes to learn how to play the game, that customer throws it away and tells all their friends that it’s a bad game…
“So in that world, there’s a very sophisticated set of engineers who deliver to that requirement, and I think we can do the same thing.”
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Get To The Fleet Faster – Big Changes Coming To A Schools
(NAVY TIMES 19 FEB 17) … Mark Faram
The Navy is pulling the trigger on radical changes to the way it trains the entire enlisted force.
Gone will be the days of long, upfront technical training known as Class A school: the one that can last up to two years and for many sailors is the only trade-school training they will get during a 20-year career in the Navy.
Instead, the new regimen will include a far-shorter stint following boot camp that will be whittled down to just what sailors need to succeed in their first tour. Sailors will get to the fleet far sooner – and with far less preparation – than with traditional A schools.
After that, additional training will be spread over a sailor’s career, coming in blocks given each time a sailor returns to sea. The new model will make enlisted training more closely resemble that of officers, who receive professional military education and career-specific training at various points throughout their careers.
The Navy’s new training system, which starts this year for several ratings, will involve less brick-and-mortar schooling and more distance learning. It will aim to keep sailors more abreast of the cutting-edge technology impacting their career field. And it will give the Navy more agility to revamp and modernize training for future missions.
“We are developing a career-long learning continuum where training is delivered by modern methods to enable faster learning and better knowledge retention at multiple points throughout a career, just as we do for officers,” said Vice Adm. Robert Burke, the chief of naval personnel.
The end result, Burke said, will transform what he calls the current “industrial, conveyer-belt-training model” into career-long training where “content is refreshed for changing technologies so sailors are ready to perform on day one at their new units.”
The new, truncated A schools will be on average about 30 percent as long as those that sailors attend today. Yet for many career sailors, the new regimen will actually increase the total amount of training and education they’ll receive during a Navy career.
The Navy calls it Ready Relevant Learning, and considers it a critical piece of the ratings modernization effort announced last year. That effort included the Navy’s controversial decision to eliminate sailors’ ratings, a move that the top brass reversed in December after months of criticism.
Nevertheless, Burke and other top Navy leaders plan to push ahead with structural reforms aimed at a similar goal of making Navy career paths more flexible, which include breaking up traditional A school into a series of training blocks spread over many years.
Over time, the Navy hopes the training pipeline will provide customized training and development for individual sailors, allowing sailors to train and qualify in an array of skills outside their own rating’s traditional career path. That, in turn, will open up new duty assignments, advancement opportunities and civilian certifications.
The biggest change of all may be the decision to transfer responsibility for most of the training to the fleet. Today training is mostly overseen by Naval Education and Training Command, but in the future, the NETC’s oversight will end after a sailor completes their initial schools on the way to their first sea tour.
That’s a big challenge – and potential pitfall – for the fleet, Navy officials say.
Who Gets It And When
The transformation of the training pipeline has been in the works for a few years, but it wasn’t until the start of fiscal year 2017 in October that the Navy received the funding to set it in motion.
The implementation will start this year as sailors in four ratings begin to train in the new system, and 15 additional ratings could get the go-ahead later this year.
Another 34 ratings are in the early stages of development and will gradually come online over the next three years Navy officials say.
By 2020, a majority of Navy’s 87 ratings will be training sailors under the new format.
The seed of the concept has been around for decades and stems from the model the Navy currently uses to train pilots throughout their careers.
When aviators and flight officers wrap up shore duty and get ready to head back to the fleet, they go back to flight school for a refresher course to get current not only in flying but in the latest technology as well.
Nothing like that happens for most sailors, who might spend three years pushing boots at Great Lakes or recruiting, and are then sent right back to sea with the expectation that they will pick up where they left off.
The time required for them to get back up to speed reduces readiness, top Navy officials say.
“The concept is called block learning,” said Rear Adm. Mike White, who commands Naval Education and Training Command and has helped spearhead development of the new custom career paths. “We take today’s curriculum [for each rating] and look at it from that lens of: When would it best be delivered across the first tour and across a career? We will then break it apart and deliver it at the appropriate time.”
Sailors will get “block zero” during their initial pipeline training on their way to their first sea tour, White said.
Block one would occur during the first sea tour, block two would be their second sea tour and so forth.
The individual training blocks completed by sailors will be tracked with a new Navy database that will allow the Navy to have full visibility on its human capital and help detailers to assign sailors in the most effective way.
‘We will need to . create a single, authoritative database that captures a sailor’s combination of NECs, experience and proficiency – a snapshot of their DNA,” CNP Burke said.
As Navy officials draw up new training plans for individual ratings, take a close look at not only what skills sailors will need in the fleet, but also when they will need those skills.
For example, one of the first ratings transitioning to the new model this year is logistics specialist. Those sailors are the Navy’s supply clerks, but they’re also responsible for the mail system – collecting, sending sorting and delivering the mail.
Currently in A school, all sailors training to be logistics specialists get postal clerk training before entering the fleet. But, “it turns out that most apprentice LS’s will not be a postal clerk for at least a couple of years in the fleet,” White said.
“They spend their first couple years mastering their other duties in the rating before they’re assigned to this kind of work,” White said.
That’s why the postal clerk training has been pushed out into a block that sailors will receive after they’ve served in the fleet for a while. “We believe it is best if you defer that postal clerk training; and then deliver it after a couple years when they are ready to take on that responsibility,” White said.
Deferring that block of training, which in this specific case lasts up to eight days, until later in a sailor’s first sea tour saves time and also ensures that knowledge is fresh and up to date when the sailors take on that duty, White said.
Training for tasks that more senior sailors do will be put off to for future blocks of training as they return to sea for second and third sea tours with the same idea of ensuring the skills are fresh and they have been taught the most current information.
Right now, White said, about 53 of the Navy’s 87 ratings will fit well into this block training construct. But that leaves 34 ratings to wrestle with how to put their skills into a career-long learning construct.
One such rating is air traffic controllers.
“They need to come out with essentially their FAA qualification so that they can go be part of an air traffic control team,” White said. “That was not one we could give them half the training up front and half later because they had to leave the schoolhouse ready, so we did not see a way to block that curriculum.”
Now, down the road, this effort may give us some tools to help improve the way they learn, but, it just did not fit the mold of the premise of Ready Relevant Learning.”
What happens to these ratings, remains to be seen, but officials tell Navy Times the long-term goal is to provide all sailors with career-long training opportunities, though much may need to simply evolve over time.
Today’s junior sailors are used to using technology in all aspects of their lives. That means that the Navy is looking at quite a wide range of possibilities when it comes to delivering training to sailors.
This doesn’t mean that traditional brick and mortar schools are going away. Instead, it means that schools could be augmented with high-tech tools that help sailors learn by using gaming and virtual reality along with traditional book study.
These high-tech tools could be made mobile, making training available to sailors at the waterfront without having to send them miles away from their homes and commands.
To help the Navy develop new and more effective training, White said they’ve turned to the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division out of Orlando, Florida, where Navy officials are already at work developing the next generations of training technology.
“They are leading the effort to now visit the classrooms that we teach those ratings in today, and do a little bit of a knowledge capture and analysis of that training – should it continue to be instructor led? Do we have modernized delivery methods with computer simulation, or gamification, or other opportunities that would increase the retention of knowledge?”
One such technology is what he calls the Multi-Purpose Reconfigurable Training System, something that’s already in the fleet being used by the submarine community.
Simply put, this is a room of large, flat, touch-screen displays, White said. Those displays can simulate a torpedo room on a Virginia Class submarine in the morning and be re-booted in the afternoon to be a submarine radio room.
This system can be installed permanently in a schoolhouse or configured as mobile training platform, put into a trailer and drive down the pier to provide the training where the sailors are, he said.
In addition, he said, the service is also looking at other options for training, such as applications that can be accessed on personal smart phones and tablets.
Already the service has begun to offer such apps that teach some General Military Training topics. But this is expected to expand to other areas in the future, officials say.
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Navy Gives Fleet Commanders More Control Over Who Gets Training – And When
(NAVY TIMES 19 FEB 17) … Mark D. Faram
The biggest challenge – and potential risk – for the Navy’s new training program is that the fleet owns it and operational commanders will have a big say in what training sailors get and when.
Sure, the Naval Education and Training Command, which has overseen enlisted training for generations, will still be part of the picture.
But as the transformation of the Navy’s training pipeline starts to take effect this year, it will be the fleet commanders – both Atlantic and Pacific – who will decide when the sailor gets their next level of training.
“For the ship CO, he gets to decide when that sailor is ready for that advanced training,” said Al Gonzalez, the top personnel and training official at Fleet Forces Command.
“It may happen at year one plus one day, or [the CO] may say you need a little more time.”
Starting this year, the Navy will be cutting up-front training in ‘A’ school by as much as 70 percent, and the oversight by NETC will end when sailors head to their first duty assignment.
Fleet commanders will oversee the bulk of a sailors’ advanced training, that will now be broken up into “blocks” of training and spread intermittently across a sailor’s career after spending time on the job in the fleet.
It’ll be up to the fleet commanders to decide exactly what sailors will learn and when.
“Once [sailors]have been on the ship for about a year and they have proven their ability to absorb more knowledge in their particular career field . we will give the command an opportunity to get that sailor to block one, which is their next update on their career field.”
The changes signal a historic break from the Navy’s long-standing tradition of giving sailors lengthy initial training and teaching skills that sailors might not use for years – if ever.
“If we train them on something that they will not use for the next three, four, five years, they lose their skill-set in those areas,” Gonzalez said.
“What we are doing is we are looking at all that accession training and figuring out what they need in the first two years that they are going to be on the platform,” he said.
In the past, efforts to cut training invariably led to grumbling from the fleet and specifically the deck plates that newly minted junior sailors were arriving at their first duty assignment without the skills to do their jobs.
There is some anxiety about how the new regimen will work in practice. Some people in the Navy are wonder whether the shortened A-Schools will provide junior sailors with the skills they’ll need at their first job.
And there’s also concern among some senior enlisted officials that commands won’t get their sailors to follow on training – and here, there’s some historical precedent.
Fleet commands have traditionally been stingy with sailor’s time, given all the operational commitments, inspections and maintenance required in the fleet today. And the result is, sometimes, that sailors have suffered at the hands of their commands.
For example, the Navy has long required sailors to attend leadership training as they advance to the next paygrade. A decade ago, that training was a week-long and was given at training commands. But in some cases, commanders did not prioritize that training and at one point 28,000 sailors who did not have that training were at risk of not being eligible promotion.
It took a year and a concentrated effort by personnel officials, including suspending the advancement requirement for the training for a year so the Navy could get more sailors into that training course and whittle down the number of impacted sailors to 10,000.
But the problem persisted and within months the training was reworked.
But Gonzalez says that this situation will be different from the get go.
“That was a very significant point when the fleet became the leader in this particular activity,” Gonzalez. “As we looked at what we were doing to the operating forces, we did not want to put an undue burden on them, and that this effort provides tangible improvement for both the sailor and the ship.”
With the fleet running the show, he said, it’s easier for leadership to set the expectations for commanders – as well as setting the rules for ensuring sailors get their follow-on training within set limits.
This gives the command the chance to gauge the sailor’s actual performance, Gonzalez says, and to work with him or her on where their skills are lacking – and they can find the right place in the ship’s schedule.
“They can remediate a few of the things that they need to so that when he goes back to the training he is all up to speed and he is not going to be behind when he enters that course.”
Gonzalez says the rule have been set to help the sailor as well as the command.
“What we have done for the ships is a number of things, First we have given them a wide area on which to get the sailor back to the training,” he said.
“Two, we give the CO of that ship a guarantee – and in fact it is not even a question – that sailor would be going back to the same unit that he came from when he gets done with the training.
And what the command gets is an improved sailor, ready to take the knowledge he gets from that course and apply it immediately to the ship that invested that time in sending him.
“So the ship has an investment and a reward coming out of getting that sailor ready for his next block – and then when he comes back they get the benefit of that sailor having a higher level of skillset to perform on the same ship that he left,” Gonzalez said.
“The sailor benefits because he does not have to re-qualify on watch stations or warfare qualifications, does not have to move and comes back to the ship knowing that he can do a better job.”
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Visiting the Prowler: USMC Electronic Warfare Capabilities in Transition
Second Line of Defense, Feb. 22 | Todd Miller
The unmistakable Grumman EA-6B Prowler comes into view on the horizon and streaks low across the hills of southern Virginia.
“Dog 31” of the VMAQ-3 Moon Dogs is on a routine low level training mission. The flight ensures pilot and electronic countermeasures officers (ECMOs) realize the minimum designated 15 hours of monthly flight time to maintain proficiency.
Additional time is spent training in simulators to address specific threat environments.
The Prowler wings by and banks into the late afternoon sun.
It is a visual metaphor, as sundown for the Prowler fleet is drawing near.
The Prowlers remain one of the premier electronic warfare (EW) aircraft in the services and are planned to cease operations in 2019.
Prowler squadron VMAQT-1 the Banshees were decommissioned in 2016, and the current Marine Aviation plan has the remaining squadrons following one per year; in 2017 the VMAQ-4 Seahawks, in 2018 the VMAQ-3 Moon Dogs, and the last Prowler squadron, the VMAQ-2 Death Jesters will be decommissioned in 2019.
The 18 currently remaining EA-6Bs are based at MCAS Cherry Point, NC and split among the 3 active squadrons as needs (deployments) require.
During this staged sundown, pilots and ECMOs are given options to transition to other aircraft, incoming EW platforms, or pursue new occupational specialties.
In many respects the Prowler “sundown” is not a typical “retirement” where a platform with diminished capacity slowly fades away.
Today’s Prowler is the most capable variant ever. The aircraft features the improved capabilities (ICAP) III package and will receive Block 7 ICAP III upgrades to improve EW performance and operability through to the end of service life.
The aircraft are effective and future deployments are planned.
Over 46 years of service Prowlers (USN since 1971 & USMC since 1977) have been involved in scores of critical Navy, Air Force, Marine and Coalition operations. Since 9/11 Prowlers have been deployed near continuously.
Recently, the aircraft have provided extensive service (including deployment to Incirlik Air Base in Turkey) over Syria and Iraq to support the coalition in the fight against ISIS. In these theaters, the aircraft jam cell phones and other remote signals that trigger IEDs as well radars that may be tracking coalition air assets.
While the aircraft can utilize anti-radiation missiles to strike enemy radar assets, their secondary role in this region is more likely to include intelligence gathering within the electronic spectrum.
By 2020, the USMC will have adopted a revolutionary change in how they address electronic warfare.
Rather than replace the Prowler with a dedicated platform, the USMC has adopted a distributed strategy, where “every platform is a sensor, shooter and sharer.”
This new paradigm brings together both electronic warfare and cyber capability with the Marine Air-Ground Task Force (MAGTF) in a structure called the (MAGTF EW).
USMC Captain Sarah Burns explains, “Under MAGTF EW the Marine Corps is leveraging emerging technologies and integrating multiple aviation platforms [unmanned, fixed-wing, tilt-rotor, and rotary-wing assets]; payloads; ground-based EW nodes; and cyber capabilities to provide commanders with an organic and persistent EW capability – for every MAGTF – large and small.”
Within the MAGTF EW each USMC aviation platform will have the capability to carry its own pods packed with sensors / jammer payloads (such as the Intrepid Tiger II).
2nd Lt. Samuel Stephenson indicates:
“This integration of manned and unmanned airborne and ground EW capabilities will provide the MAGTF commander with greater flexibility and control of the electromagnetic spectrum and, in many cases, giving the commander a capability where previously they had none.
“MAGTF EW assets will be modular, scalable and networked, utilizing an open architecture that is rapidly adaptable and remotely re-programmable at the tactical level to support future Marine Corps warfighting requirements.”
The US Navy EA-18G Growler will continue the Prowlers dedicated EW mission.
The USMC F-35B & C (replacing the AV-8B, F/A-18A-D and EA-6B) will provide the tactical aviation requirements of the USMC while offering a very robust EW capability. Combined, the two aircraft (EA-18G & F-35B/C) will bring immense EW capability to the Joint Force.
As Stephenson indicates, “These aircraft, combined with the assets available in the MAGTF EW, will ensure the Marine Corps will be able to quickly innovate and adapt to the changing EW mission set and the battlefield of tomorrow.”
During this time of dynamic change within the USMC, the Prowlers remain at the ready and heavily utilized.
The aircraft train out of MCAS Cherry Point and participate globally within exercises of USAF, USN and coalition forces.
The Prowler community and aviation enthusiasts have a few remaining years to celebrate the service and enjoy the flight of the Prowler.
They can do so knowing this cat is black, and will be on the prowl until the final hour.
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Navy Cyber Chief: Network Protection, Data Assurance Top Priorities; Investments Needed in A.I.
U.S. Naval Institute News, Feb. 21 | Gidget Fuentes
The military services must deliver information and data to warfighters, from fleet commanders to pilots, that’s timely, accurate, secure and not compromised by the growing threats from network intruders and attacks, the Navy’s top cyber official told a San Diego defense conference on Tuesday.
“It’s about assured C2 (command and control). It’s about giving tactical operators the assurance that the data that they are looking at – whether it’s on a computer screen or the cockpit of a Super Hornet – is data that they can trust,” Vice Adm. Michael M. Gilday, commander of Fleet Cyber Command and 10th Fleet, said in a session with a WEST 2017 conference audience.
“If you are in a cockpit, you can be assured that the track that you are going to shoot at is the track you want to shoot at. It’s the same thing for a fleet commander,’ Gilday said. “He has to be assured that the orders he is putting out to the force have not been tampered with.”
“Network defense remains our number one priority,” he said. “It’s more important than offensive cyber.”
“Our aspiration is assured C2 in a communications-denied environment,” he added.
The goal is to push out analytics “to the tactical edge” and report back to higher headquarters to provide a better cyber COP, or common operating picture, and cyber situational awareness, “which we lack right now,” Gilday said.
The Navy is on track with building its Cyber Protection Teams and other cyber forces over the next few years that provide passive and active defense, along the perimeter and at the core of cyber networks. Cyber defense is a 24/7 mission. “Our optempo is a constant 24/7/365,” Gilday said. “We are always on mission.”
The Navy retains seven of its 40 Cyber Protection Teams, half which are poised for cyber defense missions while the other half for cyber offense capabilities. They are among the 113 teams that are being formed across the military services. So far, 26 Navy CPTs have reached full operating capability (FOC), and the rest will be fully capable by summer, a year earlier than planned, Gilday said.
Already, the Navy has enlisted its 40 teams to support cyber missions to some degree after Fleet Cyber equipped them with initial kits that will be refined and standardized once an ongoing assessment is completed. “The initial push was, get them on a mission,” he said.
Much work remains, however, in the critical need to track activity and identify intruders in the network and also determine their intents and impacts. “We’re still challenged with that insider threat,” Gilday said. Attacks on networks move very rapidly, which make it harder to identify threats and respond before damage is done. Offensive cyber “will always have the tactical advantage,” he later said.
The cheap availability and rapid evolution of malware, especially those that are stealthy and lethal, aren’t making defenses easy. “I need better tools than the adversaries have,” Gilday told a panel audience later in the afternoon.
That might include artificial intelligence.
The service is looking at A.I. capabilities to defend the network, help block and fight potential intruders and analyze the “near-second turn” on critical information that warfighters need. “We’ve seen that the adversary moves very, very quickly,” Gilday said. Cyber Command is piloting with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command to take a deeper look at its network architecture through various AI subsets “so we can detect that insider threat,” he said. “We need to do better.”
“The degree of automation in offensive cyber is spiraling,” Gilday said, and that’s making defending networks more challenging. “Artificial intelligence is where we need to go, and where we need to make an even bigger investment.”
One of SPAWAR’s top priorities is bolstering the Navy’s information technology infrastructure, the SPAWAR chief told the conference. That means upgrading systems and incorporating stronger defenses to help identify cyber intrusions, protect networks, defeat the threats and respond to those threats when needed.
“Industry has gone that way. We are going that way,” Rear Adm. David H. Lewis, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, said in a morning session. “We don’t make the assumption that our insides are clean.”
Lewis equated some network attacks as “smash and grab” burglaries, intrusions that can cripple networks and compromise data and leave sometimes obvious clues or fingerprints as to the source of the crime. But it’s not always the case, though, and sometimes an attack is much of a mystery as it is a mess.
“Our adversaries don’t. want us to know that they were there.”
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Link Army, Navy Missile Defense Nets: Adm. Harris
(BREAKING DEFENSE 21 FEB 17) … Sydney J. Freedberg Jr.
SAN DIEGO – The Army and Navy must link their missile defense systems into a single network so Navy weapons can hit targets spotted by Army radars and vice versa, the chief of Pacific Command said today. That’s a daunting technical task but, if surmounted, it could dramatically improve defense against North Korean, Chinese, or Russian missile salvos.
“I believe that Army missileers should incorporate their air defense systems into the Navy’s integrated fire control – counter-air, or NIFC-CA, architecture,” Adm. Harry Harris told the AFCEA West convention here.
“I want them to be able to deliver a missile on target, and I want them to be able to do it interchangeably,” Harris elaborated to reporters afterwards. “In other words, I want the Navy to be able to do the sensing and the Army to do the shooting, or the Army to do the sensing and the Navy to do the shooting.” A Navy E-2D Hawkeye radar plane might spot an incoming missile for a land-based Army Patriot battery, for example, or an Army AN/TPY-2 radar might send targeting data to an Aegis destroyer.
Getting data from any radar to any weapon this way is much easier said than done. The Army’s still working on making this happen among different Army systems, let alone with other services. Currently, for example, a Patriot battery gets targeting data from a purpose-built Patriot radar by way of a purpose-built Patriot command post. The Army’s developing a new network called IBCS to connect all its disparate air and missile defense systems, and it’s had some successful tests, but it’s years from entering service.
The Navy is further along, having already developed what Harris calls the “unbelievably powerful” NIFC-CA. That system lets high-flying, far-seeing aerial sensors like the E-2 Hawkeye or, in future, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter pass targeting data back to destroyers and cruisers. That lets surface ships shoot down incoming missiles before their own mast-mounted sensors could spot them. But NIFC-CA is specifically designed to communicate over a Navy network called CEC (Cooperative Engagement Capability), which then feeds data to the Aegis fire control system on Navy ships. Connecting NIFC-CA to the not-yet-complete Army IBCS network will be a very different challenge.
“These two systems ought to be talking to each other,” Harris said. “I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m not a technical guy, so I don’t know how to make it work … How they do it, that’s my challenge to my components, to Adm. Swift (Adm. Scott Swift, commander of Pacific Fleet) and to Gen. Brown (Gen. Robert Brown, commander of U.S. Army Pacific).”
Brown in particular is playing a leading role in wargaming out the Army’s Multi-Domain Battle concept, which envisions land-based Army missile batteries firing “cross domain” on targets well out to sea. That includes not just missile defense interceptors but offensive anti-ship weapons as well. “As I’ve already told our outstanding U.S. Army commander, Gen. Bob Brown, before I leave PACOM, I’d like to see the Army’s land forces conduct exercises to sink a ship – in a complex environment where our joint and combined forces are operating in other domains,” Harris told AFCEA. “The multi-domain battle and cross-domain fires concepts are the right approaches we need.. in order to win future battles.”
Harris is equally excited about other applications of computer networks to warfare, particularly robotics. At the Super Bowl, “300 quad copters put on light show as an opening act for Lady Gaga – who was terrific by the way,” Harris told AFCEA. “What interests me in these examples is not the drones per se, or even Lady Gaga, for that matter. What interests me is the network that allows a hundred drones or more to fly in formation, to receive new orders, and to report back. That, said there’s a dark side(:) As soon as we figure out how to do this, someone else will try to hack into it.”
To help make these visions reality, Harris encouraged the technologists in the audience to pitch their innovations to the Pentagon – not necessarily to his headquarters in Hawaii. “My wallet really is small. The combatant commanders don’t buy stuff except in specialized areas,” he told AFCEA. “You have to, at the end of the day, pitch it to the services, (to) acquisition folks at the various service secretariats and OSD (Office of the Secretary of Defense). The combatant commanders can help pull, but you have to push.”
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DoD Will Create Diverse Teams To Cut Out Duplicate Offices In Military Services
(WFED AM RADIO WASHINGTON DC 21 FEB 17) … Scott Maucione
The Defense Department is relying on teams with broad expertise to crosscut bureaucratic tiers and clean waste in the Pentagon.
A Feb. 17 memo from Defense Secretary James Mattis is taking to heart a task Congress legally required DoD to take up in the 2017 defense authorization act.
The memo assigns “cross-functional teams” (CFTs) to consolidate tasks and duties the military services separately perform.
“I recognize the military services have unique competencies in the specific operating domains . However, we have sometimes allowed our focus on service uniqueness to extend into business operations, leading to duplications of efforts and costs we can no longer afford,” Mattis wrote in the memo.
CFTs are made up of different functional experts all working toward a common goal. A single team may include people from logistics, communications, finance and human resources from all levels of DoD and even from outside the department.
The hope is integrate the Pentagon in a more horizontal fashion, where different divisions can work together instead of divisions working vertically in a stovepiped manner.
Mattis asked the teams to look into human resource management, acquisition and contract management, logistics and supply chain management, health care management, base services and cyber/IT management.
The memo appoints the deputy defense secretary to lead the initiative and to bring decisions forward for consideration during the fiscal 2019 program cycle.
DoD has long suffered from inefficiencies and waste.
The Defense Business Board issued a 2015 report that stated DoD could save $125 billion over five years purely through administrative measure. Those include cutting back on contractors, streamlining bureaucracies and other improvements. The report stated those savings could be made without laying off any Pentagon staff.
Still, staff is a whole problem in itself.
The Joint Staff has burgeoned to more than 4,000 employees, the office of the secretary of defense to 5,000 and the combatant commands have grown to more than 38,000, Flournoy said.
They “are ripe for a real scrub in terms of the breadth of their functions and the level of duplication with the joint staff and with OSD,” Michele Flournoy, former DoD undersecretary for policy told the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2015. “Headquarters have continued to grow even though active duty military has shrunk. In total, if you add in the defense agencies you have 240,000 people, excluding contractors, to a cost of $113 billion, it’s almost 20 percent of the DoD budget.”
Many of the areas Mattis targeted for consolidations made an appearance on the Government Accountability’s High Risk List released last week.
The report, which points out government issues in need of critical attention, notes that even DoD’s ability to find duplicative programs and offices is a problem in itself.
Other areas GAO highlighted were supply chain management, acquisition management, financial accountability and infrastructure issues.
But CFTs may be the best way to address the problems.
“Part of the issue is that the problems we identify require multiple components of the Defense Department to work together. Many of our recommendations on overlap, duplication and fragmentation have to do with components of DoD itself rather than across government. It’s a very large operation,” said Comptroller General Gene Dodaro during a Feb. 15 congressional hearing.
DoD experimented with cross-functional entities last year in the realm of service contracts. The acquisition office created cross-functional units to better its service contracting.
“You can’t have the idea that everyone is an expert on everything. So, how do you look at and gain that knowledge and share that and create communities of practice?” said Claire Grady, DoD’s director of defense procurement and acquisition strategy. “A functional domain expert [will] have that cross-cutting look across the community field into how we are buying services. [It] is a critical part of how we are tackling this.”
Not everything about CFTs is rosy, however. An August 2016, National Defense University study noted CFTs could create friction with functional leaders as it pursues its mission.
Former Defense Secretary Ash Carter noted in his 2017 NDAA heartburn letter that CFTs would result in “increased bureaucracy and a larger, less efficient and less responsive DoD organization.”
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Navy Shifts SeaPower Strategy
(SCOUT WARRIOR 18 FEB 17) … Bryan McGrath
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson has a new idea about how he wants to build the budget and is pushing the Navy to get onboard. He is rightfully concerned about the competition with rising naval powers. He is rightfully concerned that the pace of the competition is quickening. His approach isn’t getting a whole lot of press, and to many it sounds like a whole lot of inside baseball, but to my mind, it is incredibly important stuff.
Richardson is reshuffling the deck – and his dealer is the VCNO (Vice Chief of Naval Operations), who is enforcing discipline in the new process. Instead of the resource sponsors being responsible for putting together that portion of the POM (Navy Program Objective Memorandum Budget Process) that corresponds to their “Platforms” – CNO has decreed that POM’s will be built around how the Navy will fight AS A SYSTEM within the various warfighting domains.
For instance – the Director of Surface Warfare Programs – RADM Ron Boxall – is no longer just responsible to the CNO for putting together a program that deals with U.S. Navy cruisers, destroyers and frigates. Boxall is now charged with leading a domain-based view of how all platforms – submarines, ships, aircraft, space and electronic warfare systems – that deal with how we confront ADVERSARY ships.
That is, he oversees an entire architecture, the Surface Domain, and he must bring to his boss (N9, Deputy CNO for Warfare Systems) a coherent, architecturally-based view of how ALL the capabilities fielded by ALL the resource sponsors relate in this domain. The undersea, air, and Cyber/Space/EW domains are similarly honchoed by a two-star integrator.
The theory here is that at some point in the process, this domain-driven approach will then allocate functionality within the domain back to the traditional platform sponsors in a way that is derived from a coherent warfighting architecture, and so their program proposals will spring NOT from whatever community interest they’d like to scratch, but from an efficient and effective view of what is required for dominance within that domain.
Why is this important? It is important because as we all know, goodness follows money. And if we begin to think about allocating resources from a domain architecture perspective rather than from a platform perspective, the REQUIREMENTS generation process will ultimately have to ALSO be altered to reflect an architectural – rather than a platform – view.
If we are going to begin to budget from a domain architecture perspective, we are going to need to begin THINKING about warfighting from that perspective. We are going to need concept development that looks at the adversary and discerns new ways of neutralizing it, rather than concepts that look at our platforms and discerns new ways of employing them.
And if we begin to develop domain-centered concepts, those concepts are going to have to be backed up by coherent, multi-platform systems architectures, architectures that allocate functionality to achieve warfighting desires. After all – what OPNAV (Naval Operations) is doing right now is necessary, but it is NOT sufficient – because even though they are building a budget using a domain approach, they HAVE NOTHING TO CHECK IT AGAINST – that is, these domain systems architectures simply.don’t..exist.
And they don’t exist for one very important reason. Up to now, there hasn’t been a general need for them. To be brutally honest, the Navy simply doesn’t have an organization charged with or staffed for doing this kind of work.
For the full value and goodness of the CNO’s ABSOLUTELY spot-on approach to work, the Navy will have to up its domain-oriented systems engineering game, and I have a feeling that people in this room will be critical to that effort.
So now – let’s leap ahead to twenty years from now and dream out loud for a bit. Let’s assume that the Navy – way back in 2017 – stood up a systems engineering organization that held the whip-hand when it came to architectural compliance in acquisition matters, and for twenty years, Navy acquisition has steadily moved away from the stove pipes of platform capability into the light of domain driven capability allocation.
We’ll still need to build ships then, right?
So then, what would such an approach VALUE from surface ships? More importantly, if we are going to move in this direction, what should our shipbuilding, naval engineering, and naval architect communities be thinking about TODAY?
Well then. This gets to the heart of the matter.
It seems to me that in such a domain architecturally-driven view of the world, surface ships will be most valued for flexibility, reconfigurability, interoperability, and capacity. And I think if we’re honest with each other, we’d conclude that this is NOT what we prize in the way we currently build ships.
Don’t get me wrong. We build great ships. The AEGIS Destroyer I commanded was the envy of the world. But it was conceived of and built as a “point solution” to a set of requirements that produced a variety of warfighting capabilities. Insufficient thought was given to how it might evolve, and how that evolution could be enabled.
My friend and mentor retired RADM Nevin Carr has a pithy way of describing what the surface force should move toward. He talks about “big trucks”, “medium trucks”, and “small trucks”. I’ll build on this simplicity here for a bit, and what I say will be no surprise to most of you who have already been thinking along these lines – but perhaps not from the architecturally-driven perspective that I suggest.
Surface ships of the future must be built in order to be able to pace the threat. When a new ARLEIGH BURKE destroyer is commissioned, it immediately begins to decline relative to the threat, which is always upgrading.
Ten years or so down the road, at great expense and at a cost of significant operational availability, at least ten year’s worth of technology and capability upgrades are stuffed into the ship. It then rejoins the fleet – again at a high state of readiness – and begins the cycle of decline relative to the threat once again. Perhaps one more time in its remaining service life, it will get another massive modernization period in which it is taken out of service for a year and $150M is poured into it.
What if we could build a ship – build all of our ships – in a way in which regular maintenance periods could be used to accomplish major capability upgrades? These more frequent and less intrusive upgrades would accomplish two things. They would ensure that the ship remains in front of the threats it is imagined against, and because the capability upgrades will have arisen from a domain architecture – and a disciplined systems engineering process – the prospects for interoperability with the rest of the architecture are improved.
I’m talking mainly about functionality driven by open architecture schemes – -in which the Navy controls the interface and industry creates the applications to meet architecturally driven requirements. Because a coherent systems engineering organization will have been involved from the beginning, where an application for a particular function has already been created – it, or portions of it – can be integrated into the computing platform of the ship. This commonality, this reuse, also contributes to architectural interoperability.
But why stop with software? We took a stab at modularity in the LCS (Littoral Combat Ship) class, and while it was a well-intentioned stab, it appears that we may have gotten it wrong. Mission area modularity – to me – makes much less sense than component level modularity. I’ve come to refer to this as “the commoditization of capability”, and how we get there is somewhat like how we get to software architectures. The government – i.e. the Navy – defines the real estate and the support functions – in other words, it defines the physical interfaces.
Space, weight, power, and cooling are provided, and industry is asked, “what can you do with this space”? This is why RADM Carr talks about “trucks”. The ship is a truck that carries around commodities, and those commodities are capabilities – capabilities that can be switched out pierside while the enabling software is upgraded over encrypted networks.
You know better than I that this approach is not the way we do things now, and you also know better than I that the government almost certainly wouldn’t get it right if it tried to impose such a system on industry.
So why not work together?
Why not bring together the various stakeholders in this process and begin the work of creating the future?
Why not get the fleet, the requirements community, the acquisition community, and industry together and hash this stuff out?
Why not say to industry – “here is where we want to go – can you help us get there?”
I believe we can. I know it is worth doing. And I am certain that it will take inspired leadership across a number of years to accomplish.
It will certainly not be easy.
But if it were easy – the Navy wouldn’t be doing it.
Bryan McGrath is a former Navy Captain who Commanded an AEGIS Destroyer. He is a defense consultant, and is the Assistant Director of Hudson Institute’s Center for American Seapower. Much of this essay comes from McGrath’s Feb. 15 Presentation to the American Society of Naval Engineers:
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Trump’s F-35C Vs. F/A-18E/F Super Hornet Idea: An Interesting Debate … Four Years Ago
(THE NATIONAL INTEREST 21 FEB 17) … Richard Aboulafia
Since the election, President Donald Trump has been making headlines with his promise to look at more Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornets as an alternative to Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. He has also discussed asking Boeing to develop an improved Super Hornet as part of this alternative acquisition path. Clearly, Trump has been reading the news about these programs … from 2013.
As Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has explained, Trump’s comments only affect the F-35C model. Yet the F-35C is easily the weakest member of the F-35 family in terms of customer enthusiasm. The F-35B is needed to make the U.S. Marines’ fleet of amphibious assault carriers work (no, the F/A-18 can’t fly vertically). The F-35A is fully supported by the Air Force as the only plane that meets its needs (and the service has no interest in the Super Hornet, which is optimized for carrier operations). The F-35A has at least ten customers worldwide, while the F-35B has the Marines, the UK Royal Navy and the Italian Navy.
By contrast, the F-35C has exactly one customer, the U.S. Navy. Yet the Navy seems less than thrilled with the idea of buying it. Between FY 2013 and 2017, the Navy procured 102 F/A-18E/Fs and EA-18G Growlers. In the same period, the Navy procured 22 F-35Cs. However, some of these were destined for the U.S. Marines, and not big carrier NAVAIR. Thus, the Navy seems to have prioritized Super Hornet acquisition over F-35Cs by a factor of five or ten to one. And last year saw Boeing sign one new firm and one new probable F/A-18E/F customer (Kuwait and Canada, respectively). With Australia, there will now be four Super Hornet operators.
By comparison with those 22 F-35Cs, in the same period the U.S. military air arms ordered or requested 205 F-35As and Bs, with scores more ordered by foreign customers. In terms of numbers, the F-35C is simply not a very important part of the Joint Strike Fighter procurement program.
Meanwhile, after years of counting on Congress to add Super Hornets to its annual budget, the Navy last year resumed requesting Super Hornets in its base budget. Its current plan calls for it to keep doing so, probably with even higher annual procurement numbers. Trump will almost certainly claim credit for any block orders associated with these purchases.
As for Trump’s oft-mentioned interest in an improved Super Hornet as an alternative to the F-35C, this too dates back four years, when Boeing began publicizing its Advanced Super Hornet proposal. See here for Boeing’s announcement, and here for a good technical backgrounder. Since this idea was mooted, Boeing has continued to improve and evolve the idea of an improved Super Hornet, most recently with its Block 3 proposal.
Clearly, Trump wants to appear like he’s in charge of military requirements (and F-35 pricing improvements). But to do this, he sometimes needs to take credit for events that took place years in the past.
Richard Aboulafia is Vice President, Analysis at Teal Group. He manages consulting projects for clients in the commercial and military aircraft field, and has advised numerous aerospace companies.