In Between Carriers, 11th MEU, Makin Island ARG Are Busy In 5th Fleet

By: Gidget Fuentes, USNI News

“The new year began with no U.S. aircraft carrier and carrier strike group on watch in the Middle East.

The Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group returned home two days earlier, having spent four of its seven-month deployment in the U.S. 5th Fleet region conducting missions and strikes against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria after 10 days of operations from the Mediterranean while in U.S. 6th Fleet.

The late-November exit of Eisenhower (CVN-69) from the Persian Gulf created a carrier gap that remains today, pending the arrival of USS George W.H. Bush (CVN-77). Bush left Norfolk, Va., on Jan. 21 and today was transiting the Atlantic on course for the Mediterranean.

But the volatile Middle East region wasn’t devoid of U.S. military projection from the sea. For almost two months – and through the nation’s transition to a new administration – the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit, aboard the three-ship Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group, has been standing post.”

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Mattis Orders Comparison Review of F-35C and Advanced Super Hornet

By: Sam LaGrone, USNI News

“Defense Secretary James Mattis is ordering a Pentagon review to compare the capabilities and cost between the emerging carrier-based Lockheed Martin F-35C Lighting II Joint Strike Fighter and an upgraded version of the Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, according to a memo obtained by USNI News.

The three-paragraph directive orders Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work to, “oversee a review that compares F-35C and F/A-18 E/F operational capabilities and assesses the extent that F/A-18E/F improvements (an advanced Super Hornet) can be made in order to provide a competitive, cost effective, fighter aircraft alternative.”

The memo also directs Work to look at the overall F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to find opportunities to significantly reduce cost while maintaining the requirements for the program.”

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Summary of the Navy’s New Force Structure Assessment

“Navy’s Force Structure Assessment (FSA) was developed in an effort to determine the right balance of existing forces, the ships we currently have under construction and the future procurement plans needed to address the ever-evolving and increasingly complex threats the Navy is required to counter in the global maritime commons. This FSA assumes that the future plans for our Navy, in ship types and numbers of ships, continues to replace the ships we have today with ships of similar capability and in similar numbers as we transition to the future Navy – it does not address potential options that may come out of the ongoing review of the potential Future Fleet Architecture studies that were directed by Congress and completed in October 2016. As we evaluate the options presented in these studies and move to include them in our plans for tomorrow’s Navy, this FSA will need to be updated to reflect those changes that are determined to be most beneficial to meeting the Navy’s missions of the future.”

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Navy Wants to Weave LCS, Unmanned Systems, Subs into New Battle Network

By: Megan Eckstein, USNI News

“The Navy is looked to expand the web of connections currently linking its ships, planes and weapons to include submarines, smaller ships and unmanned systems to create a warfighting network that would be challenging for an adversary to bring down, the Navy’s surface warfare director (OPNAV N96) said.

Rear Adm. Ronald Boxall said that the Navy is comfortable with its Aegis Combat System and the Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA) construct built around it, but that the service would have to expand this idea to keep up with global threats.

“Unfortunately we’ve had a little bit of a glass ceiling at the ship level, and until we get to the system level and get that across all platforms, that’s the challenge,” he said of Aegis, while speaking at the American Society of Naval Engineer’s annual Combat System Symposium.”

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ONR’s Autonomous USVs Prove Ability To Allocate Tasks, Dynamically Adjust As Mission Evolves

By: Megan Eckstein, USNI News

“The Office of Naval Research demonstrated for the second time the ability to turn already-fielded small boats into unmanned autonomous systems and use them for missions like harbor defense, two ONR program officials told reporters this week.

A month-long demonstration in the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia allowed ONR to prove that the 7-meter and 11-meter boats that had been converted to autonomous unmanned surface vehicles could not only perceive their surroundings and plan their routes accordingly while performing a mission, as was demonstrated two years ago, but could also now work as a group to delegate tasks, select appropriate behaviors from a behavior library in response to events around them, and identify nearby vessels as friendly or unfriendly after matching what they see to a pre-programmed database of ships they could encounter.

This demonstration, called “Swarm 2, Mission: Safe Harbor,” proved that with minimal human supervision these four unmanned boats could carry out a tactically relevant mission at sea, Small Combatant Craft Program Officer Robert Brizzolara told reporters Wednesday.”

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Navy Wants to Grow Fleet to 355 Ships; 47 Hull Increase Adds Destroyers, Attack Subs

By: Sam LaGrone and Megan Eckstein, USNI News

“The Navy released a new fleet plan that calls for 355 ships, outlining a massive increase in the size of its high-end large surface combatant and attack submarine fleets but a modest increase in its planned amphibious ship fleet, according to a Dec. 14 summary of the assessment.

The findings of the latest Force Structure Assessment adds 47 ships to the Navy’s battle force over the 308-ship figure from a 2014 FSA.

According to the summary, the service determined the 355 total was the “minimum force structure to comply with [Pentagon] strategic guidance” and was not “the “desired” force size the Navy would pursue if resources were not a constraint, read the summary.”

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Navy Drafting Unmanned Systems Roadmap To Guide Resources

By: Megan Eckstein, USNI News

“The Department of the Navy is creating an Unmanned Systems Roadmap to help integrate unmanned technologies into existing Navy acquisition, programmatic and operational plans.

The roadmap was an early task for the office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Unmanned Systems, which was created one year ago along with the position of Director of Unmanned Warfare Systems (OPNAV N99). Retired Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Frank Kelley was tapped at this time last year to serve as the first DASN Unmanned Systems and spoke about the first year on the job today at the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s (AUVSI) annual defense conference.

Kelley said the roadmap would not include program-level schedules or requirements but rather would recommend time and resource investment options to help the Navy integrate unmanned with the rest of its portfolio.”

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