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Surface Forces Priorities in an Ever-Changing Maritime Environment

By Vice Admiral Tom Copeman

Twenty-five years ago, then CNO Admiral Trost looked into the future and began our shift from a Cold War focus to dealing with regional and littoral conflicts in the years to come.  So we started down the path to where we are now—working through various iterations, starts and stops, and plenty of ideas on ship types and classes to deal with unknown future threats.

Now we have assets in place to operate in the littorals and we have new ways of delivering troops and equipment to the beach.

How many of us saw the expansion of C5ISR? Or, who knew in the late 1980’s that there would even be UAVs, much less see the ubiquity of their use? Which is the sticking point about the future—it is wholly unknown. And for those who say past is prelude. That may be, but the past isn’t a plot.

The Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) is an important addition to the Battle Force and is exactly the ship we envisioned 11 years ago to fill a capability gap in the Littorals in Surface Warfare, Mine Warfare and Anti-submarine Warfare. It is here now and we fully expect it to be an important an integral and substantial part of our future force. It’s a high speed, shallow draft, multi-mission workhorse full of technology that is our future.  As we decommission different ships of various classes, LCS will step up and fill multiple roles.  It is far more automated than previous class ships, and with lower manning, requires us to adapt our training and operations to meet that reality.

So, let me get to my priorities:

  1. Warfighting. It’s what we do – A large part of that will be with LCS.  LCS must get into the Fleet and fully integrated where we will use both variants and the mission modules to their best effect.
  2. Readiness. The world is a dynamic place and the Navy has to have the best trained Sailors who will operate the best equipment possible. In many ways what we operate will determine the number, type and training of Sailors needed. That support trail begins now for what we will require in the decades to come.
  3. Building the future fleet. What will the world look like in another decade? That’s a question which forces us to make assumptions about future resources, alliances, bases and strategies. The concepts, design outlines, support requirements—training, simulators, supply chain and dollars—required to operate in 2025 have to get underway soon.

No matter what news you see or hear about our budget, as of today, we get to steam around the world as part of the most powerful Navy in history. We have the best people, representing the best nation, with the best ships ever known. Let’s keep it that way… tell the Surface Navy story wherever you go. The oceans aren’t getting smaller and the world isn’t getting safer. A maritime nation needs a worthy maritime capability.


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