Category Archives: Tactics

Operationalizing Distributed Maritime Operations

Distributed Maritime Operations Topic Week

By Kevin Eyer and Steve McJessy

Origins and Implications

While the concept of Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO) may represent the major, new thrust in the Navy’s warfighting thought, it does not arrive out of a vacuum. In order to fully understand both the concept and implications of DMO, it is essential to first understand the seminal documents and thoughts out of which it grew.

The kernel ideas as to what DMO might one day become has existed in Navy circles for some time, and these have grown organically along with certain elemental technological steps. The first of these steps began with the advent of a significant Soviet threat arising with the fielding of a major anti-ship cruise missiles capability in the late 1950s. In response, the Navy undertook two significant programs; a shift in defensive primacy from guns to missiles, and; the development of Tactical Data Links (TDL). Missiles provided the necessary speed and reach, and “TADILs” were designed to share each connected unit’s radar picture among all TADIL capable units in the local force. For the first time forces were knit together by more than flashing light, signal flag, and radio communications.

The second major event was the development of the Aegis Combat System (ACS), which began in the mid-1960s and came to fruition in the late 1970s. It is generally understood that with the advent of the ACS, ships achieved a near full integration of the disparate, elemental combat systems in those ships. Everything in an Aegis ship’s combat systems was suddenly able to work together, synergistically.

The last step necessary in moving from non-integration at any level to full integration of a force occurred with the Cooperative Engagement Capability (CEC), which came out of “the black” in the early 1990s. In a nutshell, CEC operates in a fundamentally different manner than do classic data links. Unlike TDLs, rather than sharing only highly processed symbology in a time-late and low granularity manner, CEC shares raw sensor data directly off a sensor’s buffers, unprocessed, and with such speed and volume that it appears to each every participating unit as if any netted sensor is an actual element of every other unit’s own Combat Management System (CMS). With CEC, an identical, real time, fire-control quality picture of the surrounding battlespace is resolved in every connected unit. Before CEC, an Aegis ship could only engage a threat once that threat was detected by its own radar. With CEC however, if another ship or aircraft detects a threat, any ship in the CEC network can potentially engage that threat because it appears to that ship’s CMS that, “their radar is my radar.” At last not only were Aegis units in a local force internally integrated into a coherent whole, but the entire force was capable of behaving as a single, fully integrated CMS.

But the potential of CEC was much bigger. (Then) Rear Admiral Rodney P. Rempt, Director of Theater Air and Missile Defense on the Navy Staff, saw a more sophisticated future still. A future in which the Navy’s tactical grid would one day be understood as, simply put, an agnostic network of weapons and sensors, controllable by any number of nodes, and without regard to where those weapons or sensors or controlling nodes might be deployed or even in which unit they existed. In the future, if an inbound threat were to be detected, this agnostic, dispersed grid would determine which sensor(s) would be most appropriate, and then, when necessary, the system would pair the most capable and best located weapon with that sensor(s) in order to efficiently engage the threat.

Imagine a hypersonic threat launched from a threat nation. In this agnostic grid, the launch is detected by multiple, mutually reinforcing methods, including satellites of various types and capabilities, as well as by other systems, including for example, intelligence networks. Immediately, other sensors are cued and brought to bear. The mode of a theater AN/TPY2 radar is automatically changed to maximize its tracking capability. As more sensors are automatically brought to bear, a precise track, including origin and aim-point is generated. At the same time, decisions are made at the strategic and operational levels; decisions dramatically aided by the application of artificial intelligence: Is the threat real? What asset(s) is under threat? What hard and soft-kill techniques and systems are best employed? What systems are both in position and possess the capability and capacity necessary for engagement? What is the optimal engagement timeline? What additional sensors should be brought to bear, and when? Jamming? Chaff?  Decoys? From whom and when?  Who shoots? When do they shoot? What ordnance do they shoot?  How many rounds?  Orders are automatically issued to concerned units, yet the entire network, including other decision nodes remain fully cognizant of the larger picture. The system has built in redundancies so that if one node is destroyed, another automatically and seamlessly steps in. And, all of these decisions can be automated, if desired, in order to maximize speed and the optimal response, provided that commanders allow for that automation. Ultimately, only the necessary and best systems are matched to the threat, at only the right time, maximizing effect and minimizing the waste of limited resources. The most effective and efficient method of engagement becomes routine.

So, in fact, if one understands this networked grid of sensors, weapons and controlling nodes, whether at the tactical, operational, strategic or joint levels, then one begins to grasp both the operationalized reality of DMO, and many of the steps necessary in making DMO a reality.

Early, proto-progress has already been made in this direction. For example, Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air (NIFC-CA), enabled by CEC, allows ships to engage air threats located far over the shooter’s radar horizon. CEC also enables the “Engage-on-Remote capability which allows one unit to launch defensive missiles against a threat prior to detection of the threat with that ships own sensors. Also, in-flight retargeting allows dispersed units to contribute to an in-progress kill chain ensuring that the data remains as current as is possible. Still, there has been less incentive, post-Cold War, than might have otherwise been expected in a Naval Surface Force determined to lead in this arena. As the primary mission of the Navy shifted away from sea control and into power projection, directed against less sophisticated challengers, the need to operationalize this vision was far less dire. Moreover, in a resource constrained environment, leaps forward were forestalled. For some time, other needs and priorities took precedent.

The Motivation to Leap Forward

In January 2016, Admiral John M. Richardson, Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) released a document entitled, A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority. This paper discussed the necessity of a return to a larger strategy of Sea Control, following a lengthy, post-Cold War, period in which no blue-water challenger presented, and during which “Power Projection” was the Navy’s primary strategic approach. Moreover, this document set the table for the Navy’s return to “Great Power Competition,” sighting China and Russia as primary threats to U.S. and global interests. Perhaps most importantly, while DMO per se, was not mentioned, the CNO created a context in which DMO became the only viable solution: “We will not be able to ‘buy’ our way out of the challenges that we face. The budget environment will force tough choices but must also inspire new thinking.” The implications of this phrase were, and are, of enormous significance and these are only now coming more fully into the light.

In January, 2017, Vice Admiral Thomas S. Rowden, Commander, Naval Surface Forces, responded to the challenge posed by the CNO’s, A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority with his Surface Force Strategy, Return to Sea Control. This document discussed an approach which it called “Distributed Lethality.” Distributed Lethality or “DL” may perhaps be best understood in the context of the catchphrase: “If it floats, it fights.” DL was intended as an operational and organizational principle, which will ultimately ensure that U.S. sea control will be reasserted and then sustained, despite a persistent decline in overall fleet size. DL was aimed to reinforce initiatives intended to drive collaboration and integration across warfighting domains; synergies, out of which the sum would exceed the parts. More specifically, and from a programmatic point of view, DL required an increase in the offensive and defensive capability and capacity of surface forces, now and in the future.

The 2017 Surface Force Strategy describes Distributed Lethality as being composed of three tenants:

  • “Increase the lethality of all warships”: There is a clear tension between the undiminished, if not growing, mission sets assigned to surface ships, especially in light of the geographic demands associated with a return to Sea Control, and the total number of ships available. Moreover, in light of the collisions experienced in the summer of 2017, a lack of sufficient time and funding for maintenance was observed. Correction of this issue will inevitably result in fewer ships available at any given time as maintenance shortfalls are corrected.

Back to the tag-line, “if it floats, it fights,” this should be considered to represent the realized necessity that cruisers, destroyers, and frigates cannot be endlessly tied to High Value Units (HVU) whether those are amphibious ships or permanently constituted Carrier Strike Groups (CSG). Those ships must also have an ability to defend themselves, of course, but also a capability to strike hard in order to contribute to the larger mission of sea control. This suggests a compelling need to “upgun” these platforms, making them dramatically more capable both defensively and offensively.

  • “Distribute offensive capability geographically”: This speaks to a wider dispersion of ships, in order to hold an enemy at risk from multiple attack axes, and force that enemy to defend an increased number of vulnerabilities, created by that dispersion. This point suggests what will become clear later, and that is the disaggregation of forces, which is part and parcel of DMO. So, in a genuine DMO environment, amphibious ships and aircraft carriers may be required to operate independently for periods of time.

In 2018, the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group (CSG), demonstrated a new concept called, “Dynamic Force Employment (DFE).” The strike group was the first to venture north of the Arctic Circle in nearly three decades, spending significant time patrolling the Greenland-Iceland-United Kingdom (GIUK) Gap. Fundamentally, DFE speaks to deploying Navy forces in a much more diverse set of environments than those which have become common since the close of the Cold War. In the case of East Coast CSGs, standard deployments have featured passage through the Mediterranean to launch air strikes on Middle East targets from either U.S. 6th Fleet or U.S. 5th Fleet waters. According to the CNO, “…we don’t have to go too far back to sort of recapture what it means to be moving around the world as a strike group or an individual deployer and really kind of making everybody guess, hey where’s this team going to show up next? What are they going to bring to us next?”  In short, there are tremendous incentives to spread the available force, for a variety of reasons, and this will require making each unit more capable of operating independently.

  • “Give ships the right mix of resources to persist in a fight.” This point talks to an increase of defensive capability in ships, not only against kinetic threats, but also cyber and electronic warfare. Every ship must be a shooter and also every ship’s sensors must contribute to the larger network. Now all units become integrated, not only internally, but within the larger network, providing geometric synergies. In order to do this, it is essential that ships are able to send and received large amounts of timely and secure data as required, even when under cyber and electronic attack.

What is not discussed directly, but what must be appreciated, is the point that DMO is the necessary connective tissue, which must be built in order to stitch these up-gunned, widely dispersed ships together into a coherent whole.

In December 2018, the CNO released, A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority, Version 2.0.  According to the CNO, this update more clearly aligned with both the latest National Security Strategy (NSS), released December 2017 and the supporting National Defense Strategy (NDS) of January 2018. While a new National Military Strategy (NMS) will follow, it is plain that these documents orient national security objectives more firmly toward great power competition with China and Russia.

It was here, in this document, that DMO made its first official, public appearance. The CNO called to “Continue to mature the Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO) concept and key supporting concepts. Design the Large Scale Exercise (LSE) 2020 to test the effectiveness of DMO. LSE 2020 must include a plan to incorporate feedback and advance concepts in follow-on wargames, experiments, and exercises, and demonstrate significant advances in subsequent LSE events.”

Further, the Navy was tasked to: “Design and implement a comprehensive operational architecture to support DMO. This architecture will provide accurate, timely, and analyzed information to units, warfighting groups, and fleets. The architecture will include:

  • A tactical grid to connect distributed nodes.
  • Data storage, processing power, and technology stacks at the nodes.
  • An overarching data strategy.
  • Analytic tools such as artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), and services that support fast, sound decisions.

Not only will DMO aid in the attack, but it will be critical in the defense. DMO will stretch an adversary’s ISR capabilities as wider areas much be searched to find “Blue” forces. Perhaps more important, widely dispersed forces will hurt “Red’s” ability to mass fires on Blue as their forces much also be more dispersed (though not linked in the same way that is possible in a full instantiation of DMO).

In other words, the time has arrived to define and build DMO. As to exactly how DMO will look and be employed, it is evident that the jury is still, very much, out. Not only is DMO the ultimate fruit of years of thought and effort, but it has become a necessity: Fleet size is not increasing, while demand for ships remains unabated. Sea Control requires a larger fleet – and if not a larger fleet, then new ways of thinking and fighting. DMO is the leading edge of this need.

Setting a New Table in the Fleet

With regard to the actual warfighting side of all of this, activity has been initiated. In February 2018, Admiral Scott Swift wrote a series of articles for Proceedings Magazine. In order to understand the possible Concept of Operations (CONOPS), which will be rendered possible by DMO, it is essential to read Admiral Swift’s essays. He describes a tactical grid, overseen by an operational/fleet-level Maritime Operations Center (MOC) which is charged by a Joint Forces Command (JFC) to implement various “effects,” in different campaigns (for example logistic, anti-submarine, amphibious) across time and space in order to achieve strategic goals.

This is a CONOPS which moves the conduct of warfare to a higher, more broadly-seeing level, above the long-standing primacy of the Carrier Strike Group. Further, it seems plain that in order to successfully carry out these campaign effects it will be necessary to disaggregate the once sacrosanct Carrier Strike Groups (CSGs). For example, a threat submarine is detected in the vicinity of a key logistics asset. The Theater Anti-Submarine Warfare Commander (TASWC) is tasked by the MOC to destroy the threat. In order to execute this task, the TASWC may have to draw a destroyer from a CSG, not only owing to proximity, but in order to bring that ship’s sensors and weapons, including helicopters, to bear on the target. Once the threat is passed, the destroyer returns to the CSG. In short, a general paucity of assets in any high-end fight, in any theater can only be addressed by the precise delivering of only the exact right force to the exact right place at the exact right time.

The point is that the big picture, regarding these campaigns and the respective effects associated with each campaign, resides up the chain-of-command. This picture, which is essential in operationalizing DMO, includes data of all sorts and not simply sensor data. Certainly, the issues associated with classified data being shared, system-to-system and unit-to-unit must be addressed, and this will necessarily be a major factor, requiring understanding and solution as the system evolves. However, while the current flow of data – and the ability to process that data – is directed to the top, this creates a potentially single point of failure. This speaks to a need in future instantiations of DMO to render the system “node-less,” by which is meant that more than one command is potentially capable of running the show. If the MOC is destroyed, the system will require that another command; another shore command or a CVN or a cruiser can seamlessly take over; this is the promise of Artificial Intelligence, more fully realized.

However, even if the desire to achieve DMO exists at all levels, a certain force level will be necessary in order to operationalize the concept. The question is, will that force exist? Currently, the Surface Force has specific numeric requirements for both Large Surface Combatants (LSC) and Small Surface Combatants (SSC). Whether these numbers are attainable is in doubt. Whether fleet size will continue to decline or whether the LCS class is a meaningful element in the DMO construct are, at this point, unknown. The Navy’s number one priority is building the Columbia class, and this means that in order to accomplish this effort sacrifices in other build programs, including the Surface Force, may be necessary.

A glimpse at what may be the Surface Force’s intention regarding the address of both raw ship numbers and the requirements of DMO’s operationalization, may have been on display at the 2019 Surface Navy Symposium, in Washington DC. The Navy may be arriving at the cusp of a true revolution in the shape of the Surface Force. In addition to the SSC and LSC types, which may be thought of as “classic” warships, what was freely discussed was the Surface Forces intention to embark upon the construction of an entirely new universe of Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV), both large and medium in size. It is these platforms; the medium being primarily a weapons carrier and the medium being primarily a sensor platform, which may light the way to an actually dispersed force of weapons and sensors – achieved within a sustainable budget. These USVs will be substantially less expensive than fully manned, multi-mission ships, and they will be the essential population necessary to actualize the distributed grid of sensors and weapons which will enable DMO.

It is also important to consider that even as fleet size remains problematic, the advent of new systems provide a key opportunity, which can be geometrically capitalized upon through DMO. According to Dmitry Filipoff of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC):

 “The Navy’s firepower is about to experience a serious transformation in only a few short years. Comparing firepower through a strike mile metric (warhead weight [pounds/1,000] × range in nautical miles × number of payloads equipped) reveals that putting LRASM into 15 percent of the surface fleet’s launch cells will increase its anti-ship firepower almost twentyfold over what it has today with Harpoon. New anti-ship missiles will cause the submarine community and heavy bomber force to also experience historic transformations in offensive firepower. The widespread introduction of these new weapons will present the U.S. Navy with one of the most important force development missions in its history. This dramatic increase in offensive firepower across such a broad swath of untapped force structure will put the Navy on the cusp of a sweeping revolution in tactics unlike anything seen since the birth of the aircraft carrier a century ago. How the Navy configures itself to unlock this opportunity could decide its success in a future war at sea. The Navy needs tacticians now more than ever.”

The Brain of DMO

If one considers that the vision of DMO has been described for some decades; that a requirement for DMO has been forwarded by the CNO; that a detailed thinking process has been undertaken in both the Surface Force and at the Fleet-level, and that budgetary limitations may force fundamental changes in Fleet composition, then the stage is set to begin thinking about the detailed connective tissue necessary to fully operationalize the concept.

First and foremost, in order to be fully realized, it is essential that Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO) have nodes which are able to control the widely dispersed forces elemental to the system. All of these units must be stitched together by what may be thought of as a Battle Force Manager (BFM) resident in the many and varied (potential) command nodes. For purposes of security, this capability may be fully instantiated in some nodes, and only operationalized in others, as required. But, more than one unit will have to have full capability in order to guarantee the reliability and flexibility of the overall architecture.

With regard to the specific attributes of a BFM – the element of a command node which makes DMO command possible – the first requirement is the ability to ensure the composition of a single, commonly held and fully integrated picture of the battlespace, encompassing air, surface and subsurface domains, from the seabed to space, a true cross domain picture. Every node in the grid must possess a real-time, fire control quality picture, whether at the tactical or operational level, and this picture must be identical in every way to every other unit’s picture. Without this single, integrated, real-time, fire control quality picture, confidence is diminished and subordinate systems are dramatically sub-optimized.

It should be understood that this required picture of the battlespace currently does not exist. Despite the much touted “Common Operations Picture,” the Strike Group/Force, Maritime Operations Center (MOC) or Joint Force Commander’s (JFC) picture of the surrounding world is only similar to (but not tactically useful to) that of the Strike Group, the MOC or anyone else. One is reminded of a more powerful, Link 11 picture from the past. It may be useful at the operational level of warfare in that it provides broad, situational awareness, but it is completely insufficient to the challenges inherent to DMO.

As for the discrete capabilities resident in a BFM, it requires several:

  • The BFM will monitor connectivity with every unit, on every circuit, automatically correcting issues of connectivity, and without operator intervention.
  • The BFM “knows” in detail the nature of all ordnance and the weapons posture of every unit in the force. Who has what and what is the availability of that ordnance at any given time.
  • Remote Control Capability: The BFM will be able to change the operational parameters of sensors and weapons systems, grid-wide, as appropriate. It also will know the mission, priority, survivability, and material condition of each unit, with regard to fuel and damage.
  • Sensor/Weapons/Target Pairing Algorithms. The BFM will understand which sensor/weapon combinations are best versus any force threat and automatically issue commands to cause those weapons and sensors, no matter where they are located, to work seamlessly together. This will include both hard and soft-kill systems.
  • A system which knows the operational limits of each node, including the weapons/sensor capability and capacity of each node, either manned or unmanned.
  • The BFM will require access to and ability to sort enormous amounts of data, including intelligence, while at the same time aiding the decision makers by funneling only the most salient and correct prompts to the command team.
  • The BFM will include aspects of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in order to ensure that decision-makers are presented only information which aids decisions, and holds other information in check unless called for. Moreover, this AI is the necessary “brain-power” which enables all other aspects of the BFM, and by extension, DMO.

There are “religious” issues in operationalizing a BFM. To a certain extent it means that a commanding officer may have to cede their absolute control of the systems subordinated to them. Moreover, it is not evident whether the Navy or industry fully grasps what will be necessary or of how to get there. What may be necessary in order to get “there” from “here” is a sort of modern-day, “Manhattan Project,” incorporating all of those companies and commands with either a stake in the problem or a critical capability. Otherwise, one may expect a suitable, capable BFM to only arrive in the long-range time-frame, and in balky fits and starts.

The Two Achilles Heels

Regardless, there are vulnerabilities here. Only now is the Navy awakening to the fact that a profound vulnerability exists in its ability to wage the sort of warfare that has been planned and worked toward for decades. Today, it is increasingly understood that Electronic Warfare (EW) is becoming a sort of sand foundation upon which the entire edifice of Navy warfighting capability shakily stands. In this case, EW should be thought of as the effort by which unfettered and complete access to the entire Electromagnetic Spectrum (ES) is ensured, rather than from the small, tactical perspective of Electronic Attack, Warfare Support and Protection.

Curiously, this situation has presented itself primarily as a result of the Navy’s focus upon an explosive growth in C5I (Command, Control, Communications, Computers, Combat Systems and Intelligence) capability and capacity. Over time, a remarkable and unique ability to bend all elements of a widely dispersed force of weapons, sensors, and information into a single, integrated, global Combat Management System (CMS) has been developed for and by the U.S. Navy. This CMS enables implementation of the new strategy of DMO: Smart War. The BFM is the unit-level foundation which enables that ability. It will exist in all ships and aircraft, perhaps with different capabilities which can be enabled as necessary, making the entire system fully redundant and durable.

Unfortunately, any sensible adversary will recognize the advantage conferred on the U.S. Navy through an undisturbed access to the ES. In a Post-Arabian Gulf era, it becomes increasingly plain that this uninterrupted and secure flow will be a primary point of attack by any enemy possessing the means to do so. So, while it may be desirable to plan to employ this awesome capability, it also seems plain that in any real fight, full employment will be problematic.

Consequently, the Navy must develop the tactical approaches necessary in order to win in an ES-denied environment: An environment in which connections to higher authorities – any connections – may either be interrupted or severed. A CO is cut off from both leadership and external support for warfighting systems. What to do? Seek and destroy? Wait for a solution from above? Go to port? What about fuel?

Former Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Scott Swift evidently grasped the conflict between a maturing, global CMS and the possible loss of spectrum with the 2017 publication of his “Fighting Orders.” While the content of these fighting orders is classified, the shape of them can be guessed at, and perhaps they offer answers to some of the questions which arise in a “Dark Battle” scenario. Nevertheless, it seems essential that still more intense and critical thought be given to these issues, and now. And of equal import, these tactics should be practiced. Where shall I go? What shall I do?

Second, while this issue is somewhat beyond the specific conceptual scope of the DMO problem, there is an overwhelming need to address problems with the size of the Combat Logistic Force (CLF). This is particularly the case with regard to oilers. A combat ship refuels, in general, once every three days, but this can be stretched provided that increased risk is taken as far as available fuel is concerned. As it currently stands the number of replenishment ships available is a problem, even in a non-distributed environment. The days of the Navy possessing a sufficient numbers of oilers so that one could be attached to each CSG are gone.

What will happen as the fleet is broadly dispersed? Where will the fuel come from? Perhaps more worrisome, how can stealth be expected to be maintained when it must be clear to even the most casual enemy observers that not only are oilers are in terribly short supply, but that they travel directly from one HVU to another. Beyond this, oilers are operated by the Military Sealift Command (MSC). Not only are these ships manned by civilians who are in no way obligated to go into war zones, but they are completely defenseless without escorts and where oilers may warrant an escort contingent on par with that of capital ships.  

Opening the Aperture

With distribution comes challenges. Not only in terms of connectivity but in terms of the discrete elements in the tactical grid. Far from either shore-based assets or the air wing resident in the aircraft carrier, one must ask how ships will be able to maintain a picture of the surrounding world beyond the range of their own radar. Any hostile surface ship, for example, more than 20 or so miles away may be undetected and undetectable. Not only does this create vulnerabilities for the single unit, but it severely limits the ability of controlling nodes – at any level – to fully grasp the battlespace. A larger, more complete understanding of the tactical grid is required.

Owing to issues ranging from maintenance to crew availability even ships equipped with two helicopters cannot sustain around-the-clock air operations – far from it. It seems plain that the solution to this must lie in a greatly expanded capability and capacity in terms of ship launched and recovered Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). UAVs will serve several primary needs in a DMO environment; sensors, weapons carriers, and communication assets. First, small UAVs with sensors can greatly expand the footprint of dispersed ships. And, if they are long duration, this footprint can be maintained around the clock. A good, early example of this type of UAV is the Boeing Insitu ScanEagle. ScanEagle carries a stabilized electro-optical and/or infrared camera on a lightweight inertial stabilized turret system, and an integrated communications system having a range of over 62 miles (100 km), and it has a flight endurance of over 20 hours. Subsequently, improvements to the original design added the ability to carry Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR), infrared cameras, and improved navigation systems.

Second, these UAVs can extend the attack reach of widely dispersed units. Today, the MQ-8B “Firehawk” is capable of carrying hellfire missiles, Viper Strike laser-guided glide weapons, and, in particular, pods carrying the Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System (APKWS), a laser-guided 70 mm (2.75 in) folding-fin rocket. Depending upon the size of the flight deck, ranging from the very small in the case of LCS class ships to the larger flight decks in amphibious ships, like LPD class ships, the variety and capability of UAVs seems limited only by imagination.

Third, is the matter of communications relay, without which the “distributed” part of DMO ceases to exist. As it stands today, Navy communications face a number of vulnerabilities, not the least of which is a reliance on commercial satellite channels. By lowering the connectivity grid from satellite level to long-endurance UAVs, the grid gains a redundancy which could make the difference between fighting the next war, “in the dark,” and fully realizing the potential of DMO.

The same thinking applies to Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV). Based upon the presentations given by the senior officers of the Surface Warfare Community at the 2019 Surface Navy Association (SNA) it seems abundantly clear that a major shift may be in the offing. Not only is the Surface Force activating a squadron aimed at USV experimentation and development, but it is also plain that the Navy intends to move into the USV world in a big way and in the near future. Evidently, these USVs will be divided into two primary classes:  Medium-sized, which will be carriers of ordnance, and small-sized which will be sensor platforms, potentially of great variety.

With regard to the Medium USV, the need is abundantly clear. A modern Navy has the need for many and varied types of weapons, ranging from short-range point defense to ballistic missile interceptors, to anti-submarine weapons to long-range surface and land strike missiles. The number of cells resident in even the largest Vertical Launching System (VLS) is 122. It is easy to envision these weapons being expended quickly in a real shooting war. Will floating magazines help remediate this problem?  Will they potentially be able to host directed energy weapons?

As for the small USVs, what sort of sensors are under consideration? The problem is that modern radars generally emit a very specific signal, and are consequently, easily identifiable. What can be done to protect sensor UAVs from detection and destruction?  If they are only intended to be activated for short periods and then moved, how useful can they be? Or, if they are all passive sensors, what is the nature and utility of these. Regardless, they will have to pass data and this also creates a threat of counter-detection.

Today, not much is yet known about the potential shape or nature of these USVs, but they are coming. Having said that, there are aspects of these USVs which should be of enormous concern and interest. First, what is the likely stay time on station for these units? How will they arrive on station and what sort of mobility will they have? Is it possible for them to move, perhaps hundreds of miles from station-to-station? What power source will they employ?  Potentially, either variety of USV will have significant power needs, which speaks to greater energy production than may be found in modern batteries.

Perhaps more important, and this is especially the case of those USVs which carry sensors, how will detection by enemy forces and subsequent capture or destruction be avoided? How seaworthy? Semi-submersible weapons carriers?  How will they be serviced and how often will that be required? Perhaps more than any element of a DMO instantiation, with the possible exception of a BFM, the nature of these USVs is critical.

In the Long Run

This discussion only touches upon the surface of what could well be called a “plastic” discussion. In the course of operationalizing a viable DMO system and concept, a voyage of discovery will be necessary, and in this, both blind alleys and new approaches will be discovered. What is essential is a clear understanding of what DMO might look like so that a path to a solution can then begin to be envisioned. Further, it is critical that those involved in these discussions put aside their parochial views in favor of achieving and maintaining a critical edge which will ensure American command of the seas for decades to come. It will take much more than directed energy weapons or UAVs or AI to maintain this command. In order to attain this goal, the necessary effort lies in stitching these systems all together into a single, fully integrated Combat Management System, lying far beyond that which is possible today.

Steve McJessy is a Reserve Commander, living in San Diego. He also works in the defense industry supporting Navy programs.

Kevin Eyer is a retired Navy Captain. He served in seven cruisers, commanding three Aegis cruisers: USS Thomas S. Gates (CG-51), Shiloh (CG-67), and Chancellorsville (CG-62). 

These views are presented in a personal capacity.

 Featured Image: PHILIPPINE SEA (Nov. 8, 2018) The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76), left, and the Japanese helicopter destroyer JS Hyuga (DDH 181), right, sail in formation with 16 other ships from the U.S. Navy and Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) during Keen Sword 2019. Keen Sword 2019 is a joint, bilateral field-training exercise involving U.S. military and JMSDF personnel, designed to increase combat readiness and interoperability of the Japan-U.S. alliance. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kaila V. Peters)

Vice Admiral Hank Mustin on Naval Force Development

Vice Admiral Hank Mustin earned a reputation as a hard-charging commander and a cunning tactical innovator. At the apex of his career in the 1980s Cold War U.S. Navy, Admiral Mustin played a critical role in the Navy’s force development. From developing new tactics to organizing large-scale fleet exercises, to introducing new weapons and drafting requirements for future warship types, Mustin was at the very forefront of naval force development in an era of great power competition. 

Vice Admiral “Hammerin Hank” Mustin (right), shown here discussing the details of a Second Fleet exercise with Captain Frank Lugo (left). (USNI Proceedings)

His legacy still lives on, and his work helped inspire the current Pacific Fleet’s “Fighting Instructions.” Below are select excerpts from Admiral Mustin’s Oral History, conducted by Dave Winkler of the Naval Historical Foundation and republished with permission. In these excerpts, Mustin shares his experiences and insights on leading naval force development, experimenting with new weapons, and how generating fresh tactical insight can make friends and foes in some of the most powerful places. 

The great majority of the time was put into the development of this whole new bag of anti-air warfare tactics. There was not a lot of attention paid to anti-surface tactics or naval gunfire support because the feeling was that they would be handled by carrier aircraft…

…the fleet commander’s role in this stuff was essentially limited, because he was concerned with the operation of the force that he had, not the generation of a bunch of new tactics for new ships. So the majority of the tactical development at the time was done by the type commanders. That changed later on to be the fleet commanders bag, for the good reason that as we got into this stuff we found that, in particular, AAW was not the private purview of the surface Navy. You had to be able to integrate. As our own and the Soviet missile ranges got longer and longer your chances of shooting down your own airplanes, blue on blue, correspondingly increased. So the interplay between the surface ships and the carrier air wings got to be a very significant and difficult part of that equation. That was beyond the scope of the surface type commander’s authority. Because now you had two type commanders: the aviation type commander and the surface guys. So the fleet commander had to referee all those issues…

…Then the Arab-Israeli crisis of ’73 erupted. And to our amazement the Soviets put ninety-nine ships in the Mediterranean. There was no NATO involved in this so it was a U.S.-only operation. The first phase of the operation that involved the U.S. was the resupply of fighter aircraft to the Israelis. No cooperation from Spain, no cooperation from NATO. The replacement aircraft would TransLant and then go to ports in Italy. The function of the Sixth Fleet was to make sure that they could do that without the Soviet Navy interfering.

The Soviet Navy was an amazingly powerful unit—submarines, cruisers, all of whom were equipped with varying degrees of anti-surface missiles. It became apparent very quickly as we surge deployed our own forces that we had no tactics to deal with the defense of the fleet against these modern anti-surface missiles, because we’d been spending the last decade doing nothing but shooting at the Vietnamese ashore, and flying air strikes at Haiphong and Hanoi with no opposing fleet to stimulate fleet-on-fleet tactics. The whole body of tactics and weaponry and the modus operandi of the fleet was really in its formative stages. It caught both the aviation and the surface communities very, very much short…

…Luckily for the U.S. and for NATO, that [Arab-Israeli ’73] crisis tamped itself down without any shots being fired. What we got out of that was a huge bag of lessons, most of which showed how prescient Bud Zumwalt and Worth Bagley’s views about the rise of the Soviet Navy had been. Nobody believed them before all of this, in particular how important the rules of engagement were, the fact that we were not oriented or trained or properly indoctrinated to deal with fleet-on-fleet engagements, and how we had been way, way behind in the game of how to deal with these anti-surface missiles, largely because the aviators had just said: ‘Hey, we’ll sink everything before they have a chance to shoot at us,’ which of course ignored the rules of engagement…

…So really, after we got them up to those stages we started to work seriously on this bag of tactics that was so inadequate. The operations officer of the Sampson was a lieutenant named Neil Byrne. He had invented a dice game that you played on the wardroom table with ship models. He outlined all the capabilities, as we knew them, of the Soviet ships and ours, and you played tactical games. It’s called NavTag. Later on, when I was Op 35, we brought Neil back to OpNav, automated his game, and installed one of them at the Naval Academy and one at the War College. So that people started playing it. But at this time it was played on the wardroom table with dice. We started first as a competition between the ships. The wardrooms ate it up; they loved it.

Then we started a project where we played all the Type Commander’s TacNotes, and eighty percent of them were no good at all. We very carefully documented why we said this, and sent all this stuff to the Type Commander’s staff, who did not really welcome them in the spirit intended. Then we played ComSixthFlt’s anti-tattletale tactics, which is where we reached the fundamental but previously overlooked conclusion that you couldn’t get there from here if you tried to deal with the tattletales solely with carrier air…

…I learned in that tour in OpNav, particularly as Op 35, the tremendous potential of the whole new family of weapons systems that were on the verge of entering the surface Navy. They included the Tomahawk missile and the Harpoon, guided projectiles, electronic warfare systems such as the SLQ-32, and towed arrays for ASW. All these things were poised to enter the fleet.

But the fleet is not an experimental unit. Because the fleet has to maintain proficiency with the weapons that it has, and not play imaginary games with death rays from outer space and things like that. So while we were on the verge of providing this hardware, which in my view would change the nature of surface warfare forever, we were not doing anything in the fleet to develop the new tactics to use these weapons. So I determined when I got my orders, thanks to Jim Doyle, to be a CruDes Group commander, that I would focus very heavily on the tactical development, and the things that you could do as these new weapons were introduced.

At the same time, I could see that there was an enormous infrastructure built up to deal with the engineering status of the fleet. The PEB, that I think I told you I had been responsible for initially, had grown into an enormous bureaucracy, but there was no counterpart in the area of weapons or weapons development. So there was no clearinghouse for any of these tactics, the maintenance procedures were not established, and so we were really starting off from ground zero. The organization of the type commanders’ staffs, the capabilities and the imagination and the knowledge of the people in the staff structure had to be developed from the bottom up, because all these weapons were being introduced from the top down…

…I was able to focus more and more on the tactics, because the innovations of the PEB had now brought the engineering readiness of these ships up to a status where we didn’t have to worry so much about whether they could get underway, but rather what they would do after they got underway. So I started to work on the Tomahawk tactics and the AAW tactics as my highest priority.

I was more and more aware about how much resistance there was to the Tomahawk in surface ships. The CNO was resistant. He thought it was an unnecessary drain on naval aviation. Admiral Holloway, whom I dearly love, had referred to the Tomahawk as a silver bullet that we just didn’t need, in Congressional testimony. This is not conducive to high morale if you are a Tomahawk advocate. Anyway, I went out to work on Tomahawk tactics, which involved a lot of pretending. The trick was to work on maintaining proficiency with the things that we had, but at the same time incorporating into each exercise some of this “Let’s pretend we have Tomahawk” stuff, so we can see what we’re doing.

The first time we did this, I had a carrier down in the Caribbean working, and we were going to go down and join them for a FleetEx. I arranged with the CarGroup commander that on the way down we would conduct a force opposition drill. The carrier would come out and try to sink my flagship, and we would try to locate and sink the carrier. Everybody said: Great; great exercise. So we went out in Bill Peerenboom’s ship, and took five ships to go down for this. We went down in electronic silence and along the coast. The carrier couldn’t find us. In the meantime we had sent a couple of submarines down, and they located the carrier. So they were keeping us informed of the carrier’s position and we were still in silence. The carrier air wing was searching all over the Atlantic Ocean and couldn’t find us, because we had very carefully gone in one of these merchant routes.

When we reached Tomahawk range we fired not only on the submarine-reported position, but on electronic signals that we received from the carrier at long range. We fired what we called six Tomahawks; then we rolled the dice and said: Okay, two of them hit. Then we found out what the carrier had been doing at that time, and it turned out that they’d had a bunch of airplanes on deck, and things like that.

When we got down there I went over and saw the admiral on the carrier, and I said, “Hey, here’s the way the exercise worked out, as I see it. We fired these simulated missiles, and rolled the dice. Here’s what we had for your position.” He checked it, and said, “Hey, you had us.”

So I wrote up a personal message to ComSecondFlt, Tom Bigley, and told him all this. I said, “I think that we’re on the verge of something here that’s really going to change naval warfare. It shows that surface combatants now will have the capability to engage at long range a vastly superior force.” At the time we were worried about the Kiev, the Soviet nuclear-powered cruisers, and the Soviet carriers, which were coming into their inventory. I worded this very carefully. I put in the message that the CarGroup commander concurred with this message, after he’d said that he did, and sent it off to ComSecondFlt. Tom Bigley thought it was great. He was a surface warfare guy. A few weeks later a couple of officers came down from OpNav. They had heard about this. One of them was in OLA, the Office of Legislative Affairs, liaison with Congress. I told them about the exercise, and they asked me for a copy of this message. I made a mistake and gave it to them.

The message ended up on the Hill, in the hands of Tony Battista, who was running the R&D for, I think the House Armed Services Committee, or Senate Armed Services Committee—one of the authorization committees. He was on the civilian staff. That message came back to really bite me later on, because it really irritated the CNO, who wanted to spend more money on aviation programs than on cruise missiles, and who also was very sensitive to issues of carrier vulnerability…

About this time Ace Lyons was Commander Second Fleet. He said that he wanted to run a little exercise, carrier versus carrier, when the Forrestal out-chops from the Med. He would run this exercise so that the Eisenhower, the newest of our carriers, and the Forrestal will have a carrier-versus-carrier exercise when the Eisenhower’s on her way to northern Europe. And he would like me to take my staff and fly back over to Rota, get on board the Forrestal as she left the Med, and run the Forrestal air wing. So I said: Great. I flew back over in a C-5 with the staff and we picked up the Forrestal when she left the Med, now out of Sixth Fleet’s bailiwick and under CinCLantFlt’s bailiwick, and Com Second Fleet, Ace. 

I gave my staff the following guidance: “What we’re going to do is, operate in total electronic silence.” This exercise had to be weapons that you had—you couldn’t pretend you had any new stuff. “We’re going to take our Harpoon escorts and we’re going to peel them off, three of them; send them way up north to the GIUK gap; and then, in electronic silence, just have them drift down with the merchant traffic as it comes down out of the gap into the central Atlantic; and we will see if, through electronic deception: number one, we can remain hidden in the Forrestal from the Ike’s aircraft, and number two, if you shooters, by mingling in with the fairly heavy merchant traffic and remaining silent, can get close enough to the Ike to shoot Harpoons at them.” Well, it worked like a champ. The carrier-versus-carrier exercises in the past had just been a bunch of guys revealing their positions, launching strikes at each other, and then saying, “Hah, hah. I bagged you…’”

The Ike’s aircraft couldn’t find us in the Forrestal. We weren’t flying. We were just drifting along near the coast. They were looking for us coming out of the Med, and not for this group coming down from the GIUK gap. And they were looking for a battle group, and not a bunch of scattered single contacts that were camouflaged in the pretty heavy traffic. So before they found us, two of our Harpoon shooters got in and launched simulated Harpoons at the carrier, from point-blank range in the middle of the night…

…And rolled the dice and said, “Okay, here’s how many times we bagged you,” and your airplanes were on deck. Well, wrote that report up and sent it off to ComSecondFlt, Ace.

That became a very contentious exercise, because the Ike was brand new and the funding for the new carriers was at issue. This was deemed by senior aviators to be a very inflammatory exercise, because it highlighted the vulnerability of the carrier to a determined enemy who was going to employ electronic deception and use anti-ship missiles. So Ace delayed and delayed and delayed the exercise report. The drafts would come back and I would keep changing them to say we hit and severely damaged the carrier, and it would have been out of action for x hours. Those remarks kept getting deleted from the final report of the exercise.

And I kept hearing these rumors that were getting stronger by the minute that I was going to retire. It turned out, and I didn’t know this, that Dave Johnson, who was SurfLant, and Harry Train, who was CinCLantFlt, were told by the CNO that he didn’t have a job for me. When he says that, you’re finished…

…But that’s the fine line that you walk. Really, people around very senior people— and you see this not just in the Navy or other Services but in the White House—the rumor mills poison the well for you. You walk a very difficult line, particularly when you’re at the front edge of innovation. You find a lot of guys who get ahead to very senior positions by never making any waves and by perpetuating the status quo. That’s the easy way, because while you don’t make powerful advocates, you don‘t make powerful enemies either. All it takes is a couple of those powerful enemies when you’re in the rarified atmosphere of the flag business, and you’re out of there…

…One of the things I found, for example, was that no one in the Second Fleet, and by extension in the Navy, was really working on how to do war-at-sea strikes against modern Soviet forces. The aviation type commanders essentially were concerned, properly, with aviation safety. So that when you were a carrier skipper, AirLant’s principal concern was that you got everybody into the air and then you got them back on board safely. Once they were airborne and they went off to drop their bombs and do their things, that was not really the type commander’s concern. So each of the carrier air group commanders had his own set of tactics.

All of the tactics, for example, in the war-at-sea strikes started off with the assumption that they knew where the enemy was. Well, I was mindful that in the Battle of Midway, and in the tactical preparations before that battle, in the late thirties, the aviators developed a bunch of tactics which essentially said that the torpedo planes went in low and the dive bombers came in high at the same time, and the enemy was forced to split his battery and couldn’t figure out where to put his combat aircraft patrol. So he was either going to be dive-bombed or torpedoed, and everybody got his Legion of Merit and they loved these tours.

Well then at the Battle of Midway they didn’t really know where the enemy carriers were. As a result, the torpedo planes got there first. So I used to say that if you want to talk about the efficacy of that particular assumption, that you know where he is, let’s get hold of Ensign George Gay and discuss it with him. Because he’s the only guy left out of Torpedo Squadron 8. So we’re going to change all these tactics. You’re going to start off with the assumption that you don’t know where he is, and you’re going to combine search and attack tactics.

Well that changed everything. Then we took all of their tactics—by this time I had gotten Neil Byrne, the inventor of NavTag on my staff and he had automated it, put it in the computer—and we played all of the aviators’ war-at-sea strike tactics in the computer, to figure out which one of these eight carrier air group commanders had a set of tactics that made any sense against Soviet modern SAM defenses. We picked the best tactic, which not surprisingly was the one developed by Commander Art Cebrowski. That became the Second Fleet war-at-sea tactic. So we did all that kind of stuff, an awful lot of it. The aviators loved this. It was an interesting viewpoint from which to be able to watch how the surface type commander and the aviation type commander and the submarine type commander stayed within their own little pookas until somebody mixed them all. That’s the role of the fleet commander…

…We had the first two-Aegis ship exercise. There was a big debate about how you use Aegis—whether you used it away from the carrier to manage what was then called the outer air battle, or you used it in close to the carrier just to shoot at incoming missiles. My view was that if you used it in close to the carrier you weren’t using an Aegis ship, you were using an SM-1 ship. So it ought to be used to manage the air battle, because we had determined that, to handle massed Backfire raids, you had to engage these guys essentially before they fired. That meant that you had to engage them at a couple of hundred miles.

I went back to my Vietnam experience. The big concern about the Seawolf helicopters had been that their legs were too short. But what happened on every occasion was they went out and they expended all their ammunition long before they ran out of fuel. So there are all these tactics that had these carrier air patrol stations out at hundreds of miles, and the aviators were looking at these as a problem of keeping them re-tanked and refueled. But in these NavTag war games we showed that that wasn’t the problem at all. The problem was they shot up their load of Sparrows and Sidewinders instantly, and then they had to come back a couple of hundred miles, and you had to have more airplanes with weapons on the way, and there was no way to tank weapons. So a whole set of tactics flowed from that that were very different from the existing long-range engagement tactics. In order to do what I just said, you needed the capabilities of something like Aegis to manage the problem, with the Spy system. So we worked on that. We then, at the same time, were working on these long-range air strikes.

I set up a four-carrier exercise off the east coast and one down in the Caribbean. This was to show what carrier air power could do, and it was a very high visibility exercise in the political arena. We had a map of the east coast and we would hit targets up and down the east coast, widely separated, so that it would be impossible for an enemy to target them all, let alone find them with enough accuracy to launch missiles. The idea was that all four carrier air wings’ strikes would occur within a five-minute window. One of them was a thousand miles long. Dick Dunleavy was the CarGru commander who was in overall charge of this.

Anyway, we ran this wonderful exercise. We took it over to Congress and showed how we could have gone into St. Louis, Missouri, and made a couple of statements which really caught their eye. Four carrier air wings now possess the ordnance strike capability of 800 B-17s. I’d go over to Congress and say: You guys all remember these newsreel photos of World War II where the skies are full of B-17s going over Germany. Well, we can do that with four carriers. And nobody can target multiple carrier locations, so the carrier vulnerability issue is way over-exaggerated. So don’t cut the carrier forces. Interestingly, as a surface warfare officer, I was becoming the Navy’s principal spokesman in support of aircraft carriers.

But anyway, management of the outer air battle with the Spy-1 and the Aegis was magnificent. It changed everything. It impressed Jim Watkins so much, because he was having a big flailex with Aegis funding at the time, that he asked me to write him a personal letter. So I wrote him a letter and said, “This is so spectacular that I’m taking the unusual step of writing you personally. The detailed reports of these exercises will follow.” Then I wrote about a two-page letter that was deliberately designed to be Unclass and understandable, in language that a layman could understand. He entered that in the Congressional Record, and Aegis sailed through, for that and other reasons.

Henry C. Mustin was born in Bremerton, Washington on 31 August 1933, the son, grandson, and great-grandson of distinguished naval officers. (The Guided Missile Destroyer DDG 89 has been named for the Mustin family.) He graduated from Coronado High School, Coronado, California, in 1950 and attended the University of Virginia for one year prior to entering the U.S. Naval Academy. He was graduated and commissioned an Ensign 3 June 1955. He retired 1 January 1989.

Vice Admiral Mustin, a destroyerman, served at sea in the Pacific and Atlantic Fleets in USS Duncan (DDR 874); as Commanding Officer USS Bunting (MHC 45); as a plankowner in both USS Lawrence (DDG 4) and USS Conyngham (DDG 17); as Commanding Officer USS Henry B. Wilson (DDG 7); as Commander, Destroyer Squadron 12, homeported in Athens, Greece; as Commander, Cruiser Destroyer Group 2; and as Commander, U.S. Second Fleet and NATO Striking Fleet Atlantic (225 ships and 2100 aircraft over 45 million square miles from the Arctic Ocean to the Equator.)

He served ashore in Vietnam with the Delta River Patrol Group; as Flag Lieutenant to the Commander-in-Chief Pacific; as Executive Assistant to the Commander-in-Chief U.S. Naval Forces Europe; as Director, Surface Combat Systems Division in the Office of Chief of Naval Operations; as Deputy Commander Naval Surface Force, Atlantic Fleet; as Naval Inspector General; and as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations (Plans, Policy, and Operations).

He was responsible for the development of requirements and fleet introduction of the Tomahawk missile, the Standard missile (SM 2), LAMPS helicopters, and the Ticonderoga-class AEGIS cruisers. He was instrumental in defining the initial requirements for the Arleigh Burke-class destroyers.

Vice Admiral Mustin directed all U.S. Navy arms control planning, including the START negotiations with the Soviet Union. He led high level U.S. interagency delegations to Moscow, London, Paris, Lisbon, Oslo, and Seoul. He also served as the Senior U.S. Military Representative to the United Nations.

He was married to the former Lucy Holcomb of Alexandria, Virginia. They have three sons, a daughter, and nine grandchildren. He passed away on 11 April 2016.

Featured Image: The U.S. Navy aircraft carriers USS Enterprise (CVN-65) and USS Midway (CV-41) underway in the Pacific Ocean with their task groups in 1982.

The Strategic Need for Tactical Excellence: Raising the Surface Navy’s Combat Capability

By Rear Adm. Dave Welch

The recent online republication of a 1993 Proceedings article from Capt. Christopher H. Johnson, “The Surface Navy: Still in Search of Tactics,” by the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) in July 2018 can be interpreted two ways. The reprint either suggests that Capt. Johnson’s cautionary tale of 25 years ago went unheeded and the Surface Forces are substantially unchanged in our approach to the development of tactical proficiency, or it serves as an invitation to examine what has changed.1,2 As the Surface Warfare community prepares to gather for the annual national symposium of the Surface Navy Association, I choose the latter interpretation and offer that there have been significant changes, particularly in the last five years.

In 1993 Capt. Johnson argued that training cycles focused on administrative tasks – a check-in-the-block approach – to build readiness, and that workups lacked a meaningful, deliberate focus on the development of tactical proficiency and expertise in a ship and crew. This critique was not without merit. By 1993 the Cold War had ended, the Soviet Union was dissolved, and the United States Navy enjoyed uncontested access to the open oceans. Focus was shifting to the littorals. Over the next two decades Surface Forces concentrated on power projection and support for the Joint fight ashore, with little impetus to hone our tactical skills in sea control mission sets. That period has ended, however, and the United States Navy is again in the midst of great power competition. Potential adversaries are developing capabilities that challenge our ability to operate in the deep blue, and with that comes an imperative to develop and master tactics that will translate into effective combat power at sea – tactics that take into account the current threats, and developing capabilities of potential adversaries. Fortunately, in contrast to the Surface Navy described by Capt. Johnson, we now have the ways and the means to advance lethality and tactical proficiency in the Surface Navy.  

The establishment of Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) in 2015 was a decisive development in our community, perhaps the most important development in a generation.

Lessons Truly Learned

In 1993, Capt. Johnson cast a vision of a Surface Warfare community that provided the latest in advanced tactical training and doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) to the Fleet to keep it ready, capable, and lethal. Such a vision was not new– it had been developed before in naval aviation. During the Vietnam War, Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Thomas Moorer ordered a commission to examine the precipitous drop in naval fighter squadron combat kill ratios since World War II and the Korean War. The Ault Commission made sweeping recommendations, including the establishment of the Fighter Weapons School (TOPGUN) – a seminal step that took place in March 1969.3 This led to a systemic shift in tactical development and training. Over the following decades this approach expanded to all facets of carrier-based aviation, which now sits as a core mission for the most mature of SMWDC’s counterparts, Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Command (NAWDC).

Critical mass for the expansion of the Fighter Weapons School model into the Navy’s other warfare communities – including Surface Warfare – came in 2014 when Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert provided Warfighting Development Centers (WDC) Implementation Guidance to the Fleet.4 This was quickly followed by joint Pacific Fleet and Fleet Forces Commanders’ guidance from Admirals Harris and Gortney that began the internal reorganization of authority and responsibility in the Fleet to achieve the WDC mission.5


SMWDC efforts, including the introduction and growth of a Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) program, means that the surface community now moves with purpose to develop tactical expertise. We no longer rely upon personal initiative to cultivate tactical excellence.

SMWDC has grown rapidly since Rear Adm. Jim Kilby took charge as its first commander at the command establishment ceremony in 2015.6 In an early 2016 Proceedings article, he outlined the command’s initial four lines of operations: the development of WTIs, plans for a Surface Warfare Combat Training Continuum (SWCTC), the introduction of Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercises into the readiness generation cycle, and the standardization and growth of doctrine and TTP led for the community by the command.7 He also laid out plans for three WTI programs in the areas of anti-submarine/surface warfare (ASW/SUW), integrated air and missile defense (IAMD), and amphibious warfare (AMW).

A 2017 Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) article by then-SMWDC Commander Rear Adm. John Wade and his training and operations officer, Capt. Jeff Heames, highlighted the continued growth of the command and also outlined SMWDC’s updated lines of operation: advanced tactical training; doctrine and TTP development; operational support; and capability assessments, experimentation, and future requirements.8 The removal of the WTI program and SWCTC from the updated lines of operation may have surprised the casual observer, but within command lifelines, we clearly understand that WTIs remain the critical enabler to deliver results in these lines of operation.

Today, SMWDC develops WTIs in the three disciplines envisioned. There are currently more than 275 “patch-wearing” Warfare Tactics Instructors, either in production tours to deliver on the four lines of operation, or in post-production tours where they have returned to the Fleet, carrying with them knowledge, expertise, and connections to “WTI Nation.”

VIRGINIA CAPES (Nov. 9, 2018) Lt. Cmdr. Ryan Downing, right, an Anti-Submarine Warfare/Surface Warfare (ASW/SUW) Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) from the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC), mentors Lt. Cmdr. Kris Yost, the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf’s (CG 55) chief engineer (CHENG), during a Fast Attack Craft / Fast Inshore Attack Craft (FAC/FIAC) training event from the ship’s combat information center as part of a Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercise. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jesse Marquez Magallanes/Released)

We have evolved in our shipboard training “reps and sets.” During exercises on both coasts, watch teams are challenged to grow through the use of replay tools that highlight where errors in planning and execution have occurred. While feedback may seem uncomfortable at first, watch teams and warfare commander staffs quickly understand that some of the best lessons come through mistakes, followed by detailed debrief, with opportunities to immediately apply those lessons to rework a plan, rebrief it, then conduct another round of exercises at increased levels of pace and complexity. Watch teams that initially needed the watchful eyes of senior mentors and WTIs to help guide them are operating at such a high level at the end of the exercise that they need little oversight, and begin to hold themselves accountable and teach younger crew members.

Live Fire With a Purpose (LFWAP) is another critical aspect to the Surface community’s advanced tactical training. LFWAP is an enhanced missile exercise program which provides warships the opportunity to develop watch team performance using updated tactics against live, increasingly realistic targets.9   

ATLANTIC OCEAN (Nov. 18, 2018) A Standard Missile 2 (SM-2) is launched from a forward vertical launching system aboard the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) during a Live Fire with a Purpose (LFWAP) exercise. (U.S. Navy video by Seaman Nikita M. Custer/released)

Classroom and at-sea training are essential, but the doctrine and TTP required to operate effectively are equally as fundamental to the execution of sea control. SMWDC’s doctrine and TTP teams have reviewed and updated more than 80 tactical publications since 2015. The guiding principles for all SMWDC-reviewed, renewed, and developed doctrine and TTP is that it must be readable, understandable, teachable, and executable. Doctrine and TTP provide warships with the opportunity to read, think, plan, and execute in a more cohesive way.

Ships and afloat staffs can access the latest TTP updates on SMWDC’s collaboration-at-sea account (CAS) webpage, and they can also make inputs to the command’s Tactical Observations Lessons Learned (TOLL) portal. This tool allows the waterfront to provide inputs to SMWDC’s doctrine and TTP branch for consideration and possible implementation into Fleet-wide publications.

Surface Force Life Blood

The cultural shifts represented by SMWDC are rooted in talent accession, training, and development as Warriors, Thinkers, and Teachers, embodied within the Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) cadre. SMWDC’s development as a driving force behind a culture of excellence within the Surface Fleet will ensure that the deliberate development of tactical expertise flourishes in the Navy.

The value of the WTI is not solely within the individual. It is in the character traits that are emphasized to WTI candidates: humility, credibility, and approachability. These are carried through SMWDC’s day-to-day lines of operation, the training that WTIs provide in production tours, and the continued influence they have when they return to the Fleet.

Admiral Christopher Grady, Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces, highlighted the significant impact that SMWDC and WTIs have already made in their early years of existence:

“SMWDC continues to drive a rapid and sustainable increase in the warfighting proficiency and capability of the Surface Fleet and our Navy as a whole. There is an insatiable appetite in the Fleet for the training, TTP and doctrine updates, and direct operational support this team provides reliably in all fleet concentration areas. In just a few short years, SMWDC has become the place to be in the Surface Navy when it comes to the profession of arms in the maritime domain.(emphasis added)10

The two most recent Commander Command Screening Board results are reflective of his remarks. On the FY19 board, ten WTIs were eligible on their first-look and six were selected (60 percent). Nine officers were eligible for their second-look on that board, and all screened for a milestone tour – three XO/CO, four XO Afloat, and two XO special mission. On the recently released FY20 board, 19 of 23 WTIs were selected (82.6 percent) for milestone tours and 8 of 11 WTI-selects screened for a milestone. For any program – especially a young one – these are outstanding numbers.


SMWDC’s vision is to mature into an elite (not elitist) organization that continues to learn while accomplishing our mission with enthusiasm and innovation. We strive to maintain humble attitudes as we approach each event, exercise, or engagement within our mission set. SMWDC’s maturation continues as this critical return on investment is realized throughout the Fleet.

The WTI program will expand in 2019 to include a Mine Warfare (MIW) WTI program.11 Similar in design to the other three WTI programs, MIW WTIs will attend the WTI baseline course at SMWDC headquarters, but will continue training at Ecole de Guerre des Mines (EGUERMIN), otherwise known as the NATO Naval Mine Warfare Centre of Excellence in Belgium. The first MIW WTIs will then play a leading role in the development of a group of naval professionals who are steeped in mine warfare tactics.

As growth continues, it means that difficult decisions must be made to ensure that we effectively manage our talented SMWDC enablers and WTIs. The command works closely with the team at PERS-41 to develop strategies to recruit top talent, and to seek professional development opportunities for WTIs, including some of the Fleet’s most prestigious programs. Many WTIs are completing coursework through the Naval Postgraduate School, and recently an ASW/SUW WTI was selected for the Fleet Scholars Education Program and will attend the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).

Charting a New Course

In closing, I would like to return to Capt. Johnson’s article, and offer an alternative vignette that demonstrates where we are today – a construct that offers great value to current readiness generation processes, with great potential for continued improvement.  


Two weeks into the warship’s post-deployment stand down the captain of the guided missile cruiser – having just complete a full deployment as “Whiskey” – quietly took a moment to reflect on his team’s progress over the last two years as a ship and warfare commander team. He was already thinking about how his team would approach their next training cycle, and what improvements needed to occur.  

The deployment had been challenging, but also richly satisfying from Day One. The captain remembered what he felt like pulling away from the pier, knowing that his ship and Strike Group team had completed a training process that left him and his crew knowledgeable of the threats they faced, and confident in their procedures and tactics. It was a good feeling to know that he and the ship were prepared – in fact, more tactically astute than any ship he previously served aboard in in his career.

After completing all basic phase certification requirements, the strike group warships and warfare commanders completed Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) – a period of in-port academics to review current tactics, techniques, and procedures in detail, directly followed by an at-sea period in which he and his teams stepped through those TTP – all under the watchful eye of WTIs. They did their reps and sets, followed by a debrief… always a debrief… in which the WTIs highlighted good performance and objectively pointed out missed steps, mistakes, or just items that needed more attention. They launched weapons in an enhanced missile exercise program called LFWAP, against realistic and challenging targets. They weren’t simply complying with regulations – they learned to drive excellence within their teams and across the ship by breaking down traditional barriers often raised by ego and pride.

He learned that the advanced training he and his team experienced in 2017-18 enabled a higher level of combat readiness.12 But he also knew that his ship operated in an era in which improvement must continue.

The United States Navy was once again in a competition – a competition for sea control.

At that moment Chief Warrant Officer Troy Woods and Lt. Cesar Mize, IAMD and ASW/SUW WTIs respectively, walked into his cabin to discuss their training plan and combat system modernization. Capt. Joe Cahill’s apprehension faded as he listened to these two young officers with expertise steeled by experience lay out a plan for raising the combat capability of the warship and the warfare commander assets under their charge.

The captain smiled at his shipmates, and listened carefully to their observations and recommendations.


We still have much work to do to develop the talent, write the tactics, train our crews, and field the tools that will enable the Surface Force to continue to control the sea and project power. But I am confident we are on the right path. What remains is to execute the plan, hold the line, and own the fight. Let’s get to work.

Rear Admiral Dave Welch is the third commander of Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC).


1. Johnson, C. H. (1993, November 9). The Surface Navy: Still in Search of Tactics. Retrieved from

2. Johnson, C. H. (2018, July 11). The Surface Navy: Still in Search of Tactics. Retrieved from

3. Ault, F. W. (1968). Report of the Air to Air Missile System Capability Review (pp. 1-58, Issue brief). Naval Air Systems Command. Retrieved from

4. United States of America, Department of the Navy, Chief of Naval Operations. (2014). Warfighting Development Centers Implementation Guidance (N00/100078, pp. 1-5).

5. United States of America, Department of the Navy, United States Fleet Forces Command / United States Pacific Fleet. (2014). Warfighting Development Centers (COMUSFLTFORCOM/COMPACFLTINST 3501.4, pp. 1-26).

6. Ingle, D. M. (2014, June). Official U.S. Navy website – Commander Naval Surface Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet. Retrieved from

7. Kilby, J. (2016, January). USNI. Retrieved from

8. Wade, J., & Heames, J. (2018, February 04). Warfare Tactics Instructor: A Unique Opportunity for Junior Officers. Retrieved from

9. Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center. (2018, August 08). Home Page. Retrieved from

10. Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center. (2018, June 27). Home Page. Retrieved from

11. Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center. (2018, September 14). Home Page. Retrieved from

12. Eckstein, M. (2018, March 29). Deployed Surface Forces Benefitting from SMWDC Training, Technologies. Retrieved from

Featured Image: 170310-N-FV739-154 WATERS SOUTH OF JAPAN (March 10, 2017) Ships participating in MultiSail17 sail in formation during a photo exercise (PHOTOEX). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher A. Veloicaza/Released)

On the Cutting Edge of U.S. Navy Exercising: Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training

By Dmitry Filipoff

CIMSEC had the opportunity to ask leaders at the Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) and the USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Group about the first East Coast Carrier Strike Group (CSG) Cruiser-Destroyer (CRUDES) Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercise. This SWATT exercise involved the Norfolk-based Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers USS Gonzalez (DDG-66), USS Mason (DDG-87), USS Bainbridge (DDG-96), USS Gravely (DDG-107), and USS Nitze (DDG-94), as well as the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG-55).

CRUDES SWATT exercises are unique in that they provide a dedicated advanced tactical training period for surface combatants and their crews to focus on sea control and maritime warfare before integrating with other elements of the strike group. 

Live Fire With a Purpose (LFWAP) exercises took place during the same time period. SMWDC is Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command and Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet’s executive agent for the LFWAP program. Commander, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) Carrier Strike Group, provided leadership of LFWAP execution in real-time. 

Primary respondents include both trainers and the training audience, including CAPT Joe Cahill (JC), Division Director of SMWDC’s Sea Combat Division, and CAPT Grady Musser (GM), commanding officer of USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55). Collaborators include CAPT Paul Hogue, prospective Division Director of SMWDC Integrated Air and Missile Defense Division, and CAPT Sean Anderson, commodore of Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 2.

The Trainers

Could you describe the structure of the event as far as what happens in those several weeks?

JC: SWATT provides warships and warfare commanders advanced tactical training at sea designed to raise the combat capability they provide the nation as integrated elements of a Naval Task Group. SWATT builds on the work those warships and warfare commanders conduct during the basic phase portion of the combat readiness generation cycle and positions them to move into the final phases of training prior to deployment.

Specifically, SWATT provides a crawl-walk-run approach to advanced tactical training in Integrated Air & Missile Defense (IAMD), Anti-Surface Warfare (ASuW), Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW), Amphibious Warfare (AMW), Mine Warfare (MIW), and Information Warfare (IW). SWATT exercises include in-port academics followed by underway training. Underway training scenarios culminate in live fire exercises based on current threats from the 5th, 6th, and 7th Fleets.

A critical element of SWATT, which can include both Carrier Strike Group (CSG) Cruiser-Destroyer (CRUDES) and Amphibious Ready Group (ARG) constructs, includes teaching the plan, brief, execute, debrief (PBED) process. Embarked SMWDC senior mentors and Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI) work closely with shipboard leaders and teams, as well as members of the technical community, to create an enhanced learning environment where true learning and team growth can take place.

First, the teams develop plans for each of the events throughout the exercise for the training audience. Second, the training audience teams work together to brief the plan to their teams before executing the event, and to ensure that the manning, resources, and capabilities are in place to execute the event as planned. After that is complete, the team executes the event with SMWDC senior mentors and WTIs actively engaged in mentorship of the training audience during the exercise. At the end of each event, the teams leverage the talent and expertise of the technical community to reconstruct the days’ events, creating a “replay” of the day that enables a review of the team’s performance, and to determine where improvement can be made in the next training event of the exercise.

November 18, 2018 — The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) launches a Standard Missile 2 during a Live Fire With a Purpose (LFWAP) event. (U.S. Navy video by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jesse Marquez Magallanes/Released)

While teams are initially reticent to participate in this process because it takes a significant upfront investment in time, this changes as they go through the PBED experience. The investment of time to plan and to debrief requires a significant behavioral shift at both the warship and warfare commander levels. However, as the warfighters experience improved combat performance they become actively engaged in the process, grow a great deal, and leave SWATT with an ability to be much more objective about their own performances. This objectivity leads to higher levels of combat power and increases the commander’s ability to measure the degradation of combat power over time. This is exactly what the strategic environment mandates for us to face our competitors.

How do the scenarios become progressively more complex throughout the event, and how much of the training could be described as mostly free-play and open-ended?

JC: The events become more challenging throughout the exercise, and it is inspiring to watch the growth of teams throughout. The key is for leadership at all levels to be engaged throughout the process from the warfare commander on down to the lowest levels. These are the teams we see make the greatest gains throughout training. SWATT exercises are an essential element of our ability to turn readiness and capability into combat power.

Does SWATT take the form of a certification event or is it different in nature?

JC: This is a great question! Warships that participate in SWATT have basic requirements they need to meet in order participate in SWATT. However, SWATT is not a certification event. It is a learning and training environment for warfare commanders and warships. While we implement the planning, briefing, executing, and debriefing processes, humility and team growth is at the center of the exercise. We cannot grow if we aren’t hard on ourselves, and removing a “certification” element to the exercise allows us to best achieve the highest levels of learning.

How do you handle failure, and how is the learning experience different for a crew that fails versus one that succeeds?

JC: It is important that we take the word failure out of the mix when we talk about SWATT.

The way we handle growth, errors, and misjudgment in SWATT is with honesty and humility. Humility is the touchstone of growth in the process, and if we cannot be honest with ourselves in a training environment, then we certainly aren’t going to be honest with ourselves and our performance in theater during routine operations or in a combat scenario. It’s a bit cliché, but we don’t rise to our aspirations in war – we fall to our lowest levels of training. That’s why we do SWATT.

From SMWDC’s perspective, the difference between teams that learn and grow to their maximum potential during SWATT are those that are totally engaged and those that simply go through the paces. It’s fairly straightforward – those that take it seriously learn and grow as warfighters. Those that don’t will still learn, but just not as much.

The tremendous value in this is that teams and leaders who learn to be truly humble through this process, and those that take advantage of the learning tools that we provide, do become self-starters when it comes to learning. That is the goal of this process. We also see similar results on ships that have Warfare Tactics Instructors (WTI) as part of their teams when they complete their production tours. They harness the value of the principle and process and move out with a purpose.

Is there a way for Sailors to view the results of previous SWATT exercises and learn from the experiences of other Sailors? 

JC: Absolutely. Before SWATTs, our planners work with the teams that will be the next participants to bring them up to speed on observations on the most recent SWATTs to help them optimize the training experience.

Further, there is an opportunity for the Fleet to stay engaged by staying up to date with the latest doctrine and tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) through the SMWDC online collaboration portal. Additionally, they can stay engaged by providing observations and lessons learned from their own experiences into the Tactical Observations Lessons Learned (TOLL) portal which provides a venue for the Fleet to ensure that what is happening at the tactical level enters the broader Surface Fleet’s consciousness and future iterations of TTP.

How can the training audience remain connected to tactical development and continue to follow what SMWDC is doing?

JC: I encourage surface warfare junior officers to learn about the Warfare Tactics Instructor (WTI) program and apply. WTIs are tactical subject matter experts and increase the proficiency, lethality, and warfighting capabilities of the Surface Force.

By becoming a WTI they earn greater-than-normal tactical classroom training followed by a production tour where they support SMWDC’s lines of operation – including advanced tactical training – throughout the Fleet. Additionally, they become a part of the cadre of WTIs that comes together once a year for a Re-Blue event where they re-baseline tactical expertise within their specific warfare area – Anti-Submarine Warfare/Surface Warfare (ASW/SUW), Amphibious Warfare (AMW), Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), or Mine Warfare (MIW).

This is by far the most effective way to stay actively engaged in the process. Of course, keeping an eye on message traffic, tactical bulletins, tactical memoranda, and other warfighting updates is an excellent way to stay up-to-date, though becoming a WTI is the number one choice for tactically-minded junior officers who want to be tactically engaged and strategically relevant.

The Training Audience 

What was it like to go head-to-head against other ships in the more complex, multi-mission area scenarios?

GM: Having SWATT built into the schedule is a perfect opportunity for us to come together as warship COs and warfare commanders to develop our unit and warfare area expertise and tactical proficiency. This process is similar in some ways to what the aviation community does in Fallon during their training cycle, and we’re excited to have a similar opportunity.

It is also very helpful to have a command that is dedicated to warfighting development in the Surface Community, and that provides alignment regardless of where Fleet ships operate. While our assigned mission sets may be different when we chop into theater, the tactical skills needed by each ship to execute effectively in a contested environment don’t change too much. It’s all about how you use those tactics to your competitive advantage.

VIRGINIA CAPES (Nov. 8, 2018) Capt. William G. Musser, commanding officer of the guided-missile cruiser USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55), addresses his crew on their performance during an all-hands call on the ship’s flight deck while the Leyte Gulf completes a Surface Warfare Advanced Tactical Training (SWATT) exercise. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jesse Marquez Magallanes/Released)

What was it like to go through the WTI-led Plan, Brief, Execute, Debrief (PBED) process, and how is this an evolution in reflecting on a training experience?

GM: There hasn’t been anything specifically like this in our community since I’ve been in, and to see how far we’ve come since the WDCs were established a few years ago is really incredible. The support of the technical community and their integration with SMWDC to ensure that we have rapid, ground truth feedback is exceptional, and allows our teams to learn and grow rapidly.

Let’s be honest. Nobody likes to do something wrong. And certainly, nobody likes to be told that they could do something better. But what we do like is being good warfighters and an important part of our nation’s defense and warfighting team. Unfortunately, you can’t do one without the other. You absolutely have to eat your vegetables, you have to do your homework, and you have to do your pushups. That’s what SWATT is. It isn’t about getting it perfect, it’s about learning.

As a leader, that’s perhaps my biggest challenge, to get my team ready and in the mindset that this isn’t a test – we’re here to make mistakes and grow. That isn’t always the case when we do certifications and other events, but it’s a critical leadership challenge for ship COs to sort through.

I’m very proud of our team and what we’ve accomplished, and I know we’re a more valuable asset to our Strike Group Commander today than we were before we completed SWATT. 

As far as training goes, what is something you think the crews will be able to do better on their own after experiencing SWATT and receiving tailored instruction from the WTIs?

GM: All of us have to learn how to learn. It isn’t an easy thing to do, and when you’re a professional, it can be easy to trick yourself into thinking that you have the market cornered on smarts. The truth is that we have to continue to learn throughout our careers if we hope to stay ahead of our strategic competitors.

The team that came aboard was impressive, knowledgeable, and helpful. My team learned a great deal about each of the warfighting areas trained on during SWATT. They also learned about ways that they can access training and support to continue to sharpen their tools and provide feedback to the enterprise after SWATT. There’s no doubt that this was a great opportunity for my team to learn and grow as warfighters.

After going through SWATT and learning about potential areas that have room for improvement, what will you do to continue to improve the tactical proficiency of the crew going forward?

GM: Keeping our team engaged in tactical development through drills, advanced training schools for our teammates, and staying engaged with the WDCs through providing feedback and staying up-to-date with doctrine and TTP updates are critical ways that we can keep growing.

Thank you.

Capt. Cahill is currently the director of SMWDC Sea Combat Division. At sea he has commanded USS MONSOON (PC 4), USS PREBLE (DDG 88) and USS BUNKER HILL (CG 52). Ashore he has served on a number of COCOM and OPVAV Staffs.

Capt. Musser is a career Surface Warfare Officer who has served in a cruiser and multiple destroyers. A former commanding officer of USS Farragut (DDG 99), he is the commanding officer of USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55). He is a 1996 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and graduated with distinction from the Naval Postgraduate School with a Master’s degree in National Security Affairs.

Dmitry Filipoff is CIMSEC’s Director of Online Content. Contact him at

Featured Image: WATERS OFF THE KOREAN PENINSULA (Oct. 11, 2018) The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Chancellorsville (CG 62), front, steams alongside the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) during a pass-in-review as part of the Republic of Korea navy to help enhance mutual trust and confidence with navies from around the world. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Elesia Patten)