Category Archives: Force Development

Organizing to Fight and Win at Sea: The Surface Force Imperative

By Vice Admiral Roy Kitchener

As we look at our readiness to fight and win at sea, it is clear that our organizational structure is not optimized for the challenges ahead. For the past 30 years, the Surface Force’s administrative and operational chains of command centered on the Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) and the Amphibious Squadron (PHIBRON). These core organizations stand at the crux between the Surface Type Commander (TYCOM) and the Carrier Strike Group Commander or, alternatively, the numbered fleet commander. They are charged with ensuring the material readiness of their ships as well as their operational employment in times of conflict. This model has supported our force in the decades since the collapse of the Soviet Union. However, as we confront the return of strategic competition, a renewed focus on maritime power demands evolving the way we prepare our force to fight and win.

We—like much of the military—made trades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, trades that eliminated redundancy and capacity that contributed to combat effectiveness, trades made in the pursuit of greater efficiency. Those trades were reasonable and rational in an era without great power rivals. But we have returned to a time where the scale of efficiency and effectiveness must lean toward the latter.

The Surface Force must be prepared to execute dominant sea control and power projection missions against a peer adversary. Regarding this end, we must reimagine the DESRON/PHIBRON model to achieve greater warfighting readiness. The pursuit of greater efficiency in DESRON and PHIBRON staffs, logical in the post-Cold War environment, is no longer sufficient to support the organizational and operational necessities of today’s strategic landscape, particularly from a manning and training perspective. As a prudent response, we are identifying requirements and resources for a return to the proven approach of having an organization devoted solely to readiness and focusing squadrons on operations and tactics. In this approach, we believe there is an apt comparison to be made between our Navy today and that of the late 1960s – outnumbered by our adversary but never outclassed. We cannot relinquish that fundamental advantage of warfighting readiness.

With the support of Commander, U.S. Fleet Forces Command, and the Commander of the Pacific Fleet, we move forward with a plan to establish readiness commands (Surface Groups or SURFGRU) in all fleet concentration areas that will be manned, trained, and equipped to manage Surface Force (SURFOR) ships through the maintenance and basic phases of the Optimized Fleet Response Plan (OFRP), while maintaining oversight of readiness functions during the follow-on phases, to include deployments. These commands will be better positioned to support our ships, TYCOMs, and numbered fleet commanders as we make our Surface Force ready.

Operational squadrons, DESRONs, and PHIBRONs will still provide oversight of ships within their purview. But now with the focused support of the SURFGRUs during the maintenance and basic phases, precious time will be freed up for operational squadrons to concentrate on their warfighting role. During deployment and sustainment phases, DESRONs and PHIBRONs will execute the employment, tactical development, and advanced training of ships at the direction of the numbered fleet commanders and their strike groups. This dichotomy enables a greater focus on warfighting and readiness generation by clearly delineating these functions within the operational and administrative chains of command.

A similar model already exists today to support Forward Deployed Naval Force – Japan (FDNF-J) forces. The Commander, Naval Surface Group Western Pacific (CNSGWP) serves as the readiness SURFGRU commander, and COMDESRON 15 and PHIBRON 11 serve as the operational squadrons for all forward-deployed surface combatants and amphibious ships. This model was established in 2018 and has proven itself as an enduring structure to support surface ships across the OFRP. CNSGWP, with an acute focus on readiness, has reversed low maintenance completion percentages, worked to preserve basic phase training entitlement for ships, and served as a tireless advocate on the waterfront while freeing up operational commanders to focus on warfighting duties.

For those “of a certain vintage,” this plan reflects conditions once seen on the waterfront in the late Cold War era. From 1978 to 1992, Norfolk maintained two non-deploying “Readiness Destroyer Squadrons,” CDS 2 and CDS 10, each of which was led by a Sequential Commander (post-major command captain). These officers each exercised administrative control of between 15-20 frigates, destroyers, and for a time, cruisers during the non-deployed portions of those ships’ schedules. In San Diego, the Readiness Support Group (RSG) fulfilled the same roles. At the end of the basic phase, units would shift to the tactically-focused DESRONS for intermediate, advanced, and deployment operations. How those ships were employed was the focus of the DESRON, which was tied to an aircraft carrier battle group working up for or engaged in forward operations. While the DESRON had modest staffing for readiness functions (such as engineering and supply), most of those functions were retained by the Readiness Squadrons or RSGs. These DESRONS reported to numbered fleet commanders, and Readiness Squadrons reported to Type Commanders.

DESRON 2 and DESRON 10, like the amphibious-equivalent PHIBRON 10, were always in the ship’s chain of command, never relinquishing responsibility for readiness. One staff focused on readiness for warfighting, the other focused on the art and execution of warfighting. It is in this direction the Surface Force must once again proceed.

Make no mistake—these organizational changes in no way dilute existing command relationships with respect to Operational Control (OPCON) of forces. Rather, we move in this direction to ensure the proper resources and attention are directed at the critical combat requirements of unit-level readiness and operational excellence. Every day and every dollar spent on training and maintenance must be ruthlessly prioritized and allocated to deliver warfighting outcomes. Informed prioritization and allocation by organizations wholly devoted to waterfront readiness is a better construct to deliver on our ultimate goal of more capable ships.

This 21st century inception will create a number of readiness-devoted “Surface Groups” (i.e. Surface Group Mid-Pac (SGMP), Surface Group Southeast (SGSE), etc.) in each fleet concentration area, and will lead to DESRONS and PHIBRONS with focused warfighting functionality. DESRONs will encompass the Sea Combat Commander (SCC) functions with greater tactical efficacy and training. Similarly, PHIBRONs will serve as the critical Surface Force connection to Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO) and the Marine Corps Joint Strike Fighter capability.

This organizational change is designed to meet the demands of Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO) with an emphasis on Surface Force effectiveness. The warfighting architecture of DMO requires highly capable and networked ships in numbers to present an adversary with multiple operational dilemmas and provide the Joint Force Maritime Component Commander (JFMCC) with multiple methods to eliminate key targets. Put another way, DMO depends on more ready ships, and that is what we are all about.

We are determined to meet the challenges of strategic competition through embracing data analytics, appreciation of past lessons, and adoption of organizational changes to drive greater effectiveness in our force readiness generation. The conviction entrenched in our Competitive Edge strategy is not an end, but a means. As the CNO recently noted in his 2022 Navigation Plan, “…The Navy which adapts, learns, and improves the fastest gains an enduring warfighting advantage.” The Surface Force is pursuing changes to our readiness structure to maintain and enhance this warfighting advantage. We must and will be prepared to fight and win at sea.

Vice Admiral Roy Kitchener is Commander, Naval Surface Forces, and Commander, Naval Surface Force Pacific.

Featured Image: PHILIPPINE SEA (June 23, 2020) The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Ralph Johnson (DDG 114) and the Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton (CG 59) steam in formation during dual carrier operations with the Nimitz and Theodore Roosevelt Carrier Strike Groups (CSG). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class John Philip Wagner, Jr./Released)

The Politics of Naval Innovation: Cruise Missiles and the Tomahawk

The following republication is adapted from a chapter from The Politics of Naval Innovation, a paper sponsored by the Office of Net Assessment and conducted by the Strategic Research Department of the U.S. Naval War College’s Center for Naval Warfare Studies. Read it in its original form here.

By CDR Gregory A. Engel

This chapter explores the origins of the modern cruise missile and the ultimate development of the Tomahawk cruise missile, particularly the conventional variant. In keeping with the theme of the study, it focuses on the politics of cruise missile development and the implications as they relate to a Revolution in Military Affairs. The full history of cruise missiles can be traced to the development of the V-1 “buzz bomb” used in the Second World War. Since this history is available in many publications, it will not be discussed here nor is it especially pertinent to modern cruise missile development. Worth noting, however, is that the enthusiasm of many early Harpoon and Tomahawk advocates can be linked to the Regulus and other unmanned aircraft programs of the 1950s and 1960s.

What this chapter will show is that although air- and sea-launched cruise missiles (ALCM/SLCM) began along different paths neither would have come to full production and operation had it not been for intervention from the highest civilian levels. Having support from the top, however, did not mean there were not currents, crosscurrents, and eddies below the surface (i.e., at the senior and middle military levels) stirring up the political waters. Studying the challenges faced by cruise missile advocates and how they were overcome can provide valuable lessons for those tasked with developing tomorrow’s technological innovations.

The development of the modern cruise missile spanned nearly fifteen years from conception to initial operational capability (IOC). To those introduced to the cruise missile on CNN during the Gulf crisis in 1991, however, the modern cruise missile seemed more like an overnight leap from science fiction to reality. But as this chapter will show, both cruise missile technology and doctrinal adaptations were slow to be accepted.

The political and bureaucratic roads to acceptance of the sea-launched cruise missile were never smooth. As Ronald Huisken noted, “The weapons acquisition process is a most complex amalgam of political, military, technological, economic, and bureaucratic considerations …. Rational behavior in this field is particularly hard to define and even harder to enforce.”1 Since they first became feasible, the Navy demonstrated an interest in cruise missiles. But finding a champion for them among the Navy’s three primary warfighting “unions” (associated with carrier aviation, submarines and surface warfare) proved difficult. Despite the cancellation of the Regulus program in the 1960s, some surface warfighters aspired to develop an antiship cruise missile which could compete with evolving Soviet technologies. But carrier aviation was the centerpiece of naval war at sea, so initially little support could be garnered for a new variety of surface-to-surface missile. As the requirement for an antiship missile became more evident following the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, surface-to-air missiles (SAMs) were given some surface-to-surface capability.2

However, following the 1967 sinking of the Israeli destroyer Eilat by an Egyptian SSN-2 Styx missile, Admiral Elmo “Bud” Zumwalt, Jr., then a Rear Admiral and head of the Systems Analysis Division, was directed by Paul Nitze, the Secretary of the Navy, via Admiral Thomas Moorer, the Chief of Naval Operations, to initiate a study on cruise missiles that eventually led to the Harpoon.

When Nitze directed the Navy to undertake the study on surface-to-surface missiles, there were two prevailing military requirements. The first was that the US needed such a capability to counter the growing strategic potential of the Soviets. The second was to improve the US’s strategic balance. During this period, there was growing alarm over the rapidly expanding Soviet nuclear missile arsenal and the naval shipbuilding race which (to some) the Soviets appeared to be winning. Admiral Zumwalt was one of those concerned individuals and saw the cruise missile as a required capability. He brought this conviction with him when he became the Chief of Naval Operations in July 1970.3

Naval doctrine at this time held that US surface vessels did not need long-range surface-to-surface capabilities as long as carrier aviation could provide them.4 Many in Congress shared this view. Against this backdrop, Zumwalt and other likeminded advocates of cruise missiles began their efforts to gain acceptance of cruise missiles within the Navy and on the Hill.

Following over two years of study and tests, a November 1970 meeting of the Defense Select Acquisition Review Council (DSARC) approved the development of the AGM-84 Harpoon missile. By this time, the Harpoon had both sea- and air-launched variants. Within the Navy, the Harpoon had been bureaucratically opposed by the carrier community because it posed a threat to naval aviation missions. During the Vietnam War period, the carrier union was a major benefactor of naval defense funding and it did not want to support any weapons system which could hinder or compete with aircraft or carrier acquisition programs. In order to gain their support, the Harpoon was technologically limited in range.5

The Harpoon project had been under the direction of Navy Captain Claude P. “Bud” Ekas with Commander Walter Locke serving as his guidance project officer. Both officers were later promoted to Rear Admiral. In 1971, the Navy began studying a third Harpoon variant, one which could be launched from submarine torpedo tubes. Concurrently, the Navy began a program to study the Advanced Cruise Missile (ACM). This advanced model was to have an extended range of over 300 miles and to be launched from vertical launch tubes.6 This proposal was generally supported by the submarine community (the criticality of this support will be discussed later).

With the advent of the ACM, it was decided to create the advanced cruise missile project office with Locke as director. The Naval Ordnance Systems Command (NAVORD) wanted control of the ACM project and argued that it was the appropriate parent organization for submarine-launched missiles. Admiral Hyman Rickover and other OPNAV submarine admirals opposed this believing that Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) was more imaginative and efficient than NAVORD. The earlier assignment of the ship- and air-launched Harpoon to NAVAIR had effectively co-opted the technical leadership of naval aviation. As a result, the ACM program remained under NAVAIR where work proceeded rapidly….7

….The ACM program of 1971, which barely lasted two years, was significant in that it formed the political, fiscal, and technological connection between the Harpoon and the Tomahawk. Long-range cruise missile advocates within the Navy were having difficulty promoting the larger submarine-launched cruise missile because of the ACM’s need for a new submarine. In 1973, they admitted they had no urgent military requirement for a long-range tactical (anti-ship) variant of the SLCM, but they justified it as a bargain with small added cost to strategic cruise missile development. SLCM represented a technological advancement of untold potential that begged for a home. Congressional and OSD acceptance of the ACM paid the bulk of the development costs of a tactical (anti-ship) variant of the SLCM.19 This all fit fortuitously into the timeframe when SALT I negotiators were searching for strategic options.

By mid-1972, there was little support for the tactical nuclear variant of the ACM and the critics within the Navy were powerful. Thus Ekas and Locke worked to link the ACM development team with OSD strategic advocates. Funding and advocacy remained available within OSD for strategic versions of the SLCM. “It was thus only sensible to arrange a marriage of convenience. With Zumwalt’s manipulation, Laird’s intervention thus set the Navy on a nearly irreversible course. By 6 November 1972 – the date of the consolidation order – surface fleet proponents of a new surface-to-surface missile had effectively won their battle, even if they did not realize it at the time.”20 In December 1972, a new program office, PMA-263, was established and Captain Locke was transferred from the Harpoon Program Office to become the Program Manager.21

Admiral Locke has noted that others in the Navy Department did not believe in the cruise missile. He received a telephone call in June 1972 from an OPNAV staff Captain directing him to “do the right thing” with the recently allocated project funding, i.e., get the money “assigned to things doing work that we can use afterward.” The implication was that the Pentagon had decided it was going to be a one-year program and then was going away. Cruise missiles were seen as a SALT I bargaining chip that made Congressional hawks feel good.22 Not even all submariners were infatuated with the idea; but two submariners who did support it were Admiral Robert Long and Vice Admiral Joe Williams. Admiral Long, who was OP-02 (Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, Undersea Warfare), believed cruise missiles would do more than take up space for torpedoes – the most common complaint heard from submariners – and was its most influential advocate.23 He was supported by Vice Admiral Williams, who was noted by Locke as also being important to the cruise missile program in the early 1970s….24

….Initial technical studies indicated that desired cruise missile ranges could not be obtained from a weapon designed to fit in a 21-inch torpedo tube; thus, the missile necessitated development of a new submarine fitted with 40-inch vertical launch tubes. Zumwalt, who understood this relationship, directed his Systems Analyses staff, OP-96, to argue against the submarine and criticize the cruise missile.27 A curious position to be in as cruise missile advocates.28 ADM Zumwalt was not prepared to concede the 60,000 SHP submarine to ADM Rickover for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it would decrement funding for other Project 60 items. Submariners believed that getting approval for installing the newly envisioned encapsulated Harpoon would eventually lead to a newer, increased capability torpedo. Without ADM Zumwalt’s knowledge, Joe Williams and Bud Ekas received approval from the Vice CNO, Admiral Cousins, to discretely prototype and test the encapsulated Harpoon. When advised of the results, ADM Zumwalt was chagrined that there was a possible submarine conspiracy underfoot but was eventually persuaded that the funding for further testing would be minimal (mainly for the canisters, tail sections, and the test missiles). There was also the possibility of SSNs carrying later versions of the Harpoon with greatly extended ranges which would allow strikes on the Soviet Navy when weather might preclude carrier aviation strikes in the northern latitudes.29

Although ADM Zumwalt had relented, he remained wary of the submarine community’s desire for a new, larger submarine. As program manager for SLCM, Admiral Locke found himself allied with the submariners in order to garner funding support for his missile. Zumwalt threatened to end procurement of the 688-class SSN if Rickover continued to pursue the 60,000 SHP submarine.30 When wind tunnel tests, which had been directed by Locke, indicated that the required range could be obtained from a cruise missile which could fit in the 21-inch torpedo tube, Rickover and other submariners agreed to halt their quest for a larger attack submarine in exchange for continued procurement of the 688-class and continued development of the cruise missile soon to be known as the Tomahawk.31 Thus, the ACM project was quietly dropped in 1972, but the research on anti-ship cruise missiles continued as part of the SLCM program at Zumwalt’s personal insistence.32 Following a January 1972 memo from the Secretary of Defense to the DDR&E which started a Strategic Cruise Missile program using FY 72 supplemental funds that were never appropriated, the CNO ordered that priority be given to the encapsulated Harpoon.33

A fifth option eventually evolved and, as a result to Locke’s persistent effort with the OSD and OPNAV staffs, was accepted. That option was to proceed with the development of a cruise missile with both strategic and tactical nuclear applications that would be compatible with all existing potential launch platforms. What this fifth option really did was detach the missile’s technical challenges from a specific launch platform so that missile development could progress independently of the submarine issue.34

In 1973, Defense Secretary Laird was replaced by Eliot Richardson. Although Richardson stated he supported Laird’s views on SLCM, his endorsement was neither as enthusiastic nor emphatic. He merely indicated that the United States should give some attention to this particular area of technology, for both strategic and tactical nuclear roles. Support from OSD did not wane, however, and was kicked into high gear by William P. Clements, the Deputy Secretary of Defense. President Nixon had handpicked Clements to assemble a team of acquisition experts from civilian industries to fill the OSD Under Secretaries positions.35 Clements coordinated his efforts with Dr. Foster, who was still Director Defense Engineering and Research. All major defense projects were evaluated and those with the most promise were maintained or strengthened; those lacking promise were decreased or cancelled. He was also looking for programs that would give the US leverage, and when he learned about cruise missiles, he became a super advocate.36 The cruise missile represented the cutting edge of new technology and held promise of a high payoff for low relative cost. It’s fair to say that the US “wouldn’t have had a cruise missile without Bill Clements grasping, conceptually, the idea and pushing the hell out it.'”37

… Despite these technological breakthroughs, by 1974, missions for the cruise missile were still vague. Congress wanted to know why the Navy would be putting a 1,400 NM missile on submarines when, for years, they had been working to increase the distance from which they could launch attacks against the Soviet Union. They also wanted to know whether it was to be a strategic or tactical nuclear missile. The Air Force was still wary of a strategic SLCM because they didn’t want further Navy encroachment on their strategic missions.45 Congress had additional misgivings about what effect the cruise missile would have on strategic stability since the strategic and tactical variants were virtually indistinguishable. No one denied that the cruise missile exhibited great promise, but it lacked a specified mission…

… This indistinct mission for the SLCM proved politically useful within the Navy (even though some in Congress believed it was strategic nonsense). Conceptual flexibility offered naval innovators the means of overcoming significant obstacles in their quest for a long-range surface-to-surface missile. It also offered Defense Department officials the opportunity to urge the Air Force to work on the ALCM. And because it was ambiguous, the new SLCM mission did not raise undue suspicion in the carrier community. As long as a strategic cruise missile appeared to be the goal, the tactical anti-ship version could be treated as a fortuitous spinoff. So, although the Navy drafted a requirement for an anti-ship version of the cruise missile in November 1974, it purposely paced its progress behind the strategic version.48

This strategic rationale may have pacified Congress, but not Zumwalt. As early as 1974, Navy studies had specified the SSN as the launch platform for the SLCM even though that mission would require diverting them from their primary role, anti-submarine warfare (ASW). Zumwalt wanted cruise missiles on surface platforms as anti-ship weapons. Before he left office as CNO in 1974, he designated all cruisers as platforms for the SLCM, particularly the newly proposed nuclear-powered strike cruiser. This particular proposal was not well-received because some thought it would violate the requirement of minimizing the vulnerability of these platforms. Zumwalt received support from Clements who wouldn’t approve another new shipbuilding program unless Tomahawk cruise missiles were included. As a result, Zumwalt got what he wanted from the beginning – a capable anti-ship missile for the surface navy…49

… Pursuit of a conventional land-attack variant was a watershed for the Tomahawk. By placing a land-attack missile on a variety of surface combatants, the Navy’s firepower was dramatically increased as was the Soviet’s targeting problem. But the real doctrinal breakthrough was that surface combatants could now mount land-attack operations independently of the Carrier Battle Group in situations where only a limited air threat existed. The Tomahawk Anti-ship Missile (TASM) was the only version that any subgroup within the Services even lukewarmly desired, but the Navy surface fleet had to proceed cautiously and indirectly to get it.53 Furthermore, the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research and Development, Tyler Marcy, stressed before procurement hearings in early 1977 that the Navy’s primary interest in the Tomahawk was the conventionally-armed anti-ship variant….

…Presidents facing a crisis are now just as likely to ask “where are the Tomahawks” as they are “where are the carriers?” Conventional Tomahawks are now considered one of the weapons of choice to make political statements against rogue states. When the Soviet Union crumbled and the Russian submarine threat diminished, conventional Tomahawks assured that submarines and surface combatants still had a role and were capable of meeting the new security challenges. In fact, this dispersed firepower was a primary reason the Naval Services were able to contemplate the new littoral warfare strategic vision detailed in …From the Sea….54

OSD Assumes Control

…Finally on 30 September 1977, Dr. William Perry, the new Director of Defense Research and Engineering, issued a memorandum to the Secretaries of the Air Force and Navy stating that because the ALCM flyoff was elevated to a matter “of highest national priority,” OSD would not allow the Air Force to continue to impede the creation of the Joint Cruise Missile Project Office (JCMPO) or its subsequent operation.85 Perry directed that the present project management team be retained, that all Deputy Program Managers were to be collocated with the JCMPO, and that the JCMPO was a Chief of Naval Materiel Command-level designated project office. He once again directed the Air Force and Navy to allocate their entire cruise missile program funds directly to the JCMPO. In addition, Perry established an Executive Committee (EXCOM) to provide programmatic and fiscal direction with himself as chairman.86 The original purpose of the EXCOM was to provide a forum for rapid review and discussion of problem areas and to build consensus concerning solutions. Dr. Perry, as the EXCOM chairman and now the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (USDR&E; DDR&E’s new title), acted as the senior authority whenever it became necessary to resolve disputes between the Services. It was probably the only way to force Service acceptance of a truly joint program in the 1970s.87

Thus within a span of a few months, management of cruise missile development evolved from one of Pentagon hindrance to one where the Under Secretary of Defense fostered rapid problem resolution. This probably wouldn’t have happened had not the ALCM emerged as a high national priority.88 …Without Dr. Perry’s direct intervention, expeditious and fiscally efficient development of the cruise missile would not have occurred.

Final Political Notes

Like any other organizational endeavor, military activity is fraught with political machinations. In this case, segments of the military Services did not want cruise missiles because they threatened their missions and doctrine, as well as competed for scarce funding. “The long-range air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) was rammed down the throat of the Air Force. The Army refused to accept development responsibility for the ground-launched cruise missile (GLCM). The Navy – specifically the carrier Admirals – did not want the Tomahawk Anti-ship Missile because it represented a clear and present danger to the mission of the carrier-based aircraft.”89 There was a “not invented here” mentality that was almost insurmountable among the Services.90

Furthermore, the Air Force and Navy objected to a project manager who seemed to have been removed from their control. In order to streamline the cruise missile program, he was given direct communication links to the Under Secretary of Defense. This greatly facilitated program direction and allowed for rapid assimilation of technological breakthroughs.91 However, the JCMPO also aggravated and alienated the Services which had now effectively lost control of both their funds and their programs. The program director immediately became an outsider.92 The fact that the Navy and Air Force had completely different objectives also led to problems. “Anytime there’s not a consensus, the budgeteers, or budget analysts, will bore right in until they get two sides,” can demonstrate policy inconsistencies and then use them as justification to cut the budget.93 Perry’s Executive Committee was established to ensure inconsistencies did not develop, but was not designed to be a rubber stamp group where Locke could go and receive approval by fiat. The EXCOM was a vehicle where concerned parties could come together and quickly get a decision on important issues.94

Cruise missile development would not have proceeded as fast or gone as far had it not been for senior-level, civilian intervention bolstering the strong leadership provided by the Program Director.95 Technological innovation abetted the development process, but by itself would not have created a self-sustaining momentum.

“At every crucial stage in the development of each type of cruise missile, high level political intervention was necessary either to start it or to sustain it,” particularly during the period from 1973 to 1977 when SALT II forced cruise missile advocates to bargain hard for systems which many in the military did not want….96

….Service mavericks and zealots were required as well. Admiral Locke was certainly one, and as director of the JCMPO, he became a strong advocate who was able to professionally guide cruise missile development. He was replaced in August 1982 by Admiral Stephen Hostettler. The Navy insisted the change was necessary because of poor missile reliability and schedule delays.98 Naval leadership also wanted “their own man” in charge of the process. Because Admiral Locke had effectively bypassed naval leadership to overcome numerous problems, he was considered an outsider. In fact, Locke had been appointed because he was a good program manager and somebody whom OSD could trust. His unique power base automatically placed him at odds with the Navy.99 On several occasions, Clements intervened to save Locke’s career because the Navy was trying to get rid of him. Locke was working on a program that wasn’t in the Navy mainstream and they feared the emergence of another Rickover.100 Nevertheless, without Admiral Locke’s leadership, cruise missiles would not have been developed when they were.


1. Ronald Huisken, The Origin of the Strategic Cruise Missile (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1981), p. xiii.

2. Interview with RearAdmiral Walter M. Locke, USN, (Ret.), McLean, VA, 5 May 1993.

3. Interview with Admiral Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., USN (Ret.), former Chief of Naval Operations, Washington, D.C., 28 May 1993.

4. Richard K. Betts, ed., Cruise Missiles: Technology, Strategy, Politics (Washington, D.C.: The Brookings Institution, 1981), p. 380. ADM Zumwalt’s predecessor, ADM Moorer, chose to respond to the Eilat incident by enhancing the capabilities of the carrier fleet, not those of the surface fleet. (Ibid., p. 384).

5. Zumwalt interview, 28 May 1993.

6. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 84.

7. Locke interview, 5 May 1993.

19. Ibid., p. 30.

20. Kenneth P. Werrell, The Evolution of the Cruise Missile (Maxwell Air Force Base, AL: Air University Press, 1985), p. 387.

21. Ross R. Hatch, Joseph L. Luber andJames W. Walker, “Fifty Years of Strike Warfare Research at the Applied Physics Laboratory,” Johns Hopkins APL Technical Digest, Vol. 13, No. 1 (1992), p. 117.

22. Locke interview, 5 May 1993.

23. Interview with Vice Admiral James Doyle, USN, (Ret.), Bethesda, MD, 11 August 1993.

24. Admiral Locke greatly credits their vision and assistance during the early formation years of the cruise missile. Locke interview, 14 July 1993.

27. Ibid.

28. Ibid.

29. Interview with Vice AdmiralJoc Williams, USN, (Ret.), Groton, CT, 26 August 1993. The majority of the information in this paragraph is from this interview.

30. Ibid.

31. Admiral Zumwalt acknowledged in his book that Rickover and carrier aviation were impediments to his Project 60 plan throughout his tenure as CNO. [Elmo R. Zumwalt, Jr., On Watch: A Memoir (New York: Quadrangle, 1976)] His apparent lack of advocacy for cruise missiles should not be misinterpreted. He used cruise missiles as a bargaining chip to obtain his higher goal of a balanced Navy which he felt was necessary to counter the Soviet threat. His threats to prevent Harpoon/cruise missile employment was merely a counter to Rickover’s “shenanigans,” as he referred to them.

32. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 386. The Soviets eventually fielded their own large cruise missile submarine, the Oscar-class.

33. Werrell, op. cit. in note 20, p. 151 and Locke interview, 28 August 1994.

34. Locke interview, 5 May 1993. (Emphasis added).

35. Interview with the Honorable William P. Clements, former Deputy Secretary of Defense, Taos, NM, 16 June 1993.

36. Locke interview, 5 May 1993.

37. Interview with Dr. Malcolm Currie, former Director of Defense Research and Engineering, Van Nuys, CA, 21 September 1993.

45. Interview with Bob Holsapple, former Public Affairs and Congressional Relations Officer for the Tomahawk program, Alexandria, VA, 27 May 1993.

48. Rear Admiral Walter Locke’s testimony in Fiscal Year 1975 Authorization Hearings, pt. 7, pp. 3665-7.

49. ADM Zumwalt also saw the inclusion of SLCMs aboard surface ships as one final triumph over Rickover.

53. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 406.

54. … From the Sea: Preparing the Naval Service for the 21st Century (Washington, DC: Department of the Navy, September 1992).

85. Conrow, op. cit. in note 83, p. 6

86. Members of the EXCOM included DDR&E (chairman), the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (RE&S), the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force (RD&L), the Vice Chief of Naval Operations, the Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, the Assistant Secretary of Defense (PA&E), and the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Comptroller). After the first meeting, the Chief of Naval Operations, and the Commander Air Force Systems Command were added as permanent members. [Conrow, op. cit. in note 83, p. 14.]

87. Interview with Dr. William Perry, Secretary of Defense and former Director of Defense Research and Engineering, Newport, RI, 23 June 1993.

88. Conrow, op. cit. in note 83, p. 63.

89. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 360.

90. Clements interview, 16June 1993. The Navy Secretariat’s reasonable belief was that OSD was using the Navy to develop an Air Force missile. This contributed to its “not invented here” attitude. [Locke interview, 28 August 1994].

91. Wohlstetter interview, 18 September 1993.

92. Naval personnel, such as Vice Admiral Ken Carr, who held positions outside of the Navy’s organization, were critical. Carr was Clements’ Executive Assistant and helped maintain backdoor channels for Locke that were as important, if not more important, than formal chains of command. Interview with Vice Admiral Ken Carr, USN, (Ret.), former Executive Assistant for William Clements, Groton Long Point, CT, 24 August 1993.

93. Interview with Mr. Al Best, SAIC, Alexandria, VA, 14 July 1993.

94. Perry interview, 23 June 1993.

95. Betts, op. cit. in note 4, p. 361.

96. Werrell, op. cit. in note 20, p. 361.

98. Werrell, op. cit. in note 20, p. 2 1 1 .

99. Currie interview, 21 September 1993.

100. Parker interview, 22 September 1993.

Featured Image: The battleship USS WISCONSIN (BB-64) launches a BGM-109 Tomahawk missile against a target in Iraq during Operation Desert Storm.

How Defense Department Planning Horizons Can Better Avoid Strategic Surprise

By Travis Reese

“One of the greatest contributions of net assessment is that it calls for consciously thinking about the time span of the competition you are in.” –Dr. Paul Braken

“Short term thinking drives out long term strategy, every time.”–Herbert Simon, Nobel Prize-winning economist

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The oft-repeated phrase from renowned author Peter Drucker continues to echo throughout defense circles and think tanks to catalyze change. Defense of the nation is a never-ending task achieved by balancing readiness for today’s threats and tomorrow’s challenges as part of a connected continuum. Yet, when it comes to addressing either current or future challenges, there is excessive lag between identifying needs and delivering relevant solutions. Senior leader dialogue often stipulates that the best assessments of needed capabilities come from operational commanders facing current problems. This is done while unironically pointing out the struggle to deliver capabilities in a relevant timeframe, often due to complex discovery relying on large human and capital investments. This dialogue is usually accompanied by a declaration that somewhere in industry exists a magic fix to the solutions delivery problem.

In response, industry and government research centers point to all the ways that the Department of Defense (DoD) is ineffective at discussing these problems earlier, while potential solutions wither away due to a lack of funds, institutional initiative, consistency of effort, or all three. To the DoD’s credit, Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks and Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Heidi Shyu have spearheaded initiatives for the DoD to improve future vision and analytic synchronization. Despite these initiatives, however, the culture around force design planning still eats strategy for breakfast, hindering if not outright stopping the delivery of timely capabilities. It is time to change the accepted practices of solutions discovery with a better method. A better method requires the DoD to establish multiple planning horizons with interactive comparisons between near-term and far-term designs stretched over 30 years.

The Problem

The DoD’s current planning horizons are ineffective at anticipating future needs and avoiding emergent gaps. This condition upsets the timely delivery of resources and capabilities because it keeps drawing the focus back to the “here and now” instead of the “there and later.” This leads to the constant refrain to “ask the warfighters” as the place where capability developers and program managers seek to find solutions to “here and now” problems as opposed to developing solutions for increasingly more capable “there and later” adversaries. This reactive response has the institution perpetually lagging. It also results in an abrogation of the Office of Secretary of Defense and the Service Chiefs’ responsibility to use their institutional mandates to forecast the “train, man, equip, and deploy” demands of the future. Instead, they often retrograde future force design issues onto current force employment problems.

This abrogation runs the risk of the entire defense enterprise doing what the late Colonel Art Corbett, designer of the Marine Corps’ Expeditionary Advance Base Operations and Stand-in Forces concepts, used to characterize as solving today’s problems with yesterday’s logic and being constantly surprised by the future. Relying on “warfighter” discovery followed by pressurizing the research, engineering, and acquisition communities to satisfy those demands should be a rare exception and not the norm. Warfighter discovery should exist for only the most unanticipated and untested concerns when the experience of conflict and day-to-day competition reveals unknown capacity of the adversary.

DoD must avoid strategic surprise by delivering well-considered solutions based on long-term forecasts coupled with risk-managed and informed investment. Implementing a process that preempts this persistent short fusing of acquisition effort and priorities can be done by conducting force development and force design based on three distinct time horizons paced over 30 years for the major security scenarios the DoD expects to face. With a long-term forecast model, the DoD can achieve a proactive strategy long before the majority of future challenges manifest as emergent gaps as is so often the case with today’s compressed institutional planning horizons of 10 years or less.

Static Logic Challenge

Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Dunford stated in 2015 that “… adaptation is the things we’re doing right now with the wherewithal that we have, and to me innovation is…when you’re looking really for a fundamentally different way to do things in the future – disruptive, if you will. And so we’ve got to be able to do both of those things.”

General Dunford’s statement indicates that adaptation and innovation are unique ways to address solutions for emergent concerns and future challenges. The ability to identify the full range of innovative or adaptive solutions is often frustrated by the fact that future force planning frequently falls into two habits that create static logic: 1) fixation on the current security challenge which becomes an anchor to perceptions of the future which results in using the current state as the model for all future conditions (sometimes for 10 to 20 years) or 2) establishing a single point in the future and then using that point alone to design a future force with a constant interpretation of the threat regardless of new information or changes. This case frequently occurs due to the institutional inertia that builds up around a model as agencies work to align their programs and efforts to an accepted framework. Each change in the model often generates a halting effect on force development or design as organizations take years or better to adjust to a new conception of the future or threat.

A fix to the static logic problem to maintain innovation and adaptation would be to sustain a constant flow of future projections that mature in detail the closer to the period under question. For example, analysis in the 20-year timeframe may only be able to inform decisions to investigate options in basic or applied research and operating concepts whereas analysis in a 10-year timeframe, informed by years of prior learning, would focus on prototypes and tactical experimentation.

The logic of static time periods also generates a fixed appreciation of the adversary and does not account for their reaction to a U.S. action. The moment the U.S. introduces a capability it should expect an adversary to develop countermeasures. The cost imposing strategy of responding to a well-developed measure with a cheap countermeasure should change the timeframe the U.S. could expect usefulness from initial capabilities for a given timeframe and consider their replacements. For this reason, force developers should construct planning horizons that reflect adversary transitions vice working from a single model for 10 years. However, almost every major acquisition undertaken by the DoD requires 10, 15, or 30 years to develop and, in many instances, is used for 30 to 40 years. In 2016, then-Army Chief of Staff General Mark A. Milley described the purpose of exploring new operational concepts as simply to “get this less wrong than whoever opposes us.” It is the task of future force planning to avoid strategic surprise and orient the institutions into “less wrong” outcomes. This is especially true when force design and the capabilities development process requires 10 years just to move through the initial stages of identification, explanation, buy-in, and approval.

A problem of fixing the DoD on a single assigned year for force design is that potential solutions outside the window of consideration often get set aside in a conceptual limbo. The irony is that somehow these solutions are expected to emerge when the enterprise decides they are ready for the next 10-year horizon. The inability to hold multiple time horizons in consideration becomes a technology and solutions decelerator. Planning in more than one timeframe can overcome the “cold start” gap of discovery, convincing the institution of viability, and accepting it as a suitable option. When discovery and analysis take place on a consistent basis long before a solution is needed, the speed of execution and delivery will meet the judgment of relevance. Potential solutions will require less modification since they will be refined with increasing levels of detail or discarded earlier if determined to be unachievable. That which is not explicitly covered under the near-term approach could be considered and placed into a less committing but equally informing future case. It will give context to any range of research and experimentation rather than merely evaluating an option based on its technical interest or amorphous potential.

Developing 30-year horizons will facilitate continuity of institutional thought, long-term vision, and iterative tests of ideas before requesting or committing scarce resources for what becomes a strategy-defining requirement, that if unrealized, compromises the potential for future success. It is not about hedging bets but maximizing the exploration of options under managed timeframes to identify the greatest range of acceptable solutions, refined through iterative institutional learning and shared understanding.

What does the solution look like? The model for a new process.

The Horizons of Innovation model provides a framework for three interactive but distinct institutional design horizons spanning from 10 to 30 years. The Y-axis, labeled “solutions” spans the spectrum from unsuitable to perfect. The X-axis, labeled “time” spans from the present into the future. Solutions are constrained by the positively sloped “innovation” line and negatively sloped “adaptation.” All solutions constrained in the angle formed between adaptation and innovation are acceptable where the bisecting dashed line represents the best performance. Solutions that exist below the adaptation line are unacceptable while solutions that exist above the innovation line are unattainable. DoD force planners should look at the limiting lines of innovation and adaptation across the three different horizons of 10, 20, and 30 years to develop the framework to address future challenges.

The Horizons of Innovation Model is adapted from the Three Horizons model introduced to business strategists around the turn of this millennia. Critics argue that horizons are too sequential and do not account for rates of change brought on by modern access to information. The combination of process and human factors in DoD force design, however, can still benefit from sequential framing because the Horizons of Innovation account for likely rates of change regardless of the potential spontaneity of innovation. The horizons model distinguishes between short and near-term achievability and distant long-term possibilities. The model shows the difference in thinking that simply makes sequential improvements, usually by only achieving competitive parity, along with paradigm shifting conditions, colloquially known as “game changers,” which create exponential changes in understanding that result in distinct advantages.

Horizons of Innovation model. (Click to expand.)

The Horizons of Innovation model provides a framework for three horizons. The Y-axis, labeled “solutions” spans the spectrum from unsuitable to perfect. The X-axis, labeled “time” spans from the present into the future. Solutions are constrained by the positively sloped “innovation” line and negatively sloped “adaptation.” All solutions constrained in the angle formed between adaptation and innovation are acceptable where the bisecting dashed line represents the best performance. Solutions that exist below the adaptation line are unacceptable while solutions that exist above the innovation line are unattainable. DoD force planners should look at the limiting lines of innovation and adaptation across the three different horizons of 10, 20, and 30 years to develop the framework to address future challenges.

Outside of the boundary formed by innovation and adaptation, two observations are readily apparent: 1) some desired innovation may be unachievable, but that possibility lessens over time and 2) some adaptations are suitable until obsolescence. Future opportunities are revealed as each new change gives a glimpse of the degree of disruption and benefit from that new understanding. The longer a problem is considered, the more likely abstract concepts of the future can be quantified. It is not a perfect understanding of the future but provides a model to identify areas that need investment to benefit from forecasted change.

The further one looks out, the greater the institutional freedom of action between innovation and adaptation. While the lines are linearly divergent, the difference between optimal and suboptimal solutions becomes greater with time. Any adaptation can be assessed to meet future demand and innovations can be identified that generate disruptive change. The model also shows that the closer in time to execution, the less institutional freedom of action there is. The longer future issues are considered, more possibilities could be explored. If a desired innovation is available sooner than expected, it could be seamlessly transitioned into an earlier horizon. This would create a phase shift up the vertical “solutions” axis, increasing advantage over an adversary. Conversely, if an expected innovation cannot be realized in time, the innovations can phase shift down. However, the loss of innovation is managed by shifting the lines of efforts from innovation to adaptation. The longer the institution looks into the future and evolves that understanding, the more risk accepting and opportunity seeking it becomes, vice risk averse and opportunity limiting. Allowing current force commanders to contribute their concerns to future analysis will prevent pinning the DoD just on “hear and now” concerns that in turn alleviates anchoring and availability bias in DoD planning.

While the Horizon’s model is agnostic of personal bias or viewpoints, there is still a human element in force design methodology. Novel solutions that change paradigms and alter the inertial course of massive institutional ships takes time. A contemporary example is found in the efforts of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General David Berger, to accelerate the naval service toward modernization by 2030. To casual observers, it seems that General Berger is the initiator of this effort. That is far from the truth. The lineage of the Force Design 2030 efforts trace themselves back to his predecessors throughout recent times. General Dunford began a force redesign in 2015, followed by the 37th Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Neller, and his introduction of Marine Corps Force 2025. Current iterations continuing under General Berger will cover a span of seven years. Despite having the full support of the Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Berger’s effort to modernize require explanation, convincing, testing, and advocacy. By the conclusion of his tenure as Commandant, the transition to a new force design will have taken nearly 10 years. This transition period beckons several questions: even as FD2030 falls into place, where is the next horizon? Have strategic leaders considered the frame that will emerge after 2030? Where is the guidance to evaluate the potential outcomes of the 2030 force? How will the adversary respond? What countermeasures/innovations must be developed?

Too often near-term executors are segregated from future visionaries as if they have mutually exclusive institutional roles. The model shows they are not distinct but complementary. Immediate pressures force the DoD to emphasize the near-term challenges and solutions that are biased and anchored in the present. These current concerns generate responses that are often risk averse because of the perceived potential for loss. Future speculation promotes a greater propensity to accept risk because the focus shifts from potential loss to potential gain. Collective discussion with involved stakeholders should be held in all three horizons simultaneously. This ensures that choices for institutional readiness can be assessed over the different time horizons which allow for an informed approach. Focusing exclusively in one time frame generates collective ignorance since it disregards the existence of the next range of options and opportunities. It is possible to be both a contemporary and future thinker simultaneously, which is necessary to assesses risk and balance the forces that are “here and now” with the forces that will be “there and later.”

An additional opportunity from this method is that younger generations will be inculcated in strategic thought and be exposed to the strategic environment they will face earlier in their careers. Advancing in one’s career with a sense of ownership over the potential challenges and being involved in the likely solutions will generate career-long strategic thinking. If adopted, the Three Horizons model enables transition of the future environment to successor generations. This could catalyze an educational shift to think critically and creatively both at the individual and institutional level ensuring the proper shaping of the future design of the force with each turnover of leadership. Current leaders can manage force sustainment challenges while sponsoring and investing in the contributions of future generations on an informed basis led by those who will inherit the outcomes.

Leaders that are reticent to engage in timelines beyond 10 years may do so because they fear how future considerations can be viewed as path determinant once they are discussed in public. This happens because there is no running institutional method of discourse to encourage evolution of thought over time. Rather, it remains a leader-managed process subject to the whims of the next decider rather than being a participant-driven enterprise with clear transitions and gates between ideation, iteration, and ultimate leader-required decisions based on legal obligations and restraints. Nothing substitutes for a well-considered problem with persistent investments of time and resources. Nothing improves support of an institutional direction like transparent stakeholder engagement on a persistent basis. The Horizons of Innovation model, with its three frames of replacement, transition, and exponential change, supports both and invites rigorous analysis at each step.


Horizons are not fixed limitations but rather means of effectively organizing referred to as “chunking,” and based on likely periods of technology development or institutional transition. This model can serve as an institutional tool for facilitating change, stabilizing the disruptive effects of innovation, programing the arrival of new capabilities, and replacing obsolete practices and models in a managed timeline. It enables detailed analytic approaches based on the continuous refinement of institutional design for the future with iterative adjustment. The Horizon model can enhance acquisition, programming and budgeting, and capability development processes by organizing stakeholders into common appreciation of long-term force design.

The current capabilities development process requires 10 years to move through the initial stages of identification, explanation, buy-in, and approval to generate needed solutions to likely military challenges 15 to 20 years on the future, let alone solve current problems and readiness challenges. Competitors and adversaries are executing on their long-term strategies and steadily growing their capabilities and capacities having followed a similar process of decades-long planning and organized action.

They have however accelerated towards their goals by harnessing steady and persistent momentum rather than attempting radical lurches based on short-term forecasts and near-term focus. Their ability to capitalize on a long-view approach, while critically analyzing our force (and that of our allies) is enabling them to progress toward strategic and operational overmatch. Adversaries’ planned transitions from current to future through managed modernization have resulted in our present challenges.

It is time to account for the role of those factors in the process for force design as well. Retired Australian Army Major General Mick Ryan, in a recent interview on his book War Transformed, articulated the case for balancing current and future when he described the cultural paradigm that needs to be overcome. He opined that democracies are good at leveraging 24-hour news cycles and 3 to 4-year electoral cycles. Conversely, he stipulated that if leaders want to exploit microseconds of opportunity that may only be possible through building the societal patience to think in decades.

The Horizons of Innovation model provides discipline to forecasting decades into the future. Although the future is uncertain, it is not a fact-free activity solely left for conjecture. Future planning can be a very informed process with logical designs and reasonable outcomes. When the Horizon model is used, these designs and outcomes will help define how current means satisfy requirements when adapted to new circumstances. The model also shows where the potential for disruptive innovation may be needed to avoid strategic surprise and overcome anticipated concerns. Famed Disney Imagineer and consultant to the DoD on future innovation, Bran Ferren stated, “We don’t do strategic or long-term thinking anymore. If anything, we may do long-term tactical thinking and call it strategic, but it’s really just a spreadsheet exercise…That’s not a survivable model.” Bran Ferren’s words articulate a pressing problem, and the Horizon model may just be the prescription to fix it.

Travis Reese retired from the Marine Corps as Lieutenant Colonel after nearly 21 years of service. While on active duty he served in a variety of billets inclusive of tours in capabilities development, future scenario design, and institutional strategy. Since his retirement in 2016 he was one of the co-developers of the Joint Force Operating Scenario process. Mr. Reese is now the Director of Wargaming and Net Assessment for Troika Solutions in Reston, VA.

Featured Image: JAPAN (Aug. 18, 2022) – U.S. Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II’s assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 121 participate in an aerial refueling mission during a 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit Certification Exercise over the East China Sea, Aug. 18, 2022. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Justin J. Marty)

Vice Admiral Hank Mustin on the Politics of Naval Capability Development

Vice Admiral Hank Mustin served in a variety of positions that focused on developing the capabilities and tactics of the U.S. Navy at the peak of the Cold War. Mustin helped pioneer the development and fielding of many assets that are now recognized today as mainstay capabilities of the modern surface fleet. But in Mustin’s time, the path to fielding these capabilities was unclear and influential opposition threatened to kill critical programs. 

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 discusses navigating the opposition surface fleet programs faced from the highest levels of Navy leadership, methods for securing programs with funding and top cover within the OPNAV staff, and how certain projects were created or cancelled.

Be sure to explore more CIMSEC republications of Admiral Mustin’s insights in “Vice Admiral Hank Mustin on Naval Force Development” and Vice Admiral Hank Mustin on New Warfighting Tactics and Taking the Maritime Strategy to Sea.”

WINKLER: The threat at the time…was the Soviet Styx missile?

MUSTIN: That was just becoming a threat. And the feeling in the Navy leadership was, which was dominated by aviators, we’re not going to let anybody get close enough to shoot one of these missiles. The aviators said, if we see anybody out there that’s a threat, we’ll just go bag them at two to three hundred miles. Not to worry. And so we surface types all said, well okay, we’ll concentrate on shooting at air-launched missiles. “Well, we’ll take care of that too, if we ever get enough F-14s.” So we said, well maybe you can’t take care of them all; we’ll continue to pursue this.

Senior aviators at the time fought this rather bitterly. Success rates of these expensive missiles were not high. The performance of the systems was not good. And they viewed this as a drain, unnecessary, on funds that should be devoted to aviation capabilities. This is not a new kind of argument. So things like Aegis, and others, were bitterly opposed by the aviators. My own view is that we’d have never gotten Aegis if Bud Zumwalt had not been the CNO. Because a series of aviator CNOs before and after tried to kill it…

…The aviators—the notion had been since World War II that the main battery of every combatant should be resident on the flight deck of the carrier. So we’d try to put Harpoons on these ships and they’d say, “Hey, no, we’ll just take care of those guys with A-6s.” I developed a line of argument that said that JSOP, the force structure bible, says you need 26 carriers. We’ve only got 12. If we don’t have the number of carriers that we need, how are we going to fill in that firepower gap? This was the argument, it got at the issue without threatening aviation.

March 6, 1987 – An air-to-air overhead view of a fighter Squadron 1 (VF-1) F-14A Tomcat aircraft. (Photo via U.S. National Archives)

All of the issues of long-range targeting came up at that time. All of the issues of the inadequacies of the sonars. And as we built the Los Angeles class specifically to be escorts of the carrier task force—we didn’t call them battle groups—we found all the inadequacies in communications with the submarines while they are submerged. So the things that you see now—submarines with NTDS [Naval Tactical Data System], submarines with Tomahawk and Harpoon, submarines integrated into the striking forces of the Navy when required, the acknowledgement that you’ve got to disperse offensive power through platforms other than the carrier—all of those things were seen by Bud [Zumwalt] and Worth Bagley.

The problem was there wasn’t any technology available to implement them. To get the Aegis and to get the Tomahawk and to get these things, you had to spend the money. That money was going to come out of aviation, and everybody knew it. So the aviators just said there’s no reason for the Aegis ships; the F-14s will do the air defense job. Because it was apparent we were going to have fewer F-14s if we had Aegis ships.

So it was a very, very turbulent time, internally as well as externally. I remember a very senior aviator, who I won’t name, said to me one day when I was a captain, and Bud was still the CNO, he said, “You’d better enjoy every day that he’s the CNO, because you’re not going to see another one during your lifetime who’s a black-shoe…”

…Aegis was just on the horizon, strongly opposed by the aviators, who felt that it was a big waste of money to try and fight air battles with the Aegis ship when you could do it all with F-14s, and they wanted Aegis dollars to buy aircraft. The inadequacies of the Charles Adams class against missiles, and in particular against long-range missiles, were becoming apparent. And the absolute inadequacies of the Talos missile became apparent. So it didn’t take long for Jim Doyle, Bob Morris, and I, who were the requirements guys, to figure out that we needed an Aegis fleet, which was programmed, very slowly. But at the same time we needed a new destroyer. So we undertook to develop the requirements for the DDGX, which became the Arleigh Burke.

VADM Mustin during a Second Fleet exercise, 1988. (Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

So on Jim Doyle’s watch we brought in Aegis, brought in LAMPS, brought in the vertical launchers, brought in the SM-2 missile, brought in the Tomahawk, brought in the digital computer versions of NTDS. We brought in what is now called cooperative engagement—at the time it was called battle group AAW. We brought in the CIWS, the close-in weapons system. We brought in the SLQ-32, the modern anti-missile ECM suite. We brought in towed arrays. We brought in the new generation sonar. We significantly upgraded the capabilities of the design of the amphibs, the LHAs, the AOEs. It was an amazing time.

…Spruances were new. I was very unhappy with the Spruances. The Spruance had been a McNamara invention. It was to be the DX and the DXG. There were to be thirty DXs, which were ASW ships, and thirty DXGs, which were to be AAW ships, and they would operate in tandem all the time. Then the Typhon weapons system, which had been designed for the DXG, became too expensive, and so the DXG was cancelled. Now you had the DX, the Spruance, the single-purpose ASW ship, with no DXG. So the whole rationale fell apart. Here we had all these ships out there, which were the largest destroyers that we had ever built, and they had nothing on them. They had no weapons to speak of. We were furious at this.

On Jim’s watch we took the Spruance hull and turned it into the DXG with the Aegis fleet, it is the Ticonderoga-class cruiser. But it was ten years behind the Spruance in getting to sea. Then I think that it was [CNO] Jimmy Holloway—it was either Holloway or Tom Hayward—who changed the DDG to CG. I was in charge of the force structure as a captain, and I remember one day, with a stroke of the pen, we went from the Soviets having more cruisers than all of NATO combined to NATO outnumbering the Soviet cruiser force by almost two to one. DLGs became cruisers.

…I don’t know if I told you the story of the LAMPS [Light Airborne Multi-Purpose System] and how that worked. The deal when I got there was that, for the LAMPS helicopter, SH-60, Op 03 would pay for the R&D, which was the weapons suite and avionics. Op 05, the air warfare czar, would pay for the procurement of the fleet of the all-up airplane. Op 05 had rigged it for seven years so that the first procurement was always one year outside of the POM, because they wanted to spend their scarce aviation procurement dollars on tailhook aircraft, and not on helicopters to go on destroyers.

Doyle was furious about this, but they had two aviator CNOs. He said, “We’ve got to do something about this.” So I said, “You know what we’ve got to do? We’ve got to get our nose under the tent. What you ought to do in this POM cycle is, you ought to, number one, accelerate the R&D by putting in more money for two years, and then in that third year you give up FFG 7 and you take that money and buy the helicopter. Then, if you do that and you get that first buy in there, then Op 05 is going to be committed in the out-years to keep on. He isn’t going to like that, but how’s he going to argue with it? And how can he argue with it in OSD; how can he argue with it against the Hill?” In the meantime the people in OSD were saying, every banana republic navy in the world has got helicopters on the fantail; how come you guys don’t? We’d always mumble something. So anyway, that’s what we did. That’s how we got the SH-60 to sea. That was one of my programs in this period.

August 1, 1985- An SH-60B Sea Hawk helicopter participates in flight operations aboard the battleship USS IOWA (BB 61). (Photo by PH1 Jeff Hilton, via U.S. National Archives)

It became apparent that we had to stop building these FFG 7s in order to get the new destroyer, and the principal contribution of the new destroyer should be its land attack capability—with the Tomahawk missile, but there was no Tomahawk missile. Also we had to have some way to shoot it. The then-current version of the vertical launcher was two feet too short to accommodate the Tomahawk missile. So the first thing we had to do was lengthen the launcher, which was an enormously expensive proposition. It required ship re-design to do.

Second, in order to get the Tomahawk in surface ships, we had to get a Tomahawk and we had to overcome the Mark 26 launching lobby, which was the lobby that was going into the first seven Aegis ships. They didn’t want the vertical launcher to come along because that jeopardized the Mark 26 launcher. So we had Tomahawk, which was opposed bitterly by the aviators, because they said we’ll do all that with A-6s; we had the launcher, which was opposed by the vertical launcher guys, because it meant changing their launcher and therefore delaying their program a year; and we had the Mark 26 guys, who did not want to have their launcher jeopardized just as it was entering the fleet. That wasn’t including all the people who didn’t want to do it on the outside.

April 12, 1983- RIM-66 Standard MR/SM-2 missiles on a Mark 26 launcher prior to being fired from the Aegis guided missile cruiser USS TICONDEROGA (CG 47) during tests near the Atlantic Fleet Weapons Training Facility, Roosevelt Roads, Puerto Rico. (Photo by Don Muhm, via U.S. National Archives)

We started off with a year’s study to determine the requirements for the new destroyer…The study showed that we knew how to do AAW and ASW modeling—a bunch of missiles come in, you shoot a bunch of missiles at them, and you’ve got them. We knew how to do ASW engagement. But we had no measures of effectiveness for the Tomahawk.

So I devised a series of analyses where we ran an air strike against Petropovlovsk with carrier air, and then we ran that same air strike with carrier air supported by the Tomahawks where the Tomahawks went in and beat down the air defenses before the A-6s went in. We drew a curve that showed the cost of the air strike in terms of aircraft attrition and the procurement of Tomahawks. The cost without Tomahawk was up, because there were so much aircraft attrition; we had all these Soviet capabilities approved by the Director of Naval Intelligence. The costs came way down as you brought the Tomahawks in, and then after a while it started to go back up again if you bought too many Tomahawks, because they’d already killed all the air defenses, so you didn’t gain any more cost reduction by reduced aircraft attrition.

A Tomahawk missile firing off a battleship, c. late 1980s. (Photo via NAVSEA)

We took that analysis to the CNO, Tom Hayward. He said, “I do not support this destroyer.” When the CNO tells you that it’s got a very chilling effect. In the meantime Op 05 was saying he didn’t support Tomahawk. He supported everything except the strike function, which he thought was unnecessary. And besides, Tomahawk had not been service-approved for procurement, which violated all of the “fly before buy” rules. And the Aegis guys were saying, you’re spending too much money on Tomahawks and not enough on Aegis.

…CNO had said he didn’t support it. It was very carefully handled. Anyway, Congress put enough heat on the OSD so that OSD said, all right, we think you ought to do this. We want you to cancel your Charles Adams improvements, a pretty expensive program, and get on with the finalizing of the design of the DDGX. The big issue was the vertical launcher for the Tomahawk. So we got the Congressional language to say that this ship should be capable of firing Tomahawks. Then we went back to the CNO, who was pretty unhappy about this turn of events. He knew who the culprits were, which I found out to my distress later. He gave the go-ahead, but conditionally. He said that he needed more F-14s and the F-18. And he could not undertake a shipbuilding program that requires a lot more helicopters.” So he told us to get out and figure out why we don’t need a helicopter in the Arleigh Burke. If we could, then he’d support it.

So we went out and I did a bunch of analyses which showed that if you made a lot of assumptions about other ships in company with the task force, you had enough LAMPS so all you really needed on the Arleigh Burke was a landing platform so they could hopscotch, and an in-flight refueling capability. So we designed the ship that way, and that’s why the first flight came out with no helos on them. Everybody has said ever since then: Hey, why didn’t you have a helo on them? The answer was because we couldn’t get it through OpNav. And the reason was, the aviation procurement budget was very tight, and the Navy’s priorities were for tailhook aircraft. Jim Doyle and I were really sensitive to this issue, having just gone through the LAMPS flail. And CNO was very sensitive to that, having seen the aircraft procurement money start to go to the LAMPS.

…OSD was of the view that the Navy was sort of irrelevant to the NATO strategy, for the reasons that we’ve discussed. So while we were looking into making these new capabilities, we were developing arguments for why the Navy was relevant. The Tomahawk was the key that unlocked that, because that gave the surface Navy for the first time the ability to influence events ashore, beyond the range of the 5- inch gun. That meant that in the battle for Europe you could now hold at risk the Kola Peninsula with other carrier air. From the eastern Med you could hold at risk targets in Russia, that you could not do before unless you put the carriers way, way up in the Adriatic. So all of a sudden the Tomahawk unlocked a lot of doors in OSD.

…I went to see Admiral Doyle, and I said, “Walt Locke isn’t going to do it.” He said, “Tell him to come over here; I want to see him.” Walt and I walked in to see Jim Doyle. Jim Doyle said, “Walt, maybe once if you’re lucky, in your naval career, you come across a capability that’s going to be a change in naval warfare on the order of sail to steam.” He said, “In my view, Tomahawk is that change during our lifetimes. What we have to do is stop this complaining and get on with it. We’ve got to have the launcher to support it, we’ve got to have the targeting, and we’ve got to have the seeker and warheads to do the job. Because,” he said, “we now have about half of the number of aircraft carriers that we all say we need to perform the Navy’s function in a NATO war, and we’re not going to get any more. So if the Navy is going to stay relevant it has to have a capability like the Tomahawk, and fortuitously the technology is such that that capability is now at hand. So you are the naval officer who will be able to bring that to bear.”

Walt Locke almost stood up and cheered. He walked out of there and he was a convert. It was one of the most compelling senior officer man-to-man discussions that I’ve ever been in. Walt was turned around like that. We gave him the money, and he marched off.

Henry C. Mustin was born in Bremerton, Washington on 31 August 1933, the son, grandson, and great-grandson of distinguished naval officers. 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. 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 retired January 1, 1989. He passed away on April 11, 2016.

David F. Winkler earned his Ph.D. in 1998. from American University in Washington, DC. He has been a historian with the non-profit Naval Historical Foundation for over two decades. His dissertation Cold War at Sea: High Seas Confrontation between the U.S. and Soviet Union was published by the Naval Institute Press in 2000, was republished under the title Incidents at Sea: American Confrontation and Cooperation with Russia and China, 1945 – 2016 in December 2017. He was selected in early 2019 to be the Class of 1957 Chair of Naval Heritage at the U.S. Naval Academy for the 2019-2020 academic year and the Charles Lindbergh Fellow at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum for the following year. Winkler received his commission as a Navy ensign in 1980 through the NROTC unit at the Pennsylvania State University. In addition to a B.A. in Political Science, he has an M.A. in International Affairs from Washington University. He is a retired Navy Reserve commander. 

Featured Image: September 7, 1985 – Aerial starboard quarter view of Battle Group Alfa underway. The ships are: (clockwise, center front) USS REEVES (CG-24) , USS SAN JOSE (AFS-7), USNS MISPILLION (T-AO-105), USS OLDENDORF (DD-972), USS KANSAS CITY (AOR-3), USNS KILAUEA (T-AE-26), USS ENGLAND (CG-22), USS TOWERS (DDG-9), USS KIRK (FF-1087), USS KNOX (FF-1052), USS COCHRANE (DDG-21), and USS MIDWAY (CV-41) (center). (Photo via U.S. National Archives)