The Navy League’s 2018 Sea-Air-Space Exposition concluded, April 11, at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland.
Undersecretary of the Navy Thomas Modly delivered the keynote address at the concluding luncheon, and spoke about the future of fleet design and the ways in which the Navy is working now to achieve that architecture.
“The U.S. Navy will rise to this challenge created by introduction of great power competition,” said Modly. “We will do so by creating a bigger, better, more networked, more talented, more ready force.”
During one of the final panel discussions, senior enlisted leaders gathered to discuss the current state of the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard, and different ways in which each respective service is working to address current and future needs.
Master Chief Petty Officer of the Navy Steven S. Giordano, Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Ronald L. Green, and Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard Steven W. Cantrell spoke about technological developments among the sea services, as well as how leadership is working to bring more advanced platforms, equipment and training to Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen.
Giordano, in particular, highlighted maintaining current readiness, as well as the Navy’s plans to increase both the capacity and capability of the fleet.
“As we increase the size of the Navy, up near 355, that’s a good thing,” he said. “That gives us a bigger Navy, but you also need a better Navy. We have to have those platforms out there, with the right capabilities on board. And as you build a bigger and better Navy, you have to have a Navy that is networked. That increases the lethality of those platforms out there communicating. The next piece of this is that you have to have a Navy that is agile. Our ability to maneuver in that space, the maritime domain, with a little bit better agility [is critical].”
Giordano also said none of the increases in size or lethality of the fleet would be possible without a talented workforce, and that conversations he has with the chief of naval operations center entirely on how they, as leaders, can continue to ensure Sailors’ personal and professional needs are met.
During another of the exposition’s final panels, Rear Adm. Mark W. Darrah, program executive officer for unmanned aviation and strike weapons; Rear Adm. David J. Hahn, chief of naval research; Brig. Gen. Christian F. Wortman, vice chief of naval research and commander, Marine Corps Warfighting Lab; and Coast Guard Rear Adm. Michael P. Ryan, assistant commandant for capability; discussed advancements in unmanned autonomous systems.
The panelists exchanged ideas on how unmanned autonomous systems have the potential to fundamentally shift the way the Department of the Navy and Coast Guard conduct naval operations. They also noted how, across the different warfare domains – land, air, sea, space and cyberspace – unmanned systems and technologies have great potential to transform modern warfare like never before.
As part of his remarks, Darrah explained some of the ways in which the fleet is currently implementing autonomy.
“The autonomous systems that we have today are what we would call ‘directed autonomy,'” he said, “where we go into mission planning and we tell the system exactly where it should go, what parameters it should operate within, and we don’t allow it to make decisions outside those boundaries.”
Moving forward, Darrah said the Navy is working to extend these capabilities, and is doing so with concern in regards to the parameters autonomous systems can base their decisions on. He also said leadership is focusing on how to program those parameters through mission planning, and how to best interface autonomous systems with other manned and unmanned systems.
Though the panelists touched on the fact that the Navy’s knowledge and implementation of autonomy is in its early stages, all seemed to agree that leveraging this new technology will speed up tactical decision-making and ultimately give Sailors and Marines a greater advantage to fight and win in the future.
Over the course of the 2018 Sea-Air-Space Exposition, both military and civilian leadership from the Navy, Marine Corps and Coast Guard gathered to exchange ideas on subjects ranging from current and future worldwide operations to innovation in training, logistics, shipbuilding, and making the most of available technology.
Now in its 53rd year, Sea-Air-Space is the largest maritime exposition in North America. It continues to bring together the best innovation the defense industry has to offer, and showcases the Navy League’s consistent commitment in support of the sea services and their families.
MC2 Jackie Hart, Defense Media Activity