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CNO sees continued need for sea-based aviation and unmanned platforms

06 December 2019
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US Navy leadership now says more land-based prototypes should have been built for the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78). Source: US Navy

Admiral Mike Gilday, the new US Navy (USN) chief of naval operations (CNO), said the USN will continue to depend on sea-launched aviation platforms despite the uncertainty over what those future assets will look like.

Speaking on 5 December at the Defense Forum Washington, hosted by the US Naval Institute, Adm Gilday also called for continued and greater investment in unmanned systems.

“We need an aviation platform,” Adm Gilday told forum attendees. “I think there will be a requirement to deliver seaborne-launched vehicles through the air, delivering effects down range.” However, he said he was “not sure what that looks like”, or what size a future aircraft carrier fleet might be needed.

Nevertheless, he noted, “We’ve made a significant investment in aircraft carriers. We’re going to have them for a long time.”

The USN will still be using about 75% of its current fleet in 2030, Adm Gilday added, citing a need to find more effective ways to use that fleet. He called for more large-scale exercises that would include a great deal of experimentation.

Adm Gilday said he particularly wants to experiment with unmanned systems, especially prototypes, but recognised the reluctance of US lawmakers to provide funding for such untried systems.

“I understand the hesitation about giving us money for something that might fail,” he said, but added that the USN could show Congress it could move ahead in a “responsible” and “deliberate” way for such systems.

The admiral acknowledged that the USN still had to deal with some of the fallout from the issues related to the development of the aircraft carrier USS Gerald R. Ford (CVN 78).

“We do have some challenges with Ford ,” he said. “We made a few mistakes.”

Some additional land-prototyping, particularly with the weapons elevators, should have been done, he added.

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