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Surface Navy 2021: CNO plans deliberate approach toward unmanned acquisitions

The US Navy (USN) will delay the large-scale acquisition of unmanned platforms until it has developed reliable and sustainable technology, Admiral Michael Gilday, US chief of naval operations (CNO), has said.

Briefing media on his ‘CNO Navigation Plan 2021’, which was released on 11 January during the virtual Surface Navy Association 2021 National Symposium, Adm Gilday said he had no immediate plans to go on an unmanned vessel buying spree.

“I’m not talking about buying large number of unmanned [vessels] by the mid-2020s,” Adm Gilday told reporters on 8 January.

By the end of the decade, Adm Gilday said, he wants the USN to “be in a position where we can scale unmanned”.

He acknowledged, “This is a very deliberate approach, with respect to capacity. I’m more interested in getting it right, in a deliberate fashion, than I am in getting it fast.”

Part of that, he said, is to make sure he gains the trust of Congress, which has objected to some of the navy’s plans to divest of less-capable cruisers and cut into proposed USN funding for unmanned systems.

The complaint from lawmakers, he said, is that the navy does not have the story right with unmanned. There is, he agreed, “a little truth to that. What I’m trying to do is develop a tighter narrative.”

For example, by the end of the decade the USN plans to replace some of the lethality it will lose by getting rid of some cruisers with the service’s proposed unmanned vessels.

First, however, the CNO wanted to streamline the USN unmanned narrative. He said there were too many disparate unmanned systems and related support systems.

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