Confronted with heavy seas and poor visibility on Capitol Hill, Navy leaders are moving to make their case for funding unmanned warships more compelling.
Unmanned systems, both in the water and overhead, are top modernization priorities for Chief of Naval Operations Michael M. Gilday. Like long range fires and digital networking, they are viewed as essential to staying ahead of China’s rising maritime power.
But legislators, particularly authorizers in the House and Senate, aren’t so sure they agree. While unmanned aircraft now have become an accepted way of conducting surveillance and taking out terrorists, unmanned vessels are controversial.
In their respective versions of fiscal 2021 defense authorization legislation, the House and Senate armed services committees have slashed funding for unmanned vessels and imposed constraints on how they may be used, impairing the Navy’s ability to experiment with new approaches to warfighting.
Appropriators may be more forthcoming, but after being savaged by authorizers, Navy leaders realize they need to do a better job of telling their story.
So Admiral Gilday has directed the preparation of a campaign plan that answers key questions about how unmanned warships will fit into the future fleet. Among the subjects to be addressed is where the Navy wants its unmanned vessel efforts to be in five or ten years, what gaps in current capabilities unmanned vessels can fill, what kind of network is needed to control them, and how they will be funded. (end of excerpt)
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