By Linda F. Hersey
Inside Defense/Inside Washington Publishers
NATIONAL HARBOR, MD — A modernized approach to integrated fighting is transforming strategies and the mindset for future maritime combat operations, according to a panel of Navy and Marine Corps leaders speaking Tuesday at the Sea-Air-Space conference.
Fighting multiple fleets simultaneously is among the challenges that military leaders wrestle with as they consider the risks of a “great power conflict again” in a contested maritime domain, according to Marine Corps Maj. Gen. Roger Turner.
The other speakers at the discussion on naval integration developments were Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, deputy commandant for combat development and integration; Navy Vice Adm. Scott Conn, deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting requirements and capabilities; and Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Marcus Annibale, director of expeditionary warfare, OPNAV N95.
New initiatives are being run through the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory in Quantico, which informs force design and development activities. Advances are reshaping how the Navy and Marine Corps work together.
Turner said innovations are occurring so rapidly that exercises are unrecognizable from just a few years ago. Conn touched on the increased operational reach of electronic warfare and how “defense is getting away from metal on metal solutions.”
New capabilities include directed-energy weapons, from lasers to high-powered microwaves, and unmanned systems as “force multipliers across the domain.”
Conn also talked about the major investment planned in fiscal year 2024 for weapons with a focus on improving capacity.
He noted that the military for the first time in more than two decades is building Mark 48 torpedoes.
Weapons including Tomahawks also are being re-certified “at the rate and capacity we need them,” Conn said. “Capable ships without munitions have a lethality of zero.”
At the Naval Warfighting Lab, Heckl described the development of unmanned equipment as a game changer with promising experiments and innovations that include a robotics-operated machine gun.
“We are not experimenting for experimentation’s sake,” Conn added. “I had the privilege of carrying a lot of these smart weapons and not one of them was very smart; they were obedient. I look at how we are going to understand the obedience of these weapon systems to do what we ask them to do.”