Richard R. Burgess, SeaPower
9 July 2015
ARLINGTON, Va. – The Navy’s surface fleet boss argues for increasing lethality more widely across the spectrum of surface forces as a way to maximize the warfighting capabilities of the fleet.
Speaking to an audience July 9 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington think tank, VADM Thomas Rowden, commander, Naval Surface Forces, said that in a recent war game to advance the concept of the new frigate, the use of up-gunned littoral combat ships (LCSs) changed the behavior of the commanders who used them and that of the adversaries who faced more than heavily armed ships and had to devote additional forces to counter them.
Rowden’s push to add more lethal weapons systems to the surface fleet, and to more ships in that fleet, would “diminish risk to high-value warships” such as aircraft carriers and distribute that lethality “across a greater expanse of ocean.”
Rowden also pointed out that even with ships with a greater punch, “it is suboptimal unless we use that force differently.”
He said the decision to up-gun the LCS “was the right thing to do ... Why not apply that logic across the fleet?”
The admiral also pointed out that distributed lethality is not a “wholesale change” and “adding lethality does not necessarily translate to additional platforms. Take what you have today and make it better,” he said in defining the concept to a core idea, including “repurposing weapons in creative ways.”
He noted that the distributed lethality concept included platforms and weapons other than surface ships, including the F-35 joint strike fighter, the Virginia Payload Module on future submarines and the Long-Range Anti-Ship Missile.
Rowden said that adapting existing weapons on ships “removes years of development and testing and [cost]” from the procurement process.
He also said that “logistics, more than any other factor, will limit the lethality of a more distributed force.”
Rowden said he sees new intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance techniques, payloads and technology as “our next great advantage in warfare. The surface force is built to accept change.”