Recent improvements in Chinese destroyer technology have opened the door for greatly expanded surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities, particularly for undersea operations. Advances range from new power plants and weapons to radars and sonars that provide versatility known to other modern navies. Many of these upgrades involve long-overdue improvements in warship operations. Electronics and missile advances acting synergistically are enabling new shipboard defense systems. But new sensor suites, particularly in sonars, are changing the nature of Chinese naval missions.
The U.S. Navy is in the midst of a revolution in its systems that eventually will connect information among the command and control, combat, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance realms. Not only does the effort introduce new technology, it also marks a deviation from previous development and acquisition cycles in an effort to roll out tools faster. Proving the value of the technology, sailors in the fleet are clamoring for the prototype even as developers work to transition the pieces into programs of record.
Cost, security and the transition from the existing network to a new one are the top criteria for determining which company wins the contract for the U.S. Navy’s successor to the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet. The Next Generation Enterprise Network, which is estimated will cost the Navy several billion dollars, would take a different contracting approach than its predecessor. This difference is only one of the departures from precedent that characterize the new network.
The U.S. Navy is operationalizing cyber throughout the service as it reconfigures both its force and its overarching network. The goal is to pull cyber operations out of the corner and into the middle of daily force activities as part of the Navy’s information dominance mission.
After 10 years of service, it is time to say goodbye to the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet—almost. The massive network serves more than 700,000 sailors, Marines and civilians and makes up about 70 percent of the total Navy information technology footprint ashore. It originally was supposed to finish its time with the Navy in early fall to make way for the Next Generation Enterprise Network. Instead, the sea service has extended the life of the Navy/Marine Corps Intranet and will spend $3.4 billion on a continuity-of-services contract to keep the network around for another 43 months.
The U.S. Navy is steaming full speed toward attaining its dream of a digital force, but the most difficult part of the journey may lie just ahead. The sea service has its technological map, and its course has the endorsement of the top leadership. However, it must deal with a new set of challenges as its info-centric force evolves into a new form.
With the ascension to full operational capability, the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command/10th Fleet is moving the U.S. Navy’s role in cyberspace alongside the ranks of space, air, surface and subsurface in defending the United States from attack. No longer viewed merely in a support role, information professionals are in operational mode worldwide. Their mission is to protect U.S. networks while contributing as a force multiplier by assisting in kinetic warfare and wielding nonkinetic effects.
Bandwidth demands and the increased use of autonomous aerial and underwater vehicles are among the challenges for the nation’s aging fleet of ocean research ships. A new report predicts that the fleet will face even more demands on its time in the future.
The U.S. Navy is transitioning from network-centric to info-centric as it adjusts for the changing missions of the 21st century. The shift represents less a technology change than an organizational and operational one as the sea service faces more diverse missions with fewer assets.