The Navy Needs Innovation

February 13, 2014
By Robert K. Ackerman
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New technologies and capabilities will determine how the sea service carries out its mission.

The U.S. Navy will depend heavily on technology innovation to meet increasing operational demands on a fleet that is aging and suffering from budget constraints, according to the vice chief of naval operations. Adm. Mark E. Ferguson, USN, told the audience at the Thursday luncheon town hall that the Navy needs to work cooperatively with industry to develop the innovative technologies and capabilities it needs.

“The best ideas come out of your laboratories,” he said, addressing industry representatives. “The edge we will need will come from innovation.”

Several technologies stand out on the admiral’s innovation list. In a short interview with SIGNAL after his comments, Adm. Ferguson cited cyber; the electromagnetic spectrum; and unmanned autonomous systems with stealth characteristics, both surface and underwater, as some focus areas. “Payloads over platforms,” is how he characterized the approach to innovation.

One of the growing threats facing the U.S. Navy is area denial, and the Navy must develop technologies to help counter it. Adm. Ferguson allowed that some of these innovative technologies are on the verge of availability. In addition to unmanned autonomous vehicles, he cited electromagnetic railguns and beam weapons. Developing these technologies for shipboard use could help counter the area denial threat posed by antiship missiles, he offered.

The technologies could become all the more valuable if funding is cut below current expectations. The admiral noted that the current budget agreement expires in 2016; and without a new agreement, sequestration levels would return. “We will have a difficult time if we revert to sequestration levels in 2016,” he declared.


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