21st Century Naval Operations

By Vice Admiral (Retired) Dewolfe Miller

I first met Dr. Robbin Laird and Ed Timperlake in the summer of 2016 when I was the Director of Air Warfare (OPNAV N-98) on the staff of the Chief of Naval Operations. Robbin and Ed previously interviewed Navy Flag Officers who occupied the N-98 office, and I was next in line.

The interview was fascinating – unlike any I had previously experienced. They didn’t just ask questions and have me respond. Instead, we engaged in a fulsome discussion about various aspects of warfare. The 30-minute interview turned into an hour and a half exploration on a myriad of topics ranging from platforms and sensors (Kill Web) to the need for more advanced training, to how we operate and integrate with other services and allies. To be honest, it was invigorating and stimulating, if not mentally taxing.  In short, they made me think. This was the start of an ongoing professional relationship that was sustained throughout my Naval career and continues today.

As I pen this forward for Robbin and Ed’s book “The Emergence of the Maritime Kell Web Force: Deterrence and Warfighting in the 21st Century,” the USS CARL VINSON Carrier Strike Group just returned from deployment with the first iteration of the “Airwing of the Future” embarked. Specifically, this was the first naval deployment involving the fifth generation F-35C with the highly versatile CVM-22B aircraft onboard a large deck nuclear powered aircraft carrier.

These new capabilities joined an already formidable airwing that included the proven capabilities of the E-2D, FA-18E/F/G and both MH-60R and MH-60S helicopters. Of note, the Navy will begin incorporating unmanned capability with the MQ-25 Stingray in a few years as the next evolutionary step for the future airwing.

In many ways, CARL VINSON’s deployment to the South China Sea reflects several of the concepts that are discussed in depth in this book.  CARL VINSON’s airwing was one of the first to benefit from high-end training conducted in Fallon, NV (Chapter 2: The Integratable Air Wing). They were supported by Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Force (MPRF) assets (Chapter 6: An ISR-Empowered Force), interacted with other Strike Groups – both foreign and US – in a distributed fashion (Chapter 3: Distributed Maritime Ops and Basing Architecture), and conducted bilateral training exercises with allies, including Australia (Chapter 7: Kill Web “Matesmanship”).

The fact that USS CARL VINSON is the 3rd oldest aircraft carrier in the US Navy’s active inventory and that her weapon system (the airwing) was the most formidable ever, testifies to the versatility and relevance of the large deck nuclear powered aircraft carrier.  In Chapter 5, they explore the carrier and kill web task forces to a greater extent, focusing on the FORD Class aircraft carrier which will defend freedom, project power and continue to support advanced weapons systems (many of which have not yet been designed or developed) for the next 100 years.

To that end, the authors couldn’t have timed the release of their book any better as USS GERALD R. FORD (CVN78) is expected to commence workups and conduct overseas operations with allies and partners later this year.

By design, the U.S. Navy’s forward-deployed operations are shaped in direct support of national security; as such, it’s important to remember that the adversary always gets a vote. Today, Russia is threatening Ukraine, China continues to evolve and expand her fleet at a blistering pace, Iran and North Korea remain troublesome, and the threat of terrorism endures. They tackle these challenges head on, providing keen insight on how Naval Forces should respond (Chapter 8: It’s not my father’s Second Fleet).

Ultimately, peer threats are what drives change and inspires clarity in the way the Navy mans, trains, and equips its forces to defend freedom and deter aggression on a global scale. Those steps require bold decisions by many leaders at many levels, and the concepts and ideas covered in this book will challenge our leaders and decision makers to think, much like the authors challenged me several years ago.

In that way, “The Emergence of the Maritime Kell Web Force: Deterrence and Warfighting in the 21st Century” encourages all of us to open up our “thought aperture” and reflect on the difficult task in front of us, to develop a more networked and integrated Navy that is prepared to fight and win against any future threat, any day.

Enjoy the read.

A Maritime Kill Web Force in the Making