Navy Plans to Open Surface Forces' Own Top Gun

Ensigns Steven McGhan, right, and Phillip Gauronskas, left, conduct officer of the deck training while Lt. j.g. Timothy Davey, navigator of the guided-missile cruiser USS Monterey, observes. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Billy Ho

CRYSTAL CITY, VA.. -- The U.S. Navy will stand up the surface fleet's own version of Top Gun this summer with the creation of Naval Surface and Expeditionary Warfare Command.

Vice Adm. Tom Copeman, commander of Naval Surface Forces, said the new command will be part of an overarching plan to do a better job developing leaders as well as "tactical competence" across the surface fleet.

Surface officials will pick out top surface warfare officers and certain enlistees to be assigned to the command, where they will complete a regimen of training modules before returning to the fleet.

"The Naval Surface and Expeditionary Warfare Command will be the centerpiece of our efforts to improve our tactical competence across the full spectrum of mission areas in which we operate and improve the Surface Force's ability to maintain warfighting superiority in a changing world," Copeman wrote in a piece entitled "Vision for the 2026 Surface Fleet."

Copeman told a crowd of surface naval officers and industry executives at the Navy's Surface Warfare Association Annual Symposium that he anticipates a comparison to Top Gun and says the comparisons are fair.

"There's going to be some people to describe it like Top Gun," he said referring to the Fighter Weapons School at the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center. "It's sort of like that concept."

Navy officials are still in the early stages of planning the new command even though it's opening this summer. Copeman said not to expect the command to grow too large.

"The [courses of action] on how to stand it up are still up in the air," he said Tuesday. "They would be pretty premature to discuss them."

However, he wants the command to cover 11 to 14 different warfare areas based on the variety of combat seen in the surface fleet. Copeman said it isn't right that the Navy doesn't have a command with a flag officer assigned to it that is focused on the development and training of "tactics, techniques and procedures across all the areas that we ask our ships to do simultaneously."

"We have to make sure that we're providing the background, training and equipment to make sure we're using these very expensive warships to the best of their ability," Copeman said.

The Navy has not said where the new command will be located.

A sailor at the symposium asked what will become of the Surface Warfare Development Group once the Naval Surface and Expeditionary Warfare Command stands up. The SWDG is the Navy's center for the development and evaluation of fleet tactics in surface, air, undersea, electronic and amphibious warfare. Copeman said certain parts of the group will be folded into the new command.

"If done correctly, I cannot over-emphasize the magnitude of positive cultural change that NSEWC can bring to the Surface Force," Copeman wrote. "Our junior officers in particular join the Navy to be warfighters, and we must provide them a culture where tactical excellence is developed and maintained throughout a career, and where tactical excellence is an explicit discriminator for promotion. Nothing else we can do will have a more positive effect."

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