Navy May Create Experimental Squadron


As the Navy aims to make its ships more deadly and experiments with a host of new technologies, ranging from railguns to laser weapons, the service's top surface warfare officer said he wants to create an experimental squadron devoted to exploring the art of the possible.

Vice Adm. Thomas Rowden, commander of Naval Surface Forces, said he is eyeing the prospect of launching an experimental squadron as a platform for increased technology testing and demonstrations.

Speaking to reporters at the Surface Navy Association's annual symposium Thursday, Rowden said he wants to base the prospective squadron at the Naval Surface and Mine Warfare Development Center in San Diego, potentially placing it under the center's command structure.

"We've got a tremendous number of fabulous young men and women that are being trained as warfare tactics instructors in that organization, and I think [we can leverage] their talents, their ideas as we look for opportunities to bring not only different platforms into the Navy, but leveraging in different ways the ships that we have right now," Rowden said.

Some platforms ripe for this kind of experimentation include the Navy's guided missile destroyers, the new DDG-1000 first-of-its-kind Zumwalt destroyer, and the littoral combat ship, he said.

"For example, we may want to single all those up into one entity, one squadron and then go out and do some experimentation with that and figure out how to, as I like to say, make the whole greater than some of the parts," he said.

Rowden said it hasn't been determined yet whether ships might be assigned to the squadron on a permanent basis, but added that he wouldn't want to preclude any platforms conducting experimentation with the squadron from being operationally deployed.

The Marine Corps last year launched its own experimental unit: 3rd Battalion, 5th Marines, an infantry battalion that is now incorporating experimental technologies and manning concepts into its training workup ahead of an upcoming deployment.

While the two services have landed on similar concepts, Rowden said it is not the result of any explicit collaboration.

"The fact that [the Marines created an experimental battalion] may have drifted into my psyche, but I've been kind of kicking around in my own mind how to get after this experimental piece or really how to kind of elevate the experimentation we can do," he said.

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