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Interview with Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden: Priorities, and DDG 1000

Director, Surface Warfare (OPNAV N96) Part 1 of 3

Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden is the director for Surface Warfare on the Chief of Naval Operations Staff (OPNAV N96), and responsible for requirements and resources for the surface Navy of the future.

Rowden served as commanding officer of Surface Warfare Officers School Command, Newport, R.I., where he oversaw the training of every officer en route to duty on ships at sea. His first flag assignment was commander, U.S. Naval Forces Korea. At sea, he has commanded USS Milius (DDG 69), served as reactor officer in USS George Washington (CVN 73); commander, Destroyer Squadron 60; commander, Carrier Strike Group Seven; and commander, USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) Strike Group. His most recent assignment was commander, Carrier Strike Group 11, and commander, USS Nimitz (CVN 68) Strike Group.
Rowden talked with Edward Lundquist about his priorities, critical ship programs and challenges facing the Surface Navy and surface warfare today. This is the first of a three-part series.

 Starting with those priorities, determining future requirements must be a collaborative effort among the surface force – to include the operators in the fleet and the acquisition professionals – that directly maps to capability directives, program wholeness, and total ownership costs.

 

Edward H. Lundquist: You are the Navy’s director for Surface Warfare (OPNAV N96), responsible for requirements and resources for surface combatants. What are the priorities you’ve set for your N96 team in determining requirements for the surface fleet of tomorrow?

Rear Adm. Thomas Rowden: My staff and I work in support of – and are aligned with – the CNO’s [Chief of Naval Operations] “Sailing Directions,” and the tenets of “warfighting first, operate forward and be ready.”

Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)

The first of class littoral combat ships USS Freedom (LCS 1), left, and USS Independence (LCS 2), maneuver together during an exercise off the coast of Southern California. The littoral combat ship is a fast, agile, networked surface combatant designed to operate in the near-shore environment, while capable of open-ocean tasking, and win against 21st-century coastal threats such as submarines, mines, and swarming small craft. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Jan Shultis

Starting with those priorities, determining future requirements must be a collaborative effort among the surface force – to include the operators in the fleet and the acquisition professionals – that directly maps to capability directives, program wholeness, and total ownership costs.

Overall, these efforts are rooted in what I have promulgated as my three priorities for N96:

  • Make what we have today work now

Your specific question deals primarily with my third priority, but without clear focus and execution of the first two, we are doomed to failure when trying to build the surface force of the future. It is impossible to plan for the future without understanding the evolution of modern day force structure and how decisions shape it. We must ensure our ships are maintained and modernized to meet their expected service life. Effective modernization of our contemporary force dovetails into future force as the foundation.

For example, LCS – as we work through modular technology and revolutionary/evolutionary upgrades of sensors/weapons within hull types and mission modules, we must focus on future capability to change the way we will fight in the future.

Let’s start with the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000). What a tremendous ship! I have been up to Bath Iron Works twice, and I have to tell you I was so impressed with the enthusiasm and the professionalism of the men and women who are currently building that ship.

In 20 years we will have a force mix of LCS and DDG 51 class ships, but what will 2046 look like when DDG 1000 gets to the end of its service life?

Total ownership cost of any future capability or ship must be balanced against capability requirements; we must gain the best capability at the right cost. We must get on the right side of the cost curve, and future technology offers the best investment in getting there. However, we do not need higher technology products that produce marginal improvements in outcomes. We need technological game-changers and they need to be affordable.

In the end, our success will depend on our next-generation capability that will give us the strategic/operational/tactical advantage in battle. It’s not necessarily in any program of record today; that next generation capability must be affordable and sustainable.

 

The DDG 1000 and LCS are two of your programs. They are unlike any ships the Navy has ever acquired, and different than just about any other combatants in the world. What makes them unique, and why we need ships like them?

Let’s start with the USS Zumwalt (DDG 1000). What a tremendous ship! I have been up to Bath Iron Works twice, and I have to tell you I was so impressed with the enthusiasm and the professionalism of the men and women who are currently building that ship.

DDG 1000 is unique because it incorporates several innovative technologies into a multi-mission warship, including integrated power distribution, signature reduction, active and passive self-defense systems, and enhanced survivability features.

It will go to sea with an Undersea Warfare (USW) suite capable of mine avoidance, as well as robust self-defense systems to defeat littoral submarine threats, next generation anti-ship cruise missiles (the Tomahawk Land Attack Missile for a deep conventional strike capability) and dedicated space to support a Special Operations Force detachment.

We’ve got the advanced gun system (AGS) with the Long Range Land Attack Projectile [LRLAP] and the capability that it brings. AGS gives DDG 1000 an all-weather, surface strike capability and Naval Surface Fire Support (NSFS) capability. The AGS will fire a LRLAP over sixty-three nautical miles. The NSFS range with the 5-inch guns we have in the fleet today is thirteen miles; the Iowa-class battleships could fire their 16-0inch gun about twenty-three miles unguided; now we’re talking better than sixty miles with a guided projectile. With a high rate of fire of ten rounds per minute and two AGS mounts per ship, DDG 1000 will be able to provide very long range and accurate fire support for a mobile and agile Marine Corps as we move into the future.

The Mark 57 peripheral VLS launchers that are being installed in the ship accommodate not only the missiles we have today, but the margin to incorporate larger missiles – up to a 27-inch missile – into those launchers, as we move into the future. The ship will also be able to carry the SM-2 and Evolved Sea Sparrow Missile to counter the air threat and the Vertical Launched ASROC to deal with submarines.

And it has the power margin. It’s an electric drive ship, and the power generation capability it has is huge, so we can push it through the water operating small generators, or, if we’ve got to go fast, we can bring those bigger ones on line.

DDG 1000

An artist rendering of the Zumwalt class destroyer DDG 1000, a new class of multi-mission U.S. Navy surface combatant ship designed to operate as part of a joint maritime fleet, assisting Marine strike forces ashore as well as performing littoral, air and sub-surface warfare. U.S. Navy photo illustration

With its two gas turbine main generators and two gas turbine auxiliary generators, the ship produces 78 megawatts of electric power; at 20 knots, DDG 1000 has 58 megawatts available for ships systems.

The ship also has an advanced firefighting system as part of the enhanced survivability features, and optimal manning through human systems integration. It has the ability to support special operations forces.

It’s going to be a phenomenal, phenomenal ship. We’re working hard and figuring out how best to employ it. I’m very excited about getting her out there as soon as we possibly can.

 

How does the Navy plan to operate DDG 1000 when the three ships of the Zumwalt-class enter the fleet? Where will they be assigned for homeport, and what kind of deployments can they expect to see?

DDG 1000 is intended to conduct forward deployed operations as part of an Expeditionary Strike Group. Although operating principally with this strike group to provide Joint Fire Support, Joint Strike and Undersea and Surface Warfare dominance. DDG 1000 is also capable of operating, when required by the tactical situation or when directed, independently or with a Carrier Strike Group. DDG 1000 will fulfill Joint Presence Policy requirements concurrent with sustained operations in support of naval, joint and combined forces. As a multi-mission ship, it will support traditional core competency mission areas of Sea Shield, Sea Strike and Sea Basing and their command and control functions enabled by an integrated net concept. All three ships of the class will have a San Diego, Calif., homeport and will routinely deploy to the Western Pacific.

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Capt. Edward H. Lundquist, U.S. Navy (Ret.) is a senior-level communications professional with more than...