Defense Media Network

RIP Wayne Hughes

Fleet Tactics author Prof. Wayne Hughes influenced generations of naval officers, advocated “Attack effectively first”


Wayne Hughes, a retired Navy captain, Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) dean and author of “Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations,” passed away on December 3 in Monterey, California. He was 89.

A life member of the Surface Navy Association, he is being recognized with SNA’s Special Recognition Award,” the association’s highest honor, at the SNA Annual Symposium in January 2020.

His most recent book, Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations, Third Edition, written with Rear Adm. Robert Girrier, was published by the Naval Institute Press in 2018. His previous editions, Fleet Tactics: Theory and Practice in 1986 and Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat in 1999, are still considered classic literature for naval officers. He also edited The U.S. Naval Institute on Naval Tactics, published in 2015.

An expert on tactical and campaign analysis, joint littoral warfare, theory of combat and naval history, he also authored numerous papers and articles published in professional journals on tactics and operations research right up until his death. He advocated a disciplined and analytical approach to naval warfare, applying relatively simple formulas that considered factors such as weapon speed, range and explosive payload; magazine capacity; platform speed and maneuverability in determining likely outcomes of certain scenarios.

Jeff Cares, chairman of Alidade Incorporated, was one of Hughes’ operations research students at NPS, said, “Wayne was and always will be my teacher. There have been more than a few ‘snatch-the-pebble-from-my-hand’ occasions, in which I thought myself no longer his student. He would patiently allow me to talk excitedly about my discovery, genuinely proud, I think, of my work, and then gently refer me to a page in Fleet Tactics where, if I had been a more thoughtful reader, I would have found that he already arrived at that conclusion many years earlier.”

A 1952 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Hughes had command of both a minesweeper, USS Hummingbird (MSC 192), and a destroyer, USS Morton (DD 948), and was the Chief of Naval Education and Training Support, Deputy Director of the Systems Analysis Division in the Office of the CNO (OP-96), and Executive Assistant to the Undersecretary of the Navy. As an educator at NPS for forty years, both in and out of uniform, he held the Chair of Applied Systems Analysis and the Chair of Tactical Analysis, earned distinction as Professor of Practice in Operations Research, and served as the inaugural Dean of the Graduate School of Operational and Information Sciences. He was a huge proponent of military education, and cautioned sea service leaders from emphasizing policy and strategy at the expense of tactics to fight and win future battles at sea.

Capt. Chuck Good, the Surface Warfare Chair at NPS said that Hughes held the title as Dean Emeritus until his passing, continuing to teach and serve on a voluntary basis until the onset of his illness a few months ago, and had the ear of leaders in DoD and the Navy Department at the very highest level. Good said Fleet Tactics and Naval Operations remains the standard tome that highlights the principles upon which Navies fight, and lays out a sound analytic and mathematical basis for predicting the outcome of battles based upon differential force and the effectiveness of scouting. “This book has influenced most of our major operational concepts, to include Distributed Maritime Operations,” said Good. “His mantra of ‘Attack Effectively First!’ remains a lodestar for our force as we confront the warfighting challenges inherent in great power competition.”

“As a final gift to us, Captain Hughes left a series of short interviews on YouTube which outline the central precepts of Fleet Tactics and the practical applications of sea power,” said Good.

The five episodes discuss The Six Cornerstones of Fleet Tactics; Constants, Trends, and Variables; The Impact of Information Operations; The Battle of the Aegean; and The Salvo Equations, and can be found at this link: You Tube “Sea Power Conversations.

“Our community of NPS faculty represents deep expertise in a broad range of topics relevant to naval power and national security … machine learning, cyber warfare, autonomy and unmanned systems, quantum mechanics and national strategy, for example. Our hope with Seapower Conversations is to share some of that expertise,” said NPS President, retired Vice Adm. Ann Rondeau.  “Wayne Hughes is a national treasure, a man who was dedicated to service, to scholarship, and to educating naval officers and future leaders. Who better to begin this series of conversations on naval power than with our own Wayne Hughes?”

“It was no coincidence that the first videos we produced was the six-part series with Professor Wayne Hughes,” said Rondeau.

“Wayne shaped the thinking of generations of naval officers from many navies as a writer, a professor, and a sailor,” said retired Capt. Jeff Kline, who served on the faculty at NPS with Hughes. “He will be missed by us all.”


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