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Sea Air Space 2022: Keep Your Eye on China

Adm Michael Gilday, CNO – Keynote Address

The US Navy’s senior officer provided SAS opening session attendees with highlights of the recently released fiscal year 2023 DoD budget request (see here) as they pertain to his service’s ability to provide a mission-ready force beyond this decade. He also emphasized the need for the Navy to be ready to deter, and be ready to compete with, peer competitors – in particular, China.

He summarized key investments for below, under and above the sea, called out in the current five-year defence programme.

Major requested spending lines for the subsurface force include the continuation of the Virginia-class Block IV and V programmes. Concurrent advances in hypersonic missile technology and the Virginia-class’s larger launcher will allow these boats to host these more capable weapons, once they become deployable. As the Navy also advances hypersonic missiles for its surface fleet, Gilday highlighted the FY23 budget focus will also solidify spending for the build of new Constellation-class (FFG-62) frigates. The buy of additional F-35Cs and the upgrade of legacy F-18E/Fs “will significantly allow one-half of our Navy’s air fleet to be 4th– and 5th-generation fighters by mid-decade,” Adm Gilday emphasised.

At the system and component investment levels, the CNO added, “We are maxing out our production lines of long-range weapons throughout the warfare domain,” including Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile (JASSM)-ER and Standard Missile (SM)-6. Two of several weapon R&D technology thrusts in the latest budget request are in microwaves and high-energy applications.

Beyond the budget, the CNO addressed the current and near-future operational environment. “Keep your eye on China,” he suggested, noting that beyond the current military action in Ukraine, the Navy must stay focused on fielding a future force with a combat-credible deterrent capability for possible employment worldwide. “We must have deterrence and presence forward, to take away the strategic surprise for China, much like we helped do in the Ukraine. We can’t do this virtually. We must be present and also assure allies and friends.”

The CNO deftly side-stepped the emergent, albeit recurring issue inside the Beltway, of the service’s future force structure. While the current programme of record, calls for “about 355 ships,” other Pentagon officials and members of Congress continue to float future force structure counts ranging up to 500. “It’s more than a numbers game. We must have numbers and capabilities,” he concluded.

Marty Kauchak reporting from National Harbor, MD for MON


Adm Michael Gilday, US Chief of Naval Operations. (USN)

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