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Below is a transcript of the remarks as delivered:
Brent Sadler: It's a great honor and privilege to welcome today the Chief of Naval Operations. This is a very interesting period of time in our nation's history. We are facing some unprecedented risk right now with an ongoing war in Ukraine; it sets a context for a threat in a decade that could be very perilous, especially as you look at what's been happening the last few weeks around Taiwan, in the Western Pacific with China. This will be a very contested decade, and Navy has been for generations, the preeminent deterrence force to the United States and has maintained the peace in the world for generations. And tonight, with the Chief of Naval Operations the topic du jour will be the Navigation Plan.
Now this is a term that mariners are very familiar with. The navigation plan provides the guidance and also points up the perils, and also the needs of a pre-planned course in this case, the future of the Navy as we move forward into this decade. And so, I really want to focus in on what the Navy needs, and what the nation will have to supply, in order to get the fleet that the country needs in this very contested decade. And without further ado, I'd invite the Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday to join me on the stage.
Brent Sadler: So now that I'm in my seat, I want to give a little bit of the rules of the road for tonight before I hand the stage over to the admiral for a few prepared comments on the 2022 Navigation Plan. First, I'll be moderating throughout the evening. I'm the senior research fellow here at Heritage Foundation for the last couple of years on naval warfare and advanced technologies. But the reason that this event is even possible is because of folks like you from the media, academia, the think tank world, active duty, retired members, as well -- and of course everyone online -- all across the world. So you will have a chance to ask questions. Please start to think about those and please keep it pithy. And without further ado, I will turn it over to you for some opening comments.
Admiral Gilday: Thanks, Mr. Sadler. I appreciate the opportunity to talk about where we're headed as a Navy. And I think it's best to open up with what is really influencing our decisions on the path that we're taking; the path that we're navigating.
So in a word, it's China.
And so if we take a look over the past couple of decades, we see a force that has tripled in size. We see significant investments in their nuclear capability, both in terms of their capabilities, but also the breadth of those capabilities. We see an increase in their ability to leverage the space domain so their satellite constellations that allow them to find us and to target us potentially. We see a heavy investment in weapons with long range, and we also see a big investment in sensing systems and netted sensing systems both terrestrial space based and also out in the maritime. So they are a significant potential average adversary, as this audience is well aware of their behavior in the Western Pacific has been fairly aggressive. I think their reaction from their neighbors on a daily basis is testimony to that assertion.
And so that led the United States Navy to take a look at ourselves in terms of what would -- how would -- we face this adversary, not only to deter them, but if we potentially had to face them in combat, and we decided that we would have to face them in a different way higher than the means that we've been operating in the past 25 or 30 years in a more distributed manner. So to spread out the force to mass effects across all domains… and so from the seabed to space, and that would also include leveraging the United States Marine Corps, from island chains in the Pacific.
That led us to think about what kind of fleet we'd need to actually deliver those kinds of effects in a distributed manner. And the fleet that we have today, we believe we have too much capability that is focused on too few platforms.
And so in order to give us a distributed force, we looked at what type of attributes that force would need in order to be effective in combat. And so we thought about the fact that it needed to it needs to be distributed fleet it needs to be able to come at an adversary like China, across multiple vectors and all domains simultaneously. It needs to have the attribute of distance so that's weapons with range and speed that can hold an adversary at bay. We have to have sound defensive systems for fleet survivability. And so that includes our investments in areas like hypersonics, areas like laser technology, and high powered microwave and a defensive role. We had to think about deception, concealment, maneuver, stealth and how we apply those technologies. We had to think about decision advantage and we have a project ongoing that we think will put us in a position to actually move information to the tactical edge faster than we ever have before to put our commanders and our tactical action officers in a position to deliver effects and make decisions faster than their opponent.
And so that's influenced us in thinking about the force of the future. And it'll take, as I was just talking to Mr. Sadler, 20 budget cycles to get to a hybrid fleet of 355 manned and about 150 unmanned. Every single study that we've seen in Washington and beyond, whether it's been done inside the Pentagon, or by think tanks like this, have concluded that we need a Navy of at least 355 manned vessels and about 150 unmanned.
That is not a perpetual end state though.
We continue to learn exercises, through battle problems, through war games being led the Naval War College – I’ll be at the War College next week for two day war game with senior leaders --that will influence how those numbers will change. But, probably more importantly, how the composition, the mix of the Navy, changes with capabilities we need for the future. So with that as a table setter, I open it up to your questions.
Sadler: So thank you very much, Admiral. So there's actually I think I've got a question already from the audience. I've got one as a moderator’s discretion, which I will, I will hold for right now. And I'll go to the audience so first.
Audience: [Mostly inaudible; question about shipyard capabilities]
Gilday: So we are expanding those capabilities.
I think what we owe private industry, what we owe the ship repair business is a stable and predictable vision of what kind of fleet we're going to have in the future. So as you see right now, in our budgets, we're decommissioning ships at a rate that's probably higher than we were than we'd like. That adds a degree of instability and their ability to predict what size workforce they need, what type of infrastructure we need in our shipyards, and so I think I would give them credit for making decisions based on the signals that we're giving them.
And so where I’d like to get with a surface shipbuilding line, as an example, I’d give some stability with respect to fleet size. I’d use the submarine shipbuilding plan that we have, as an exemplar. And so out for about 20 years, we're in a cadence right now to deliver to attack boats and one ballistic missile submarine a year. That's a high degree of predictability for the industry that produces those that delivers those vessels. Likewise, and to your point on the repair side, it gives us a higher degree of fidelity on what repair requirements we're going to have during that same period. On the surface side, I would like to get to that same place with our production line for destroyers, for frigates, for amphibious ships, for smaller amphibious ships, and for our resupply ships. So that we can then have numbers that are fairly stable and predictable, and give the repair yards a target to shoot at with a high degree of confidence.
Sadler: So before we go to the next question, I'd like to take one from the online, so while Fred is getting that I did have one question and I'll take moderator’s prerogative.
You know the Navigation Plan – you mentioned the 350 manned ships, the 150 large, unmanned and 3000 or so aircraft, arriving somewhere in the 2040s. But the danger right now -- and we've had several people come and speak here at Heritage who served CIA director, State Secretary of State, two INDOPACOM commanders (one previous and the current one) -- all say that China is making preparations for showdown or at least a contest this decade. How are you preparing, or how is the Fleet postured, to address the more immediate dangers at hand?
Gilday: Our priorities have been readiness, modernization and capacity in that order. So, in other words, we can't have a navy bigger than we can sustain because we have to be ready to fight tonight.
We need a lethal, ready, capable Navy, more than we need a bigger Navy that's less lethal, less capable and less ready.
So what does that really boil down to? It means that you have to have ships out there today, on point, forward-deployed in the Western Pacific, in the Arabian Gulf, in the Eastern Mediterranean, in the High North, that are properly manned -- and that those crews are properly trained for combat. That's mission number one.
The second is that they have adequate supply parts so that when things break down, they can repair them themselves, or we can have them pull into a port and turn them around very quickly. So we have to be self-sustaining. And that capability has to exist today.
Their magazines have to be filled with ammunition. We can't be a hollow force.
And lastly, I'd say the fourth point of readiness has to do with maintenance. And so it's been an imperative for us to drive down delay days out of private shipyards to zero. We've we're not satisfied with where we are now, industry is working very closely with us to get to that point -- but we have to be able to maintain the fleet that we have with a high degree of confidence.
So that to answer your point, we have to be ready to fight tonight. We have to be ready for that 2027 scenario that the previous INDOPACOM commander laid out a couple of years ago, but we have to be ready to fight left of that mark. At the same time, we've got to be modernizing the fleet, so 60%-70% of the Navy that you have today, we will have a decade from now. So we can't ignore modernization. That's why capacity is last. So the force that we have cannot be a horrible force. That's where we have to put our effort right now.
And then as I said in my Navigation Plan, I do think in order to fight in a distributed manner, we need a bigger navy. As I mentioned a few moments ago, every study that's been done is that we need at least 335 manned ships. No question that we need a bigger Navy. But as I said in my Navigation Plan, we cannot simultaneously modernize the fleet that we have and grow to a larger fleet without 3%-5% growth above inflation. So that will mean at least another $9 or $10 billion in our budget a year. Short of that, I'm going to focus on maintaining readiness as my number one priority, because the nation demands that they have already Navy to be able to respond to whatever comes up.
Sadler: I might come back around to the key regions later on, but over to you Fred from the online audience.
Audience: How do you assess our allies’ contribution in the South Pacific? And how does that tie into the future naval plans? What do you think of the contribution of [our] allies in that region?
Gilday: So I would say that that when people ask me about asymmetric advantages, the first thing I talk about are Sailors. But the second thing I talked about is the numbers of allies and partners that we have knitted together in the Pacific as a likeminded force.
Last week, I was in the United Kingdom for three days -- and I spent the day in Spain as well. As you know, we recently signed an agreement about a year ago with Australia and the U.K., known as AUKUS. I think that's a strategic stroke of brilliance for the United States – well, actually, for all three countries. But that puts all three countries working in lockstep with advanced capabilities to put us in a position where we're not just interoperable, but we're interchangeable.
So, I'll give you an example with another ally, the French. So when we didn't have a carrier in the Middle East, the French carrier Charles de Gaulle filled in for a U.S. carrier under the tactical control of the 5th Fleet Commander in Bahrain. Think about the power of that. If you can have another ally or partner fill in for you, when you have other priorities, let's say in the Western Pacific, or in the Mediterranean, or in the Red Sea. We have other allies and partners that are significant as well in the Western Pacific: the Japanese, the South Koreans, I mentioned the Australia, New Zealand of course. Singapore is key for us in terms of in terms of access, and so there are a number of allies and partners that we work with on a daily basis. India, I've spent more time on a trip to India than I have with any other country, because I consider them to be a strategic partner for us in the future. The Indian Ocean battlespace is becoming increasingly more important for us and, quite frankly, the fact that India and China currently have a bit of a skirmish along their border, I think it's strategically important with respect to India that they now force China to not only look east towards the South China Sea and the Taiwan Strait, but they now have to be looking over their shoulder at India. So India as a key partner for us is absolutely essential going forward.
But I would tell you that the framework that we have with U.S. 5th Fleet in Bahrain, where we have a coalition of the willing of 34 navies that we operate on a day-to-day basis, and have last quarter century, is powerful. We just finished a RIMPAC exercise in the Pacific and the commander who ran that exercise – the [U.S.] 3rd Fleet Commander – said, you know, the construct that we have in the Middle East, it wouldn't be bad if we could import that to the Western Pacific. And he's absolutely right.
So I remain very bullish on allies and partners, keeping those relationships strong, and leveraging them day-to-day. I'll just finish up by saying, somebody once told me that, you know, armies meet in conflict, but navies meet day to day. And we really do. And we don't just operate in the military lane. You know, your United States Navy has effect in both the economic and the diplomatic lanes as well, that’s historically been very important for our country.
Sadler: I did have a follow up question, Admiral. I've noted in the Navigation Plan you mentioned the importance of key regions. I'd be curious as to what you see -- we've heard some of them already mentioned, I think, already just in your last answer -- what is your number one as you look across the world? [Your number] one where you look across the world and the threat opportunities are greatest? And maybe your second? [What are] your top two key regions?
And you also mentioned in the Navigation Plan a focus on the numbered fleets; ensuring that they are postured and that they are equipped appropriately. When you look at and you look at these key regions, is there a mismatch for how the numbered fleets are structured today? And with this evolving global threat from China that you might be thinking there could be some modification to the way those fleets are being distributed? And Adm. Braithwaite – when he was Secretary of the Navy -- had mentioned First Fleet, so your reactions also on that idea would be welcome, as well.
Gilday: Sure, so I’ll talk about regions for just a second. So my two highest priorities really would be the Pacific and then the Atlantic. I think the Indian Ocean is a close third. In terms of opportunities in the future, we absolutely have to enter the Arctic. As the ice cap continues to recede, think about trade routes in the next 25 years between Europe and Asia fundamentally changing. I recently made a trip to Iceland, and, Iceland, as you know, is a member of the NATO alliance, but they don't have a military, they have a Coast Guard. They have a key geostrategic position that we typically think about in a transatlantic fashion, think about it in a Transpolar fashion -- we need to think about that area much more deeply. Particularly with both Finland and Sweden joining the Alliance, I see opportunities in the High North. We need to continue to operate up there with allies and partners, we need to continue to -- and Iceland as an example -- they've been gracious to allow us to do rotational deployments of our P-8 maritime patrol aircraft up there. One of my aims was to ensure that we continue those rotational deployments.
So with respect to the size of the scope of the battlespace that we have to cover and do we have adequate coverage with our Fleet headquarters right now? I think that that's worthy of debate. And I think we need to continue to have that debate. I would tell you that I would prefer to focus any money that I have on capabilities and more ships rather than more headquarters. And what I've done -- what we have done, our Navy has done – as an example, with the newly formed U.S. Second Fleet out of Norfolk is we've used them in an expeditionary manner. They’re a light, agile headquarters that has that has actually operated out of Iceland. They've operated out of command, they've traveled from Norfolk to operate on our command and control ship in the Mediterranean, and in the High North up by Norway. They have actually gone down to North Carolina and operated with the Marine Corps. And so my point there, sir, is that, do we have enough Fleet headquarters to go around? One could argue that we don't. But one of the great things that the Navy brings to bear – and our headquarters are included -- is global maneuverability.
Sadler: Terrific. I think we have a question over here if we can bring a microphone. Yes, ma'am.
Audience: On the Ukraine front, all of the arms control publications that I was reading focused on Russia as the principal threat in areas such as the hypersonic missiles and those sorts of capabilities… but you haven’t mentioned them at all within your scheme of planning. So are they overestimated in these capabilities, or are they not?
Gilday: Thank you. So there were significant concerns. I'll talk first about Russia and China, [they] are both developing those capabilities, and we'll be fielding those capabilities shortly. When I mentioned defense of the fleet is an imperative for the future fleet -- not only the future fleet, but a fleet in this decade. That's why our investments in laser technology to defend against weapons like hypersonics, as well as high power microwave, continue to be very high on our priority list for research and development. We've actually deployed laser weapons onboard some of our Navy ships, and are on track to deliver that capability across more ships here in that decade. So from a defensive nature, from a defensive standpoint, we're focused on the threat --we're not ignoring it.
In terms of offensive capability, the Navy and the Army are working very closely on the same hypersonic missile. The Army will deliver that capability -- they'll field next year in 2023 -- in a mobile fashion. The Navy will put it on our Zumwalt-class destroyers -- our stealthy destroyers -- beginning in 2025, and 2028 we'll have it on our frontline Virginia-class submarines, that are the best lethal, most stealthy submarines in the world. I hope that answers your question.
Sadler: We've got one from the online audience. Fred, back to you.
Audience: Sir, there have been a few questions about recruitment and retention and how the recruitment scenario nowadays has been very challenging. So what are the problems that you've been seeing with recruitment? And what are the challenges that you've been seeing on retention? He specifically mentioned high-skilled officers.
Gilday: Yes. So let me talk broadly about recruiting. We're definitely focused on retention, and we retain – the Navy's a family – and we serve as families. And so we are focused. Under the Secretary of the Navy, we're increasing our funding for family, family focus, childcare, childcare centers, mental health capacity, education, would be some of those examples.
In terms of recruiting, during COVID, we took step fairly early in 2020 and went completely virtual in our recruiting efforts. You don't see any Navy commercials on TV anymore. That's not where the demographic is that we're trying to recruit into the Navy. So we have gone to every social media platform that we've been allowed to go on, in terms of getting our message out. But we've also done it through the eyes of Sailors. So if you see our stuff online, it's not slick, you know, Fifth Avenue media stuff that we're pushing out. It’s the United States Navy through the lens of a sailor, because that's what's attractive to young people and actually is authentic and credible.
We're trying to tell a story out there of excitement, of opportunity, of operating in areas with cyber quantum computing, AI, robotics. The chance to gain a skillset -- and a 21st century skillset -- the education opportunities. I would tell you that I was just aboard two Navy ships last week, and when I ask sailors, “Why did you join the Navy?” The key reason continues to be, “to serve my country.” So you can never downplay that patriotism element is the most important aspect, I think, in our recruiting message. And when we try to tell the story of the Navy through the eyes of Navy, Navy sailors, that really rings true and I think it sends a message that what they're doing is important. They are a part of an important world-class, elite team.
One of the other things that we've done is we've leveraged kind of popular and do-it-yourself venues online -- on a venues like YouTube, as an example, where we'll take a Navy musician, and he'll be in a drum contest with a famous, you know, band drummer in a famous band; we’ll take a Navy Seabee -- our construction force -- and we'll have them with an engineer talking about what they do for a living in the Western Pacific building infrastructure on remote islands. And so we try to make it real, authentic, and keep it… we try to keep it real. And that's been successful.
So the Navy's been meeting our recruiting goals this year. We know that we're in a pinch, but we're not resting on our laurels. But we continue to look for innovative ways to get our message out, again, through the eyes of Sailors.
Audience: What can you discuss about Project Overmatch?
Gilday: So Overmatch is a project -- let me say this – one of the aspects I talked about that’s important to the future fleet -- actually the fleet of this decade -- is one of decision advantage. So we are swimming in data: how do you get the right information, to the right decision maker, at the right time, to put yourself in a position of advantage against your opponent. So what we've decided to do with Project Overmatch – and I've made it my second highest priority after delivering the Columbia-class submarine -- and what we're aiming for, and we've actually had a lot of success with, is developing a network of networks that allows us to transfer any data over any network.
So it's a software-defined communication. Communication as a service framework. Where software actually decides what that prioritized information is, and what the best path it should take to get to a decision maker. Overmatch has been a project now for about a year and a half. We're at the point early next year where we will deploy a carrier strike group with this capability. We'll see how it goes and then look to scale it after that.
We believe that the Navy is on a path deliver the Navy tactical grid, which, we think, could easily become the joint tactical grid as part of a priority project called JADC2 for the Department of Defense. We feel we’re in a very good path right now in terms of our experimentation. It is a DevOps environment that we're leveraging right now. And we're actually leveraging the best technology that we can, but also the best processes that we've been able to obtain from industry. So we're trying to benchmark against world class networks and world class software systems.
Audience: Admiral, building on your comments about partners and allies in the Pacific and then the new AUKUS agreement in there under the framework of this expanding Chinese capabilities and range arcs, is the Navy looking at you know forward-deploying and looking at new bases and bases in places? Kind of like, as Adm. Richardson and Adm. Greenert would say, where we can forward-base our ships in Australia and other places -- kind of that dispersal piece -- but also provide a more of a conventional return to being kind of closer in there.
Gilday: So the short answer is absolutely.
So we are taking a look at opportunities particularly in the Pacific. We have a plan that's closely knitted with INDOPACOM command’s vision for future posture in the Pacific that would include sustainment as well, which I think you mentioned would be an important aspect of it. The other is, as China continues to become a more capable force, that timeline for you know, for moving potentially across the Taiwan Strait, becomes shorter and shorter in terms of tactical warning, and so forward forces -- as the Navy and the Marine Corps are -- are in a position to be able to respond. And so we think that, again, forward deployed naval forces, particularly if we can keep forces homeported forward, puts us in a better position to be able to respond fast.
Audience: Following up on your comments on the Arctic, what about the American Arctic and the U.S. Coast Guard operations there? Do you see more cooperation with the sister services? How has the Navy and Coast Guard interaction been playing out in that area?
Gilday: Yeah, so I would tell you that we're highly reliant on the Coast Guard as a partner.
They just put their five most capable cutters in the Western Pacific. They just did a few months ago a big commissioning ceremony, I think, of three ships in Guam simultaneously. So they're on a great vector right now. In terms of their capabilities, we're leveraging that whether it's in the Caribbean, whether it's in the Western Pacific, you see them operating side-by-side with us in the in the Arabian Sea, and also up in the High North. So I think that that's going to continue.
We're on a very good path with the Coast Guard as a service, as a partner. And I will tell you that, likewise with the United States Marine Corps, we’re in lockstep with the Commandant in terms of supportive of his Force Design, and where he's going with the Marine Corps, and his Marine littoral elements, his expeditionary advanced bases to actually support the fleet in a fight.
Audience: With respect to threat assessment, what does the next Pearl Harbor look like to you?
Gilday: I think it's likely to begin in space and cyberspace.
I think that many of the, again, I'll be in a war game next week, but I increasingly see those as first steps. I was actually a bit surprised that Russia didn't leverage their cyber capabilities more broadly in the beginning of the ongoing conflict, but I would predict that we will see heavy cyber and space activity in any fight -- and that would likely be the next Pearl Harbor.
We all recognize our vulnerabilities in the cyber domain, and so others recognize that too. As I mentioned earlier, the way that the Navy looks at how we're potentially going to fight isn't just on the sea, under the sea, and seabed warfare. It's in the air, it’s space, and it’s cyberspace. So a potential fight against China is not just limited to a single domain, it has to be multi-domain. It also is likely to be trans-regional. So you just can't think of China through the lens of the Indo-Pacific. You have to look at the Indian Ocean, you have to look at their Belt and Road, their economic connective tissue, which is now global, you have to take a look at their vulnerabilities.
Audience: Several months ago, you said that a submarine industrial base was not up to par, particularly with respect to private submarine maintenance. Do you have any update on that front? Have things changed or not? Has it improved? Deteriorated? Anything that you can comment on that?
Gilday: So not enough time has really passed yet to say that there's been a significant change… other than there's a laser focus on industry to improve. They get the seriousness of this. They’re a dedicated partner in this. And they know how -- if you go to a shipyard, whether it's down in Newport News, Virginia, or if you go up to Groton, Connecticut, you go to Quonset Point, Rhode Island, you go to Bath, Maine, you go to Pascagoula Mississippi or San Diego – and you meet those skilled tradesmen and tradeswomen and what they do and what they believe in, I'm telling you, they are dedicated. And they believe that they are -- we are true partners, in terms of what we need to get done in what the Wall Street Journal calls, “the combustible decade,” and what others call “the decade of urgency.”
So I remain optimistic about the path we're on. We're not satisfied. None of us are satisfied with where we currently are. And that includes industry and they've been self-critical as well. So they're getting after it.
Audience: I wanted follow up on your NAVPLAN, given the numbers, and the goals in there for unmanned both unmanned and manned ships, what do you see as the biggest barrier to growing the fleet?
Gilday: Yeah, so we have an industrial capacity that's limited. In other words, we can only get so many ships off the production line a year. My goal would be to optimize those production lines for destroyers, for frigates, for amphibious ships, for the light amphibious ships, and for supply ships.
And so we need to give a signal to industry that we need to get to three destroyers a year, you know, instead of 1.5, that we need to maintain two submarines a year. And so part of this is on us to give them a clear set of a clear aim points so that they can plan a workforce and infrastructure that's going to be able to meet the demand. But again, that's, -- you know -- no industry is going to make those kinds of investments unless we give them a higher degree of confidence. And that's what we're trying to do, we're trying to round that curve to put us in a place where we're producing those lethal, capable ships that we need the most.
In terms of unmanned we are making, I think, breathtaking progress right now. We've changed the construct, we've changed the framework -- in terms of our development of unmanned capabilities.
And so, when I first got into the job, I looked at unmanned through the lens that I look at any shipbuilding or aircraft production line. So, you know, think of a 7-15 year process in order to get something off the delivery line from first design, to testing and acceptance. We can't do that with unmanned. With unmanned technologies that are out there, we've developed a DevOps kind of environment with the Unmanned Task Force in the Pentagon that's closely connected to Task Force 59, which operates out of Bahrain. And that task force is operating with six or seven different countries as a team right now to increase maritime domain awareness using unmanned in the air and on the sea. Our goal is to have 100 networked, unmanned platforms operating together, tied together in a mesh network that delivers an understanding of what's afloat out there, whether it's in the Red Sea and Arabian Gulf, to get to 100 unmanned by next year -- by the summer of 2023.
So if I could just describe what that kind of means in real terms. If we take a look at the Red Sea, the Red Sea’s about the size of the state of California. On any given day, we may have four or five coalition ships that are operating in that water space. Think about five patrol cars, trying to secure the state of California.
And then think about the power of unmanned, and what that capability gives you in terms of sensing -- and then understanding at the tactical edge, and these operations centers in our partner nations, leveraging AI.
In terms of unmanned itself, one of the biggest changes is the way that we're looking at the magic sauce for AI. If I could use a water bottle as an example, [the magic sauce for AI] isn't necessarily the platform, it's the AI software integration that plugs in.
So if I do a parallel to Tesla, who's a digital native in the automotive industry, there's plenty of platforms out there, Volkswagen, Ford, a number of companies have the platform… the secret sauce is that AI software plug. And we don't have to have the same company that develops both of these. These are very competitive environments. Small companies are making the magic plug-ins that we can change out very quickly.
So we're trying to field capabilities -- and unmanned capabilities -- in this fiscal year defense plan within 3-5 years -- actually, we're fielding it now. It's also informing -- this progress is informing -- some of our bigger programs, like large and medium unmanned, that we would hope to scale later on in this decade.
Sadler: You mentioned Task Force 59. And earlier you also mentioned unmanned being tested during RIMPAC. Could you kind of tell us a little bit about the future for fleet experimentation? And will it be replicated in more of our numbered fleets?
Gilday: Absolutely will. So we're doing more and more experimentation. So I'll give you an example. We have taken unmanned platforms, and we have sailed them from the Gulf States, through the Panama Canal, up to Port Hueneme, California. So 4,000+ miles. We've got, you know, 40,000 miles of unmanned autonomous operation, making those transits, where we have these unmanned vessels that are able to follow Rules of the Road, or avoiding other ships. They're operating within the international Rules of the Road.
And so we're making significant progress doing those kinds of operations, as well as you mentioned RIMPAC, so it's not only -- the work we're doing in [U.S.] 5th Fleet is not only to sense, but to make sense, of the maritime environment.
The testing that we did during RIMPAC was actually passing targeting data to unmanned vessels (Edited). And so, we're trying to come at this in a very rapid way that is much different than the approach we've had with traditional weapon systems in the past. We’ve got to field the capability.
Audience: A follow-up on the unmanned vessels. The U.S. has provided unmanned coastal defense vessels to Ukraine. What are those? How effective have they been? What have we learned from that usage? What are the type of missions that they are being used for? What are the specific systems? What are the details that you can share?
Gilday: I can't… I will say there are plenty of lessons learned from Russia, Ukraine, and among them are, you know, you need to come at an adversary differently than you traditionally would think of in the past. So we haven't provided the Ukrainians tanks to take out the Russian tanks, we provided them Javelin missiles. And so you just got to think of better ways to get out from the problem quicker.
Audience: Tony Capaccio with Bloomberg. What's the status of the service deployment for the [USS] Ford into the U.S. Sixth Fleet AOR this year? And what's your confidence level that the repeated reliability problems laid out by the DOT&E reports -- as recently as January -- for EMALS and AGG have been solved, and are somewhat meeting the reliability goals that are necessary for sortie generation rates?
Gilday: So just a couple of years ago, we did not intend to employ the [USS] Gerald R Ford until 2025. We're going to send her this year. I'm not going to say exactly when, and I'm going to say exactly where she's going to go, but we're going to deploy her as part of a battle group this year.
We have put a shoulder behind getting beyond some of the heavy technology problems we had with elevators, with arresting gear, with catapults. Last year we took the [USS] Gerald R Ford, and she had the highest operational tempo of any ship in the Navy. She had 8,500 catapults and arrested landings on that flight deck. She was our carrier qual carrier in the Atlantic for pilots that had to qualify on the east coast. In terms of the network issues, we're leveraging Starlink to give us more bandwidth and satellite capability. So we're leveraging commercial satellites at a scale that we have not done before to give us more capability.
Sadler: All right, well, thank you very much, Admiral. I want to thank you everyone in the audience here and online as well.
I did want to give you the chance as I'm kind of wrapping up a little bit here -- if you had any parting comments, any points that you want to make before we close out the evening?
Gilday: So all of your influencers. And I hope that some of the things that I've talked about with respect to your Navy tonight were appealing. And I hope that the young people that you can influence -- I'd ask you to talk to them about the Navy, to talk to them about the military, and the opportunities that it presents them. But also talk about the opportunities that it presents to serve their country, to serve the greatest nation in the world.
And so your talent, the talent in this country, is important to us. And we hope that we continue to be an attractive option for young people, and I've never met anybody that, you know, my age, that served in the Navy and said it hasn't been fundamentally changed their lives. You know, we've had good, solid, positive memories.
And so that's how you could help us, I think. And help your country and help our Navy. So thank you.
Sadler: Thank you again and thank you all for attending tonight and your active participation, both online and here in the room. Thank you very much, Admiral, again for your time this evening.
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