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CNO Franchetti Speaks at 2024 Paris Naval Conference

26 January 2024

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti spoke during a panel while at the Paris Naval Conference in Paris, France on Jan. 24, 2024. The panel was “Future Challenges and Perspectives for Navies." Speakers included: Chief of the French Navy Adm. Nicolas Vaujour; Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Ben Key; Adm. Enrico Credendino, Chief of the Italian Navy; and Vice-Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy.


PARIS (Jan. 25, 2024) - Adm. Enrico Credendino, Chief of the Italian Navy; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti; Chief of the French Navy Adm. Nicolas Vaujour; Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Ben Key, and Vice-Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy, discuss “Future Challenges and Perspectives for Navies” during the Paris Naval Conference, Jan. 25. During the panel, Franchetti emphasized the value of planning, exercising and operating together to enhance interoperability between the navies. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray/released)
SLIDESHOW | images | 240125-N-UD469-1399 PARIS (Jan. 25, 2024) - Adm. Enrico Credendino, Chief of the Italian Navy; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti; Chief of the French Navy Adm. Nicolas Vaujour; Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Ben Key, and Vice-Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy, discuss “Future Challenges and Perspectives for Navies” during the Paris Naval Conference, Jan. 25. During the panel, Franchetti emphasized the value of planning, exercising and operating together to enhance interoperability between the navies. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray/released)
PARIS (Jan. 25, 2024) - Adm. Enrico Credendino, Chief of the Italian Navy; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti; Chief of the French Navy Adm. Nicolas Vaujour; Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Ben Key, and Vice-Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy, discuss “Future Challenges and Perspectives for Navies” during the Paris Naval Conference, Jan. 25. During the panel, Franchetti emphasized the value of planning, exercising and operating together to enhance interoperability between the navies. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray/released)
SLIDESHOW | images | 240125-N-UD469-1385 PARIS (Jan. 25, 2024) - Adm. Enrico Credendino, Chief of the Italian Navy; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti; Chief of the French Navy Adm. Nicolas Vaujour; Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Ben Key, and Vice-Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy, discuss “Future Challenges and Perspectives for Navies” during the Paris Naval Conference, Jan. 25. During the panel, Franchetti emphasized the value of planning, exercising and operating together to enhance interoperability between the navies. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray/released)
PARIS (Jan. 25, 2024) - Adm. Enrico Credendino, Chief of the Italian Navy; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti; Chief of the French Navy Adm. Nicolas Vaujour; Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Ben Key, and Vice-Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy, discuss “Future Challenges and Perspectives for Navies” during the Paris Naval Conference, Jan. 25. During the panel, Franchetti emphasized the value of planning, exercising and operating together to enhance interoperability between the navies. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray/released)
SLIDESHOW | images | 240125-N-UD469-1343 PARIS (Jan. 25, 2024) - Adm. Enrico Credendino, Chief of the Italian Navy; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti; Chief of the French Navy Adm. Nicolas Vaujour; Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Ben Key, and Vice-Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy, discuss “Future Challenges and Perspectives for Navies” during the Paris Naval Conference, Jan. 25. During the panel, Franchetti emphasized the value of planning, exercising and operating together to enhance interoperability between the navies. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray/released)
PARIS (Jan. 25, 2024) - Adm. Enrico Credendino, Chief of the Italian Navy; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti; Chief of the French Navy Adm. Nicolas Vaujour; Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Ben Key, and Vice-Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy, discuss “Future Challenges and Perspectives for Navies” during the Paris Naval Conference, Jan. 25. During the panel, Franchetti emphasized the value of planning, exercising and operating together to enhance interoperability between the navies. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray/released)
SLIDESHOW | images | 240125-N-UD469-1289 PARIS (Jan. 25, 2024) - Adm. Enrico Credendino, Chief of the Italian Navy; Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Lisa Franchetti; Chief of the French Navy Adm. Nicolas Vaujour; Royal Navy First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff of the United Kingdom Adm. Sir Ben Key, and Vice-Admiral Rajesh Pendharkar, Flag Officer Commanding-in-Chief Eastern Naval Command, Indian Navy, discuss “Future Challenges and Perspectives for Navies” during the Paris Naval Conference, Jan. 25. During the panel, Franchetti emphasized the value of planning, exercising and operating together to enhance interoperability between the navies. (U.S. Navy photo by Chief Mass Communication Specialist Amanda R. Gray/released)

THOMAS GOMART:  So I invite now the G-7 navies to join their seats, in they want, to start our first session.  But before that, I let the floor Admiral Vaujour for the introduction.  Please have a seat.


ADMIRAL NICHOLAS VAUJOUR:  (Through interpreter.)  Thank you.  Thank you, everybody.  Of course, I’m delighted to be talking to you at the beginning of this year, for this second edition of the conference of Paris.  It’s excellent.  I don’t know whether I said exactly what we were going to improve further on last year, but I’m sure that we will.  I would not like my predecessor to take umbrage with that.  And I thank him for having initiated this format, which to my mind is extremely important to be able to exchange at every level. 

I think that we have had an excellent introduction.  So Joint Staff is – specialists at the Joint Staff who have helped him to write his speech, I’m delighted about that.  I have no doubt that he has been assisted.  So, of course, what we’ve heard, the debate has really been set out extremely well.  So I’ll move to English shortly, but I would like to thank the director, the president of IFRI, the Director of IFRI Thomas Gomart, and Mr. de Montbrial for welcoming us all here, in this beautiful venue, to carry out to these debates and exchanges.

(Continues in English.)  Now I will try to speak in English in order to be more easy for all my colleagues here.  And, first of all, I would like to acknowledge the presence of my esteemed colleagues.  Of course, Lisa Franchetti, the Chief of Naval Operations of the United States.  And also Admiral Ben Key, the First Sea Lord.  Admiral Enrico Credendino, of course, my Italian counterpart, chief of the Italian Navy. 

And the Vice Admiral Pendharkar will represent the Chief of the Indian Navy.  Unfortunately, he is not there.  He is nationally – in your country.  So we can – we can see that.  But despite our busy schedules, we manage to see each other quite regularly.  It’s an honor to have you today and to have taken the time to be to be here.  And I am certain that your presence will elevate the quality of the discussion and will make this Conference Navale de Paris an exciting event.  So really, thank you for coming.

As General Burkhard just mentioned, the current strategic situation is profoundly affected by imbalance and uncertainty.  We are witnessing a proliferation of crises, and an increase in the level of violence.  As a result, we must prepare for more brutal, more complex and more enforcing engagements.  Moreover, the simultaneity of crisis is challenging our ability to be deployed in several conflicts at the same time. 

We will have no choice but to fight as part of a coalition.  The challenge is therefore to improve our interoperability, starting from today.  Being interoperable is not that easy.  It means getting to know each other, knowing how to work together, and trusting each other to be more effective collectively, at sea in operation.  Interoperability cannot be decreed.  It must be developed passionately.  And that’s precisely what we are doing today. 

The second objective is to build a common strategic culture.  It is a constantly renewed pattern, particularly given the complexity of the current context.  To remove some of the fog of war, we have today a wide range of people involved – chief, as well as technicians, military, as well as civilians.  We can rely in this room by on – by videoconference – on a rich and impressive panel of experts and skills.  And I would like also to salute all the guys which are connected via YouTube – political and military authorities, diplomats, researchers and journalists.  So thank you for coming here.  I am convinced that this wonderful diversity will emerge concrete ideas that will help us to better understand the world of tomorrow.

This year, I have chosen to devote the Conference Navale de Paris to the topic of carrier strike group, which is the group which includes, of course, an aircraft carrier with all the destroyer around and, of course, sometimes a nuclear submarine.  Mastering the development of a carrier strike group in operation is a strategic capability for each of our navies.  An aircraft carrier is an extremely complex technical assets, requiring very precise industrial know-now, which few nations have.  In this respect, the aircraft carrier reflects our national mission – enabling us to operate far and wide.

Deploying a carrier strike group in operation requires the development and maintenance of cutting-edge know-how, which erodes rapidly and can be only maintained at sea.  Anyone who has ever seen a strike launched at night from the deck of an aircraft carrier will understand what I mean.  You cannot improvise that.  It’s unique and precise skills that take a long time to build. 

While the capacity offered by a carrier strike group is staggering, the possibilities offered are not set in stone.  Using an aircraft carrier is anything but dogmatic.  Naval history story shows it.  The U.S. Navy or Royal Navy aircraft carrier mission during the World War II are fundamentally different from the power projection operation conducted in the Balkans, Afghanistan, or Libya in the 2000s.  The sea has now become a more contested environment.  This means that we need to think about naval combat from seabed to space.  And therefore, we must keep on adapting the way we are employing the carrier strike group.

That sets a high level of ambition for this day.  And I would like to leave here this evening with new ideas which will help us to build more effective cooperation.  So I wish you all a very good day, and then I will go back to my seat.  Thank you.  (Applause.)


MR. GOMART:  So let’s start with the first plenary session, which is dedicated to future challenges, new priorities, and prospects for the respective navies around the – around this table.  So the session will be divided into three parts.  The very first one will be a common question to each of you to give you some time to develop, you know, you to elaborate on your vision of the carrier strike groups.  The second part will be a discussion among you – among you.  I will try to moderate it carefully.  And at the end, we will save time to take some questions from the room. So please let me know.  There will be some microphones, you know, in the room, for the last part of this session.

So let me start with the common question, which is very simple but not so easy to respond.  And this is, what are, according to you, the main operational challenges that the carrier strike groups face in the 21st century, considering the changing landscape of threats and technologies?  And I would say that the key word, in my opinion, is “and.”  I think that’s – the combination between the threats and technology should maybe drive our discussion at this stage.  So I mean, Admiral Vaujour, would you like to start?  And I will turn after that to Admiral Franchetti.


ADM. VAUJOUR:  OK, thank you.  Thank you, Thomas, for this question.  I think it’s a fundamental question.  How can we prepare tomorrow with the knowledge we have today?  And I believe it is at the heart of the daily work of our staff and the ambition of each of our navies.  For decades, we have been optimizing our feedback circuits – I mean, lessons learned circuits – and the idea was to analyze past events in order to improve our response in the future, assuming that conditions will remain broadly the same.

But today, as the pace of change accelerates, the challenge is now to think ahead.  In the face of uncertainty and complexity, we need to be more creative to imagine tomorrow’s threats.  And so that’s the big question we have.  So we have a tool which is able to do some mission, and the question is to invent the future.  And so, first of all, the carrier strike group is something which is accurate right now, which will still be accurate in the future when you are looking at some very – some very fundamental characteristics. 

The first one is carrier strike group is the level where all the military effects come together.  It is the level where all the capabilities are integrated – anti-submarine, anti-aircraft, anti-surface, but also strike capabilities, intelligence, influence.  All the missions are integrated inside the carrier strike group.  And so it’s a kind of multiplier effect in all the domain.  And so I think that this particular characteristic will continue in the future, and must be a cornerstone of the way we are seeing the carrier strike group in the future.

And this integration give access to a lot of type of missions.  Of course, strike off land, strike on land, combat at sea, intelligence, at forefront, of course, nuclear deterrence, and because we have the ability to conduct a nuclear strike from the aircraft carrier.  But the other characteristic which will stay in the future is the mobility.  The mobility of an aircraft carrier is key to be able – when you have the multiplicity of crises – to be able to shift from an area to another one, to be able to push your effort in a dedicated way.  Mobility is really a big advantage.  And it is right now.  It will be the same in the future.

But one of the key element which will probably lead the future is the ability to understand what’s going on.  The CHOD were speaking about the ability to integrate everything, to see where it’s going on in the area, a kind of hyper-superiority bubble around the carrier strike group.  And definitely, I think that when you’re putting a carrier strike group in an area, you switch on the light.  I mean, you are giving light of what’s going on on the sea, down below the – (inaudible) – and, of course, in the space, and everywhere in the information domain.  And so, for that it will stand like this.

What is going to change?  I think the CHODs said something about that.  The contestation of maritime airspace, which is key.  And we saw that in the Red Sea.  We saw that in the Black Sea.  And, unfortunately, we probably saw that everywhere in the world where crises will emerge in the future.  And so how can we build all together the supremacy – the superiority in the future, in the 10 years to come, with our carrier strike group?  And for sure, this is the way we have to implement, day after day, new ideas, new technologies, new gamechangers onboard the carrier strike group, in order to maintain the ability to have the superiority inside the bubble of the carrier strike group.  And if you have the superiority, you will probably effect strike against other competitors, and so on. 

All that new technology will change definitely the way we are going to think.  And I especially think about artificial intelligence.  The way we will implement that inside our ship will totally change the way we will operate our carrier strike group.  The way we can integrate all the essentials, all the effectors of a carrier strike group, integrated with an ability to enhance your decision ability inside the carrier strike group will give you an advantage.  I have always said, we must understand before the enemy – we must understand what’s going on before the enemy in order to decide in the right time.

And so, new technology will give us the opportunity to do that.  And carrier strike group will propose the integration of all the sensors, all the information, which will allow us to decide at the right moment to win at sea and to win when we are a projection power ashore.  The CHODs say also, I think, that all that for the future will be a problem of human resource.  And as I am on the way to build a new aircraft carrier, I have to recruit the guys.  And I’m recruiting right now the first for the new aircraft carrier.  I have to develop the skills. 

And I have to see where will be the new job onboard an aircraft carrier in terms of artificial intelligence.  Do I have to buy some data scientist on board?  Do I have to – what will be the new job in 10 years to go?  So that’s one of my biggest question.  But at the end of the day, there will be sailors, there will be seasick, and – (laughs) – and so they will have to fight against – like we are fighting together today.  So thank you.  That’s my first answer.


MR. GOMART:  Thank you, Admiral.  I have pointed out two key words.  You know, “together,” the fact that we have all the capabilities in the same place, in a sense.  Plus this notion of mobility, which is also very, very important. 

I turn now to Admiral Franchetti for your time to elaborate on this very large question.


ADMIRAL LISA FRANCHETTI:  OK, thank you.  Thank you, Thomas, very much.  And I really appreciate IFRI, and the opportunity to be here with everybody today, and everybody watching remotely.  And to my counterpart here, thank you very much.  This is our second iteration of the Paris Naval Conference.  It’s really an honor to be here.  And I really like this topic.  And I’m really glad that we have all the carrier strike group-operating navies here to talk about carrier strike groups, talk about some of our lessons learned, and some of the shared experiences and challenges that we all face together.

You know, this – we just celebrated our 100th anniversary of the aircraft carrier airwing, with the commissioning of USS Langley.  And I think if you look past those 100 years, the one thing that you really see from carrier aviation, carrier strike groups, is their adaptability and their flexibility.  And I’m sure 100 years ago people that were operating the technology back then could not imagine where we are today.  And the people that are going to be here in 100 years could not imagine that this is how we used to do business.

And, you know, I think the aircraft carrier, again, it’s – someone told me once, and from a diplomatic state, it’s 100,000 tons of American diplomacy.  What else do I need?  And, you know, it can send an incredibly strong deterrent message.  In fact, when you integrate our carriers together, it really sends a message of partnership, of allyship, of opportunity that we can, as you always say, plug and fight.  But also that we can plug and deter any adversary, anywhere, any time.

I think aircraft carriers can respond to crisis.  They can preserve the peace through deterrence.  They can also deliver lethality and decisive combat power, again, whenever and wherever it’s needed.  And I think the inherent flexibility gives our political leaders a lot of options.  And I think as we look to the future, our aircraft carrier strike groups are going to continue to be able to do that.

You talked a little bit about maneuverability.  And I think as you look at the challenges of new technologies that come online, hypersonic weapons, anti-area access denial capabilities that some adversaries may be interested in trying to develop, you know, the mobility of the carrier strike group is critical.  The flexibility that it gives you to move, shoot, move, communicate –these things are all really important. 

So, you know, an aircraft – a U.S. aircraft carrier can move about 5,000 miles in a week.  So, to your point, it can be somewhere different, wherever it needs to be.  About 2,900 square miles of uncertainty in an hour.  So, again, we need to preserve this mobility, this flexibility, because, again, it gives us these options that we have.  The carrier strike group comes from the power of the airwing, with the cruiser and also the destroyers that are there.  And so as each one of these platforms develops and integrates its own new technologies, this is going to only amplify the force that we have available. 

I think you talked a little bit about new technologies, and I don’t want to get ahead of too many questions, but I think if you think about the advent of some unmanned technologies that we will have available to us, I like to think about them as both challenges and opportunities.  In thinking about them more as opportunities and challenges, to integrate them into what we do every day. 

So we’re working on bringing onboard the Stingray, which is going to be our unmanned refueling aircraft.  So this will extend the range of our fighters.  It will free up our fighters so we can have more capability, so they’re not spending time doing refueling.  The challenge is how do we integrate and trust that technology?  How do we bring that on board and become used to having that technology around, for all of our sailors and the skills that we developed for them? 

The other question that you raised is maritime domain awareness.  Also, are there potential opportunities with other unmanned platforms, whether they’re airborne unmanned platforms, whether they’re on the surface unmanned platforms, to help provide that picture and extend the range of what the carrier can see around it, and the carrier strike group can be aware of?  These are some more challenges, but also opportunities, I think, that we have to take advantage of going forward.

So I foresee, if you look back 100 years how much we progressed, if we look forward 100 years, there’s going to be – there’s going to be things we can’t even imagine right now.  But I know that the carrier strike group, and the power to convene and bring other nations to work together as part of that big team, is going to be really important going forward.  Thanks.


MR. GOMART:  Thank you, Admiral.  Before turning to Sir Ben, I will list the two key words in my opinion – adaptability and flexibility.  That’s certainly the notion on which we’ll be back. 

Admiral, the floor is yours.  And welcome back to IFRI, by the way.


ADMIRAL SIR BEN KEY:  It’s very good to be back.  I was slightly relieved to be reinvited, actually, after last year.  I was –


MR. GOMART:  It was a long discussion.  (Laughter.)


ADM. KEY:  I wouldn’t have the – I wouldn’t have the temerity to do anything other than agree with what both of my colleagues – and I’m sure if Enrico had gone ahead of me, he would have said the same thing.  Because, you know, not surprisingly, we are all enthusiasts for the role of the carrier strike group.  So perhaps I can just look at it and take on a couple of the arguments that are offered by those who are less fanatical about these incredible capabilities.  Where part of the argument we often see is that the carrier had its moment, but actually that moment is in decline.  And the reason it’s in decline is because of the number of threats and the vulnerabilities that the carrier strike group now appears to be threatened by.  And you use the word, you know, the threats and technologies ranged against us, as well as the ones that we can exploit.

But I think what’s just been laid out in that kind of multidomain integration challenge we have, in dealing with the innovations that are available to us, understanding the complexity of the operating environment in which we find ourselves in order to create the sort of superiority bubbles that General Theirry talked about, to give us that ability to exploit advantage, those same problems exist for our adversaries because the battlespace has become more complicated.  And it’s not a zero-sum game, in the sense that because that’s been developed this now is neutered.  I don’t subscribe to that argument at all.

And whilst it is also true that the apparent carrier killer capabilities being developed by China at the moment – you know, the argument is, well, why are they also building aircraft carriers if they think that it’s so obsolete?  And I haven’t yet heard an answer that’s sensible to that question, other than the benefits of the carrier strike group in the contemporary battle space, particularly in the early shaping operations that are so necessary to creating advantage, has huge political and operational choice that we, as naval chiefs and as naval commanders, are obligated to offer up to the ultimate decision makers.

So the truth is, that it’s just getting more difficult for everybody.  It is becoming more complex.  It is a becoming an area where the number of variables you are having to process actually demand us adopt new technologies, new innovations, and understand the threat space with a kind of intellectual agility which is available in the young men and women that are around us.  And one of our roles is to be able to envisage that new future.  Now, I was really intrigued by, you know, Admiral Lisa observing that, you know, it’s 100 years since the commissioning of the first U.S. aircraft carrier.  Now I’m not going to for one minute claimed that the Royal Navy invented them – (laughter) – but in 1909 – no, and I haven’t, even though – no, no. 

But in 1909, the Admiralty invested some money in airships.  They had no idea what it was that these airships might do, but HMS Firefly, which was the first one, it wasn’t a great success.  But it was an understanding that here was a new technology that needed to be understood.  And it needed to be invested in.  And a group of admirals who had grown up in the day of sail and the bit of coal, but not very much oil, sort of unleashed an opportunity. 

And one of the things that we have got to do, I think, as senior leaders, is unleash the –unleash the creative potential of the young men and women that are coming into the service.  And recognize that they may not talk like us.  You know, they may not see the world as we do.  But it is in their lenses that the utility the carrier strike group into the future will truly be unlocked in the way in which we operate. 

You know, we’ve got to get used to the idea that some members – some of the crew of a carrier strike group might not actually leave home.  They might not even be living in a naval community.  But their contribution to what is going on from that carrier strike group, because of the way that they’re able to interface and to come in some of the cyberspace, or space, or the seabed warfare analysis that we need for what we need to do, they’re an integral part.  So it’s not just the superiority bubble, but it’s the breadth that the carrier strike group will be drawing upon. 

And because we are all co-located in a small space, actually, a lot of the walls that you find elsewhere don’t exist for that quick movement of information, innovation, risk taking, trials, experimentation, learning fast, and moving forward.  And I think one of the challenges we’ve got is not actually that the utility of these instruments – these fantastic national and coalition instruments – is being diminished, but we will hold ourselves back from really exploiting what they can achieve if we apply some of the kind of 20th century analog ways of thinking that are beginning – are the actual obsolete part of a 21st century digital maritime force.  And that is a challenge for us, is actually to create an environment and then stand back and, frankly, get out of the way.


MR. GOMART:  Thank you, Admiral.  Two things.  First one, I think that French historians will be very happy to decide who created the first carrier strike group between the U.S. Navy and the Royal Navy.  Let us work on that.  Now, more seriously, I quite like your idea that the battlespace now is much more complicated than previously.  And I think it’s absolutely critical in our thinking. 

I turn now to Admiral Credendino.  I suppose that you are fanatical also to these subjects, but it’s your turn now.


ADMIRAL ENRICO CREDENDINO:  Thank you very much.  And thank you so much, Nicolas, for inviting me.  I think this kind of conversations are important.  We should do more.   We were together in Rhode Island some months ago, now we are here.  We will be in Venice in October.  (Coughs.)  Sorry.  It’s very important that we are together to share ideas.

So everything has already been said.  It’s easy to talk among the last.  So I just want to say that the carrier strike group is an expression of the rank of a nation.  It makes a difference, who has the carrier, who has not the carrier.  And integrate all four instruments of national power – diplomatic, information, military, economic.  So it really makes a difference.  It provides to the – to our political masters a wide range of options for intervention.  It’s a means to reassure alliance.  It’s a means to deter the enemy.  It’s a system of systems.  So it’s maybe the most technologically advanced system of system we have in the armed forces.

So we’re writing the operational requirements of the next generation aircraft that will enter in the Navy in 2040.  We are thinking to a multidomain platform which we will fly airplane, but will also have to use unmanned aerial surface and subsurface vehicles.  Information – we need to master information.  We have such a big amount of data today that we can – but we’re not able to manage this kind – this amount of data, information.  And who is able to master all the information we have wins, because can understand before the others the environment where we are living.  So artificial intelligence, we have to – the new computers, quantum computers, we will have to integrate quantum computers onboard our multidomain platform.

So technology is a real challenge.  But also sustainability is a challenge.  And this is the other challenge we cannot imagine to work alone.  But even the U.S. Navy can imagine to work alone.  We need to work together.  Sustainability is paramount, so multinational cooperation is paramount.  We can think to multinational carrier strike group of the future.  Today is too early, but in Europe we have this initiative which is the European carrier strike interoperability initiative, which could lead to maybe one day a multinational carrier strike group.  We’re going to deploy our carrier strike group in the Indo-Pacific Ocean in the next month.  And this will be, in a way, a multinational carrier strike group, because we’ll have naval assets from many partners, either integrated or just in company.

So, yes.  I mean, we need to work together.  This is my main message.  We need to work together to understand each other and to be able, one day, to be together with a multinational carrier strike group.


MR. GOMART:  Thank you very much, Enrico.  I think, yes, the key word is this notion of multinational carrier strike group you have just mentioned, and the perspective of operation you have also announced.

Admiral, please, could you elaborate on some this very broad question?


VICE ADMIRAL RAJESH PENDHARKAR:  Thank you very much, firstly, for the opportunity, for bringing me here.  I represent my chief, who couldn’t be here because of other commitments, given the Republic Day coming up.  But I’m also honored to be amongst eminent panelists here today.  It’s a great privilege and rare occasion for me.  So thank you for this opportunity.

Plenty has been said already about the relevance of the carrier groups.  And I don’t think that question should really be up for debate.  We all understand here setting the importance and the relevance of the carrier groups, irrespective of the operating environment that will play out.  And here is where I would like to bring in a couple of perspectives with regard to the carrier groups, the first being the operating environment itself. 

As we’ve all seen, particularly in recent times, the operating environment is changing, is evolving.  Gray zone and asymmetric warfare seem to be emerging as the strategies of choice, at least in the initial days of conflict.  And that seems to be the go-to strategy for lesser powers, so to speak.  And if that be the case, then we need to introspect and see how the carrier groups are going to evolve themselves for meeting these challenges, particularly in the – of course, they’re very well equipped for escalation and meeting the challenges that emerge out of escalation.  But certainly in the initial stages of conflict, are the carrier groups today, as we see them and as they’re equipped, are they suitable enough?  Do we need to do more?

And of course, the answer to that is there’s no doubt that we need to do much more, given the kind of capabilities that the enemy is acquiring in terms of gray zone and asymmetry.  We have – coming to the capabilities perspective – I mean, we have a range of vectors that challenge the carrier group today, right?  From the addition of ballistic missiles, to cyber warfare, to hypersonic weapons, to drones, swarm technologies, quantum technologies.  And I think all these technologies do, on one hand, bring up considerable challenges.

But I also feel that there is plenty of opportunity in these technologies that we need to harness to strengthen the capability of the carrier groups themselves.  And when I talk about the carrier groups, I don’t mean just the carrier itself but also the escort groups, escort units, whether it is destroyers, frigates, but even the submarines that occasionally form part of the carrier group.  And this is what we need, to assign the capabilities.  I think it’s also important that we look at the human aspect of the people that man these carrier groups, and how they’re going to be able to deal with the emerging situations, particularly in this gray zone and asymmetric warfare situations that we now increasingly find ourselves to be in.

Psychological resilience, I think, is an important aspect, because of the prolonged nature of conflict that we are going to be seeing.  And our men and women that that man our ships certainly need to be geared up for meeting these kind of challenges.  Aside this also, there are certain skill sets that we will need to acquire if not already there, whether it is with relation to technology, in terms of operating, in terms of maintenance of increasingly technologically advanced systems.  Manned-unmanned teaming, which is also increasingly getting integrated into carrier groups will require a different set of skill sets.

And therefore, there are plenty more such which will be required to do.  And I think that is – that is the way ahead that we need to embark on, to meet the challenges that are emerging for the groups right now.  Thank you.


MR. GOMART:  Thank you very much, Admiral.

I start now the second part of our discussion with more specific questions.  The first one is about the key technological developments you do expect for the coming decades.  And I would like maybe to be more specific for discussion.  Maybe we can start this debate with Admiral Franchetti and Admiral Key.  For the next decade, what are – according to you – on which particular topic will you focus your efforts in terms of technological development for the next decades?  Would you like to start, Admiral?


ADM. FRANCHETTI:  Yeah, I’ll try to be more specific on a few capabilities.  I talked a little bit about, you know, unmanned aviation.  I think, you know, if I could probably put it into three areas to focus.  You know, one is the broad category of unmanned technology, whether it’s carrier-based aviation, whether it’s shore-based aviation, that can be unmanned and do ISR.  Whether it’s unmanned surface vessels that can also do maritime domain awareness, and also can be lethal.  You know, more broadly than carrier strike groups, focusing on, you know, the integration of unmanned technology, learning how to use and, as you said, integrate the unmanned-manned teaming.  And then figuring out what’s the right balance between. 

We know, we need conventionally manned platforms.  And we know that the unmanned technologies then will expand those – the reach and the opportunities with those platforms.  But, again, I think thinking through in the next 10 years, as you said, you know, it’s going to look different in 10 years based on, you know, what we’re already experimenting with.  You know, I think that really goes to the partnership with industry, with academia, with the innovation base, looking at what are all the problems we’re trying to solve, where can you apply an unmanned-type of solution, and then how do we experiment with that, get the best of breed, get that out in the hands of the warfighters, and try that?  I think that’s one focus area.

I think another one – it’s already been talked a little bit about – but it’s AI or data.  All of the skill sets that we need – to have data scientists, to have people that can think in terms of using data to make our problems more solvable.  I’ll just – a small one.  You can think about, say, conditions-based maintenance on all those great platforms that are in the strike group.  We have the carrier, we have all the airplanes, we have all the destroyers.  You know, we spend a lot of resources, and time, and man hours doing maintenance that we might not need to do. 

So if we can have an AI help us out with some of that condition-based maintenance, that tells us when to do the maintenance, then we’re going to have a lot more stuff flying.  It’s going to be more ready when we need it.  And our people have more time to think about and do other things.  So I know it may not really sound like a warfighting thing, but it’s a big enabler of warfighting.  So that would be another one.

And then I think the other technology is, you know, additive manufacturing.  And, again, you know, we want our strike groups to be as resilient as possible.  So can they print their own parts?  How do we work with industry to get the rights, you know, to be able to have the data available so we can make those parts?  And then we can make ourselves as sustainable as possible because, again, the logistics that we sometimes have to deal with, and we think about what our strike groups need to get a replenishment hit, how often?  The longer you can stretch that out by making them more resilient, again, they’re going to be able to provide way more options to all of our decision makers and our alliances around the world.  So those would just be three things that I think will be different in 10 years than they are right now.


MR. GOMART:  Thank you very much.  Admiral Key.


ADM. KEY:  One of the – one of the benefits of being asked to go second is you get thinking time.  (Laughter.)  The disadvantage is you can hear your first three points being articulated by your colleague.  So I’m only – so I agree, and actually in almost exactly the same order.  The only one that I would add – and I’m sure Admiral Lisa would have got to it if she had said I’ve got four points – is understanding the impact of climate change, and reduced carbon, and net-zero carbon technologies, as well, into ships and aircraft, where the societal demand to demonstrate that we are committed to those sorts of things also need(s) to be embraced.

It’s useful if you are operating nuclear powered aircraft carriers, because you’re putting less carbon up the funnel and then we are.  But it’s not just contained to that.  It’s in a whole number of areas.  And it’s both to demonstrate kind of broader global social responsibility, but also because I think the young men and women that are going to join and crew our systems in the future will expect us to be demonstrating a commitment to look after the planet in which we’re operating.  And also, to understand how we’re going to have to change our operating patterns in order to embrace and reflect the very realities of what those demands are. 

So that would be the fourth.  But otherwise, I’m completely aligned – well, I am completely aligned with Admiral Lisa.


MR. GOMART:  Thank you.  Admiral Vaujour, if you’re also to jump in?


ADM. VAUJOUR:  Yeah, I think I have the five one, which is the skills and the human resource.  I mean, carrier strike group is a very complex tool.  The time we are spending to educate, to train, to qualify, to train together, we were individually, then the small team, then inside the ship, then with all the ships in the carrier strike group, is a very long-term perspective each time.  And so all the things which could help me to simplify and to go more quickly in terms of skill acquisition, I mean, know-how.  For example, automatic landing system.  For example, more easy decision-making process inside the engineers complex, and so on.  Will help me in the future to develop more easy and more resilient human resource on board the ship. 

I just say that because I am building a new crew for the next-generation aircraft carrier.  And I think if the 10 years to come I am able to simplify the way we are qualifying all our guys, from the pilot up to the guys inside the engine room, it will be really helpful to be more resilient, to be more quick to go to the end.


MR. GOMART:  Thank you.  Would you like to add something on this point – on this particular point, Admiral Credendino, if you want?


ADM. CREDENDINO:  On human resources.  So, as I said, carrier strike group are system of system, so the most technologically advanced tool we have.  But at the end of the day, the people remains the core asset.  So we need to be able, even today, to motivate our people.  And it is quite difficult.  We need so not only to have skilled personnel, but motivated personnel.  We have a problem in recruitment and retaining personnel.  And we need to find new ways to deal with these problem, which is a huge problem today.  So I don’t know the answer to this.  So we are thinking through new ways of recruiting people and retaining people.  But motivation, we need to find a new way to motivate personnel.


MR. GOMART:  Thank you very much.  I would like to address my second question to –first to Admiral Credendino and Admiral Pendharkar.  And after that we ask the others to react.  It’s about drones.  In fact, how do carrier strike groups integrate drones and autonomous technologies to enhance their operation and power projection capabilities?  I would add another question, which is also in offensive but also in defensive terms.  Could you elaborate on drones at this stage, Admiral?


ADM. CREDENDINO:  Unmanned vehicles are fundamental today.  And tomorrow will be even more, because they expanded the possibility of the carrier strike group to cooperate, to understand the environment.  Not only ariel unmanned, but also some are unmanned in surface, but submarine, to me, is really the future.  So, as I said, we are designing this new multidomain platform that will be able to use unmanned and manned vehicles in all the domain. 

They will have to be cyber-resilient, by design. We’re not talking too often about cyber, but cyber also is now fundamental.  Not only in the defensive way, but also we need to be able to perform cyber offensive operation.  And drones are very important to perform cyber offensive operations.  So to increase the critical mass, we need drones.  And since carrier are big enough to embark unmanned  and manned vehicles, yes, this is really the future.


MR. GOMART:  Thank you.  Admiral.


VICE ADM. PENDHARKAR:  I think drones and autonomous, as well as unmanned systems, offer significant opportunities for integration with the – with the carrier groups.  And I would amplify this in two perspectives.  First is, of course, the defensive and passive employment of drones, and integration of drones with the carrier groups.  And they have significant opportunities to utilize them, whether it is in ISR – (inaudible) – MDA; whether it is logistics, search and rescue, refueling.  U.S. CNO spoke about refuelers that they’re looking at.  And I think these are technologies which, in unmanned systems, that can be easily integrated in the carrier strike groups with the defense. 

But even for the – in the offensive role, they have significant opportunities.  Because, A, they reduce the risk factor significantly for the crews.  And therefore, from that perspective itself, the unmanned combat systems, whether it is ariel systems, or surface systems, or even underwater systems, in all three dimensions offer us significant opportunities for integration with the carrier groups.  Also, electronic warfare.  I think jamming communications, (GIS ?) systems, et cetera, is a way to go ahead as an integral part of the warfare strategies and plans.  And drones could be widespread, could find widespread use in this particular field, when you need to do – carry out these kind of operations.  So I think that there is significant opportunity here for us to integrate drones.


MR. GOMART:  Maybe an additional insight on draws from you, Admiral?


ADM. VAUJOUR:  I think some insight has been – has been done.  One of the complexity of the aircraft carrier is that you have to manage all the element at the same time, with manned and unmanned system.  And so one of the key question for us will be to integrate everything at the same level, I mean, on board the aircraft carrier.  For sure, we are open.  We do not have yet – but we are open to have onboard unmanned vehicles.  Lots of missions are able to be done there.  But the question for me is to be able to fly together, and so to have at the same times in the bubble of the aircraft carrier unmanned system and manned system at the same time.  So that’s a key – that’s a key issue, coordination, C2 controls of manned and unmanned vehicle in a very short bubble.  I mean, not that big.

And so it’s a problem of safety, of course.  It’s a problem of efficiency.  But when you’re dealing with unmanned system, of course, it’s not only air domain, it’s surface domain.  And so all you can give with unmanned sensors, unmanned effectors everywhere, is something which is good.  And, as I told the carrier strike group, it’s for me the place where we are integrating everything.  So we have to be able to integrate unmanned vehicles, submarine, so forth, or aerial vehicle.  But at the time, it remains a big challenge. 


MR. GOMART:  Thank you very much.  Admiral, would you like to add to add something on drones?


ADM. FRANCHETTI:  I know I said a few things on that already.  I think I wanted to tie two things together that that you said, which is about the integration of the drones, the unmanned-manned teaming.  I think it has to be built into our training pipelines.  It also has to be built into the people that we’re bringing in.  Young people who are joining us today have a lot different perspective.  And they may be a lot more comfortable operating in that type of space. 

So how do we take advantage of that?  And how do we have the building blocks, through all the training pipelines where they have their unit-level training, where they build their personal skills, but then when they start building their team skills, when you build the skills of the entire airwing, then integrate that with the destroyer squadron, the cruisers, with any unmanned platform that’s going to be supporting them?  I think they really all need to be part of that training process. 

And how can you do that in a live, virtual, constructive, integrated way, so you can take advantage of all the simulation that we have available?  And, again, how can you get the repetitions and the sets – or the reps and sets with all the teams, so they can continue to practice and hone their skills.  I think you brought up how perishable the skills are.  So if we can set that right training environment up, and continually be training, and that we’re not using up all the live resources all the time. 

So, again, we can practice in a simulated environment.  We can put everyone together.  And they can get out and fly.  So I think that’s also part of the future that we’re definitely going to see when you talk about drones of all types – offensive, defensive – and being able to be comfortable working with them.


MR. GOMART:  Anymore on that, or should we move?  OK, so let’s move to the over key idea of this discussion.  You are reflecting, you know, around this table, your ability to interact, to operate together.  So in that way, what collective role do carrier strike groups play in maintaining maritime security?  And on that also, if you can be more specific by being in the future what sort of joint operation?  In which location also do you anticipate that maritime security should be improved?

Shall I start with you, Admiral, because you did not respond to the question on drones.  (Laughs.)  So you have to respond to this one.


ADM. KEY:  Think what I’ll do is just pull together a couple of the threads that have been offered up earlier, but through the lens of the question.  So one of the things that is an intrinsic part of any carrier strike group is its international dimensions.  I’m speaking to an audience largely people who intuitively have grown up with this, but in case there’s someone not, or online, because of the nature of life at sea and the fact that the high seas are open to all, it is very easy for multinational groups of warships to come together and operate with policy freedoms and political freedoms that are relatively easy to grant, because you’re not impinging upon anyone’s particular territory.

And therefore, we have grown up being very comfortable with plugging and playing in a way that our sister services don’t, by virtue of the environment they’re in.  It’s not a criticism.  It’s just a difference.  And therefore, the carrier strike group can be, as others have mentioned, a symbol of international commitment and unity to a common cause or a set operational task.  But it’s also got variability that can be exercised very, very easily because of the speed at which you can either commit or pull back. 

And that requires of us actually not only to be rehearsing and practicing amongst ourselves so that we are intuitive about this, and you can disperse and reaggregate those groups very easily and in different shapes and formats, but also for us to be exercising and rehearsing this so that our political leadership is also very comfortable with these concepts.  Because their understanding and willingness to commit or to sort of graduate their response set is a skill set that needs to be understood at all levels of government.  So, not just by us, the practitioners, but the policymakers who will be looking at the range of options that can be applied and providing those sorts of advice.  And then clearly, into the political leadership.

And we regularly talk ourselves, but I know it’s a hot topic for think tanks, about deterrence.  And most people immediately, you know, certainly in U.K., France, America, you know, leapt to the nuclear deterrence conversation.  But conventional deterrence is as sophisticated an art as it is a set of military options and a science.  And how we cleave that together in the utility of what the carrier strike groups offer in an international sense, I think is an area which is going to require more work because of the complexity of the space in which we’re going to be putting it through. 

But it’s a great challenge to have.  I’m not shying away from it at all.  I think it offers huge utility because what that helps to do is – and it was a phrase that Admiral Franchetti used – you know, part of deterrence is a situation of doubt in the minds of the people you’re seeking to influence.  And we have a great ability to create those kinds of dilemmas.  So more for us to do, but actually it’s very easy for us to create the stage in which we demonstrate what that can be.  It’s how we draw in all the lines of a kind of across government and international response to understand the real opportunities we represent as carrier operating navies being together.

And, as Admiral Credendino  remarked, through the European Carrier Cooperation Group we’re seeing also those who do not own carrier groups wanting to be part of these multinational groups, because that is a way of aligning themselves to some of those opportunities.


MR. GOMART:  You have made a key point, in my opinion, you know, about this articulation between what you call conventional deterrence and nuclear deterrence.  We are working very – harder – (inaudible) – on that.  We have – (inaudible) – in Europe and the U.S., obviously. 

Admiral Credendino, would you like to respond on this notion of maritime security in the world, which can be played by carrier strike group in this way?


ADM. CREDENDINO:  Well, I think that has been said.  I mean, I want to come again to the concept of the multinational carrier strike group, because this gives really a strategic message, not only to our political – from our political master to the rest of the world, but also to our allies, to our enemies.  That we want – we are serious about what we are doing.  There is a will to work together.  There’s a will to provide influence on other countries, that have the competences and the capabilities to act.  So I think this is the way forward, to act together and to put together our capabilities, not only the ones of the carrier strike group, but also who wants to take part to the carrier strike group as escort.


MR. GOMART:  Before turning to the room for the follow up question, I would like, yes, precisely, to give you the chance to also –


ADM. FRANCHETTI:  Just one, you asked specifically about where.  You know, I think we’ve done a great job – just watching from my time just being Sixth Fleet commander starting in 2018, you know, we were able to bring in and practice integrating a U.S. carrier in NATO.  And then after Russia’s horrific invasion of Ukraine, you know, we were actually able to integrate U.S. carrier power into the NATO team here. 

And so I think we have a great advantage, just like you said.  Navies can pick up and work together, because we operate in the sea all the time.  And especially ones that are in NATO, because we have all the same practices, the same procedures.  We know how to do that.  We grow up doing that.  I think, where – if I had one place where we could operate, a new place, it would be in the in the Indian Ocean and the Indo Pacific, because we don’t have necessarily all of those defined tactics, techniques, procedures to just even connect.

So it’s not quite as easy all the time to plug and play.  And so I think the more we can work together to bring and integrate different navies and different aircraft carriers into the operations in the Indo-Pacific, I think is a really good – a good thing.  I know everyone up here is working to do that here in the next two years.  And I’m really looking forward to taking advantage of that, and continuing to build on that – on that knowledge.  I think it’s very exciting.


ADM. VAUJOUR:  Yeah, just to add something about interoperability, because we spoke about that.  Interoperability is three things for me.  The first thing is connectivity.  And we have connectivity.  Our engineers is able to make connectivity with NATO standards, for example, on something like this.  Procedures.  And exercising together is something which is more tricky.  And so we have to exercise day after day in each area, which are always different in each area.

But the third thing, which is more important, is trust between partners.  And so the trust between partners is something which we have to build in the long term perspective, because we are exercising not only one time, but exercise day after day, years after years.  We build trust all together and operating the carrier strike groups need to have partners which are trusting you.  And so we are doing that today.  And that’s very good.


MR. GOMART:  If you are – Admiral, please, on that.


VICE ADM. PENDHARKAR:  I think it’s very good points that have been – some good points that have been raised here with regard to developing interoperability between carrier groups.  And I would like to embark – or, I would like to highlight some of the experience that we’ve – you know, we’ve seen with having combined carrier operations during excises.  Malabar, Varuna, two prime examples.  And we are also looking forward to the future with enthusiasm. 

We know that we have the U.K. – (inaudible) – which is going to be transiting through.  We look for opportunities there.  We have the Charles de Gaulle, which is going to be deployed in the Indian Ocean in ’24, as well as the Italian carrier.  So there are significant opportunities.  And I think this is a great step to move on, that we continue interacting with each other in terms of carrier groups, develop interoperability, build trust, and understand each other’s perspectives in the bargain.  I think it’s a great philosophy.  Thank you.


MR. GOMART:  Thank you very much.  So let’s start the last part of our session with your questions.  Please let me know if you want to intervene.  Please introduce yourself.  And please do remember that actually at IFRI we prefer questions to statements.  So please go.  And there is a microphone with Raphael (sp).  And on the other side – (inaudible).


Q: Thank you very much.  Aliso Verrano (ph) at King’s College London.  And thank you kindly for what was a very insightful panel discussion.

And I wanted to go back to a point that you raised, Ma’am.  As an academic, when someone starts saying, like, 100 years ago people were looking at this this way, it came to me, will in 100 years’ time people looking back think about today as a defining turning point?  Carriers in the interwar period became the ultimate manifestation of a national endeavor.  We had treaties that define the shape and size of ships, which in turn define the status and ranking of a nation.  But what you talked about today is completely different.  You’re talking about a multinational endeavor, redefining a sovereign capability.  So the question for the panel, in 100 years’ time, more than looking at technology, will people look back and say that this point in time was critical for the redefinition of the carrier strike group as a way to define a sovereign capability as part of an international endeavor?  Thank you.


MR. GOMART:  Except if there is a very quick answer to this question, I would suggest to gather some questions in order for – to let you pick up after that, to respect the schedule.  So, Josef (sp), there is a second question there.


Q:  Hello.  Matt Scully (sp), Australian Embassy.

A question on degraded operations.  As all your navies are tending towards higher technology in your boats, what would be the role of analog technologies in degraded operations, communications, and the like in the future?


MR. GOMART:  Thank you.  Elie, please.


Q:  Hello, Elie Tenenbaum from IFRI’s Security Studies Center.

One point that we cannot really avoid when talking about carrier strike groups are the threats and be the emergence of new threats against them, both the aircraft carriers and the groups themselves.  And I would like to have your views, especially about threats in terms of detection and tracking of the groups.  How do we mitigate in the future, this new transparency, the multiplication of sensors, of course, in space, but also in the sea and under the sea, that will make our carrier strike groups more transparent to the enemy?  I am looking into, of course, electronic warfare, dispersal, new forms of maneuver.  I’d love to have your views on this. 


MR. GOMART:  And then directly on your on your left.


Q:  Thank you.  Admiral Chauhan, director general of the National Maritime Foundation in New Delhi.

I have a question that actually builds on what the U.S. CNO said, and also, what the first sea lord said.  You know, as we are moving forward, finding abilities to match capacity by way of hardware with capability, by way of human skilling, is going to become extremely expensive, both in terms of finances as well as in terms of time.  And so expecting that we will be able to utilize opportunities that come across, because platforms are either, you know, proceeding across each other’s spaces, or that we’re going to have multiple exercises of the orders that have been mentioned by Admiral Pendharkar, is, to my mind, a desirable but difficult to achieve endeavor. 

Wouldn’t you say, therefore, that the ability to utilize technology right now to skills – to build skill sets which don’t require the exercise, don’t require the actual platform to exist, and especially in terms of dealing with the Navy, such as the Indian Navy, which is a carrier operating Navy but not part of NATO, et cetera.  But, by virtue of having dedicated training exercises that utilized not just simulation, but simulation over virtual domains.  That means, build the skill sets before you enjoy – before you bring the platforms into play.  And if that was to be the case, when do you think they should happen, and how?


MR. GOMART:  Thank you.  I will take a fifth question for this first – the first row.


Q:  Hi.  Kelly Grieco from the Stimson Center in Washington, D.C.

And I wanted to ask, we have two examples now of a state and a quasi-state, without traditional navies, contesting sea control.  And I’m wondering what, if any, lessons you’ve taken away as leaders of your services about what that might mean for the future.


MR. GOMART:  Thank you very much.  So you have five questions, easy ones.  You can pick up what you want, avoid the one that are uncomfortable.  So, Nicholas.


ADM. VAUJOUR:  OK, thank you.  Thank you all.  I will not answer all the questions.  I will pick up some.  The first one about the sovereignty of carrier strike group, I think that’s a big question and, of course, a very political one.  But if you look at – the carrier strike group, in fact, is a political tool in the hands of your political leaders.  So it means that if you’re – if you have a carrier strike group, you can lead a kind of coalition where or the nation can jump in because they are aligned or they agree with the political objective where you are.  So there is a real sovereignty in the tool.

But it not means that we are not open to welcome other partners with that.  The question is only to align the end-state, and to listen to your partner, and to verify that we are enough in a good coordination to have the same goals at the end – at the end of the mission.  So, yes, definitely, a carrier strike group is a sovereignty tool in the hands of your political leaders.  And I think it will stay like this.  I am not sure that we are able – you say that we are not yet ready to do that.  And I agree with you.  You are not yet ready to go to a multinational aircraft carrier strike group.

The second thing is degraded operation.  What we do in the French Navy is that we have always in each deployment of the carrier strike group two or three days back to the ’80s.  Back to the ’80s means that you do not have satellite communication. You do not have anything like this.  And so are we able to operate, again, in the ’80s with our carrier strike group?  And so training like this is quite challenging, I have to say.  And years after years it is more challenging.  But it is really interesting to see that we are still able to operate, even if we – if you lose the satellite communication.  OK, you will have less PowerPoint sharing between ships.  And finally, that’s not so bad.  (Laughter.)  That’s not so bad.  And so only keywords are enough to operate.  (Laughter.)

And the last question I pick up is new threats, and the way to control it.  At the time, of course, we are speaking about velocity of the missiles.  We are speaking about ballistic missiles, and so on.  And what we saw with the new way we can operate our sensors is that we are able to give – to be really better with the same sensors if you are looking at the data you are providing to the ship.  And so get the data off the sensors, put some artificial intelligence to see where – the small detection you do not have seen with only one sensor, but you can fuse with another one, and so on, and so on.  And then you will have a picture which is much more accurate than the one you have with your old system.

So I mean that, yes, for sure the threat is increasing.  But we have still a lot of – to do to improve the way we are dealing with all the data we have inside the carrier strike group.  And when you are doing some fusion with the radar from our destroyer, the radar from the Hawkeye in the air, and the radar from the aircraft carrier, you will have a picture which is amazing, really.  But you have to fuse that.  And so we have to work on that.


MR. GOMART:  Admiral Credendino, your take on these five questions.


ADM. CREDENDINO:  Yeah, on multinational carrier, of course, every country is taking part of this multinational carrier can raise the red flag whenever they want.  So it’s just a matter to share a political vision, maybe for one specific objective.  Then everybody will have his own red flag.  And we lack – we lack, of course, common rules of engagement.  But at any stage, anyone can raise the red flag to say, no, I cannot do that.  But going on, being part of this – of this – but that’s the future maybe.  We don’t know yet. 

Anyway, but the European Union Interoperability Carrier Initiative is an example of what we can do together.  I think it’s a really good example.  And the way we are going to deal with the Indo-Pacific, the three of us, is a good example – although this is not a multinational carrier cycle, because we operate independently.  But we link our deployment.  We give a strong strategic message to our partner and to our enemies, let’s say.

On training, I think that – so we are developing virtual training, distributed training, so that all personnel on the Italian navy can operate together even if they are not at sea.  So when the ship is under maintenance, or when they are deployed for, let’s say, anti-piracy operation, where they say six months at sea just patrolling.  So we’re developing this tool, which will be very important.  It’s, like, you know, the Air Force, there’s simulator of mission, not only navigation.  So we want to simulate the mission using virtual data then and distributed training.  And this could be also offered to partners international, to nations that want to take part in this kind of exercise.


MR. GOMART:  Admiral.


VICE ADM. PENDHARKAR:  I would like to answer a couple of questions relating to, first, battlefield transparency and the one related to degraded operations.  And I think, in a manner, these are interrelated at some level.  In terms of degraded operations, I think one must expect that your capabilities will be attacked, will be degraded during operations, in the beginning of operations.  And therefore, that is only to be expected.  And therefore you need to be working towards prevention, towards resilience, your systems to be more resilient to attacks on your – particularly your communications, et cetera, because that’s going to be the backbone of the operations that you carry out.

But how does it relate to transparency?  Because on the one hand, we know that the battlefield is getting increasingly transparent, given the surveillance sensors that are there with the enemy.  And the knowledge of, the location of the carrier groups, of course, is – can be expected to be given.  And yet, you need to be discreet.  You need to prevent yourselves from being so transparent to the enemy.  And therefore, there will be certain restrictions that you will put on yourselves in the carrier groups in terms of emission control   And how, in terms of emission control, would the carrier group remain as effective, as efficient, in carrying out its operations?  I think these are the true challenges that we’ll continue to need focused attention to make sure that we are one up on the enemy.


MR. GOMART:  Thank you.  Admiral Franchetti, your answers.


ADM. FRANCHETTI:  OK.  Thank you.  I want to just pick up on the – I think the degraded operations and the emergence of new threats are also, you know, very much tied together.  And I think – I like the back to the ’80s.  I think I might steal that – (laughter) – because we do do that training. but I like the – I like the idea of it.  I think, you know, one time someone talked about doing training, like, a day without GPS.  And, you know, I think the harder you – we are on ourselves, that will make us that much more resilient and more successful if we ever have to go to war.  And we know exactly what capabilities we won’t have.  And we’ll know how to fight through that.  So I think it’s really important in all the training that we do, in all the exercises that we do, that we really embed that into the training.

I think it is about going back to history a little bit.  And, you know, as far as emergence of new threats, you know, we used to be really good at deception.  I think we used to be really good at, you know, creating confusion in the eyes of adversaries.  And I think that’s a skill that we need to go back to and make sure that we’re thinking about that all the time.  I think we got a little bit lazy sometimes.  In MCON we definitely got lazy, in operational security.  And what do we need to do?  We used to be good at that.  And that needs to be from day one, when someone you know, joins the Navy, this has to be part of what they think about every day. 

I think, you know, everyone’s on the social media, they’re posting a picture of, you know, where they, or where they’re going.  And, you know, these are things that – you know, we want to attract and bring in the world’s most amazing future warfighters, but at the same time they have to recognize that, you know, our operational security has to come first.  And having that as part of the conversation, OPSEC, deception, you know, all of those things that we used to be good at, I think we need to really, really emphasize that across our forces.

I think, just the last one because no one talked about it yet, is the – you know, the current operations, especially in the – in the Red Sea.  But I think – you know, my big takeaway is that the rule of law is under threat.  It’s under challenge everywhere we look.  And it’s only going to through strong like-minded nations working together to preserve that rule of law and say that this kind of behavior can’t stand, and it can’t win.  So we need to do that together.  And that’s my big takeaway, because I think without that the rules-based international order, that has supported our security and prosperity since the end of World War II, is really going to be attacked.  And we have to take a stake.  And we need to stand strong.


MR. GOMART:  Thank you.  Admiral Key, take it away to conclude this session.


ADM. KEY:  I’ve got two takeaways.  Firstly, I’m just looking at my watch, the time zone delay to America.  But the N-7’s going to be woken up quite soon with – back in the Pentagon – with, the CNO’s just directed a back to the ’80s training program.  (Laughter.)  Hey, there’s a – there’s a really interesting – you know, I’m going to surface my – the little I know about Mahan, Julian Corbett, and all the rest of it, which is how sea control has remained constant, but the means in which you have to exercise it has changed over time, as threats, and opportunity, and capabilities have shifted. 

You know, the fleet carriers that were used by the Royal Navy in the Second World War were about sea control in the battle against the U-boat.  The strike carriers that were developed by the U.S. Navy in many ways, at the same time, were developing a very different concept of activity out in the Pacific, in those wars.  And then for years, we have assumed sea control.  And so we could invest everything pretty much into local superiority and strike as the principal aim.  And now what we’ve got to get back into is thinking more deeply about how do we do sea control.

And there’s a number of interesting ideas.  And whilst I always tread back from advertising, one of your competitor – sorry, colleague – think tanks back in London has just put out a paper in the last couple of weeks looking at how amphibious forces now actually also shift from just strike into sea control as part of that activity.  So when you’re looking at the non-state or state actors, and how we need to contest in a different way, the truth is that sea control remains an absolute requirement for all the reasons around the rules-based international order and freedom of maneuver.  How we contest that and how you do that, either with the carrier strike groups or more broadly, just requires us to adapt the doctrine and tactics to the reality the moment we find ourselves in.


MR. GOMART:  I would like to thank you warmly, all of you, for this very substantive discussion.  I think it was a really good starter for this conference.  So now it’s time to open the door and – (speaks in French).  (Continues in English.)  So you can relax and be back in the room at 2:00 p.m. precisely for the second session.  Thank you very much, all of you.  (Applause.)



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