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By Lieutenant Commander Rollie Wicks, U.S. Navy | February 16, 2018

​I had the honor of serving as an innovation advisor on the Department of the Navy (DoN) Naval Innovation Advisory Council (NIAC) from 2015 to 2016. The purpose of the NIAC, which is a program run by the DON’s Office of Strategy and Innovation, is to provide top cover for naval innovators conducting research on cutting edge concepts that can help build the best Navy and Marine Corps of the future.


Naval Hospital Jacksonville now offers some health visits as virtual visits, thanks to a new app. Navy Medicine is conducting its world-wide pilot of Navy Care at Naval Hospital Jacksonville. Navy Care enables patients to have a virtual visit with a clinician, by using a smartphone, tablet, or computer. It's private, secure, and free. Navy Care offers care where the patients are, and where the providers are.

Every year, new technologies emerge that could change how individuals, companies and even military commands operate. For the Navy and Marine Corps, one of those technologies is the Autonomous Aerial Cargo/Utility System (AACUS)-an Office of Naval Research-led program that can make any rotary-wing aircraft capable of fully autonomous flight, and landing on an unprepared field. The program is intended to help save lives by enabling autonomous resupply to Marines in the field, even in contested environments.

Imagine a Marine infantry battalion going into battle, Coast Guard ships conducting a drug interdiction op, or a carrier strike group fighting for sea control all with the knowledge that the tactics they will be using have been tried and succeeded in more than 100 million executions of the exact scenario they are about to enter. This may sound like the introduction to a science fiction novel, but the technology is a reality today and has been demonstrated in the world of competitive eSports with stunning results. The advancement of artificial intelligence and powerful computers have given programmers the ability to translate the dynamic and unpredictable nature of military operations into variables in a simulation that can be run millions of times in a single day.


The U.S. Navy Information Warfare (IW) pavilion concluded the three-day premier naval conference and exposition on the West Coast, WEST 2018, Feb. 8. This year, the IW pavilion on the exhibition floor demonstrated the Navy's commitment to warfighting in the information age through the use of speakers, panels, subject matter experts and capability displays from organizations including the Office of the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Information Warfare (OPNAV N2N6), Fleet Cyber Command/U.S. Tenth Fleet (FCC/C10F), Navy Information Forces Command (NAVIFOR), Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI), Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (PEO C4I) and others.

“The pace at which potential competitors are moving demands that we in turn increase the speed at which we act. Our advantage is shrinking – we must reverse this trend.” – Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson’s white paper, The Future Navy, May 2017. SSC Pacific is following Richardson’s lead and is working to ‘reverse this trend,’ and increase the fleet’s advantage. Most recently, SSC Pacific participated in WEST 2018, the leading naval conference and exposition on the West Coast. The three-day conference took place at the San Diego Convention Center, Feb 6-8, where government, military and industry leaders came together to demonstrate cutting-edge technologies and discuss how new operational concepts can strengthen the fleet’s warfighting capabilities, now and into the future.

When Rear Adm. Christian “Boris” Becker took the reins as commander of Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) in March 2017 he said his top priority was the fleet. A year later, it’s still a top priority. He spoke recently with C4ISRNET about recruiting cyber talent, his role in evaluating the McCain collision and the rise of data scientists.


A senior official with the Office of Naval Research (ONR) challenged industry representatives to engage in a conversation with the Navy to solve the most difficult technical problems of unmanned systems, particularly autonomous systems. “Solving some of the really hard technical problems” needs collabora​tion of like minds, Lee Mastroianni, a senior project officer at ONR, said Feb. 7 at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Defense, Security and Protection event. “There is no process in the world that can replace people who have the same of molds of mind who want to get something done.”

In 2017, the Navy saw two deadly ship collisions at sea. First, the destroyer Fitzgerald collided with a container ship near Japan in June, and then again two months later the destroyer John S. McCain collided with an oil tanker near Singapore. Both incidents were, per comprehensive Navy investigations, due to human error. The findings quieted speculation that a network-based attack could have disabled onboard navigation or other critical systems — but the report didn’t end discussion of the possibilities of such scenarios.

Since the dawn of aviation, pilots have been able to rely on the simple method of looking through an aircraft’s window to determine the weather ahead. That’s no longer an option for a relatively new squadron at Jacksonville Naval Air Station. This year a small group of aviation pioneers are ready to take the controls of drones as long as F-16s with wingspans the size of Boeing 757s as the future of maritime intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance is expanding.


The Navy is beginning a pilot program in the spring aimed at modernizing its a​float network architecture. The “compile-to-combat in 24 hours” pilot aims to separate presentation, application and data layers, Rear Adm. Danelle Barrett, director of the Navy Cyber Security Division, said during a Feb. 8 presentation at the annual AFCEA West conference in San Diego, California.

It seemed like science fiction when the first prosthetic leg was surgically implanted in a post-9/11 veteran two years ago in Utah. Now, thanks to a program led by the U.S. Navy, scientists are on the verge of advancing those prostheses even further. In 2016, the Office of Naval Research partnered with Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the Naval Research Laboratory and several universities to launch Monitoring Osseointegrated Prostheses, a program whose mission is to “advance prosthetics into the 21st century” using the latest biomedical and engineering technologies.

The Navy could see cost savings on its largest procurements by increasing the use of digital technologies beginning in the research-and-development phase, a senior service official said Feb. 8. James “Hondo” Geurts assumed the job of assistant secretary of the Navy for research, development and acquisition in late 2017, after many years as the acquisition executive for Special Operations Command. In his new role, he is looking to help the service create different acquisition processes for different programs, he said at the annual WEST conference in San Diego co-hosted by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association and the U.S. Naval Institute.


The Marine Corps’ Assault Breacher Vehicle made history last year when it conducted its first amphibious landing with a Modified Full Width Mine Plow prototype during a long-range breaching exercise in the western United States. In December 2017, Marine Corps Systems Command used Exercise Steel Knight as an opportunity to test the Modified Full Width Mine Plow prototype for the first time. Steel Knight is a division-level exercise designed to enhance command and control, and interoperability with the 1st Marine Division, its adjacent units and naval support forces.

The days of U.S. military supremacy might be over, but not if the military services and industry find ways to quickly innovate and rapidly deliver solutions to the fleet, the head of Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command told a defense industry audience on Tuesday. “Strategic competition is driving the urgency for us to find our way to deliver, to modernize, to enable the joint force with a more lethal force, and to reach out for our allies and partners to be part of that lethal force,” Rear Adm. Christian “Boris” Becker, the SPAWAR commander, told an audience at the WEST 2018 conference, co-hosted by the U.S. Naval Institute and AFCEA.

As it moves into its fourth year, the Navy’s force of information warfare professionals continues to expand and evolve into a greater role supporting tactical warfighters, Vice Adm. Matthew Kohler said on Tuesday. Kohler, who has commanded Naval Information Forces (NAVIFOR) since its establishment in 2014, highlighted three initiatives in the information warfare community to create Warfare Tactics Instructors, establish a training group to oversee unit-level IW training, and formalize a position of “IW commander afloat.”


The Navy could begin deploying a self-piloting sea drone by the end of the year to hunt for submarines at a time when China and Russia are expanding their underwater fleets, according to the research agency that designed it. The Navy received the $20 million prototype last week from the Defense Advanced Research Agency, or DARPA. Navy researchers will now work to further develop the robotic vessel — which requires no remote piloting — with the aim of integrating it into fleets.

The Naval Meteorological and Oceanography Command (NMETOC) has put a priority on adding more autonomous unmanned surface vehicles to its fleet, an NMETOC official said. Speaking Feb. 6 at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International’s Defense, Protection and Security event, Dr. William Burnett, deputy commander and technical director of NMETOC, said the command has procured all of its gliders and autonomous underwater vehicles, but now is putting a priority on “getting more autonomous surface vehicles into our fleet.”

The Navy has scheduled three mine countermeasures (MCM) systems for developmental tests (DT) and two for operational assessments (OA) this year, with Milestone C production decisions of the first two expected before the end of fiscal 2018. Speaking Feb. 6 at the Association of Unmanned Vehicle Systems International Defense, Protection and Security event, Rear Adm. John P. Neagley, program executive officer for Littoral Combat Ships, said the progress expected in fiscal 2018 will leverage the progress made in 2017 in the Navy’s alignment of unmanned system efforts across the portfolio.


Norfolk Naval Shipyard (NNSY) employees clad in exoskeletons laboring in the drydock. Workers surveying an augmented reality 3-D model in advance of a shipcheck. Shipyarders using laser ablators that can zap rust from a bulkhead in a matter of seconds. These are all examples of the vision of a vital future at the shipyard, and they are in the process of becoming a reality thanks to the Technology and Innovation Lab. The lab provides a multipurpose area that can be used for brainstorming between innovation leads and testing employee ideas. These ideas can range from increasing production to improving safety.

Marines with Weapons Company, 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment fire Mk-19 machine guns from a defilade position and observe the target area with Unmanned Aircraft Systems at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Jan. 25, 2018. The unit participated in the training to improve their tactical abilities, increase proficiency with operating multiple systems simultaneously and to prepare for their upcoming deployment.

U.S. Marines with Task Force Southwest deployed in the U.S. Central Command area of operations utilize tactical manufacturing to shorten supply times with various problem solving skills using 3D printers, welders, saws and much more.

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