Click here to download the Surface Force Strategy pamphlet.


The objective of the Surface Force Strategy is to achieve and sustain sea control at the time and place of our choosing to protect the homeland from afar, build and maintain global security, project the national power of the United States, and win decisively. It is essential to our Nation’s security and prosperity that we maintain the ability to maneuver globally on the seas and to prevent others from using the sea against the interests of the United States and our allies. Additionally, sea control is the pre-requisite to achieving the Navy’s objectives of All Domain Access, Deterrence, Power Projection and Maritime Security.

Pressures on the Global Order

America is a maritime nation, and our prosperity is directly linked to the freedom of the seas provided by the U.S. Navy. Threats ranging from low-end piracy to well-armed non-state militant groups, to the navies of high-end nation-states pose challenges that surface forces are prepared to counter, and when called, defeat.

Global competitors will attempt to disrupt freedom of maneuver on the seas through the deployment and proliferation of sea denial technologies including state-of-the-art anti-ship ballistic and cruise missiles, integrated and layered sensor systems and targeting networks, long-range bombers, advanced fighter aircraft, submarines, mines, advanced integrated air defenses, enhanced electronic warfare, cyber and space-based technologies, and asymmetric tactics. These capabilities are designed to raise the risk to U.S. forces in order to undercut confidence among friends and allies of our ability and will to operate forward. The surface force must adapt in meaningful ways that allow for confident operations in contested environments within an acceptable level of risk. The most important challenge for the surface force to address is the improving technologies, systems, and networks our competitors put in place to deter and deny the United States access to vital sea areas. These technologies extend from the sea floor to space and present surface forces with multi-axis and multi-dimensional challenges.

Countering these advanced sea denial technologies requires improved tactics; incremental adaptations to surface force weapons, platforms and sensors; and the right talent, properly trained to operate, maintain and employ these systems. To achieve these requirements, we must think differently about how we organize, prepare, and sustain surface forces.

The concept of Distributed Lethality enables the goal of sea control at the time and place of our choosing. It is achieved by increasing the offensive and defensive capability of individual warships, employing them in dispersed formations across a wide expanse of geography, and generating distributed fires.

Distributed Lethality has distinguishing characteristics at the tactical and operational levels. At the tactical level, it increases unit lethality and reduces the susceptibility of warships to detection and targeting. At the operational level, it employs warships as elements of offensive Adaptive Force Packages that are task oriented and capable of widely dispersed operations. Adaptive Force Packages allow operational commanders the ability to scale force capabilities depending on the level of threat. This manner of employment is designed to open battlespace and enable concealment and deception in order to inject uncertainty and complexity into an adversary’s targeting.

Increase the offensive lethality of all warships.
Our ships must be equipped with the tools necessary to fight and defeat highly capable adversaries. When combined with the right mix of capabilities and tactics, this concept enables a surface force that can deter an adversary with credible combat power, challenge the operating space, and gain the advantage for follow-on Joint Force operations.

Distribute offensive capability geographically. Many strategists point to America’s long operational lines as a vulnerability, but Distributed Lethality makes geography a virtue. It spreads the combat power of the Fleet, holds targets at risk from multiple attack axes, and forces adversaries to defend a greater number of targets. This challenges an adversary’s decision making cycle and material investment scheme by forcing them to account for lethal threats from multiple domains.

Give ships the right mix of resources to persist in a fight. We must upgrade the defensive resilience of our warships to improve the ability to fight through attacks from space, cyber, air, surface and the undersea domains. We must capitalize on the improved mutual defense among ships through evolving networks and tactics. Lastly, we must be able to fight through battle damage and sustain operations in a degraded command and control environment.

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