VADM Tom Copeman Gives an Update on the Surface Fleet
Up To Speed

Earlier this year I announced my intention to establish a new command tasked with the development, training, and assessment of the full spectrum of tactics in the Surface Warfare realm. The detailed reasoning behind this decision was laid out in a Naval Proceedings article and it was the subject of my address at the annual Surface Navy Association (SNA) Symposium. In short, it was apparent that it was time to change the way the Surface Force trains and fights. For many years, our community has operated under the belief that tactical knowledge somehow grows based upon age and experience alone, with young officers today spending very little time studying, critiquing, training to or even discussing tactics.

Developing Surface Warfare tactics must be a core function, not an afterthought, and we must develop and assess these tactics at the individual level where specialized functions are executed that contribute to the combat effectiveness of the ship. Unit readiness will always be important, but it is time for the Surface Navy to focus more on the individual. With the demand for naval forces continuing unabated, it is more important than ever that the officers and crews of our ships be the best trained, most tactically proficient in the world. Put another way, the best place to invest is in our people.

This initiative for the surface community comes at a time when every warfare community will soon be aligned to achieve commonality in the way we approach and oversee training. In a directed planning effort, each of the Surface, Sub, Air and Expeditionary TYCOMs will establish a Warfare Development Center (WDC) to enhance fleet warfighting. The WDC’s primary responsibility will be to conduct and evaluate warfare community-focused training by providing advanced training across all warfare areas at the individual, unit and integrated level. The surface community’s tactical training strategy will be standardized under a command currently known as the Naval Surface Warfare Development Command (NSWDC), formerly dubbed NSEWC, the Naval Surface and Expeditionary Warfare Center, in the Proceedings article.

As the Surface Navy’s tactical standards bearer, NSWDC will generate, test, and promulgate tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTP) for the full spectrum of surface warfare mission areas. It will be more than a place to write tactics; it will be a means for instilling uniform tactical excellence as a cultural standard. With the establishment of NSWDC, we will also introduce the Surface Warfare Combat Training Continuum (SWCTC). SWCTC will be the overarching training and assessment curriculum for individuals, from basic to advanced warfare, as they progress through their careers. SWCTC will lay out the knowledge individuals on a ship will be required to possess in regards to advanced tactics and doctrine.

With NSWDC in place, driven by the SWCTC, we will become better warfighters and we will better understand the true warfighting readiness of our ships. The new paradigm will be that individual tactical competence drives measurement of overall unit capability for warfighting. The focus will be on whether the individuals onboard at a given time have the training and experience to meet potential tactical challenges and this will drive our ships’ readiness ratings.

Establishing NSWDC

We are not starting with a blank sheet of paper. The aviation community has had a tactically-focused organization for many years in the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center (NSAWC). NSAWC uses a centrallymanaged tactical training program, driven by the Air Combat Training Continuum (ACTC). The fundamental concept of the ACTC is that individual tactical competence drives overall capability, so the focus is on training individuals to be more effective members of the team. NSWDC and SWCTC will be initially patterned on this model.

The main challenge we face in the tactics-training and development of the surface force is that multiple organizations exist to perform different functions in tactical training, but there is not one single community training strategy or standard that focuses on advanced warfighting. Individual tactical knowledge is gained in schoolhouses (SWOS, CSCS, Tactical Training Group), but these organizations do not develop, vet, or validate TTPs. Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Center (NMAWC), Naval Air and Missile Defense Center (NAMDC), and the Surface Tactics Development Group (STDG) all develop and validate TTPs, but their training and assessment capabilities are focused on the unit and integrated levels. NSWDC will fill the gap by establishing a tactical standards domain and taking a holistic approach to warfare community training in that it will provide advanced training at the individual, unit, and integrated tactical levels for the following warfare areas:

  • Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW)
  • Air Warfare (AW)
  • Amphibious Warfare (AMW)
  • Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD)
  • Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD)
  • Mine Warfare (MIW)
  • Surface Warfare (SW)

NSWDC will also be our Navy’s supported WDC at the theater level in the MIW, AW, and BMD mission areas.

Creating a tactical standards domain is critical for a number of reasons. First, we cannot talk about raising the tactical performance across the Force without an established single tactical standard in place. Right now, we wrestle with different standards for each ship in each warfare area. Second, some warfare areas are more advanced than others so we need to bring up the standards for those warfare areas which lag. For example, NAMDC already focuses on Integrated Air and Missile Defense (IAMD), so we are making good ground in improving our tactical IAMD performance. On the other hand, no command is currently focused on Surface Warfare; a core competency since 1775. Third, a tactical standards domain will make the Surface Force more capable of inter-community, joint and combined warfare.

Critical functions of NSWDC will be to manage tactics development and to centralize the oversight of all TTP development. Furthermore, it will work to prevent or narrow tactical and training gaps between the Surface Force and other warfare communities by coordinating their efforts with other WDCs. As NSWDC evolves, and coordination between and among all warfare communities improves, the warfighting performance of the entire Navy will improve. In this coordination role NSWDC will fill what is now a critical void. The Surface Force is deeply involved in every warfare area conducted by the U.S. Navy. Through collaboration, NSWDC will bring the proper level of expertise and focus to all the naval warfare communities to ensure the Navy has the most effective coordinated solution to our tactical challenges.

At the integrated level, NSWDC will assist in training Carrier and Expeditionary Strike Group surface combatants to carry out combat missions, as an integrated force, up to the Major Combat Operations (MCO) surge-ready level. This will include training on Navy and joint missions that conform with current Major Combat Operations plans, as well as tactics and techniques of potential real-world adversaries.

At the unit level, NSWDC will coordinate the efforts of the organizations in the surface tactical standards domain to improve the level of performance of our ships in integratedlevel training. This will be done by first ensuring that our ships meet a higher training standard prior to entering the integrated phase. Much as a carrier air wing must complete a training event at NSAWC prior to the integrated phase, our ships will also be required to complete similar advanced unit level training prior to entering the integrated phase. Additionally, NSWDC will coordinate training onboard all Surface Force ships during integrated training periods to maximize the training value of those events and working with the fleet certifying authorities to ensure that the surface combatants in each strike group are quantitatively evaluated against the tactical standard and assigned a performance rating.

Individual level advanced tactics training will be conducted in accordance with an approved Surface Warfare Combat Training Continuum (SWCTC) and the Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) program. NSWDC will develop a cadre of WTIs, who will focus on execution of the SWCTC, ensuring standards are met for tactical employment and integrated naval and joint operations.

NSWDC activation planning and the re-alignment of the Navy towards the WDC construct is an ongoing effort. Initial mission analysis has been completed with the primary commands that will be part of the NSWDC tactical standards domain and we are devising the specified mission, functions, and tasks (MF&T) of the WDC, analyzing the facilities and manning needed to fulfill the MF&T, and have conducted a gaps, seams, and overlaps analysis of the projected SWCTC. This latter analysis will yield recommendations for surface tactical training improvements and efficiencies. NSWDC is planned to be on-line by the summer of 2014.

Establishing a SWCTC

The SWCTC will be the driving force behind NSWDC. The vision is that the training continuum will serve as the mechanism for individual, standardized tactical training and evaluation of an officer’s (and selected enlisted) tactical proficiency. This process continues throughout one’s career, serving as a guide and an assessment of individual readiness for more senior positions. The focus of the community will then be on individual readiness, with improved individual readiness driving overall unit capability.

NSWDC will manage the SWCTC to standardize and codify the training and experience standards that our officers and certain enlisted will be required to meet as they progress through their careers. It will establish Basic and Advanced tactical training requirements that will be used as part of the training continuum to train and evaluate individuals, units, composite units. The approach will be to augment the SFRM’s unit readiness measurements with a continuum that trains and evaluates an individual’s ability to contribute to broader combat capabilities, overlaying them onto the broader process of training and evaluating unit tactical readiness.

The SWCTC will be constructed on three pillars:

  • One pillar will focus on surface warfare weapons and tactics, and will provide a comprehensive courseware, classroom simulator, and at-sea training program. The syllabus will also provide a framework for individual tactical training at post-Basic phase levels and set the standards for tactical proficiency and combat readiness for various levels of watchstander qualification.
  • The second pillar will focus on the surface warfare training system, and will contain the administrative functionality, interactive courseware, and computer-aided instruction lessons, including classified web-based applications, designed to support WTIs and fleet operators, both ashore and afloat.
  • The third pillar will focus on the surface tactics standard-bearers, the Weapons and Tactics Instructor (WTI) program, which will provide a cadre of formally trained instructors tasked with implementing and administering the SWCTC in each mission area throughout the fleet.

Weapons and Tactics Instructors

The WTI program is the cornerstone of the SWCTC. WTIs will be highly-trained subject matter experts in all platforms in a given warfare area. They will be post-division officers who have been recommended by their commanding officer and ISIC. WTI candidates will have to meet certain career accomplishment prerequisites in order to even be considered. Ideally they will be the highest-performing, most-qualified officers in the fleet. WTI candidates will be screened by NSWDC itself to assess their qualifications and then detailed by Navy Personnel Command upon approval.

The initial WTI training an officer receives will be provided over several months and they will be placed in the ultimate destination until fully validated as being qualified to train in their given warfare area. Fully trained and qualified WTI’s will provide the hands-on, individual training that is currently lacking in the fleet. The WTI will be the tactics expert, training and evaluating the combat team on a given ship or staff. The culmination of each ship’s Basic Phase of training will be an advanced readiness exercise facilitated by individual WTIs. This will be an underway, multi-ship exercise planned, executed, and evaluated by NSWDC with support from other training organizations.

We have already made a down payment on this new investment with the training of our first WTIs in ASW and IAMD. These officers are being armed with the knowledge and skills to make immediate and substantive impacts on the tactical proficiency of the individual commands to which they will be assigned. Over time, we will populate the Surface Force with WTIs on all of our ships and tactical staffs, and they will be responsible for ensuring we meet the standards codified in the SWCTC.


The cultural change and challenges associated with this undertaking will require years, perhaps decades, of commitment. It will require a paradigm shift in the way Surface Warriors train and fulfilling this vision will require adjustments to nearly every aspect and dimension of the human resource elements of Surface Warfare -- from training to career management.

Finally, creating the Naval Surface Warfare Development Command and raising our tactical performance as discussed above will require financial investment in a time when resources are becoming more scarce, and that is exactly why we need to invest in improving our tactical development and training. We cannot simply pay for material solutions to every tactical challenge. The best place to invest is in our people. Surface Warfare Magazine

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