Navy to increase forward presence in Asia Pacific, Middle East
With sequestration cutting surge forces, the U.S. Navy has focused its efforts on being able to deploy forward forces that meet changing defense needs. According to Adm. Mark Ferguson, vice chief of naval operations, the Navy is making plans to increase its forward presence in upcoming years. Ferguson spoke on Aug. 28 aboard the USS George Washington at the Yokosuka naval base, Japan.
"We're operating forward around the globe," he said, detailing future movements and developments in multiple theaters. In the next few years, four Littoral combat ships will join the USS Freedom in Singapore as the U.S. moves to increase joint operations and capabilities as part of the Asia Pacific pivot. The USS Freedom was a cornerstone of the 19th annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training exercise between the U.S. and nine other Asia Pacific countries.
Ferguson also said that the USS Ponce is being pushed as an afloat forward staging base in the Middle East. The ship was scheduled to decommission in 2012, but was instead converted and reassigned to the Navy's 5th Fleet.
"Within in the next year you'll see our first directed energy weapon put on that ship and tested in the Middle East. We're testing railgun and imagine the potential of shooting down missiles with an electromagnetic gun that shoots a projectile where you don't have to store powders and your magazines on a ship anymore."
Railgun is a long-range weapon that fires projectiles using electric pulses instead of traditional propellants at 4,500 to 5,600 mph. Railgun development entered Phase II in 2012, which will transition the technology into an acquisition program.
Ferguson said the Navy is also working on deploying unmanned submarines in the future.
Nicole Grim is an editorial fellow at Defense Systems. Connect with her on Twitter: @nicole_grim.