Operations in the Red Sea: Lessons for Surface Warfare

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This transcript is from a CSIS event hosted on May 14, 2024. Watch the full video here.

Tom Karako: OK, well, thanks, everybody for being here today, and for joining online. I’m Tom Karako. I’m a senior fellow on the International Security Program. And I’m the director of the Missile Defense Project here at CSIS. And we’re delighted to welcome Rear Admiral Fred Pyle, who’s the director of surface warfare division N96, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. So thanks for being here, Admiral Pyle.

This event is hybrid, which means folks can submit questions through the registration page. And we invite you to do so. They’ll then come to my tablet through the magic of CEC and resilient Navy networks, despite what our adversaries are trying to do. So Admiral Pyle started in his current role in June of 2022. And before that, he served as director of Maritime Operations Fleet Forces Command in Norfolk. He served as an officer on CGNs, CGs, and DDG. And his at-sea tours include European Central Command and Pacific Command areas of operation.

So welcome to CSIS, sir.

Rear Admiral Fred Pyle:

 Thank you, Tom.

Dr. Karako: We’re going to – we’re going to hit a lot of things today, including the operational side of acquisition, to how the threat is evolving, to your priorities and visions for surface warfare, and, most notably, what recent events in the Red Sea can teach us. So I wonder if you could just sort of kick us off by talking about your portfolio broadly. What is N96? What’s your job? And how do you kind of think about your overall writ?

RADM Pyle: You bet, Tom. And, again, thanks to CSIS, the entire team, for this opportunity. Really, really excited to be here.

So my portfolio on the CNO staff is, as a surface warfare director, I manage all of our surface combatants. So that’s cruisers, that’s the DDG-1000. That’s destroyers, littoral combat ship, the frigate that is just beginning construction, and then future programs like DDG(X), and all the associated sensors, combat systems, and weapons that go on those platforms. While I am not the resource sponsor for amphibious ships or carriers, my duties apply to the weapons combat systems and sensors that go into those platforms as well. So I oversee those.

We take the strategic guidance – National Security Strategy, National Defense Strategy, National Military Strategy, and then Navy strategy like CNO’s Guidance for America’s Warfighting Navy, that came out earlier this year, with a focus on warfighting, warfighters, and the foundation that supports them, as well as input from our fleets to give us the guidance we need to set requirements. And that’s my primary job, is to set the requirements for these platforms, and then ultimately resource those requirements. So, in a nutshell, that’s what I do as N96 in surface warfare.

Dr. Karako: So let’s big picture. In terms of the strategic environment, the threat environment, from where you sit for requirement setting for that, how do you think about those problems? How have they changed within the course of your career? And what’s the outlook on that look for you?

RADM Pyle: Sure. So I’ve been – I first joined the Navy in 1980 as an enlisted sailor. And I’ve been doing this for about 40 years now. So I joined during the Cold War, then saw the peace dividend, the post-Cold War, and then as we got into the global war on terror, and now we’re back to great power competition. So I’ve seen our maritime strategy, our naval forces evolve through those four decades.

Currently, we’re very much focused on the pacing threat that is China, and making sure we design, we train, we build to be able to counter that threat. We’re paying very close attention to what’s going on in the European theater with Ukraine and Russia, as well as Gaza and, of course, the Red Sea and what the Houthis are doing as a proxy for Iran. I would say we look at it through – I’d say 2+3 lens, right? It’s China and Russia, and then it’s Iran, North Korea, and violent extremism – is how we look at those threats. We set up our operations, activities, investments, and exercises to make sure we’re training to those threats. And we’re prepared to address those should the need be.

Dr. Karako: Well, let me pull the thread a little bit on China as the pacing threat, as the NDS says. What do you see on that front in terms of the care abouts for China, and how they would threaten our surface fleet such that it informs your requirements? What especially about China are you seeing?

RADM Pyle: Sure. So China’s ability to build and the quantity of their force, they’re on a – on a glide slope to get the 400 ships by the end of this decade. Quantity, some say, is a quality. But what I would offer is the capability is also very important. And I think that’s where we have an advantage. We’re currently at 294 in our force. We want to get to 381. And that’s a challenge. That is a challenge. That’s not just a navy challenge. It’s a national challenge.

We will continue to operate forward with our allies and partners. And I think that’s also a decisive advantage that the U.S. has in the number of allies and partners that we have throughout the globe, but especially in that region – for instance, Australia, Japan, Republic of Korea. You know, key allies and partners in the region where we may have a challenge on quantity, we make that up with assistance from allies and partners in the region.

Dr. Karako: Now, you mentioned Ukraine. There have been a lot of interesting UUVs and USVs in terms of employment there, to threaten the Black Sea Fleet. You know, surface torpedoes, otherwise. How do you think about that piece of the threat in particular?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So we’re paying very close attention to all the ongoing conflicts. And we’re taking lessons learned from those. I would say one of the – one of the key initiatives, as a department – as a Department of Defense, we’re taking is what DepSecDef Hicks is leading. And then the Navy contribution to that effort is a Disruptive Capabilities Office. Up until December of last year, it was known as the Unmanned Task Force. But we broadened that recently to make it the Disruptive Capabilities Office. And what that allows us to do is look at the capability gaps we have, identify an existing capability that’s out there in industry, and then procure it much more rapidly than we can through the planning, programming, budgeting execution process. So it gives us another avenue to move quicker in delivering capability to both our forces and allies and partners. I think that’s a key takeaway, at least for the surface force, from what we’re seeing in Ukraine.

Dr. Karako: Well, I know there’s talk about using Project Replicator for, for instance, the CUAS capability, to get that out en masse. Again, from where – you set requirements for the defense of the fleet. How do you think about the demand signal for air and missile defense, for instance?

RADM Pyle: Yeah, Tom, I don’t think it’s ever been stronger. (Laughter.) We are – with what our forces are engaged in the Red Sea right now, we’ve not seen since probably World War II. I mean, those ships are operating inside weapon engagement zones. They have to be prepared on a moment’s notice to conduct engagements. And they have to get it right every single time. And I could not be more proud of how those sailors are performing over the last six months, and also how the systems are performing, given what they’re operating in. These sailors are having to, you know, steam through merchants at night and be able to get set up to conduct an engagement.

And having spent 30 years of my career on destroyers, I’m here to tell you, that’s a difficult task. And to replicate that month, after month, after month – again, they’re performing very well. Specifically, to the integrated air and missile defense piece, the threats they’re engaging are unmanned. They’re anti-ship cruise missiles, they’re anti-ship ballistic missiles. And in each one of those threat groups, again, we’re performing well. And the systems and the sailors are performing as designed, and as trained.

Dr. Karako: Yeah. I think it was the marine commandant in 2019, his planning guidance, that talks about a new era of missile warfare. And part, that speaks to the demand signal that you’re talking about. It also speaks to the demand signal for long-range fires in general. You see our Australian and Japanese friends going after Tomahawk and SM-6, for instance. How do you see that demand signal – and boosting demand signal for long-range for the U.S. Navy, and for some of our friends as well?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. I think it’s – I think it’s a good demand signal, and I think anytime we can – we can have like systems and do co-development and cooperational work with allies and partners, I think that’s the right answer. Bringing as many friends as you can with guns is goodness in a conflict.

Dr. Karako: (Laughs.)

RADM Pyle: So I think those relationships are very strong. I think the ability to, where we can, share that technology, that just makes sense. Again, from a capacity standpoint, it just gives us an advantage.

Dr. Karako: So staying at a pretty high level here, it’s always good to ask the fundamental questions over and over again. How do you think – as head of Surface Warfare, you know, what is the fundamental purposes of the U.S. Navy? What is the fundamental purposes of sea control that inform everything that you do, that’s upstream of everything else?

RADM Pyle: Sure.

Dr. Karako: Big picture.

RADM Pyle: So big picture, I mean, global commerce relies on open communication to the seas, right? The ability – I mean, I’m expecting an Amazon package tonight when I get home.

Dr. Karako: (Laughs.)

RADM Pyle: You know, in part, maritime security contributes to that package getting to my doorstep or your doorstep on time. So that’s one aspect of why the maritime is significant.

You know, numbers: 70 percent of the Earth surface is covered with water; 80 percent of the world’s population lives near the water; you know, 90 percent of global commerce flows on the water. So when you consider how our economy and how the global economy rests on maritime security, I think that provides the relevance of why we need a – why we need a maritime fleet.

Surface Navy operates forward. We conduct sea control. We conduct sea denial. You’re seeing that in the Red Sea right now. You’re seeing that when we conduct transits through the Strait of Taiwan. We can operate anywhere, anyplace, anytime, in accordance with international law, that we choose.

Dr. Karako: And fundamentally, the – you highlighted commerce and global commerce, and that’s the principles of the free sea that, you know, at least for a couple hundred years have been pretty important to what is sometimes called the liberal international order or some version of that. But that’s not to be taken for granted, and there are views of the free sea that perhaps the Chinese and other folks might differ with us on.

RADM Pyle: Sure. And where sovereignty of – if the Indo-Pacific region has been challenged, we want to be there to make sure that we maintain the international rules-based order, and support our allies and treaty partners with maintaining that access.

Dr. Karako: And one of the direct places in which a lot of that’s been going on for shipping and otherwise has been in the Red Sea. So why don’t we – why don’t we go there and talk about, in your words, the players on the field, what they’ve been doing, and what it tells us about surface warfare more broadly.

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So I’ll start, Tom, with last – in October, when the conflict kicked off in Gaza and we started looking at Operation Prosperity Guardian, which stood up a few months after the conflict in Gaza began, we saw the need to maintain flow of shipping through the Gulf of Aden, through the Bab al-Mandab into the Red Sea. We’re at last count I think 24 nations supporting Operation Prosperity Guardian, so always good to have an international face on an effort where you’re trying to maintain the flow of global commerce. The Navy, by operating forward, we were there on station, you know, first with the Ford Strike Group, now with the Eisenhower Strike Group, and we’ve maintained a constant presence there to defend international shipping that is – that is transiting through those – through that strait.

Dr. Karako: There’s also, of course, defense of a partner – partners, plural, in terms of what the various proxies and other folks have been doing there. How have the ships been performing?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. As I mentioned earlier, we could not be more pleased with how they’re performing. It’s evidence of years of investment in design, the Aegis weapons system, of the missiles their shooting, the Standard Missile family. It’s investments in training, both virtual, live, and constructive of how we train. And also, again, the strength – I can’t understate the strength of allies and partners that we have, 24-plus nations supporting us.

So it’s going well. The – again, systems are performing as advertised. And we’re – you know, we’re providing a vital support to the nation of Israel and other partners in that region to try and control any horizontal escalation across that theater.

Dr. Karako: Well, I think just about every defensive system that’s on the Aegis destroyers has been employed. There have been some historic firsts with SM-6 a number of times, SM-3 as well in the most recent salvo. What can you say about the threat? I know the CNO has talked about this. What can you say about kind of the number and types that the Aegis air defenders are having to contend with?

RADM Pyle: Sure. So the primary threats we’re seeing are unmanned and then anti-ship cruise missiles and anti-ship ballistic missiles. Those are the – those are the big three, and – of what their units are seeing. And I also want to emphasize surface combatants and the air wing off the carrier are helping to minimize this threat in current operations. So that’s goodness.

Yes, the Standard Missile family is performing against these threats. You know, we are always – you know, one of the – one of the things I get challenged on is you’re on the wrong side of the cost curve, right? You’re shooting million-dollar missiles at hundred-thousand-dollar drones, and that’s true. And what I would offer, again, is the system is performing exactly as advertised. Admiral Wayne E. Meyer would say, you know, we built it with defense in depth, and it’s performing with defense in depth.

Do we need to find or should we find a more cost-effective way of downing, say, an inexpensive drone? Absolutely. And we’re working towards that, and we have some solutions that I can’t go into, but we are going to get after finding more cost-effective ways to address those lower-end threats.

Dr. Karako: Well, it only took 15 minutes for Wayne Meyer to be named.

RADM Pyle: (Laughs.) I’m a little – I’m a little slow. (Laughs.)

Dr. Karako: I mean, I just – it was just a question of minutes in terms of how long. Other Wayne Meyerisms, of course, are quite welcome.

But you know, just the quantity of these threats, as well as the diversity, I’ll just – I’ll go back to Admiral Meyer for a second, which is the philosophy of Aegis and the philosophy of layered defense, for instance. We also saw, according to USNI and other folks, the historic CIWS engagements. And if that’s being employed, it’s because the threat’s pretty close.

RADM Pyle: Yeah.

Dr. Karako: Talk about the – or say your perspective on layered defense and maybe some lessons that are being divined, or at least being observed, so far there.

RADM Pyle: Yeah, I can speak to that in general. So when we talk about layered defense, if a threat’s coming at a ship, you have a – you have a sequence of engagements, and obviously you want to engage it at the longest possible range to give yourself decision space before that threat flies into the side of your ship. And when you look at missiles like the SM-6, like the SM-2 – those are your longer- to mid-range – and then you get closer into the ship you have the Evolved SeaSparrow Missile and the Rolling Airframe Missile, ESSM and RAM. Those are closer-in defense. And as Tom mentioned, the close-in weapons system is a 25-millimeter gun – correction, 20-millimeter gun that is used for very close. And the theory is that as that threat comes in, should one of those layers fail, you’ve got another layer there. And since the – mid-October, when the Carney conducted her first engagement, these ships have been demonstrating that defense in depth time and time again. So that is goodness. I would also offer – and I want to – you know, I’ve done several tours on aircraft carriers with my air wing teammates, and I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the work that the air wing is doing in the engagements they’re conducting with our aircraft.

Dr. Karako: So staying with kind of the layered defense there, yes, there’s the different interceptors and all that sort of stuff, but detect, control, engage. The first part is detect. The heart of the Aegis system is the SPY. And you know, I think it was the Mason back in 2016, when it was engaging things in the same vicinity, if you don’t see it fast enough, you’re going to well be in a – in a world of hurt. So I guess the question would be, is how would you characterize the SPY, the radar performance, on especially the older DDGs that are – that are operating there with or without the LNA upgrades?

RADM Pyle: Sure. So I would characterize it as effective and operating as designed. So we’ve – as a Navy, we’ve been very focused on readiness. I mean, there’s a reason CNO Franchetti has said warfighting, which sets a priority on current readiness and our ability to fight tonight. So we’ve made – we’ve made the right investments in SPY. It’s performing well.

One thing I’ll point out that was a learning factor for us is as these engagements took place, we found the ability to take those engagements, take the data, bring it back here to CONUS, and do a quick assessment with our warfare tactics instructors. These are – these are specialists in their field, in integrated air and missile defense. And you may think, well, that’s kind of like, you know the 5,000-mile reach back and somebody reading your homework. But it’s the – those ships that are operating have received it well. And it’s a quick assessment of, hey, your engagement was spot on, keep pressing; or, hey, maybe here’s an area you want to improve in. So it’s that rapid-turnaround learning that we’ve been able to apply, and then we’re also applying that to the next deploying groups that are heading out. So there’s a tremendous amount of learning going on there, and the ability to just provide forceful backup to those operating to say, yeah, that was exactly right; or, here’s how you might want to tweak your next engagement.

Dr. Karako: And moving from the SPY to the combat system, the baselines. You know, you’ve got some older Flight I DDGs that have had some baseline improvements, and how are you seeing that holding up more broadly?

RADM Pyle: Yeah, holding up well. So, getting into the geek world a little bit, Aegis has multiple baselines. When I was a lieutenant, I think there were –

Dr. Karako: Geek it up. That’s what you’re here for.

RADM Pyle: Yeah. There were – there were 12 baselines. Today, we’re at about five. And ultimately, we want to get to one – one baseline. Because you can imagine if you have five different baselines – you know, if you had five different baselines of your phone and you were trying to, you know, interoperate with other users, you can see issues. You know, they may not be completely compatible, slightly different software issues, slightly different training issues. When you’re doing the maintenance, that’s a challenge. So we want to get to this one baseline, and that’s ultimately called Integrated Combat Systems is where we want to go.

Before I get into that, we have a very good modernization program for our Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. There are 74 ships in the fleet. We’ve been modernizing them since about 2011. We’re currently going through a DDG mod that’s going to upgrade 25 of the Flight II-Alpha ships so that’s the middle tranche of the ships. And it’s keeping those ships very relevant. And when I say modernization, we’re modernizing the combat systems.

Dr. Karako: That’s great. And you know, I mean, you’re talking a little bit between the seamless or closer interoperability of different baselines, but this most recent – last month’s engagement of these, you know, 330 objects from Iran also involved a lot of our allies and partners, or at least several allies and partners, which includes different operating systems entirely. So how would you speak to anything that you’ve observed in terms of partnering with the Jordanians or the Brits or anybody else, for instance?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So what I can speak to there is we work – you know, for that engagement, we really worked with our partners at Missile Defense Agency, who was the organization that procures the Standard Missile-3. And we work with them on interoperability issues. We have a close relationship. So while I own the combat systems and the modernization of that capability, I make sure I stay aligned with my Missile Defense Agency counterparts anytime it comes to the ballistic missile defense process.

So we have a very good relationship. It’s been a longstanding relationship. Think back to the Phased Adaptive Approach of circa 2008, when we started defense of Israel and defense of Europe. And the fruits of our labor have paid off in what you saw from the good ship – the two Arleigh Burke-class destroyers that participated in the defense of Israel during that engagement.

Dr. Karako: Well, I know the Navy doesn’t like tethers and all that sort of stuff for that mission, but, boy, it’s certainly proving to be useful. And the secretary of the Navy was testifying to that very point, that, boy, we’re going to need some more of those SM-3s. And we’ll come back to that in just a bit.

But it’s not just the hardware, of course. There’s been a lot of innovation. And so I wonder if you could talk about what you’re seeing from the sailors, from the warfighters in the Red Sea in kind of lessons learned, whether it’s adaptability or innovation. What are they doing and figuring out on the fly?

RADM Pyle: Sure. So it goes back to investments we made in training. So you mentioned – you mentioned 2016 and the Mason and its engagements, and there were – there were some issues that we learned through those engagements. So these were similar engagements in the Red Sea if you’re not familiar with that background. But we took those lessons learned, as well as the lessons we learned – we learned from some accidents we had on ships during that same timeframe, and we made a lot of investments in training – in maritime skills training, just our ability to drive the ship in that kind of environment. And we have now some world-class simulators for driving ships, similar to our aviation counterparts.

We made investments in live and virtual constructive training. What does that mean? When we’re operating off the coast of Norfolk or off the coast of San Diego and doing our training, we can set up an environment that is very stressful for that watch stander that will – that will replicate what they’ll likely see in theater. And that’s paying off.

We also do virtual operator and virtual – virtual operator training, virtual maintenance training. So these are simulators to train the operator – the enlisted operator that’s, say, running a SPY radar or operating the Aegis combat systems. And we can do that in a classroom under a skilled trainer. So those investments have really paid off. And that’s roughly about $6 billion over the last 10 years, which is a lot, but I think we’re seeing the return on that investment now on how the ships are performing in the Red Sea.

Dr. Karako: Well, on this – on this topic, training and such, I think you have a video if you – this would be a good time.

RADM Pyle: I do, yeah.

Dr. Karako: OK. So why don’t we – why don’t we spool that up.

 (A video presentation is shown.)

Dr. Karako: Staying with kind of some of the lessons learned, we’ve got a question that’s come in from Eric from the U.S. Navy. I don’t know anything other than Eric. But Sailor Eric is asking about lessons with respect to combat logistics, and particularly he says with respect to ordnance management and combat reloading.

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So, Eric, thanks for the question.

There are two parts, one on contested logistics. This is an area where we’re very much focused on in all of our exercises and our activities. We have – the CNO has our Nav Plan Implementation Framework. One of the elements of the Nav Plan Implementation Framework is contested logistics. So that’s how we take into account what the to-be state – or, what the current state is, and the to-be state of where we need to get to.

On the munition side, one thing the conflict you just saw in the video has taught us is, one, we need to increase our munition stocks. And, two, we need to have the – need to have the ability to reload and resupply anywhere in the globe. So those are the two key lessons that have been driven home by both Ukraine and the Red Sea. And we have worked to do in the expeditionary reload capability. But we do have some capability and we’re working towards being more expeditionary in where we can – we are on platforms.

Dr. Karako: Well, on that exact topic, you just – John Ridge asked the question, has the experience in the Red Sea prompted the U.S. Navy to increase its total munition requirements formally? Or is that more in the sense of, hey, we ought to do that?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So what I would say, John, is, again, it’s put a very fine point, a bold, an underline on the need to increase our weapons inventory. We have – you know, it had not been a focus area, I would say, before this. You know, like anything we’ve – there’s a lot of tough choices you need to make on do you procure more munitions, do you procure more spares. Those kinds of trade-offs. We’re very focused on getting our munitions inventories increased. So we’ve given that demand signal to industry over the last several budgets. And now we’re talking max sustaining rate, not minimum sustaining rate.

And anytime we can get to a multiyear program on munitions, I think it’s good for both the Navy and it’s good for industry. It sends a clear demand signal to our industry partners of what we expect over the course of that multiyear, and it allows us some predictability on what we’re going to have each year on stocks. We are – we are closely managing all the weapons inventories now. But we’re in a – we’re in a sustainable position right now, given what we’re seeing in the Red Sea.

Dr. Karako: Great. Well, let me talk a little bit – I know this is of interest. We were talking about just before. The much-ballyhooed cost exchange ratio question. You’ve alluded to this. You mentioned earlier about the desire to get to cheaper cost per kill. You know, whether it’s using an SM-2 take out a drone, or what have you. At the same time, that’s tough. And there’s only so many VLS cells. And you got to get in close to use the CIWS, as you were saying. And that that’s not necessarily something you want to do.

So how do you think about the cost exchange ratio? How do you think about cost versus value in terms of the value of what is being defended, and other calculations? And how do you calculate the cost exchange? What’s the end – and what’s the – what’s the numerator of the denominator? Is it just the round or is it, frankly, the platform and the overall mission that gets you there, and the O&M as well?

RADM Pyle: Sure. So, first, you’ve seen – you’ve seen the supplemental submitted. And, you know, you heard Secretary Del Toro testify. We’ve expended about a billion dollars in munitions since last October. So we’re always looking for assistance to replenish those, and in the form of a supplemental. But we’ve also got plans in place to recertify rounds. So these are rounds that are potentially a little bit older, to get those recertified and bring them back in stock.

On the – on the cost exchange, I mean, first and foremost, it’s, you know, are we executing the mission? You know, are we executing the mission to defend whatever we’re tasked to do? And the answer, I can say, without a doubt, is, yes. We are executing that mission. We’re executing it well. I talked a little bit about existing capabilities that are more cost effective. And we’re looking at those. We’re doing that through the Replicator Initiative and the Disruptive Capabilities process, to see if we can – those are capabilities we could field. And we’re always looking for opportunities to field those lower-cost capabilities.

Dr. Karako: But, again, back to the Wayne Meyer principle of layered defense, and all that, allowing the threat to come in closer so that you can kill it with something cheaper may require a different risk tolerance, it may require a different kind of doctrine. And that – you know, if you’re a commander of the ship and you’re like, I couldn’t possibly shoot that incoming threat because then it’s a criteria, and you know, the cost-exchange ratio, well, that’s crazy, of course.

RADM Pyle: Yeah.

Dr. Karako: So it’s a little harder to get there, not just for the technology and the unit costs, but it’s some doctrinal. And it’s greater risk.

RADM Pyle: Yeah. I mean, first and foremost, we’ll sure that the first entry is safety of the crew and those who are operating. You know, the fleet will get a vote on this, on how they’re going to operate with it. And ultimately, we won’t field something if it’s going to increase risk that is unacceptable. But if there is a capability that can give us – give us that offset to provide a more economical way of killing things, then that’s something we’re going to pursue. But the fleet will get a vote on exactly how we go about that.

Dr. Karako: Right. So the other piece of this isn’t just the kit. It’s also the op tempo and the sustainability. And it’s not just refilling VLSes, but the crew. So what kind of lessons are you and your colleagues seeing about the sustainability, and the O&M, and all that sort of stuff? They’re keyed up 24 hours a day. How sustainable is that?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So we’re very much focused on that, because for the first time in a long time we have – we have folks coming home from combat action – extended combat action. So we want to make sure, first and foremost, we take care of the sailor. Because they’re going from a, you know, 24/7/365 on watch at a very high tempo to now I’m going to integrate back into whatever my family life is back home. So we’re making sure we pay the right level of attention there to give them that chance to reintegrate into, you know, what is your shore duty, back ashore.

We’re also looking closely at fatigue, and how we manage fatigue. So we have some early development innovation in wearing the Oura Ring to measure, you know, a person’s stress, and taking that into account of how much sleep they’re getting and how well they’re doing just physically on when they take the watch. You know, so those are new innovative things that did not exist when I was a captain of a ship, or a strike group commander, or operating at sea. And I think those – that is goodness that we’re bringing into the community, because it gives us metrics on, hey, is this sailor ready to actually take the watch? You know, do I have some other objective measure, other than, you know, put me in, Captain, I’m ready to go, you know?

Dr. Karako: And, of course, also just ship rotations, and but also ship repair. And, you know, ship modernization and DDG fleet more broadly, how is it – is it adversely affecting that process.

RADM Pyle: So right now, Tom, no. There is a strong demand signal for the surface Navy, as you can see throughout the globe. But we still have our modernization plans in place, we still have our ship repair plans in place. And with the ship repair, we take a quarterly look at the loading in each of the fleet concentration areas – so, San Diego, Mayport, Norfolk, Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, et cetera. And then we do also a three-year prediction of what that loading looks like. And we do that to give those private yards the longest possible set of headlights that we can, so they can manage their workforce, and then definitize the contracts for those repairs as soon as possible so they can get the gear in there and we can have a success availability, and have that ship deliver on time.

Dr. Karako: Very good. And what about really more the – kind of the reload question? How do you think about the at sea reloads for VLSes?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So for the group, when you – when you talk about at-sea reload, these are big rounds. They’re very large weapons. And the at-sea environment is kind of unforgiving. And the last thing you want to do is damage a round when you’re trying to transfer it into a vertical launch system. So that’s a challenge. We don’t have that capability right now, but we’re working towards achieving that capability, which is the expeditionary reload capability. Not in my portfolio, but my teammates that work expeditionary warfare and logistics are doing a tremendous amount of work on that effort. We’ve done some demonstrations. We just need to get to a point where we can operationalize it, normalize it across the fleet.

Dr. Karako: Well, let me kind of close out the Red Sea part by quoting one of my mentors. And he’s part of the CSIS Missile Defense brain trust, Admiral Arch Macy, who has pounded into me that the purpose of air defense is not to defend, it’s to defend long enough to defend the – to end the threat by other means. Which is to say, the relationship between active defense and everything else we do – whether it’s diplomacy or whether it’s attack ops. So how are you seeing the playing catch that these Aegis ships are doing in terms of buying time, decision space, and all this sort of stuff for whether it’s Tomahawks going into silence the launchers. How well is that relationship working, would you say?

RADM Pyle: Sure. So in the case of the Red Sea, we’ve been at it since last October. And that’s combined with offensive strikes as well, which you’ve heard about. I mean, ultimately, you know, the Navy is not going to solve that problem, right? There are broader issues there that that need to be solved at a policy level. But do we have the capability to get after those long-range strikes? Yes. Do we have the – do we have the capacity and capability? Yes, we do. Whether you’re talking in the Red Sea, or whether you’re talking elsewhere on the ability to go offensive. Longer term, when we look at, like, a platform like DDG(X), we do value our missile launchers, the ability to get to hypersonic weapons. So that’s a longer-term approach that I think Admiral Macy would be pleased with, of, you know, what we’re talking about in offensive capability.

Dr. Karako: Well, that’s a great segue to kind of the acquisition side of the house more broadly. You know, the Red Sea is showing – we’re doing great in terms of intercepting a lot of stuff, numbers, and diversity, and lots of different kinds of attacks, and structure of attacks. And yet, this is not the big league. These are the – Iran, and the proxies, and all this other sort of stuff. So as you think about the magnitude of the problem, you know, how and to what extent –you mentioned munitions requirements, and from a formal thing. But in terms of long-range inventory objectives, in terms of, goodness gracious, what’s it going to take to be able to buy time against China, right, are we learning – are we taking the lessons to heart sufficiently, given that this is going to be an order of magnitude more with the pacing threat?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. I believe we are, Tom. And we’re doing that both near term and long term. So very focused on current readiness. That applies globally on our ability, wherever our ships are operating, they need to be ready to fight tonight. Longer term, I talked about DDG modernization. That’s a $17 billion program over 17 years. We’re putting SPY-6, Aegis Baseline 10 in the latest electronic warfare package on to 25 of our Flight IIA ships. So that’s long-term capability that will be able to perform in the high-end fight against any adversary.

Frigate program, we’ve started building the FFG-62 Constellation-class frigate up in Everett – or, excuse me – in Marinette, Wisconsin. And so we’re getting back in the frigate business after being out of it for 30 years. That’s goodness. A frigate has destroyer-like capability at a lower price tag, which we like. And we also need more smaller surface combatants with that capability.

And then finally, DDG(X), which will be a program that kicks off next decade, that’s the next hull form to follow the very successful Arleigh Burke-class program. And that’s going to allow us to land things like directed energy and larger missile launchers to get after threats that we know we’re going to have to be able to address going forward.

Dr. Karako: So you’re creating requirements, sort of demand signal to some extent. But on the supply side, you know, how are you observing, how are you thinking about some of the restrictions that are usually put forward, you know, in terms of the bottlenecks for industry, whether it’s post-COVID supply chain things, still recovering from that, whether it be inflation, material cost, availability, et cetera, et cetera? How are you seeing that? And what is the Navy doing to help alleviate that?

RADM Pyle: Sure. So some of you may have seen the recent release, 45-day shipbuilding review. That review talks about some of the challenges we, I say, Navy and industry, and the acquisition community are having in shipbuilding. The dialogue is very good with all of our industry partners. I just returned from a trip down to Huntington Ingalls in Pascagoula, Bollinger Shipyard, and Austal Shipyard. So we have a very close relationship, working relationship, with our industry partners.

So we understand when there are green labor issues, where the workforce that they have isn’t as experienced as we’d like them to be. We understand regional issues like, you know, housing may be a challenge, childcare – those fundamental things that you need. And also the propensity to want to work in a shipyard, go into the trades, and be a welder, be a pipefitter, work in that environment when there are competing wages outside that don’t involve working in a shipyard.

So, I think that’s well understood from the Navy, from industry, from Congress. And we’re collectively working to address each of those issues and incentivize, you know, America’s youth to say, hey, I’d be willing to serve in the trades and, you know, build and repair ships. That’s a – you know, that’s a career, you know, winning program that I could get into. So I think that dialogue is very positive. Still a lot of work to do to correct all those issues to get moving in the right direction.

Dr. Karako: You said a couple minutes ago, you know, if we can get to alter your procurement on these things, that it’s goodness. So the question then is some in the past, PBEs have been requested for certain munitions and others have not been. What is your thinking – what is your thought process? What is the strategy for ascertaining, yes, it makes sense to go multiyear on this, no, it doesn’t?

RADM Pyle: Sure. So, first, it’s got to start with a threat. I mean, does that capability address a threat that that we need to threat – that we need to – we need to address? Is the maturity of the design and the round where it needs to be, to where we’re comfortable saying, yeah, let’s enter a – let’s enter a multiyear agreement? And then does it compete? Does it compete in the budget environment we’re in?

So and each program is unique in its own way. You know, so standard missile program, SM-2, SM-6, very mature, currently demonstrating. They have – they’ve got a lot of capability. So that’s the – that’s the approach and that’s the mindset that we go through. We do that, obviously, in close coordination with all of our acquisition teammates. I set the requirements, but the acquisition side and is it executable is another question. But I think we work extremely well together to make those calls on when is the right time to shift to a multiyear for a program.

Dr. Karako: Fair enough. And in terms of – you alluded to the supplemental already – but how is that going to alleviate – to the extent it’s known – how’s that going to alleviate some of these capacity things, do you think?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So I think there’s potential there for assistance in what we’re doing on counter UAS, on countering the unmanned aerial systems. Keep in mind, you know, September of last year we didn’t know we were going to be in a fight in the Red Sea and expending the amount of munitions that we’ve expended over the last seven, eight months. So, you know, any assistance we can get there is goodness. But it also drives home the point and it emphasizes the need to increase munitions across the board. So I think that’s positive.

Dr. Karako: All right. Well, shifting to kind of shipbuilding more broadly, which has also got some multiyear efforts, you know, have to go there. You know, the CNO went over to, I think, it was South Korea and Japan recently, and came back and pretty impressed with the efficiency, the on time, on budget that some of our partners are doing there. It’s hard. There’s a lot of factors that make shipbuilding hard. And yet at the same time, you highlighted it, the number of ships that, you know, China’s cranking out is getting kind of scary. How can we get after that? There was just this 45-day shipbuilding study that came out, that’s caused a lot of consternation. How do we get better at that?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. I mean, first, it’s the dialogue I mentioned, with industry, making sure that we all have a shared sight picture on what the problem is, and some of the – some of the recurring problems are the green workforce. It’s the – I’ll call it the infrastructure at our – at our building yards that support people wanting to flow in there, whether it’s housing, whether it’s daycare, whether it’s quality of life on wanting to go into the trades. So that dialogue is positive.

Congress has been very supportive when we identify those issues and help flow funds to those industry partners to help them make capital investments to address those issues. We’re seeing capital improvements across our industry partners, whether it’s automating the supply process on how to flow parts, you know, from outside the yard to the point of need in the yard, the ability to get ships, you know, from the land into the – into the water, and not having sliding down ways. So we’re seeing that progress. But we just need to move quicker. And we need more of it in every area.

Dr. Karako: All right. In terms of really the number of the fleet, but also the makeup. This is kind of back to the changing strategic environment. How would you characterize, again, from where you sit, the relative makeup of the fleet? Cruisers, versus frigates, versus destroyers, versus carriers – what aspects, what qualities of the threat that you’re seeing are going to be shaping that disposition?

RADM Pyle: Sure. So I’ll speak to the surface force. So we’re made up by large surface combatants. So there’s destroyers, cruisers, DDG-1000. Small surface combatants, which are the frigate and the littoral combat ship. And then unmanned. And, you know, right now we have 74 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers. We want to grow that number a little bit. On small surface combatants, that’s the number we want to grow the most. So the frigates, we really want to make sure we start getting in the business of building frigates and grow that number. Because we need more capable small surface combatants.

And then the unmanned space – my contribution to the unmanned are things like large, unmanned surface vessel. That’s an adjunct magazine that we can launch missiles from. And it increases that capacity for the fleet. When we talked about, you know, the value of having these missiles out there. So large unmanned surface vessel’s a way to increase that capacity. Medium unmanned surface vessel is another unmanned craft that we can put payloads on. It could be something to counter C5ISRT capability. There’s many things you could put on that truck. And then there’s small unmanned surface vessels that provide another capability.

So that’s the lens I view the force development through, centered around carrier strike groups, centered around 31 amphibs, and then, of course, our submarine fleet, and what we’re doing on production there.

Dr. Karako: But, since you brought up the USVs, given that we have not had a lot of those in the past but we’re clearly shifting in that direction, how are we to think about the manned-unmanned mix? And then, likewise, how would you – how do you think about the O&M for those floating magazines, unattended magazines?

RADM Pyle: Sure. So I see a future where in the next several decades you could see a 60 percent manned, 40 percent unmanned surface force, when you talk about these capabilities that I just went through – on large, medium, and small unmanned surface vessels. We’re doing a lot of work with our partners at Office of Naval Research, Naval Research Lab, industry, to get to where these platforms can operate for extended period of time. And, you know, think weeks where we don’t want to put a sailor on board, that this thing is just out there operating, doing whatever its mission is assigned. So from an O&M cost, from operation and maintenance, we want to get to where we minimize the amount of time that we’re putting a sailor on these platforms. That’s the future. We’re not there yet, but we’re making the investments to get there and have that be the to-be state of unmanned-manned integration.

Dr. Karako: And I’ve got to ask about not just the destroyers, but the Aegis cruisers, the Ticos. They’re being decommissioned during that process. There’s a lot of VLS tubes that are going to go away with the loss of those. And Congress has been kind of resistant on that. What’s going on there?

RADM Pyle: Yes. I have that conversation with my congressional teammates –

Dr. Karako: Regularly, I’m sure.

RADM Pyle: Regularly, yes. So, yes, the cruisers’ average age right now – I think we’re at about 34 years out of a 35-year expected service life. I’ve served on cruisers. They’re near and dear to my heart. But they are end – they are at the end of their service life. And we need to transition from those hulls. Yep, they have a lot of VLS cells. And one way we’re mitigating the loss of those VLS cells is through the large unmanned surface vessel and that adjunct magazine. Frigate will also help alleviate that, as the frigate comes online. And the other piece that we’re working on is the most efficient and effective way to employ weapons.

We talked a little bit about this in Red Sea, but it applies to every theater. So we have an initiative called terminal defense where we work with our partners up at Johns Hopkins and make sure we go through all the modeling and the process to have the most effective and efficient use, to include soft kill alternatives, right? I’ve grown up where we always like putting a missile on a missile. We like hard kill at max range. That’s very comfortable, to see stuff blow up like you saw in the smoke and fire video. But me and those that follow me need to get comfortable with the soft kill process, non-kinetic effects that that are effective and allow us to keep another missile in the magazine.

Dr. Karako: So moving to kind of some other components on the ships, starting perhaps with the ICS, the Integrated Combat System, effort. You know, how much – the Aegis Combat System, again, Wayne Meyers’ baby, as you transition from the ACS to the ICS, how are we going to make sure that the best of the Aegis is not lost? Is in some ways that vision being applied to the whole Navy, eating the Navy? The Navy eating Aegis? Or something else entirely?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. It’s a great point. So I can’t express how important Integrated Combat Systems is. I think it’s one of the biggest transitions in the Navy since we transitioned from sail to steam or started landing aircraft on ships. I think it’s that significant. Two points. There’s a business case for ICS, meaning that – it goes back to all those baselines I talked about. If we can get out of that business and get to one, we become much more efficient. And it’s much more cost effective. When we want to do an upgrade to a future carrier strike group or insidious ready group that is ICS capable, we can do that upgrade not quite like you done your phone when you say you have to update your iOS, but that’s the – that’s the to-be state we want to get to, where you have information as a service. That’s the business case.

The warfighting case is, you’re going to have a capability where the operators compare any weapon to any sensor to any shooter and conduct those engagements. It’s that critically important. To the point – I mean, it’s a great topic. We discuss – we ask your exact question to ourselves about the father of Aegis and Wayne –

Dr. Karako: What would he say? (Laughs.)

RADM Pyle: Yeah. I mean, what would – what would Admiral Meyers say? I think all the goodness of Aegis that’s been around for over the last 40 years will continue, because you’re taking the code of Aegis, and you’re taking the code of ship self-defense, and you’re merging that into one code. We’re not going to throw out all the best practices we’ve developed with Aegis over four decades. That’ll be – that’s in our DNA. And, again, it’s playing out extremely well right now on what your return on investment is for Aegis. But, no, so I think that’ll stay a core element of how we do business. Just the efficiency and the effectiveness of how we do combat systems upgrade is going to greatly improve. And then the end state is you’ve got a much better system for the warfighter, that allow them to be effective against those high-end threats.

Dr. Karako: So let’s talk radars. A lot of SPY ones out there. Yes, the SPY-6 is coming online with the Flight IIIs. That’s great. Jack Lucas is in the water. But the SPY-1 production line is going away. How do you think about that in terms of risk, in terms of spares, in terms of maintenance, and all that sort of stuff?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So we’re going to develop a – we’ve developed a rotatable pool of SPY-1s. So you’re going to see SPY-1s in the fleet through I think, we calculated 19 – or – 2067, at least, given the service life. So that radar system is going to be around for a while. So we’ve developed a long-term supply and resourcing rotatable pool to where, if a radar fails or radar gets damaged in a shipyard where something swings into it, we’ve got a pool that we can pull from and be able to replace those, to include the components, so we get in front of any obsolescence issues of a system that has been around for four decades and it’s going to be around for three more decades. So I think we postured ourselves well. That’s an investment we got to maintain. You know, continue to invest in so we have that capability when we need it.

Dr. Karako: So, but on the Aegis sparing, I mean, are there SPY-1 battle spares? Or is it just components?

RADM Pyle: I would say, yes. And sparing – again, this is a little bit like the story I talked about on munitions. We’ve taken risk in the past. We didn’t value maximum sustaining rate. Same is true of sparing. We’ve acknowledged the need to improve on spares. We’ve made significant investments, as you’ve seen, in in PB ’24 and PB ’25. And that’s something we’re going to remain committed to, to make sure that spares across the fleet are where they need to be. Because the signpost for you have an issue in sparing is cannibalizations. You know, are we taking parts off another ship to make one ship whole? And those numbers were not going in the right direction. So we’ve made the necessary adjustments and we’re making the investments in spares.

Dr. Karako: I’m thinking of the components on the Ticos, for instance.

RADM Pyle: Yes. Yeah.

Dr. Karako: Yeah. OK, let’s move to missiles. I mentioned the secretary the Navy saying, hey, you know, we’re going to go buy some more SM-3 1Bs. Unfortunately, the Missile Defense Agency zeroed out that line in PB ’25. That strikes me as unfortunate. They were used to good effect for a historical first last month. What are you thinking about that? This is – this is a round that, again, is in somebody else’s budget, but do you believe that the Navy is going to advocate a demand signal for the SM-3, which historically has been, again, less of a priority, I would say?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So we – you know, we have the Missile Defense Executive Board, is the process we use within all of DOD to address integrated air missile defense capability needs. And that process, I think, is effective. The dialogue between our OSD partners and Missile Defense Agency is very positive. So I think that’s goodness. I think we have the inventory we need right now, with where we’re going on the SM-3 inventory.

Dr. Karako: Even with returning the line?

RADM Pyle: I believe we do.

Dr. Karako: OK.

RADM Pyle: Yeah. I believe we do. And, again, it’s a constant dialogue with our – with our MDA teammates and our OSD teammates to make sure we have that correct inventory. But the necessary conversation is going on to get after that.

Dr. Karako: OK. Well, Navy missile, on the other hand, the SM-6, that’s the Swiss Army knife, multi mission, and it’s going to a full 21-inch round with the – with the 1B. How do you see the numbers that are being pumped out on that? It looks like the Navy just can’t get enough of them. And, again, they’ve been used to good effect here in recent weeks. So what’s the future of the 1B? And do you see the industrial base able to supply enough of them?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So I talked – we talked about shipbuilding industrial base. Some of those issues apply to the munitions industrial base. And here again we’ve had great dialogue with our industry partners, OSD, and the Hill. And I think we all have a good sight picture on what we need to do. We’ve got great support from all of those stakeholders. Again, Congress has been very supportive of supporting industry where they need assistance. And I do believe – I mean, from my perspective, we want to go faster on everything, right? We want it yesterday.

And but we understand the timeline that takes when – once we’ve properly resourced industry, and what it takes to get to a maximum sustaining rate, you know, for the SM-6. We are going to get there. And I believe, you know, we’ve got the right funding in place and the right ramp as we go forward. But it’s something we’re going to pay close attention to, given the value of that weapon.

Dr. Karako: You brought the SMs a number of times today, but there’s still this concept being explored, the Navy Modular Missile. When is that coming? Is it coming? And how can that be fit together in the best way with our current SM family?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So Navy Modular Missile was still a concept, not a program of record. It’s something we, as a requirements shop, are thinking about, and we’re discussing it with our teammates over at Program Executive Office, Integrated Warfare Systems, as well as industry partners. So the theory is that you have a common front end that is very capable, and then you vary the back end, the rocket on that weapon, to the range you need. So it could be a small rocket for close in, it could be a medium sized rocket for medium range, and then you get a larger rocket for long range.

And we believe there’ll be a lot of efficiency, cost effectiveness in that approach as we go forward. And there could also be some benefit of dual packing, quad packing whatever the munition is, which takes those critical VLS cells we’ve talked about and gives you more capability, more inventory, in those VLS cells.

Dr. Karako: Last two surface navy shows I’ve been at there’s been discussion about maritime MSE for just what you’re alluding to there, taking the Army’s round, the PAC-3 MSE, and putting it perhaps in quantity into VLS. How are you thinking about that?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So we are considering the PAC-3. We’ve recently – you probably saw in the press a few weeks ago where we had a successful land-based test out west. And the next step is we’re going to do a – we’re going to do an at-sea-based test later on. And the beauty of that round is it’s been very effective over the years, and they’re producing it at significant numbers.

Dr. Karako: And there’s – yeah, a lot there’s a lot more coming off the line of MCEs than there is SM-6s.

RADM Pyle: So yes. We’re taking a look at that. There’s still much analysis to do. Again, we’re working with APL to make sure that is the best fit on that valuable VLS space. But it is something we’re looking into.

Dr. Karako: Look, if the Army can buy Tomahawks, you know, maybe it goes both ways. (Laughter.) We’ll see.

You’ve also got torpedoes in your portfolio. What trend lines – what’s changing there, especially in terms of the – again, the return to the bigs?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So from an ASW perspective, you know, first it starts from a theater ASW perspective, the P-8, great addition to the fleet on how that aircraft performs. Embarked on our ships we have the MH-60 Romeo, which has a great ASW capability. And then the suite that resides in our destroyers, the SQQ-89 Alpha Victor 15, with a multifunction total array, very good piece of kit. On the frigate, we’re going to put variable depth sonar on that platform. And that has been very effectively used with our allies and partners. And we continue to develop and look for improvements in all things, anti-submarine warfare, whether it’s what we use for our towed systems or what weapons we’re putting on our P-8 or the helicopters.

Dr. Karako: You’ve alluded a couple times to cheaper solutions and things like that. What are – what’s the Navy learning – what’s N96 learning from the HELIOS on the USS Preble? Some other – it’s not just about lasers. Sometimes there’s moisture and fog, and not necessarily always conducive to that. But other directed-energy systems broadly, how do you see the realistic prospect and limitations for that class?

RADM Pyle: Yeah, Tom, we’re – this is an area that, boy, the payoff is huge if we could figure out how to – how to have a bottomless magazine weapon.

Dr. Karako: (Laughs.)

RADM Pyle: So we’re committed to directed energy. The technological challenge is there and it’s expensive. And we’ve been working on this as a force for probably about two decades, and we have exactly one laser weapon in the fleet right now, as you mentioned, on the – on the good ship Preble.

We want to be able to get to this capability. Some of the challenges: the capability to generate power, cooling, and support for the weapon. So we’re building that SWaP-C – that’s space, weight, power, cooling – into our frigates and the DDG(X) so that when we do crack this nut, when we solve this technology problem of getting to directed-energy weapons, we’ll be able to land it on future platforms. Whether it’s high-powered lasers or whether it’s high-powered microwave, we are making investments to demonstrate those technologies. So we remain committed to that; it’s just proving challenging.

Dr. Karako: You know, again, the size of the power for the big threats is a lot more onerous than the smaller stuff. Certainly, Army’s investments there is being seen in spades. But the quantity of the – of the lower-end threats – you know, the putting of, let’s say, just basic counter-UAS capabilities on the decks of ships in the near term or smaller, lower-kilowatt systems but on the deck of the ship or wherever to defend itself, especially in the near term – you know, what’s the prospect for surging counter-UAS capability there?

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So right now it’s – I’d say we’re in development on some of those capabilities I talked about where we’re looking for the Red Sea. We’re going to work to demonstrate some of those things in the near term at sea. And then, based on how they perform – and back to what we talked about of, you know, how the – how the fleet views them and if it’s – if it’s meeting fleet intent – you know, then we’ll start scaling if it – if it meets expectation.

From a directed-energy standpoint, yeah, there’s opportunity there. But again, it’s in small numbers, and we need to get to longer ranges, higher power, more successful demonstrations before we start scaling.

Dr. Karako: Hyper velocity projectiles?

RADM Pyle: We’re taking a look at that as a capability for sure as a potential counter-UAS. That is one system we’re considering.

Dr. Karako: Now, there’s an unsinkable destroyer in the Pacific, Guam, and the air and missile defense of Guam is getting a whole heck of a lot of attention.

RADM Pyle: Yeah.

Dr. Karako: Of course, the Navy does not – again, doesn’t like tethers, and wants to defend the fleet and do all the other many multi-mission things that the Aegis ships do. But the Aegis weapon system will be presumably part of the defense of Guam. The Army, of course, is the lead there. But regardless of the Navy’s role on island and for the defense of dirt, whatever the operational role there is, there’s going to need to be lots of connectivity between Aegis Afloat and the Aegis weapon system on Guam, for instance. And so operationally, in terms of requirements, can you speak to your discussions with whether it’s MDA and the Army on how there can be the best connectivity and interoperability at minimum between those various systems?

RADM Pyle: Sure. Sure. So, to your point, we don’t like defending dirt from dirt as a Navy; we like defending dirt from the sea. So that’s our approach.

Yeah, given the fact that I talked about 70 percent of the ocean (sic; Earth) is covered with water and we have a – we have a very capable integrated air and missile defense capability, yes, that’s something that we are going to be called upon to do by the combatant commanders. We understand that.

We do have a good dialogue in the – in the – for the defense of Guam with MDA, with our Army partners. And there’s been a steady battle rhythm over the last nine-plus month on architectures and how we’re going to manage on that architecture and also how we’re going to operate the systems. So MDA has the lead on the majority of that design, and that’s progressing well I believe. And, yeah, Navy will have a small, small contribution to that to do our part.

Dr. Karako: All right. Well, we’ll figure out who operates it in the fullness of time.

So moving to space, the sea-enabled-by-space effort, we’ve got a question here from one of our own, Annalise Johnson, who’s a researcher with the Aerospace Security Project here at CSIS. And she wants to know if you could speak to the Navy’s cooperation with the Space Force broadly.

RADM Pyle: Sure. Yeah. So I think the standup of the Space Force and SPACECOM, the combatant command, is very positive. We have – we have good interaction with both commands. Navy’s contribution in space domain awareness is significant. And now the fact that we have a single service and a single combatant command to provide the coordination of that, that’s been very positive.

As far as domains go in the next conflict and the significance of domains, I think the space domain is one of the most significant domains going forward given what they’re going to provide in the architecture for us to communicate and our ability to conduct a long-range fight. Extremely important mission set, and that relationship has been very positive.

Dr. Karako: Great.

Well, we’ve covered a lot of ground – or, excuse me, we’ve covered a lot of surface area –

RADM Pyle: (Laughs.)

Dr. Karako: – today. I wonder if you – you already mentioned this earlier, but if you could talk a little bit about recruitment and what you might say to somebody that, say, was in high school or college and thinking about a career in the Navy.

RADM Pyle: Sure, happy to. So, I mean, right now recruiting is an existential threat I’d say not only to the Navy, but to many of the services. Just as numbers, two years ago recruiting numbers, we were short about 7,400. This year, voting’s still out, but we remain challenged getting to get to our numbers. So that’s a problem. And what we’re finding is the propensity to serve of our youth is going down.

So as I was coming out of high school and didn’t quite have the grades I needed to get to, you know, Penn State University, I looked to the Navy as a chance to save a little bit of money for college, see the world, and then go do something else. I just didn’t figure out what something else was; that’s why I’m still here. And it’s been very positive.

What I would offer to anyone looking at what their career choices are going to be, the Navy is a great place to start. The education opportunity is tremendous. You are going to have an experience. I mean, look at the – what those sailors in that video were doing right now. You talk about a focus group. The day after those engagements you saw on the USS Carney, the commanding officer had 15 reenlistment packages on his desk. Those typically come in one or two a month. So the ethos, the mission, the sense of mission is there for those that are serving.

I’d just ask that you help carry that mission to our youth, those that are thinking about what their career choice is going to be. They don’t have to do 40 years like this old guy; they can – they can do a couple years. But I think they’ll find it very rewarding. And if not serving in the Navy, then serving in shipbuilding or ship repair. We need – we need youth in both of those areas to get after some of the challenges we talked about, Tom.

Dr. Karako: Every time we’ve interacted you’ve mentioned Penn State in some way or another. I’m beginning to think you’re a proud Nittany Lion.

RADM Pyle: I am.

Dr. Karako: Well, look, I wonder if you could just close us out with a few words about your vision for surface warfare and for its importance to the joint force.

RADM Pyle: Yeah. So, again, I want to thank CSIS and you, Tom, for this opportunity. I’ve really enjoyed being – having some time to spend together.

First and foremost, your surface Navy is forward deployed around the globe, operating 24/7/365. And there’s no better example of that than what’s going on in the Red Sea. I’d just ask for your advocacy on what the surface force is doing.

We talked about the challenges. The challenges are shipbuilding. The challenges are munition inventory. The challenges are recruiting. As you engage with folks in the national security apparatus, if you can help advocate for those and apply, you know, resources, time, and energy to solving those issues, I’d greatly appreciate it on behalf of CNO. I know she would appreciate any support that our Navy can get in those areas.

Dr. Karako: Well, thank you, sir. Thanks for coming over, and thank you for your leadership and service. And please join me in thanking Admiral Pyle.

RADM Pyle: Thank you. (Applause.)