Category Archives: Flightline

Flightline: Air Boss on Readiness Reform

Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller, commander, Naval Air Forces, speaks over the 1MC on the bridge of forward-deployed aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76) in August.


Editor’s note: The following is a summary of the recent Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) podcast by Vice Adm. DeWolfe H. Miller, III, Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF).

When I think about Naval Aviation, I reflect on our history, our recent deployments and our bright future. We continue to excel and make a difference in the world.

We are experiencing dynamic force employment and continue to increase the lethality of our weapon systems. Aircraft transitions play a big part of that and continue to progress nicely. These include moving from the P-3C Orion into the P-8A Poseidon and from the E-2C Hawkeye into the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye. Additionally, our first F-35C Lightning II squadron, Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 147, was declared safe for flight and is preparing for its first deployment, we recently commissioned our first CMV-22 squadron and we awarded the contract for the MQ-25 carrier-based unmanned tanker.

The quality of the people that make up Naval Aviation continues to impress me; they are the lifeblood of our force. The mission of CNAF-to man, train and equip deployable, combat-ready Naval Aviation forces that win in combat—requires that we provide our warfighters and everyone supporting them with the best training and equipment possible. We need to dedicate ourselves to do that with a sense of urgency.

As I look back on my first year as Air Boss, I characterize it as a year of discovery and alignment. Now that we are in year two, the actions we have taken are gaining traction and will enable us to rapidly improve and sustain much higher levels of readiness. I look at this year, 2019, as the year of results.

While I feel good about the state of Naval Aviation and its future, readiness is not where it needs to be for today’s combat environment. Improving readiness remains our main focus across the entire NAE-from leaders, to Sailors and Marines, to our civilian engineers and artisans, to our industry partners. To use a sports analogy, I see myself as the head coach. During the past year, I saw team members doing their jobs well but not necessarily with the understanding of how their work contributes to the overall effort of the team.

We’ve spent a lot of time aligning all of our activities so every person in the NAE understands how what they do on a daily basis contributes toward achieving our goals across every aircraft series we fly. The most pressing focus is building 341 mission-capable, lethal Super Hornet aircraft that can fight and win tonight, but it is only one aircraft across Naval Aviation and there are goals for everyone. Our metrics are aligned enterprise-wide, and we have clear expectations that we communicate through regular drumbeat briefings, Air Plans, podcasts and Naval Aviation News.

I am also listening to the fleet voice-on the flight line and in the aviation depots, as barriers are elevated to leadership so that we can resolve them. This is all part of effective communication. I’ve heard a number of times during Boots-on-the-Ground events that if the Sailors, Marines or artisans just had this one tool or this one piece of gear, their jobs would be easier, and they’d be more effective. The first step to taking action on these challenges, is hearing about them and understanding what is required. Clear communication and expectations give us all the same goals and allow us to work as a team. To that end, I want to elaborate on two initiatives underway: Performance to Plan (P2P) and the Naval Sustainment Systems (NSS).

Performance to Plan

NAE leaders are using a P2P approach to recover readiness levels. It has changed the way everyone approaches their jobs because they know they’re being measured, and their performance is being briefed up the chain of command.

As the supported commander, I am the single person accountable for the readiness of Naval Aviation. P2P aligns all stakeholders, including Naval Supply Systems Command (NAVSUP) supply experts and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) engineering, logistics and artisan experts, and our Type Wing and squadron Sailors and Marines so we are all working toward the same goals. As the head coach, I am responsible for the performance of the team.

We have set ourselves up for success by including and adopting data analytics to help underpin the decisions we make. Since we expect some efforts to be more fruitful than others, we want to make sure we’re pulling the right levers with the proper focus to get the maximum gain from our investment of time and dollars.

Having a plan, then regularly checking our performance against it is the best way to get us to where we need to be. We have regular drumbeat briefings that look at what we’re doing at our squadrons, in supply and at our Fleet Readiness Centers (FRCs). Leaders and champions of the various enterprise pillars get a chance to brief and say, “Here’s my organization’s plan. Here’s how we’re performing to that plan. Here’s what we’re learning, and here’s where we need your help.”

Naval Sustainment Systems

In conjunction with P2P, the NSS initiative is leveraging best practices from commercial industry to help us reform aspects of our FRCs, organizational-level maintenance, supply chain, engineering and maintenance organizations, and our governance processes.

We’ve hired industry leaders to help us with this holistic reform effort that involves people, parts, processes and governance across the NAE. The NSS initiative helps ensure we are aligned and also more transparent and more aware of what every other contributing stakeholder is doing and how each of their roles contributes to readiness.

The NSS is concentrating on getting the Navy Super Hornet fleet healthy again. We are focusing on the Super Hornet fleet first for two reasons: one, they have operated at a higher operational tempo than most other aircraft over the last 17 years; and two, this platform is critical for executing the high-end fight and supporting our troops on the ground.

But it’s not just Super Hornets. In November, the Secretary of Defense directed all the services with fighter and strike fighter aircraft—the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps—to achieve an 80-percent mission-capable rate across their warfighting squadrons. While we had already started on that initiative, this directive acknowledges the importance of every aircraft and the need to apply all learning from this initial work in applying the NSS to every Navy and Marine Corps aircraft.

We have already seen success with NSS. We reformed how select work flows through the depot production lines and have implemented a more visual way to track that flow. These changes mean that at any time, you can walk into the hydraulic workshop at FRC Southwest (FRCSW) and see a diagram of their work in progress. The diagram shows current status of every part and where the shop has encountered an issue and whether it is a supply or engineering issue. This allows managers to easily see and address issues immediately. We swarm that problem, we fix it, and the work continues to flow.

When you visit the landing gear shop at FRCSW, you see the same visual workflow and are able to identify the barrier or impediment there as well. Again, we can swarm, fix and improve.

We’ve already seen a 50-percent reduction in turnaround time in the two shops, and that translates to meeting the needs on the flight lines.

We are employing the same process at Naval Air Station Lemoore, Calif., at the FRC West (FRCW). I visited FRCW in December, and within 15 seconds of entering the production control center, I saw a stack of papers in one area of the work flow depiction and I knew immediately that was where the problem existed. I said, “Okay, we have a problem there. What is it?” That instant awareness helps everyone know where to focus their efforts.

They said, “Here’s our problem. We don’t have enough engineers, and that’s why we have a backlog in engineering.” I said, “Okay, what do you need?” They responded, “Well sir, we need three stress engineers full-time so we can work off this backlog.” NAVAIR quickly responded, and we have three stress engineers in FRCW today making a difference.

It’s exciting to learn that we are currently exceeding our predicted gains. As we learn, we are raising the bar even higher. This gives me great hope as I look at our P2P metrics and reform our practices under the NSS. All of it is contributing to greater readiness across Naval Aviation. We are winning today, and we will win well into the future.

Naval Sustainment System

The NSS plan is organized into six foundational pillars:

  1. A surge/aircraft-on-ground (AOG) cell brings together experts from all lines of support to quickly fix constraints of short-term down aircraft. The concept has already proven successful in the commercial realm, and promises four major benefits: reducing turnaround time, fostering strategic partnerships, increasing predictability and encouraging a more productive organization.
  2. Fleet Readiness Center (FRC) reform is intended to create elite-level, organic facilities that will adopt proven commercial practices to maximize quality and cost efficiency while minimizing cycle times.
  3. Organizational-level reform is designed to balance demand with maximized maintenance performance close to the flight line while improving safety.
  4. Supply chain reform integrates various stakeholders into a single accountable entity responsible for the end-to-end material process. This change will provide the right parts to the right place at the right time.
  5. Engineering and maintenance reform will develop an engineering-driven reliability process that improves how systems are sustained.
  6. Governance, accountability and organization are combined and designed as a single point of accountability for sustainment with the infrastructure to better support fundamental changes.

Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III grew up in York, Pennsylvania, and graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1981. He holds a Master of Science from the National Defense University and is a Syracuse University national security management fellow and graduate of the Navy’s Nuclear Power Program.

His operational assignments include Training Squadron (VT) 19 in Meridian, Mississippi; Attack Squadron (VA) 56 aboard USS Midway (CV 41); Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 25 on USS Constellation (CV 64); VFA-131 and VFA-34 aboard USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69); executive officer of USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70); Commanding Officer of USS Nashville (LPD 13); Commanding Officer of USS George H.W. Bush (CVN 77); and, as a flag officer, commander of Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 2, where he participated in combat Operations Enduring Freedom and Inherent Resolve.

Miller’s shore tours include Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (VX) 5; aviation programs analyst Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV N80); Strike Fighter Weapons School Atlantic; deputy director of naval operations at the Combined Air Operations Center during Operation Allied Force; Office of Legislative Affairs for the Secretary of Defense; aircraft carrier requirements officer for Commander, Naval Air Forces; and flag officer tours in OPNAV as director for Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (N2N6F2); assistant deputy chief of naval operations for Warfare Systems (N9B); and most recently as director, Air Warfare (N98).

Miller became Naval Aviation’s 8th “Air Boss” in January 2018.

He has earned the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal and other personal, unit and service awards.

Q&A with New NAVAIR Commander

Vice Adm. Dean Peters, who came aboard May 31 as commander of Naval Air Systems Command, shared his priorities with Naval Aviation News.

Tell us about your career.

I’ve served several acquisition assignments for NAVAIR and worked with our incredible workforce for many years supporting the fleet. Having said that, I learned a lot about fleet support in my first cruise as a helicopter pilot back when I was just an ensign flying H-2 Seasprites in the North Atlantic on board USS Jesse L. Brown (FF 1089), a Knox-class frigate. During that cruise, we spent hours tracking and trailing several Victor-class submarines deploying out of area, and I learned the criticality of shipboard operations. Despite successful operations, we also experienced many maintenance and reliability-related challenges during that cruise: the loss of an engine and subsequent single-engine landing to the back of a pitching deck during a very dark night. When opening the engine can of the replacement engine, there were multiple components with IOU tags in place of where the components should be. We weren’t sure exactly why the engine failed, and so it was a little disconcerting to remove the fuel control and oil filter from the failed engine so that we could have a replacement. Through the continual wear of flight deck operations, we also needed to replace the main landing tire. Luckily, there was one available in our pack-up kit, but unluckily, it turned out to be an F-14 main-mount tire. Despite all of these hiccups, there was a singular focus on mission accomplishment that was evident in everyday operations on that ship.

Why are you excited about taking command of NAVAIR?

First and foremost is the opportunity to continue to serve the Navy and the Marine Corps. Naval Aviation is an incredible enterprise, with a rich and distinguished past, and the future success of Naval Aviation, to a large degree, is in our hands. Our people are truly the best in the business. They believe in the mission and are committed to the success of our Sailors and Marines. We have an opportunity to eliminate the reliability and maintenance-related issues that I experienced back in 1987 and give our aircrews more time to operate their mission systems instead of worrying about how the aircraft will perform or if it will be available.

Secondly, this is an exciting time for NAVAIR. Congress has made an investment in strengthening our nation’s defense. It’s up to us to execute smartly. Expectations are high, and I am confident we will deliver.

What are the biggest challenges facing Naval Aviation and NAVAIR today?

Let me first talk about opportunities. For many years, we’ve been in survival mode from a program standpoint, especially when procuring our aircraft and weapons systems, and from a readiness enabler standpoint. With the support of Congress and the administration, we now have a coherent National Defense Strategy and clear commander’s intent. Congress has appropriated the funds needed for program wholeness and readiness recovery.

Our challenge will be to take advantage of this increased support in a timely manner and get the most for every dollar entrusted to us … whether it’s procurement funding, spares or fleet support.

How did your assignment as the program executive officer for Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault and Special Mission Programs (PEO(A)) prepare you for your role as NAVAIR Commander?

In the grand scheme of Naval Aviation, our program offices are accountable for providing capability and capacity to the fleet and coordinating all elements of life-cycle sustainment.

The success or failure of NAVAIR can only be measured by the success or failure of our acquisition programs, both in terms of how our current equipment is supported in the fleet, and how quickly and effectively new capability is delivered and supported.

Having served in multiple acquisition/program manager positions, I’ve seen what it takes to be successful:

  • A shared identity (truly comprehending that we are the most responsible for fleet readiness and fleet capability)
  • A shared vision (to aggressively provide readiness and capability at ever-increasing levels of safety, reliability, interoperability, maintainability and affordability)
  • An organization that trusts and empowers teams to accomplish the vision

The Navy’s top three priorities are restoring readiness and increasing lethality and capacity to project power and respond to threats. What strengths does NAVAIR bring to the fight?

Let’s start with readiness. This is our No. 1 priority and strategic imperative. NAVAIR is not the only organization responsible for readiness of the fleet, but NAVAIR—and I’m including the Program Executive Offices—is the organization most responsible for fleet readiness. This is an important point. There are several organizations that contribute to readiness, but no other organization has the visibility and resources to stitch together all stakeholders on the material side. With the right tools, the Air Boss and Marine Corps Deputy Commandant for Aviation can generate readiness in support of our National Defense Strategy. Being the most responsible is an intimidating commitment. But the good news is that we at NAVAIR have the engineering and logistics talent, highly skilled depot artisans, and world-class contracting and financial managers—and I’m confident that we have the organizational will to make the fleet successful.

Let’s also touch briefly on capacity. This is another area where we have the opportunity to take advantage of increased resources by executing the procurement activities that result in greater capacity. There is no guarantee that this resourcing environment can be sustained, so it is imperative that we make the most of the opportunity while the support exists. It also requires us to be honest and timely if we cannot execute resources so they can be directed to other fleet needs.

What are your top three priorities for NAVAIR?

My priorities for NAVAIR are the same as my priorities were for my squadron command, my program commands and each subsequent command: mission, people and relationships. Let me talk about each of these, a little out of order.

People: NAVAIR is a great place to work, because we take care of our people and respond to actionable feedback and because the work is exciting and meaningful. We will not make everyone happy 100 percent of the time, and our environment can be pressurized at times … but under the right conditions, our people can accomplish anything. I expect our leaders to encourage people to think differently, empower them to act boldly and eliminate distractions that get in their way.

Relationships: NAVAIR is connected to, and dependent upon, many other entities, especially industry (large and small), and we need to cultivate those relationships. It starts with assuming goodwill and maintaining an open dialogue; and as an organization we will make this foundational.

Mission: Mission is our No. 1 priority. Our mission is to acquire new capability (aircraft, weapons systems and associated equipment) for the fleet in a timely and affordable manner and to robustly sustain those aircraft and equipment such that they are available and effective when required. It’s really that simple. I mention it last to make this point: if we get everything else right and don’t accomplish our mission, we have missed the mark.

In terms of readiness, where do you think NAVAIR can make the biggest contribution to the fleet?

As mentioned a few times, NAVAIR is the organization most responsible for fleet readiness. It starts with the design process and insisting on reliable and maintainable equipment and components. Delivering operational-, intermediate- and depot-level capability with our systems gives the fleet the ability to control their own destiny to a much greater extent.

We also procure the initial spares, determine the inspection intervals and establish the maintenance planning and support equipment requirements. These are fundamental aspects of our mission. We are introducing new tools for tracking and monitoring maintenance, which will enable the Naval Supply Systems Command and the Defense Logistics Agency to predict parts requirements. We’re also using reliability-centered maintenance to attack reliability issues and extend the life of components. I could go on, but I think you get the picture. NAVAIR is integral to the readiness of our fleet communities.

Anything else you would like to add?

We’ve talked about speed and responsiveness. The best ideas to accomplish our work will come from those closest to the work. That is what will ultimately make us faster, more responsive and more effective. It’s an honor to serve this incredible organization in support of Naval Aviation. Thank you for the opportunity to share these thoughts with your readers.

A native of Louisville, Kentucky, Vice Adm. Dean Peters graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1985. Peters has post-graduate degrees in aeronautical engineering and telecommunications and is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School, Class 102.

After earning his wings as a naval aviator in 1986, he flew the SH-2F Seasprite in support of multiple detachments deployed to the North Atlantic, Persian Gulf and Gulf of Mexico, completing anti-submarine warfare, surface warfare and counter-narcotics operations embarked on four different ship classes. He served as detachment officer-in-charge aboard USS Thomas C. Hart (FF 1092).

As Commanding Officer of Air Test and Evaluation Squadron (HX) 21, the squadron accomplished more than 11,000 flight test hours and was the 2006 recipient of the CNO Safety Award.

Peters has served in numerous acquisition billets. From November 2007 through July 2011, Peters served as program manager for the H-60 Helicopters Program Office, delivering more than 150 helicopters, numerous upgrades and supporting the first three carrier strike group deployments of the MH-60R and MH-60S Seahawks. From August 2011 to July 2014, Peters commanded the Presidential Helicopters Program Office, leading the program through Milestone B and contract award for the Engineering and Manufacturing Development Program.

Peters’ flag assignments include Commander, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division; Assistant NAVAIR Commander for Research and Engineering; and Program Executive Officer, Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault and Special Mission Programs (PEO(A)).

He has more than 3,800 flight hours in fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft.

Peters assumed responsibilities as Commander, Naval Air Systems Command in May 2018.

Approach Bravo Zulu!

From left to right, Lt. Gerald J. Voorhies, Ens. Dean Peters and AW2 Charles R. Priestley. (Photo courtesy of Approach magazine)

HSL 32

Invader 135 completed a hot refuel cycle on board the USS Jesse L. Brown (FF 1089), and launched for a night ASW sortie. At approximately 20-25 nm, the caution light panel flickered showing a fuel boost problem and then extinguished. Lt. Voorhies (HAC) took control, reported the problem to his ship and turned toward homeplate. Ens. Peters (CP) broke out the pocket checklist and started going through the appropriate emergency procedures. AW2 Priestley made ready all gear for a possible ditching. The ship closed the aircraft’s position.

At 18 nm the No. 2 engine fluctuated once (a 50 percent drop), regained its power output then completely flamed out. Restart attempts were unsuccessful.

At 5-10 nm, with the ship in sight, all ordnance was jettisoned, excess fuel dumped, and the ship turned to the best wind recovery course.

Superb airmanship and coordination between air crew and the ship’s crew resulted in a successful night, single-engine, small-deck landing.

“Bravo Zulu” reprinted from the October 1987 issue of Approach magazine.


An MH-60S Seahawk helicopter prepares to land during a training mission at Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Scott Taylor)

Watching Junior Officers Innovate

Landing in the Dirt with Habu and Feather

Capt. Ben Reynolds, Commander, HSC Wing Pacific

The approach to our landing was absurd.

Instead of looking through my night vision goggles and single-handedly flying the helicopter to the deck like I had trained my entire career, I hunched over and stared at the small acceleration gauge in front of me.

I made tiny control changes while three people gave me precise instructions. What’s more bizarre, I “gave” the other pilot the collective, and I just controlled the cyclic. That’s like asking your car passenger to push the gas and the brake while you hold the wheel.

And making it worse was the environment. We had progressed to more and more challenging conditions—a no-moon night to the sandiest, crummiest landing zone we could find in the Southern California desert, not the type of night the crusty old commodore would normally seek out for currency.

We were landing in the toughest degraded visual environment (DVE), and I couldn’t see a thing. In fact, I was so intent on my gauges, I was surprised when the ground came up to meet my tail wheel first and then my main landing gear. Lt. Alexander “Feather” Campbell, my weapons and tactics instructor (WTI), reduced the collective, and the aircraft was safe on deck. “Great—let’s take it around again, sir,” he said.

In 2014, naval aviators crashed four MH-60 Seahawk aircraft landing in DVEs. Every service has struggled with DVE mishaps, crashing dozens of helicopters in DVEs over the last decade. We were crashing aircraft in a specific maneuver, and we needed solutions. Naval Aviation attacked the problem by making several changes to training and doctrine. We even secured Naval Air Systems Command’s permission to fly the aircraft with the doors off, a very effective way to improve visibility close to the deck. But the most effective—and most radical—change has been adopting two innovative approaches: the “DVE Steep,” in which the aircrew flies the aircraft down a steep glideslope to the deck on gauges, and the “DVE Hover,” the control-swapping maneuver in which the crew brings the aircraft to a hover above the dust storm we create and then lands vertically through the cloud.

Today, the Department of Defense is encouraging a culture of innovation, an often challenging concept in a large organization. Yet these new approaches Feather taught are exactly the type of incremental “small-ball innovation” that drives us forward and makes a significant impact in our helicopter community.

While we value innovation, change is often difficult to embrace. A few years ago, several Army and Air Force special operations commands started introducing similar DVE approaches, but they never reached wide acceptance in any service. Aircraft differences and a lack of communication between organizations halted the progress. These approaches are not embraced because they are radically different from how helicopter pilots have always been trained. Most commanders don’t even get beyond the PowerPoint description of the maneuver before they dismiss the idea completely.

But Helicopter Sea Combat Weapons School Pacific, where Feather was a pilot, developed an environment that allowed strange ideas to grow. They cultivated an innovation lab from an existing organization without requiring a new structure or additional resources. They work out of an old building; they don’t have floor-to-ceiling windows, beanbag chairs or an indoor jump-around gym. But they keep coming up with good ideas that are just a little bit different and are ready to embrace change if it improves their tactics, techniques and procedures.

Maj. Chris “Habu” Walker, a U.S. Air Force exchange pilot, fit right into this environment. He came to the weapons school and described a radically different way to land the helicopter. The weapons and tactics instructors listened. They asked a million questions. Then, young aviators Feather and Habu took a couple of field trips to visit Army and Air Force commands. They decided, after a few adjustments to fit our aircraft and tactics, this radical idea could pay huge dividends for Naval Aviation.

Leading Innovation: Where We Can Help

Our Navy is hungry to tap into the innovative talent of 350,000 minds. We often pursue innovation by carving out distinct “change” organizations, but it doesn’t seem to work when we put 10 people in a room and tell them to deliver quarterly updates on innovative ideas to win wars. The simplest way for us to encourage innovation is to create an environment within our existing squadrons and ships where good ideas can germinate. But this isn’t easy, and it’s even harder to maintain this initiative over time.

For the helicopter community, this weapons school continues to be that special place. From developing new joint exercise opportunities on a shoestring budget to rebuilding our tactics and procedures for the maritime fight, the school repeatedly proved their incremental innovation is not a lucky break, but a sustained environment where good ideas grow.

Feather and Habu’s example demonstrates a few simple innovation principles for leaders at every level to consider: set a vision, cultivate an innovative environment, wrestle with the risk and follow through. We must do all these things for a new idea to take root.

Set a Vision

As leaders, we must set clear intent without constraining how our people meet that intent. There are times we need to give narrow guidance. When possible, however, we should make the boundaries wide and be prepared for new approaches and different solutions. This isn’t easy. Feather, Habu and their fellow WTIs feel free to attack issues with a clear understanding of our purpose. But, they often come up with a different solution that wouldn’t occur to me or our commanders.

Cultivate the Environment

Cultivating and maintaining an environment for innovation takes untiring, focused effort. It is often less efficient in the short run. We have to create habits of an innovative culture by constantly testing ideas, citing examples and embracing innovative solutions. Habu’s idea was unusual. The weapons school only considered his idea because leaders spent precious time cultivating an environment where initiative is valued.

It’s just as hard for leaders within an organization to provide this space as ideas percolate. Most ideas die under the pressure of the big, grinding organization before they have a chance to show their benefit. Adm. Scott H. Swift, Pacific Fleet commander, calls this “the frozen middle”—the level of bureaucratic leadership that resists change and stifles potential innovation. The frozen middle repeats itself at every layer of our large organization.

Wrestle with Risk

Grappling with risk isn’t merely an academic concept within our Navy. In our organization, risk has a real cost measured in mission failure, dollars and lives. As leaders, we must confront risk continuously. We also must continue to develop our capacity to tolerate risk if we want our people to innovate. In this situation, we continue to wrestle with risks as different squadrons and different pilots learn the new approaches Feather taught me.

Follow Through

We struggle most with follow-through. All too often, those of us who generate change and innovation are too quick to move on to the “next great idea.” We see countless promising ideas and “lessons-learned” that don’t take hold. These new ideas are fragile and need to be shepherded into practice. This requires sustained effort and persistence to codify a new approach into an institution that prefers to rely on trusted practices.

Our Navy has a rare opportunity. Our senior leaders today genuinely encourage innovation and are willing to accept risk associated with innovation. Young men and women join the Navy today to make a difference, and they are ready to contribute. We should embrace this rich resource of human ideas. As leaders, it’s our responsibility to provide a vision, cultivate an environment for ideas, confront risk and ensure the new, fragile ideas don’t die before they take root.

At the end of the flight, Feather and I sat in the aircraft and ran our engines as our maintainers finished the water wash. We were tired. Feather told me about his recent visit to the Naval Academy where a few midshipmen remarked cynically that it’s hard for junior officers (JOs) to make a difference in a big bureaucratic organization. Feather disagreed. He was a JO on his second tour. He was a part of a great organization. He was training pilots to fight and win in combat. Feather was clearly making a difference for his nation, and he was also part of a special organization that kept coming up with crazy, incremental improvements that rippled through our big, ungainly organization. Feather is an innovator.

Capt. Ben Reynolds is commander, Helicopter Sea Combat Wing Pacific.

(U.S. Navy photo by MC3 Kelsey L. Adams)

Capt. Ben Reynolds is from Jones, Oklahoma, and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1992 with a Bachelor of Science degree in economics. He reported to flight school and earned his wings in November 1994.

Reynolds’ previous operational assignments include tactics officer and assistant officer-in-charge (OIC) in Helicopter Combat Support Squadron (HC) 6, deploying twice in support of operations in the Balkans and Africa. He was tactics officer, maintenance officer and detachment OIC in Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 26 where he participated in Haiti relief operations. Reynolds commanded the “Island Knights” of Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 25 in Guam. He deployed twice to Iraq while at HSC-25.

Reynolds’ last staff assignment was operations analyst and executive assistant on the CNO’s Assessment Division (OPNAV N81 and N00X). Previous staff assignments include: operations action officer on the CNO’s staff; flag aide to the deputy CNO for plans, policy and operations (N3/N5); flag aide to commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command/U.S. Fifth Fleet; joint staff action officer in the Joint Operations Directorate, J-3; and as executive assistant to the joint staff deputy director for regional operations.

Reynolds is a 2014 graduate of the National War College. He also holds a masters in systems analysis from the Naval Postgraduate School, and a masters in international affairs from George Washington University. His personal decorations include the Legion of Merit, Bronze Star, Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal and other unit and campaign awards.


The Naval Air Force Reserve: Today and Into the Future

Rear Adm. W. Michael “Sky” Crane
Commander, Naval Air Force Reserve
Deputy Commander, Naval Air Force Pacific Fleet
Vice Commander, Naval Air Forces

Over the past century, the Naval Air Force Reserve (NAFR) has played, and continues to play, a large part in readiness for Naval Aviation as a whole. Through the decades of ever-changing, ever-evolving budgetary environments, NAFR has adapted and flexed to continue to provide capability and capacity as part of a total force solution to meet the Navy’s warfighting requirements.

An F/A-18D Hornet, assigned to the “Fighting Omars” of Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 12, prepares to make an arrested landing on the flight deck of Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76). (U.S. Navy photo by Senior Chief Photographer’s Mate Mahlon K. Miller)

Over the past century, the Naval Air Force Reserve (NAFR) has played, and continues to play, a large part in readiness for Naval Aviation as a whole. Through the decades of ever-changing, ever-evolving budgetary environments, NAFR has adapted and flexed to continue to provide capability and capacity as part of a total force solution to meet the Navy’s warfighting requirements.

What NAFR looks like today doesn’t reflect what it looked like a decade ago, or a decade before that. With today’s budgetary environment pressurized even more than before, NAFR will continue to evolve and change to provide readiness options at best costs for the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE). NAFR currently has squadrons with missions ranging from training future and current pilots to providing strategic and operational warfighting readiness and manpower.

The Tactical Support Wing provides a strategic reserve of tactical aviation units with operational depth. Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 204 is capable of executing its primary strike fighter mission and also regularly executes advanced adversary missions along with Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 12, VFC-13 and VFC-111 in support of Active Component operational training requirements. Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 209 recently returned from a two-month deployment to the Pacific where the squadron executed its primary airborne electronic attack mission. (See page 30 for the story.) VAQ-209 recently transitioned from the EA-6B Prowler to the EA-18G Growler, which gives proof today that NAFR squadrons evolve and change as required by the NAE to execute Navy operational requirements.

The Maritime Support Wing (MSW) Patrol Squadrons (VP) 62 and VP-69 have been called on year after year to support the fleet. They currently provide a strategic reserve and an operational reserve capacity in maritime patrol and reconnaissance. Currently both P-3C squadrons are supporting the Active Component’s transition to the P-8A Poseidon, most recently completing a deployment to Kadena Air Base in Okinawa, Japan. MSW’s Helicopter Sea Combat squadron (HSC) 85 provides dedicated rotary wing support to Special Operations Forces (SOF) and is constantly prepared to deploy and support SOF. MSW’s Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 60 provides a strategic reserve of anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare combat aircraft, and one of its detachments recently returned from maritime support in the 4th Fleet area of responsibility.

An MH-60R Seahawk from Maritime Strike Squadron 60 taxies in on board Naval Air Station Norfolk. (U.S. Navy Photo by Lt. Wesley Holzapfel)

The Fleet Logistics Support Wing represents 100 percent of the Navy’s intra-theater air logistics capability and medium-lift capability, and provides solutions to short notice tasking or mission/load requests at no cost to the Active Component. Their mission set has no counterpart in the Active Component, and remains an integral part of fleet readiness.

Current readiness challenges can be attributed to a number of complex factors over time. Fifteen years of continuous combat operations have put more hours on our Navy’s aircraft in less time than expected. Aging aircraft force us to carefully and strategically manage flight hours while maintaining readiness. These issues will take capital investments to resolve. Additionally, these challenges have directly impacted NAFR, which has adapted yet again. As all of Naval Aviation continues to evolve, NAFR will also continue to adapt while moving forward.

To perform its mission successfully, Naval Aviation must be organized, manned, trained and equipped as a total force. This total force will include the Reserve Component now and into the future. This begs many questions. The first question—looking to the future—is now the time to recapitalize the Reserve Component? If so, is now the time for the Reserve Component to bring more capacity to Naval Aviation? Also, how best will NAFR be a part of the total force solution to deliver strengthened naval power at best cost? NAFR is cost efficient because of its use of Selected Reserve personnel who provide high levels of experience at less cost (think fully ready, but only called when needed). Naval Aviation continues to evolve over time, and in the near future the Navy is developing a strategy to use live, virtual and constructive (LVC) training to more effectively and efficiently train the Navy’s future pilots against the latest threat capabilities. Although the plan is still in development, NAFR expects TSW squadrons to play a significant role in the “live” portion of the LVC training based on their extensive experience in the adversary mission. But what other needs might come as Naval Aviation changes over the coming decades? What does NAFR look like 10, 20, 30 years from now? A Navy that is ready today and prepared for the future is essential to operating in the dynamic environment that is our world. I expect that NAFR will continue to adapt and flex, just as it always has done, to support the world’s finest Navy.

A C-130T Hercules from Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 64 taxies in on board Naval Air Station Norfolk. (U.S. Navy Photo by Lt. Wesley Holzapfel)



Rear_Adm_Crane_webRear Adm. Michael Crane is a 1984 graduate of Virginia Tech. He then worked as a civil engineer through 1986. He was commissioned an ensign in December 1986 through Aviation Officer Candidate School, and designated a naval aviator in October 1988.

His career as a naval aviator includes assignments at Fighter Squadron (VF) 101, VF-143, VF-43, Fighter Squadron Composite (VFC) 12, Fleet Logistics Support Squadron (VR) 56 and culminated in command of VFC-12. Subsequent command tours include Navy Reserve (NR) Commander Strike Force Training Atlantic, Navy Expeditionary Combat Command’s Expeditionary Training Group and NR U.S Fleet Forces Command (USFFC) Joint Task Force Detachment 100.

Non-command tours include NR Commander Second Fleet (C2F), Joint Forces Air Component Commander, Reserve Component (RC) Director for the merger of USFFC and C2F, RC USFFC and C2F Chief Staff Officer, and NR Chief of Naval Operations, Operations and Plans (N3/N5) Chief Staff Officer. He served on active duty as the director of operations for the Air Launched Weapons Team to manage weapons readiness as an enterprise under Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF). Additionally, he served as a facilitator for CNAF’s character and integrity initiative.

Promoted to flag rank in October 2013, Crane served as deputy commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic through October 2015.

His education includes Joint Professional Military Education and a Masters of Arts in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Navy War College. He has accumulated more than 3,500 flight hours in multiple U.S. Navy aircraft. His awards include the Legion of Merit, Meritorious Service Medal, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal and other personal and unit awards and citations.



40 Years of Women at the Naval Academy:

‘Ability, not gender’

By Vice Adm. Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr., Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy

The Naval Academy recently hosted its annual Astronaut Convocation, inviting five of our 53 astronaut graduates to the Yard to discuss the future of the space program with the Brigade of Midshipmen. Among them was U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Nicole Aunapu Mann (’99), the most recent United States Naval Academy (USNA) graduate to be selected by NASA.

Mann joins an illustrious line of Naval Academy alumnae who have served in the U.S. space program. One of the academy’s earliest woman graduates was retired Capt. Wendy Lawrence, my classmate from the great Class of 1981 and the first woman from USNA to fly in space. Capt. Sunita Williams (’87) is one of four members—and the only woman—on NASA’s new commercial spaceflight team, selected to partner with private sector companies developing spacecraft that will fly astronauts to the International Space Station. The Naval Academy’s representation in the past and future of space flight is just one example of our graduates’ achievements at the highest levels.

A 1987 graduate of the Naval Academy, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams, Expedition 32 flight engineer, appears to touch the bright sun during the mission’s third session of extravehicular activity on Sept. 5, 2012. (Photo by NASA)

As we mark the 40th anniversary of the integration of women at the Naval Academy, I’d like to highlight how far we’ve come and look ahead in anticipation of a bright future. On July 6, 1976, the Class of 1980 arrived on Induction Day. Four years later, 55 women from that class graduated, becoming the plankowners of gender integration at this great institution—an accomplishment that we celebrated last year at the 35th Reunion for the Class of 1980.

Compare that to our most recent graduates—of the 1,070 midshipmen who graduated last May, 204 were women.

And the numbers continue to grow. More women have applied for admission than ever before (more than 4,300 applications!) for the soon-to-be-inducted Class of 2020. The current Plebe Class of 2019 boasts the largest number of women in academy history—ANY academy—with 324 inducted last July. In a summer marked by near record-low attrition, every woman completed Plebe Summer.

Women now comprise more than a quarter of the Brigade. Female representation will continue to grow; America’s talented youth are clearly attracted to the Naval Academy and the missions of the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps. More importantly, beyond just the numbers, the evolution of gender integration has made significant positive progress over the past four decades. With combat positions being opened to all women starting next year, the attitude and personality of the Brigade has become one of inclusiveness for all, men and women.

Since 1980, more than 4,600 women have graduated from the Naval Academy and have gone on to excel in their military careers and beyond. Adm. Michelle Howard (’82) was the first African-American woman to reach flag rank as well as the first woman to wear four stars. She now serves as our vice chief of naval operations, the second-highest ranking position in the Navy. Rear Adm. Margaret Klein (’81), now senior advisor to the secretary of defense for military professionalism, was the first woman to serve as commandant of midshipmen. Marine Col. Roberta Shea (’91) recently served as the first female deputy commandant, and she is currently serving as the commanding officer of the I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) Headquarters Group in Camp Pendleton, California.

Their legacy of leadership continues today within the Brigade. Midshipman 1st Class Jenna Westerberg serves as this semester’s Brigade commander, following on the heels of Midshipman 1st Class Margo Darragh’s leadership in the same position during the fall semester. This is the first academic year in which women earned the Brigade commander leadership position for both semesters.

The Brigade has a wealth of role models to choose from among their peers—including women who excel morally, mentally and physically. Midshipman 1st Class Megan Musilli is one of only 32 Americans and the only service academy student selected for a 2016 Rhodes Scholarship. She is a mathematics major and is training to become a Navy physician. Midshipman 1st Class Ally Strachan, a weapons and systems engineering major, ranked in the top five percent of her class and was selected for the Mitchell Scholarship. Just last month, nuclear engineering major Midshipman 1st Class Megan Hough was selected for a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, one of only 35 recipients nationwide.

Amazingly, a nation-leading 42 percent of women at the Naval Academy compete in Division I NCAA Athletics on 15 different sports teams. Last semester, varsity soccer player Midshipman 3rd Class Meghan Hegarty was named to the Patriot League All-Academic squad and was chosen as a First-Team College Sports Information Directors of America Academic All-District honoree. Five members of the Navy volleyball team recently earned placement on the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll. Women’s swimming and diving recently dominated the Patriot League Championship, winning the team title and all three individual meet awards (swimmer, diver and rookie of the meet).

In addition to observing Women’s History Month throughout March, we marked the anniversary of the integration of women at USNA with a variety of ceremonies and observances. Our annual Naval Academy Foreign Affairs Conference this Spring focused on “Women and Security: The Implications of Promoting Global Gender Equality.” Our commissioning week in May and induction day later in the summer will allow us the opportunity to welcome back many of our alumnae to impart their experiences on our new graduates and incoming freshman class. Our Naval Academy Museum will also open a new exhibit in July focusing on this anniversary.

As superintendent, and as someone who was a student at USNA in the earliest days of women on the yard, I’m extremely proud of what our graduates and our current midshipmen have accomplished and look forward to what they will achieve in the future as their opportunities to serve expand. For women in the Navy and Marine Corps, the future has never been brighter, and the Naval Academy will continue to develop women of character and consequence to lead our Sailors and Marines.

Vice Adm. Walter E. “Ted” Carter Jr. is Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy. Reprinted from


vice_adm_carterVice Adm. Walter E. “Ted” Carter became the 62nd superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) July 23, 2014. A native of Burrillville, Rhode Island, he graduated from the USNA in 1981, was designated a naval flight officer in 1982, and graduated from the Navy Fighter Weapons School (NFWS) Top Gun in 1985.

Carter’s career as an aviator includes extensive time at sea, deploying around the globe in the F-4 Phantom II and the F-14 Tomcat. He has landed on 19 different aircraft carriers, including all 10 of the Nimitz-class carriers. He commanded the Fighter Squadron (VF) 14 “Tophatters,” served as executive officer of USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), and commanded both USS Camden (AOE 2) and USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70). His most recent fleet command assignment was commander, Enterprise Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 during Big E’s final combat deployment as a 51-year-old aircraft carrier in 2012.

Ashore, Carter served as chief of staff for Fighter Wing Pacific and executive assistant to the deputy commander, U.S. Central Command. He served as commander, Joint Enabling Capabilities Command and subsequently as lead for the Transition Planning Team during the disestablishment of U.S. Joint Forces Command in 2011. After leading Task Force RESILIENT (a study in suicide-related behaviors), he established the 21st Century Sailor Office (OPNAV N17) as its first director in 2013. Most recently, Carter served as the 54th president of the U.S. Naval War College. During his tenure, he established the Naval Leadership and Ethics Center in Newport, Rhode Island, May 1, 2014.

Carter flew 125 combat missions in support of joint operations in Bosnia, Kosovo, Kuwait, Iraq and Afghanistan. He accumulated 6,150 flight hours in F-4, F-14 and F-18 aircraft during his career and safely completed 2,016 carrier-arrested landings, the record among all active and retired U.S. Naval Aviation designators.

Carter is the recipient of the Distinguished Service Medal, Defense Superior Service Medal (two awards), Legion of Merit (three awards), Distinguished Flying Cross with Combat V, Bronze Star, Air Medal (two with Combat V and five strike/flight), and Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (two with Combat V). He was awarded the Vice Admiral James Bond Stockdale Leadership Award and the U.S. Navy League’s John Paul Jones Award for Inspirational Leadership.


B.J. Farrington, Fleet Readiness Center East sheet metal mechanic, talks about airframe details with Cpl. Haiden Peters, Marine Medium Tiltrotor Squadron (HMM) 365 airframes mechanic, while looking under a V-22 at Marine Corps Air Station New River, Jacksonville, N.C.

Top Priority: Fixing Readiness

Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, Commander, Naval Air Systems Command

Since taking command of NAVAIR in October, Vice Adm. Grosklags has focused NAVAIR’s talent and resources toward two strategic imperatives: improving current readiness and increasing the speed of new capabilities to the fleet.

If you were to ask the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO), Commandant of the Marine Corps (CMC), Air Boss or the Deputy Commandant of Aviation to name the two biggest challenges facing our Navy and Marine Corps today, they will tell you the same thing: improving the current state of readiness and staying ahead of our potential adversaries.

There is absolutely no air gap between us. We are completely aligned and ready to do what it takes to ensure our fleet is “Ready to Fight Tonight” and will have the “Capabilities and Capacity to Win the Future.”

In January, a week after release of his new “Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority,” CNO Adm. John Richardson visited NAVAIR for briefs and a town hall meeting. He told us NAVAIR’s two strategic imperatives (readiness and speed) line up perfectly with the goals and structure of his Design.

In his words, “There’s a very close alignment, particularly with respect to prioritizing readiness of the fleet today and the work that NAVAIR does returning aircraft to the flight line.”

CMC Lt. Gen. Robert Neller has a similar focus for the Corps: expanding readiness efforts, training and simulation, people and integration with naval and joint forces. In his words, “We must continue to improve our readiness for today’s fight, while at the same time ensuring we remain relevant for the conflicts we know will come in the future.”

And to echo the Air Boss, Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, we have the expertise and resolve to attack naval aviation’s challenges. We are working with the CNO and CMC for added support and authorities. With full alignment of leadership, we will succeed.

So with that said, allow me to elaborate on NAVAIR’s efforts to improve current readiness and increase the speed of new capability to the fleet.

Readiness at Risk

Today, there are far too many shadows on the ramp that the fleet can’t fly. Of the 25 type/model/series (TMS) aircraft in the fleet today, only five communities have the required number of Ready Basic Aircraft (RBA) ready to fly on any given day. Far too often, our squadron commanding officers are being forced to make tradeoffs, to accept additional risk, in the training and operational employment of their aircraft and aircrew.

This condition is unsustainable. As Naval Aviation’s primary provider organization, it is imperative that NAVAIR use all available resources and authorities we control to address RBA shortfalls across every community. Fixing today’s readiness is at the top of NAVAIR’s priority list.

Every Naval Aviation aircraft program office has developed an RBA Recovery Playbook. These TMS playbooks are helping us prioritize our efforts toward the most urgent and important readiness issues. In this way, we can make the best use of our existing resources—people and funding—to get fleet readiness back on track—FAST. We have talent to do this. Here’s just one example:

Fleet Readiness Center East artisans and Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 26 Marines are maximizing the integrated maintenance concept, lessening pit stop times of aircraft and boosting Marine Corps readiness. Preliminary reports indicate turnaround time for V-22 maintenance has been dramatically reduced from 300 to 89 days, and the aircraft are being returned with no discrepancies to squadrons from the depot.

Our first four RBA recovery projects are geared toward fundamental engineering and logistics work; improving the condition of product data (such as repair manuals, bill of materials and technical publications) to enable us to shift from a reactive mode, to a more proactive and preemptive maintenance and sustainment posture. In a number of cases we have, and will continue to, move some of our most talented folks off previously assigned tasking to accelerate these targeted sustainment efforts.

When it comes to readiness, we must also keep a keen eye on the future. Programs which are ending production are fine-tuning their sustainment plans to ensure they finish production lines in a strong position. Our H-60 Seahawk program is working this now, ensuring all product data is available when the line shuts down so we have the technical data packages we’ll need to keep them ready. Our F/A-18 Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler programs are doing the same thing.

Speed to the Fleet

As mentioned earlier, NAVAIR’s second strategic imperative is increasing the speed of new capabilities to the fleet.

Our adversaries are gaining on us. They’re outpacing our acquisition cycle; developing new technologies and leveraging commercial technologies against us, sometimes faster than we can respond. In CNO’s words, “Our margin of technical superiority is thin.” It’s time we turned the table.

We will do this in multiple ways: through smaller, empowered program teams protected from bureaucratic layers and reviews; by incentivizing creativity, innovation and experimentation; and by accepting and balancing additional risk. The fleet is depending on us to weigh the options and balance our traditional assessments of cost, schedule and performance risk against the risk our Sailors and Marines face when they don’t have the capability or capacity needed in time to make a difference.

“We must and we will capitalize on our rapid response capabilities and successes and apply them more broadly not just for urgent fleet requests, but for everything we produce, to the maximum extent possible.”

NAVAIR has positioned key capabilities within its Warfare and Fleet Readiness Centers to engineer, prototype, build, install, test and deliver one-time or low volume production solutions for programs of record, urgent fleet needs and external customer requirements. Collectively referred to as “AIRWorks,” these teams are tailoring traditional acquisition processes for speed, and leveraging in-house government talent and infrastructure capabilities to field solutions faster, often at reduced cost.

We are working to bring this same accelerated approach to our traditional programs of record; focusing on smaller, highly empowered teams with the authority to manage the engineering and requirements trade space “real time.” These program teams will be “unburdened” from our traditional thousands of derived requirements, leveraging a capabilities-based approach to design, development and test that focuses on the few requirements truly critical to the warfighter. Speed of decision making, acceptance of less than perfect performance and an acknowledgement and management of risk are foundational elements of this approach.

We must—and we will—capitalize on our rapid response capabilities and successes and apply them more broadly—not just for urgent fleet requests, but for everything we produce. We need rapid to become the rule, vice the exception—our Sailors and Marines are counting on it.

We absolutely know how to do this. Recently, we delivered an advanced payload for the RQ-21 Blackjack unmanned air system two years ahead of schedule and in time for the first deployment of the RQ-21 with the 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit. That means capability in the hands of our Marines BEFORE the other guy has it or has the time to develop a counter to it. Again, this type of story must become the rule vice the exception.

To lead an organization I have been part of for a large part of my 30-plus year career is a great opportunity for me. NAVAIR employees are conscientious, dedicated, motivated and passionate about their work. They work long hours and will move heaven and earth to fix fleet problems. It’s important for our Sailors and Marines to know we’ve got your back. Whether it’s a readiness issue or a system performance concern, NAVAIR will work with Navy and Marine Corps leaders to find a solution.

Together, we will make sure Naval Aviation is Ready to Fight Tonight and that our Sailors and Marines have the Capability and Capacity to Win the Future.


151002-N-KT387-051_webVice Adm. Paul Grosklags is a native of DeKalb, Illinois. After being designated a naval aviator in October 1983, he immediately reported to Training Squadron (VT) 3 at North Whiting Field in Milton, Florida, as a T-34C Mentor flight instructor.

Grosklags served operational tours with Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadrons (HSL) 34 and 42, where he flew the SH-2F Seasprite and SH-60B Seahawk, respectively. Grosklags made multiple deployments with USS John Hancock (DD 981), USS Donald B. Beary (FF 1085), USS Comte de Grasse (DD 974) and USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55). He later served as both executive and commanding officer of Helicopter Training Squadron (HT) 18.

Grosklags’ acquisition tours include engineering test pilot and assignments as MH-60R Seahawk assistant program manager for systems engineering; H-60 assistant program manager for test and evaluation; MH-60R deputy program manager; and ultimately as program manager for Multi-Mission Helicopters (PMA-299), during which time the MH-60R was successfully introduced to the fleet. Grosklags also served as operations officer and subsequently as deputy program executive officer for Air Anti-Submarine Warfare, Assault and Special Mission Programs (PEO(A)).

Grosklags has served flag tours as commander, Fleet Readiness Centers; Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) assistant commander for Logistics and Industrial Operation; NAVAIR vice commander, PEO(A); and principal military deputy for the Assistant Secretary of the Navy (Research, Development & Acquisition). In October 2015, he assumed responsibilities as commander, NAVAIR.

Grosklags graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982, is a graduate of the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School Class 99, and holds a Master of Science degree in aeronautical engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School. He has more than 5,000 military flight hours in numerous types of rotary and fixed-wing aircraft.









An X-47B unmanned aircraft flies past an MQ-4C Triton waiting on the taxiway April 15 at Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md. Both aircraft are currently undergoing testing at Patuxent River.

Unmanned State of Affairs

Rear Adm. Mark Darrah, Program Executive Officer for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons

The Navy’s leader in unmanned aviation and strike weapons talks about the technology, priorities and strategy behind the rapidly growing force of the future.

The new normal

Today we are operating unmanned systems all over the world. Small tactical unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) like Wasp, Puma, Raven and Scan Eagle are supporting combat operations across multiple areas of operations. A larger class of unmanned systems, the MQ-8B Fire Scout, is operating alongside the MH-60R Seahawk helicopter as a composite manned/unmanned detachment aboard a deployed Littoral Combat Ship (LCS). Meanwhile, the Navy’s largest UAS, the MQ-4C Triton currently in development, will work in tandem with the P-8A Poseidon to generate never-before-seen levels of maritime awareness. And ultimately, we will deliver an unmanned system that will seamlessly integrate into carrier operations.

These unmanned systems allow us to go beyond the limitations of human endurance, giving us a new level of persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR). Leveraging these capabilities greatly expands our battlespace awareness necessary to succeed in future maritime operations.

Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus spoke to a crowd at the Navy League’s Sea Air Space Symposium in April and said, “Unmanned systems, particularly autonomous ones, have to be the new normal in ever-increasing areas.”

With a significant focus on developing and fielding UAS and integrating with other domain unmanned capability, the Program Executive Office for Unmanned Aviation and Strike Weapons (PEO (U&W))’s contribution to the development of UAS is critical for continuing current and future maritime operations.

New maritime strategy

Earlier this year, SECNAV released “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower.” This updated strategy broadly describes changes in the world and specifically focuses on changes to maritime access that our forces must address. Unmanned systems will play an integral role in filling capability needs identified in this updated strategy.

We envision Navy UAS to be employed across a variety of scenarios:

MQ-4C Triton providing broad area maritime surveillance around the globe

Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) integrated into carrier air wings, providing direct support and maritime domain awareness for our carrier strike groups

MQ-8 Fire Scout supporting anti-surface warfare, surface warfare or mine warfare from littoral combat ships

RQ-21A Blackjack deploying from ships or land supporting maritime objectives

These systems will increase battlespace awareness by providing persistent surveillance of wide areas of ocean, the littorals and close-in coastal regions, the carrier battle group and Marine and Special Operations Forces personnel. Pushing into the future, we will integrate these aviation systems with unmanned systems operating on and below the world’s oceans.

Battlespace awareness is one of the key elements of a new functional area highlighted in our updated strategy—all domain access—or the ability to work across multiple domains.

“We must be able to achieve access in any domain,” said Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jonathan Greenert. “That means altering how we plan and coordinate actions in the air, sea, land, space and cyberspace domains, identifying and leveraging the right capability mix to assure access and freedom and action.”

To meet these objectives, we need to work toward greater collaboration and cooperation between platforms, sensors, weapons and systems.

Payloads over platforms

For years, we focused primarily on platforms and modified the sensors to fit within the design space and weight available. This led to varying levels of compromise, often resulting in decreased capability of those sensors. While a platform is necessary to transport the payload to the desired location, the real value is in the product provided by the sensor or payload. With today’s rapidly changing threat environment, we need to ensure that we focus more on the payload and the sensor capability. (For more on sensors, see FLYING WATCH: Triton Promises ‘Persistent Picture’ of Maritime Environment).

The future force will operate forward, rapidly responding to changing threats with modular, scalable, netted sensors and payloads on a range of sea/shore-based manned and unmanned systems.

It’s all about knowledge for the warfighter

Our guiding principles for information dominance stress that every platform is a sensor and every sensor is networked. Yet as these principles guide our development of unmanned systems, we must also focus on the need to provide actionable information to the warfighters, so the data must be meaningful and accessible.

One of my priorities as PEO (U&W) is to seamlessly integrate our sensors so that they have a breadth of spectrum, which also allows them to operate with the fidelity necessary to provide critical information. Ideally we will net these sensors together, but we must also generate resilient sensors that can operate autonomously in denied environments. We need ISR sensors that have the ability to adapt to changing operational needs and environments, while being able to integrate and fuse data to generate knowledge.

Whether it be electro-optic (EO), radio frequency (RF) receivers or radar sensors, we need to develop a way to tie them together. Rather than trying to build single platforms for single mission sets, we’re looking to optimize common modular systems across the force to better enable timely adaptation as the data requirements change.

We must also recognize that the operating environment in Iraq and Afghanistan is very different than in the open ocean or littoral regions. But regardless of the location, we must ensure our systems are optimized for all environments.

Teaming up

By design, our UAS will complement the capabilities of our manned aircraft. Composite detachments will take advantage of an unmanned aircraft’s long endurance, at the same time leveraging resources from manned squadrons to increase the level of surveillance while reducing the footprint of deployed naval personnel.

We are already doing this today with the MQ-8B Fire Scout unmanned helicopter and the H-60 Seahawk. Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron (HSM) 35 is the first detachment to operate both platforms. The Fire Scout complements the MH-60R by extending the range and endurance to enhance maritime domain awareness.

We will see this same manned-unmanned teaming concept with the Triton and P-8A Poseidon. Bringing the Triton into the Maritime Patrol Reconnaissance Force (MPRF) will provide a much broader capability than either system could provide independently.

Our transition to the MPRF as a mix of manned and unmanned aircraft demonstrates the Navy’s belief that unmanned systems enhance existing mission communities by extending their reach and persistence, while maintaining the flexibility and on-scene decision-making of manned aircraft.

Future force

We are truly on the leading edge of expanding the potential of unmanned systems. We recently demonstrated the capability to autonomously refuel an unmanned aircraft in-flight (see X-47B Passes Unmanned Refueling Test). This was a significant step forward for the Navy. If we can transfer and receive fuel mid-air, we will have the ability to increase the range and flexibility of future unmanned aircraft platforms, ultimately extending carrier power projection.

These next few years are going to be critical for us as we begin to deliver increasing numbers of UAS to the fleet.

Netting unmanned systems together-complementing the current manned capability, and integrating across all domains with other unmanned systems operating on or below the waters we must dominate-will provide commanders with a greater situational awareness of the battlespace than ever before.

Working together with our resource sponsors, the warfighter and the many agencies engaged in development and delivery of unmanned capability, we will ensure our naval forces are able to execute SECNAV’s strategy built on the principles of being “forward, engaged and ready.”




RDMLDarrah_webRear Adm. Mark Darrah received his commission through the Aviation Officer Candidate Program and was designated a naval flight officer in October 1983.

His operational fleet tours were with Electronic Attack Squadrons (VAQ) 137, 140, 136, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 5 Strike Operations, and as the commanding officer of VAQ-142. Under his leadership, VAQ-142 completed successful combat deployments to Southwest Asia supporting Operations Northern and Southern Watch and were awarded the Chief of Naval Operations Annual Safety “S” for 2001. During these tours, he accumulated more than 3,200 flight hours and 603 carrier landings.

Ashore, he was assigned to VAQ-129 as an instructor; aide to the commander, Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command; Advanced Education Program at George Mason University; information operations planning officer/liaison to Joint Special Operations Command; Airborne Electronic Attack Systems and EA-6B Program Office (PMA-234) advanced systems integrated product team lead. After being designated as a member of the acquisition corps, he served as the first EA-18G deputy program manager when the office was established in January 2003.

During his tenure, the EA-18G program received the 2004 Association of Old Crow’s Integrated Product Team Award and 2004 OSD(AT&L) Packard Award Certificate of Achievement. He was also recognized with the 2004 Admiral Perry Award and 2004 Association of Old Crow’s Metropolitan Chapter Lifetime Achievement Award.

He subsequently served as commanding officer, Pacific Missile Range Facility, Barking Sands, Kauai, Hawaii; and as the F/A-18 and EA-18G program manager from July 2007 to July 2011. After selection to flag, he served as the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter weapon systems program manager from July 2011 to October 2012.

In November 2012, he assumed the position as commander, Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division and the assistant commander for Research and Engineering, Naval Air Systems Command. Darrah has been awarded the Legion of Merit (three), Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal (four), Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal (four), Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal (three) and various other unit awards.


The Way Ahead: Current and Future Readiness and Our Future Training Environment

By Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker
Commander, Naval Air Forces; Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet

150304-N-VD164-007 croppedIn late January, I had the privilege to follow Vice Adm. Dave Buss as your new Air Boss, and I couldn’t be more honored and humbled by the opportunity to “fleet up” from Naval Air Force Atlantic and step in as the next leader of Naval Aviation.

Working closely with Dave for the last 18 months, I gained a solid understanding of our business and the readiness challenges we face, and I learned an awful lot watching him lead our community through some very challenging times.

I’d like to thank Dave and his wife Donna for an absolutely superb Air Boss tour and remarkable career in Naval Aviation. Dave was a true steward of our profession, leading with humility and integrity, and expertly managing change and transitions. His Naval Aviation Vision 2025 will continue to be our guidepost as we work to build and shape our future force. Dave and Donna leave behind a lasting legacy of leadership and service to our aviation forces, and nowhere was that more evident than at the end of his change of command/retirement ceremony when their son, Lt. j.g. Matt Buss-waiting to start pilot training at Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106-read “The Watch,” relieved his father, and then received his dad’s sword to symbolize the passing of the aviation torch-for at least one more generation. Thank you, Dave and Donna. All of Naval Aviation joins me in wishing you both continued success and happiness as you transition to the next chapter of your lives.

We continue to live in a turbulent and unsettled world. Those of us in uniform know all too well the insatiable demand for naval forces, Naval Aviation in particular, which we continue to see from our combatant commanders around the world.

Those commanders clearly value the strategic options and flexibility our carrier strike groups and other expeditionary aviation forces bring to their areas of responsibility. The challenge that lies ahead of us now is how we continue to sustain the capacity to generate those forces and ensure they’re going forward with the right capabilities to operate where needed—all in a fiscal environment characterized by ever-increasing uncertainty. A tall order indeed, with lots of tough choices and trade-offs ahead.

I’m committed to continuing Dave’s superb work as our Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) lead and will partner closely with the leadership triad that includes Vice Adm. David Dunaway, Commander, Naval Air Systems Command; Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, Deputy Commandant for Aviation, Headquarters Marine Corps; and the rest of the NAE cross-functional team as we strive to maintain the wholeness and readiness of our aviation fleet. As always, we’ll rely heavily on Rear Adm. Michael Manazir, director, Air Warfare (OPNAV N98), and his N98 team’s aviation requirements and programming expertise.

As we move forward, I’ll focus our priorities in three areas-current readiness, future readiness and our future training environment. From a current readiness perspective, we must maintain the wholeness of our existing aviation forces, ensuring we have sufficient aircraft assigned to squadrons to meet their flight line readiness goals for each phase of the Fleet Response Plan; that we have spare parts (new or repaired) readily available to keep those aircraft flying; and that the Sailors who maintain those aircraft receive quality training en route to their squadrons, and whenever possible, are assigned to platforms where they already have experience.

Our deployed and next-to-deploy commands have generally received the resources they need, but we’ve struggled recently to meet flight line aircraft requirements for squadrons in maintenance and basic phase, and in some of our fleet replacement squadrons for both Navy and Marine Corps. I can assure you the NAE is fully engaged and diligently working to manage our inventory and the processes that generate flyable aircraft for the fleet, and our efforts will gradually reverse these trends.

For future readiness, Naval Aviation has successfully followed our Naval Aviation Vision 2025 as we’ve moved out of legacy aircraft and into new, more capable platforms in nearly every community. As we navigate the uncertain fiscal environment ahead, we need to keep these transitions on track. We must also develop and deliver the advanced capabilities (weapons, sensors and networks) that will allow us to pace the threat and maintain our warfighting advantages. These new capabilities will be delivered to outfit our forward-deployed forces first, eventually adding additional capacity when budgets permit.

Finally, as these new platforms and capabilities enter the fleet, we have to effectively practice and train to the new tactics that are already evolving. We’re currently stressed in terms of available airspace and use of the electromagnetic spectrum at our premiere training facility at Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada. We need to transition more of that high-end training to the virtual and constructive world, and eventually integrate with live forces. That critical integration must also occur in our aviation fleet concentration areas, as we develop and refine distributed training solutions, linking both air and surface platforms across the force. This future training roadmap is a key enabler for us as we work to optimize the proficiency of our aircrew and make the best use of precious flying-hour dollars.

So as we move ahead in these three areas, I’ll always remember that the NAE works for you-­our commodores, carrier air wings, and carrier commanding officers, and your subordinate squadron leadership teams, who make great things happen every day on our flight lines and on the flight decks of our aircraft carriers. Our top goal is to ensure you have the resources you need to focus on warfighting first, to be ready to operate forward and to be successful when you sail or fly in harm’s way!

For commanders at every level, I couldn’t be more proud of the way you lead our forces, and the way you and your amazing Sailors continue to perform with quiet professionalism and excellence at sea and ashore. Our Sailors and their families truly are our number one resource, and we can never forget that as we work through the increasingly difficult readiness challenges ahead. My commitment to you is to work tirelessly to ensure our Naval Aviation forces remain the preeminent fighting force for our nation.

Fly! Fight! Win!

Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, of St. Petersburg, Florida, graduated with honors from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1982 with a Bachelor of Science degree in systems engineering and was designated a naval aviator in July 1984.

Shoemaker’s operational assignments include tours with Light Attack Squadron (VA) 105, USS Forrestal (CV 59); Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3, USS John F. Kennedy (CV 67); Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 105, USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CV 69), USS Enterprise (CVN 65) and USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75); CVW-17, USS George Washington (CVN 73); Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 9, USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72); and CSG 3, USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74). Shoemaker commanded VFA-105, VFA-106 (F/A-18 Fleet Replacement Squadron), CVW 17, CSG 9 and CSG 3.

His shore assignments include VA-174 and instructor duty with VA-122 and VFA-106. He also served as aide to the Vice Chief of Naval Operations and Commander, U.S. Pacific Command; was assigned to Navy Personnel Command (head of Aviation Officer Placement – PERS-433); and was the executive assistant to Commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet. As a flag officer, he served as assistant commander, Navy Personnel Command for Career Management (PERS-4) and later as commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic, from June 2013 to January 2015. He has completed the Naval War College Non-Resident Program and is a graduate of the Joint Forces Staff College.

Shoemaker has accumulated more than 4,400 flight hours, primarily in the A-7E Corsair and the F/A-18C Hornet and has 1,066 carrier-arrested landings. His personal decorations include the Legion of Merit (6), Defense Meritorious Service Medal, Meritorious Service Medal (3), Air Medal (3) (one individual award with combat “V” and two strike/flight awards) and other personal, campaign and service ribbons.