WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy released a short wish list to Congress that would mostly accelerate efforts to make the fleet more ready and more lethal for high-end combat in a contested environment.
The 11 items total $2 billion, while past years’ lists included dozens of items and expensive procurement requests.
Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday has set readiness as his top priority, followed by boosting lethality, and then not increasing the size of the fleet beyond what it can support in manpower, maintenance, munitions and other measures of readiness.
In line with those priorities, the top four items on the Navy’s fiscal 2024 unfunded priorities list are research and development efforts to boost lethality.
The sea service wants $45 million to develop the Maritime Targeting Cell-Afloat, which would fuse information from a range of sensors to shore-based and at-sea nodes in communications-denied environments. This project “[d]irectly supports Project Overmatch and Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) by integrating intelligence, sensors, shooters, platforms, and weapons to enhance lethality and survivability,” according to the Navy.
A second research and development effort, for $49 million, would modernize the E-2D Advanced Hawkeye aircraft, which serves as the command-and-control “quarterback” in naval aviation operations. This effort to update “legacy cockpit, mission computers, displays, and multiple cyber issues” would allow the aircraft, which operate at sea as part of the carrier air wing, to improve their targeting and enable long-range maritime strike missions.
Third on the list is $186 million to help bring the Zumwalt-class destroyers — the first ships that will host the Conventional Prompt Strike hypersonic missiles — into the Project Overmatch network. The Zumwalt Enterprise Upgrade Solution would add assured beyond-line-of-sight communications to support hypersonic weapons employment.
The fourth item, dubbed VIOLET, is classified.
The list includes a combined $472 million to accelerate the installation of the Surface Electronic Warfare Improvement Program block III capabilities onto both new Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyers — including hulls 136 and 137, which won’t deliver until 2028 or 2029 — and aircraft carriers, including Harry S. Truman during its midlife refueling and complex overhaul as well as Enterprise during its ongoing construction.
The two largest items on the list are $550 million for a set of facilities restoration and modernization projects for installations around the globe, and $300 million for dry dock repairs at Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington.
Also boosting readiness is $100 million to field more spare parts on ships for surface, cyber and information technology systems onboard ships, as well as $175 million for more aviation spares on aircraft carriers.
The one procurement item on the Navy’s list is $118 million for a single KC-130J aircraft to support Navy logistics and resupply missions.
These items are part of a wish list to Congress, with items that did not make it into the official president’s budget request that was vetted through the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Office of Management and Budget.
The Navy and Marine Corps’ formal budget request totaled $255.8 billion for the two services.
In contrast to the Navy’s limited wish list, the Marine Corps this week asked for $3.67 billion, which covered a new amphibious warship, aircraft and vehicle procurement, military construction and more.
Megan Eckstein is the naval warfare reporter at Defense News. She has covered military news since 2009, with a focus on U.S. Navy and Marine Corps operations, acquisition programs and budgets. She has reported from four geographic fleets and is happiest when she’s filing stories from a ship. Megan is a University of Maryland alumna.