BOOM! Surface boss orders ships to shoot guns daily
By David B. Larter
Trice up your rack. Attend morning quarters. Stand watch. Oh, and shoot the guns.
Every day underway, the top surface warfare officer expects ships to release their batteriesshoot their guns.
The top surface warfare officer want's ships to shoot and shoot often – every day, in fact.
The head of Naval Surface Forces Pacific, Vice Adm. Tom Rowden, ordered all his ships to fire their guns every day. his released a directive Feb. 5 to all surface ships to shoot every day. Shoot anything, from 5-inch deckinch guns to crew-served .50-caliber machine guns or the 20-millimeter gunsthe close-in weapons system, but shoot every day. Or else.
"All SURFOR ships are required to conduct live fire exercises daily while underway unless for safety, operational or environmental reasons you are not able to fire," Rowden wrote in the Feb. 5 message, the authenticity of which was confirmed by Navy Times.
The message also directed ships to use their towed array sonars to track subsurface and surface contacts "at every available opportunity," as well as streaming ship' anti-torpedo decoy known as Nixie. The message signals Rowden's renewed insistence on weapons training and SWO fundamentals, yet it was met with some sniping that this is one more requirement heaped onto busy crews. training that Rowden expects ship crews to
Rowden said the directive to shoot every day applies to crew-served weapons, such as the .50 caliber machine guns on ship's main decks, primarily used for force protection.
The message to skipperscommanding officers: You will shoot ever day or you will need to explain to your superiors why you didn't.
"Short of the reasons listed above, I will assume if you are not shooting every day while underway it is because your weapon systems are broken or there are special circumstances on which you have pre-briefed your [immediate superior in charge] and, in turn, your ISIC has briefed my chief of staff and force gunner."
Rowden said that getting good at shooting was part of his effort to inculcate a warfighting spirit and increase proficiency in the force, and that those needs outweighed the inevitable broken CIWS and 5-inch guns that will result from such heavy use.
"The tactical proficiency developed through repeated live fire exercises far outweighs any potential material challenges associated with increased use of your main battery, crew-served weapons, and ship/area defense weapons," he wrote.
Vice Adm. Tom Rowden said feedback from the fleet regarding daily live fire exercises has been positive.
Photo Credit: Navy
Rowden said in a Feb. 24 email to Navy Times that the feedback he's gotten has been positive, and that "leadership in the surface force understands that shooting more will ultimately develop more competent and confident watchstanders who are able to engage the enemy if called upon."
Some have wondered what led to the 3-star's order; commentator CDR Salamander speculated that there might be a cultural issue. Some have questioned what prompted a 3-star to have to direct warships to shoot their guns at every opportunity. Blogger Commander Salamander questioned whether there might be a cultural issue that needed to be addressed.
"Are we selecting personality types and have a culture at sea such that it requires such detail from a Vice Admiral in order to have your warships ready for action?" he wrote.
One reader commented that the message came after commenter posited that a recent aborted live fire on a littoral combat ship had to be aborted at the last minute from an LCS that couldn't happen because of software issues that of which Rowden had known about.wasn't informed prompted the message, but Navy Times couldn't confirm the incident.
When asked, Rowden said he sent off the message "for consistency purposes so all Surface Forces operate under the same guidance."
Others speculated that such guidance would cause over-achieving SWOs to perhaps cut corners in an effort to safely comply with the type commander's guidance, hazarding safety.
But SURFOR spokesman Lt. Rick Chernitzer said there are plenty of "valid reasons" why a ship might not be able to shoot every day. Maybe there is too much traffic, they are in the middle of a training exercise or other tasking and can't break away, or they are deployed to an area that isn't conducive to getting hotconducting live fire exercises.
Gun shooting isn't the only thing on the surface boss' mind. In his second "Warfighting Serial" message, sent in late February, he reiterated The message was the first in a series of messages Rowden intends to send the force. The second, released at the end of February, focused on the importance of regular space inspections to check thatmake sure equipment is shipshapebeing properly maintained on ships. Or else.
About David B. Larter
David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.