The surface Navy’s top officer announced on Tuesday the deployment of a surface action group this spring on Tuesday in a move to make the surface fleet more formidable against sophisticated , part of his plan to reinvigorate the surface force and make it relevant against high-end adversaries.

Three destroyers setscheduled for independent deployments are beingwill be banded together into a surface action group under a Destroyer Squadron 31 and sent out to test new concepts of operating surface ships in hunter-killer groups of ships designed to confuse and scatter adversaries’ resources, Vice Adm. Tom Rowden told the annual meeting of the Surface Navy Association. The SAG is to consist of destroyers Spruance, Decatur and Momsen.

Rowden has been championing a concept that breaks up the traditional carrier strike groups and amphibious ready groups and joins up by banding groups of surface combatants that can spread out the enemy’s surveillance assets and ships to look for SAGs, and adds long range anti-ship and anti-sub surface and anti-submarine weapons to make the ships more deadly.

"Our goal is to deceive the enemy, target the enemy and destroy the enemy," Rowdent said. "If we can execute that, we can change the calculus of our adversaries and our potential adversaries."

In an interview, Rowden said the surface action groups will add were about adding capabilities to offer up to combatant commanders, four-stars who oversee operations in their regions around the world. 

"We need to deploy the ships and begin to understand the effects we can achieve," Rowden said. "We can then begin to articulate those to the combatant commanders. So when the combatant commanders say, 'I need this capability,' we can say, 'This is the capability I can deliver with this adaptive force package, this is what we can deliver with the other package.' That way we can express to the combatant commanders the options available beyond the carrier strike groups."

This is part of a larger push inside the Navy to offer up more options to COCOMs to ease the burden on the aircraft carriers, which have been heavily taxed over the past five years. Today, six of the Navy's 10 active aircraft carriers are in some kind of extended maintenance as a result of the heavy optempo — namely the COCOMs' the result of an insatiable demands for flattops sire for carriers in the Middle East and in the Asia-Pacific. 

"It's about being able to understand and articulate the different capabilities that different adaptive force packages offer, and being able to articulate that so we can build confidence among the [COCOMs]," Rowden said.

Rowden also announced a pilot program to add a new department head billet on surface ships, called the plans and tactics officer, part of an effort to beef up the tactical expertise on board surface ships.

He did not say if the new department head would be given any supervisory duties.

The Surface Navy Association gathers in Chrystal City, Virginia, each January to discuss programs and the future of surface warfare.

David B. Larter was the naval warfare reporter for Defense News.

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