“What we’re examining is whether our initial concept for [Triton] is sufficient because we were going to have a more junior sailor and a single operator,” Vice Adm. Kelly Aeschbach, commander of naval information forces, told reporters last week at West 2023. Now, “we’re talking about the fact that with the amount of data that we may potentially collect, and how we might want to use it, that we might need a mission manager.”

MQ-4 Triton is a high-altitude, long endurance unmanned aircraft, built by Northrop Grumman, and used by the Navy as a surveillance aircraft.

As a type commander, Aeschbach is the most senior operational IW officer in the Navy. Her community, while not new to the Pentagon in terms of what it brings to a fight, is one of the youngest in terms of its formal establishment. IW is a combination of communications, intelligence, cyberspace and electronic warfare capabilities that are collectively employed to do two things: ensure the US commander has the best information available, and to cloud or confuse an adversary’s assessment of the battlespace.

The three-star type commander said a certain number of positions for information warfare personnel had already been carved out into Triton’s operational concepts, but she, as well as the aviation type commander, are now considering whether the massive amounts of data Triton will collect may warrant more billets.

“How [do] you maintain a priority on getting back what [data] you’re interested in?” she said. “That also is going to require some coordination on our part. And, we’re still trying to figure out in the operational concept, do we have the right people in the right places to do that?”

Aeschbach also said during the conference that her efforts to add IW billets on ARGs and submarines were successful. A pilot to bring those personnel onboard submarines has resulted in the crews committing to investing in two cryptologic technicians to come aboard full time. Meanwhile, the surface warfare boss, Vice Adm. Roy Kitchener, has invested in permanent billets for every ARG to have an IW commander, she added.


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