The Navy has named its first director of unmanned weapon systems to guide the development of the Navy’s future unmanned efforts in the air and on and under the sea, the Pentagon announced on Friday afternoon. Rear Adm. Robert P. Girrier (pronounced: gear-e-er) — currently the deputy commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet (PACFLT) and career surface warfare officer — will oversee the newly created N99 office announced earlier this year by Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.
The new N99 position will exist alongside the service’s existing directorates of surface, air and undersea warfare as part of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV) staff. Along with the new N99 directorate, Mabus said he would also install a Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy [DASN] for Unmanned Systems, “who will help bring together all the many stakeholders and operators who are currently working on this technology in order to streamline their efforts,” he said during an address at the Navy League’s Sea-Air-Space 2015 Exposition in April. The Navy’s unmanned DASN has yet to be announced.
The new N99 office will likely pull the Navy’s unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) effort from OPNAV’s N2/N6 Information Dominance information, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) portfolio. Surface and subsurface unmanned vehicles are handled by a host of other agencies through out the Navy. The creation of the position was “so that all aspects of unmanned – in all domains – over, on and under the sea and coming from the sea to operate on land – will be coordinated and championed,” Mabus said.
The N99 and new DASN positions come as the Navy is poised to start work on its Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet replacement — F/A-XX — that will likely have at least some unmanned characteristics and the as Congress has placed increased scrutiny on the service’s emerging Unmanned Carrier-Launched Airborne Surveillance and Strike (UCLASS) platform.
Outside of UAVs, the Navy is also looking at large diameter unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) to operate from its nuclear submarine fleet.
The scope of Girrier’s portfolio has yet to be revealed. “While it’s too early to discuss specifics, what I can tell you is that we are in the initial steps of realigning unmanned responsibilities within the Navy Staff and look forward to discussing further once briefed and finalized by leadership,” Lt. Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman told USNI News on Monday.
In addition to serving as the number two at PACFLT, Girrier has commanded the Ronald Reagan Carrier Strike Group (CSG), the Nimitz CSG, Destroyer Squadron (DESRON) 15, guided missile destroyer USS Roosevelt (DDG-80) and the mine counter measure ship USS Guardian (MCM-5). He is a 1983 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and has co-authored several professional books published by the U.S. Naval Institute.
The following is the complete Department of Defense June 26, 2015 flag officer announcement. Rear Adm. Robert P. Girrier will be assigned as director, unmanned weapons systems, N99, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Washington, District of Columbia. Girrier is currently serving as deputy commander, U.S. Pacific Fleet, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.