Rename “Naval Base Ventura County” as the new Navy Unmanned Skunkworks

If the US Navy is hungry for broader public notice and relevance, it can start by renaming the bulky and uninspiring “Naval Base County” of Ventura. As an airfield, deep-water port and test field combined, the facility has enormous potential. This neglected naval base is doing some very interesting things and should be renamed in a way that does justice to the job at hand.

Currently, the Ventura County Naval Base does not have a center of gravity. Barring a fire or an accident, the base rarely makes the headlines. The place is essentially the Navy’s dressing room. A nice, spacious and out of the way facility perfect for stashing unsuitable Navy toys, controls which for risk or other reasons do not match the glamorous Navy super base at close to San Diego.

That’s not to hit Port Hueneme or Point Mugu, the main components of the Ventura County base. The facilities alone are amazing. Port Hueneme is the only deep-water port between Los Angeles and San Francisco. A relatively open and underrated port at the end of a head-end, Port Hueneme has plenty of open space and is an active transshipment point for military cargo of all kinds. Point Mugu Airfield, a few miles down the harbor road, is also an excellent facility, anchored by a dual airstrip base and supported by a large sea test field and a large airstrip. isolated on the island of San Nicolas.

The Ventura County Naval Station is a unique and often overlooked location, a coveted gem of the California coast. But if the Navy doesn’t do something soon to make the Ventura County Naval Base an iconic hub for the Navy’s future, private interests will encroach on the base and try to gobble up profitable parts of the facility. sprawling. Given the nation’s financial outlook, a privatization-drunken base realignment and shutdown committee will rise, over time, again, casting impatient eyes on any spare military property it can pull out. from California.

Make Port Hueneme America’s “Ghost Yard”

Earlier this month, with the commissioning of the colorless and absolutely uninspiring unmanned vehicle testing facility, Port Hueneme, for all intents and purposes, is now a unique national asset – the premier shipyard dedicated to unmanned ships on the planet. It is the de facto shipyard of the Navy’s unmanned “Ghost Fleet”.

But there haven’t been any big announcements regarding the new public shipyard. Instead, the Navy is doing almost everything possible to keep the Ventura County Naval Base a dull place for the “hoi polloi” it recruits from. Rather than presenting the world with a sparkling new facility for unmanned systems, redefining how shipyards and shipyard workers are defined, the Navy quietly buried its new investment in a boring press release.

Today, only a handful of industry watchers know that Building 1392, home of the tastelessly named Littoral Combat Ship Mission Package Support Facility, is turning into a Equally tasteless unmanned vehicle test facility.

The Navy is simply failing to capitalize on its investments. Not only is a “Ghost Yard” an exciting thing to have, but a unique Unmanned Systems Shipyard can provide the Navy with several high-level “victories” on Capital Hill. Congress is already impatient with the pace of the Navy’s $ 25 billion shipyard recapitalization plan and fears the Navy will not think through and test unmanned systems. A new shipyard, heralded with the tantalizing thrill of “high tech” and “secret” waterfront work, captures public interest, makes friends on Capital Hill, and prepares an underused portion of the great naval base for the future.

But at the Ventura County Naval Base, that’s the way it is on the waterfront. The development of the installations is programmatic, ad hoc and completely unforeseen. If the facility was touted as a Unified Navy asset, or, essentially, a “navy shipyard,” then Port Hueneme could plan a little better for the future.

It is a perfect place to plan for the future. At present, Port Hueneme is almost a “Green Field” site, a widely open facility that deserves the same decades-long planning horizon that the Navy is trying to bring into the Navy’s public shipyards.

Instead, the Navy is gradually building up an unplanned sprawl – adding buildings that will either be relinquished or millions of dollars will be needed to unravel later. Again, this is a lesson they could learn from the Navy’s public shipyards. Decades of unplanned expansion and technological change are forcing the Navy to spend millions of dollars on models – or “digital twins” just to plan how to redevelop their four overcrowded public shipyards. On the flip side, a small investment in a “digital twin” of the Ventura County Naval Base can help naval leaders get the most out of the open facility. Instead, the Navy destroys facilities with seemingly little regard for the future.

Right now, the unmanned vehicle testing facility – a former NASA building – is poorly located, a few feet from the pier. This takes up space where, instead, the Navy could put a dry dock or a frigate-sized ship lift – something that could come in handy given that visionaries in the Navy have been speaking for a long time. some time of the Navy’s need for large unmanned missile shooters.

To effectively “test a little and learn a lot” effectively with unmanned ships, the Navy needs a maintenance site that it controls, where a variety of unmanned (and even piloted) vehicles can be quickly pulled out of the way. water, taken to a building, upgraded, and then sent back for further testing. Unmanned ships arrive. With the port soon to house five large Orca unmanned submarine prototypes, one midsize Unmanned Surface Ship (USV), two Sea Hunter USVs and four Overlord USVs, Port Hueneme can be much more than a simple logistics hub for Seabees and a home for a bag of orders no one really knows what to do with – it’s the potential headquarters for Area 51’s maritime equivalent.

But the Ventura County Naval Base is not just a port. It is a multi-domain installation. Unlike the port, Point Mugu, the aviation and electronic warfare side of the base, is booming. The airfield is home to a squadron of National Guard transport aircraft, squadrons of E-2 Hawkeye command and control aircraft associated with aircraft carriers, as well as test wings and naval communication centers. It’s so busy it almost sucked all the energy from the port side of the base. This must change.

Point Mugu’s unmanned future is secure. It was previously labeled as a center of expertise in unmanned aircraft systems, and it is poised to receive even more unmanned aircraft – the MQ-4C Triton long-range unmanned aerial system, the new unmanned aerial system MQ-25A Stingray and others. With the arrival of the Coast Guard / Department of Homeland Security, the air base has a lot to do. And then, in addition to the aviation work, there’s the fully instrumented offshore firing range and a secluded and attractive airstrip on San Nicholas Island. This part of the base does everything right, but, again, it is surprisingly low-key considering the important work it does for the Navy.

Let the Navy have a West Coast Skunkworks:

With glamorous San Diego bases dominating the limelight, the Ventura County Naval Base, if permitted, has the opportunity to capture the public’s imaginations. It is a center of expertise on unmanned systems — in all fields — and should be recognized as such.

The Ventura County Naval Base also has the potential to become a center of power projection into ungoverned spaces. The base has a long history of working on polar projects, and with the North Pole becoming a contested area and unclaimed Antarctica becoming a potential flashpoint, the Navy – and others – can draw on them. programmatic vestiges that remain. And then, as the current center for naval satellite communications, the base can quietly add cyber and space actions as well.

But none of that will happen if the Ventura County Naval Station continues to be a sad, unmarketed second fiddle in San Diego. Let Ventura County Naval Station grab the headlines and capture the national imagination. The Navy can start right away by redefining the “Unmanned Vehicle Test Facility” as the Navy’s premier shipyard for unmanned systems, and giving the entire base a unified “unmanned” mission. pilot ”. Then, after perhaps borrowing a few of Area 51’s infamous Martians, the Navy can begin to endow the entire sleeping place with a sense of mystery and publicity-attracting excitement, as the he excited public engagement is exactly what the underfunded US Navy needs to survive.

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