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Navy’s Newest Aviators Receive First Threat Brief
28 September 2023
From Kurt Van Slooten
The Navy’s newest class of perspective aviators enrolled in the Aviation Training School’s Naval Introductory Flight Evaluation (NIFE) program were introduced to what will become a part of their life as pilots; an intelligence threat brief. An inaugural effort between Naval Aviation Schools Command (NASC) and the Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT), Student Naval Aviator Junior Officer Course (SNAJOC) attendees at the NASC auditorium onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola, were provided the first geopolitical and threat briefing as part of the SNAJOC, on two of the nation’s near-peer Great Power Competitors: China and Russia, by Cmdr. Chris Dumas, executive officer for CIWT.
PENSACOLA, Fla. – The Navy’s newest class of perspective aviators enrolled in the Aviation Training School’s Naval Introductory Flight Evaluation (NIFE) program were introduced to what will become a part of their life as pilots; an intelligence threat brief.
An inaugural effort between Naval Aviation Schools Command (NASC) and the Center for Information Warfare Training (CIWT), Student Naval Aviator Junior Officer Course (SNAJOC) attendees at the NASC auditorium onboard Naval Air Station Pensacola, were provided the first geopolitical and threat briefing as part of the SNAJOC, on two of the nation’s near-peer Great Power Competitors: China and Russia, by Cmdr. Chris Dumas, executive officer for CIWT.
Dumas reflected with the students about how over the course of his 20-year career the trajectory of both the Chinese’s Peoples’ Liberation Army – Navy (PLAN) and the Russian Federation Navy (RFN) has changed dramatically going from fleets of limited capability to those with global reach and ambitions.
“The two components that make up a ‘threat’ are intent and capabilities,” said Dumas. “A nation’s capabilities do not inherently imply a threat to our national security. However, a fundamental understanding of the intent behind said capabilities allow us to better understand potential threats to U.S. national interests.”
In 2003, the threat was predominantly asymmetric in nature, and was posed by adversarial groups in the Middle East, said Dumas. There was no true direct threat posed by foreign military to naval forces to include in the air domain leading to a generation of naval aviators accustomed to operating in environments where the United States held air superiority or air supremacy in the fights they engaged.
Fast forwarding to 2023, the current threats the U.S. faces, Dumas asserted, are near-peer in the Asia/Pacific and European theaters, both with long storied pasts to contend with. To understand these countries actions today, Dumas contended, one must understand the historical forces that have shaped their current identities and influence these near-peer competitors and their populations in the current day. Dumas explained how the leadership of both the Peoples’ Republic of China and the Russian Federation have heavily leveraged historical regional, ethnic, and social grievances, some dating back over a thousand years, to justify current actions.
To then bring the conversation into focus of the potential threats posed by these near-peer competitors, Dumas also explained the key events over the last 30 years, such as the 1995-1996 Taiwan Strait Crisis or NATO expansion since the collapse of the Soviet Union, that have been heavily influential in the modernization of both the PLAN and RFN and how and why each has developed the naval capabilities and doctrine they have. Finally, Dumas provided the students perspectives of what they could expect to encounter should they come in contact with PRC and Russian Naval or Air Forces when they eventually arrive in the fleet.
Ensign Kunihiko Fitz-Gerald, an attending aviation student, said his takeaway from the brief was that the threat is very real, but the contextual reason behind why the threats are present isn’t something that makes the news. He said they tend to fixate on specific theatres and current conflicts like Russia’s war on the Ukraine, but the truth is that the history of the conflict extends much further back than the current conflict.
Receiving intelligence threat briefs from senior officers is important during our stage in development, because we don't necessarily see the context behind why we are training the way we are, said Fritz-Gerald.
“Seeing the threat and understanding where it comes from is very valuable from a motivational standpoint and it makes our training more tangible,” said Fritz-Gerald. “I've personally been hoping for a brief like this, and appreciate it very much. We are likely going to be on the front lines when international friction is highest in the next few years, and it was a good reminder to study hard.”
Cmdr. Brett Hudspeth, NIFE Director for NASC, said through feedback from students who had previously completed the SNAJOC course, they learned that there was a great desire for intel briefs covering threat nations in our world today. After internal discussion, NASC and NIFE leadership reached out to CIWT leadership to see if they would be willing to provide the briefings.
“Aircrew have a tendency to focus on the tactical, as we train and fly our aircraft daily,” said Hudspeth. “It is easy for us to lose sight of the bigger picture outside of the cockpit. Having a greater understanding of what we face in the world, and adversaries we may encounter once on deployment, further strengthens our ability to warfight.”
With four schoolhouse commands, two detachments, and training sites throughout the United States and Japan, CIWT trains more than 26,000 students every year, delivering trained information warfare professionals to the Navy and joint services. CIWT also offers more than 200 courses for cryptologic technicians, cyber warfare technicians, intelligence specialists, information systems technicians, electronics technicians, and officers in the information warfare community.
Center for Information Warfare Training Public Affairs – CIWT_PAO@us.navy.mil
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