The US Navy is on course to meet its insatiable appetite for unmanned systems. 

The sea service created its first unit dedicated to unmanned surface craft, Unmanned Surface Vessel Division 1, in 2022. The Navy will establish a second unmanned surface drone squadron this May. Beyond these administrative and organizational activities, the Biden administration’s fiscal year (FY) 2025 budget request for US DoD, featured in part here, quickens the research and development pace, and bolsters the acquisition of unmanned systems for the sea domain. 

Concurrently, the Navy is taking a huge step forward to establish its cadre of professionals to operate and maintain its unmanned systems with the establishment of the Robotics Warfare Specialist (RW) rating. This article focuses on the learning (training and education) foundation for the service’s occupational field.          


Standing-up the Rating

The RW rating will be established in multiple phases. LT Meagan Morrison, spokesperson at Chief of Naval Personnel Public Affairs, told MS&T this March 13 that near-term accessions from boot camp will begin as early as late this year and will evolve along with the establishment of the RW rating across robotics warfare capable commands. “RW Sailors will start the accession pipeline through the Electronics Technician (ET) ‘A’ school, followed by the requisite ‘C’ school to obtain a rating as a RW. The Navy is actively developing the RW-specific training pipeline, and expects to be prepared to launch the RW ‘A’ school by FY 26.”


Beyond new entrants into this sea service, senior personnel who are selected for conversion into the RW rating already have much of the advanced training and qualifications required to operate the robotics/unmanned systems that have been in the fleet for years. The spokesperson added, this enables the rating to establish proven leaders and subject matter experts who can grow the community and lead Sailors who are operators, maintainers, and managers. “Junior Sailors will have training from their obtained NECs (Navy Enlisted Classification) or through the future ‘A’ school.”

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The Navy's expanding interest in unmanned platforms includes unmanned surface vehicles -- further increasing the demand for trained and ready RWs. (Above) a MARTAC T-38 Devil Ray USV, equipped with a Lethal Miniature Aerial Missile System, operates in the Arabian Gulf during Exercise Digital Talon. Source/credit: US Naval Forces Central Command/ Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jacob Vernier

Training Highlights 

Most of the current robotics/unmanned training for this rating has been incorporated into the Navy Education Training Command’s training continuum. The rate training will continue to evolve as the fleet integrates new training capabilities and robotics platforms. Morrison further noted, most of the training for robotics/unmanned platforms is currently supplied by Navy personnel, and added, “Only relatively new platform training is provided by contractors or industry partners.”

Addressing the “split” between hands-on and learning technology-enabled instruction, the command spokesperson pointed out the training for robotics systems varies depending on the platform, but they all have robust in-class e-learning and in the field/lab hands-on training. “Generally, e-learning serves as the foundation for later operational on-hands training and qualifications.”


Role, Duty, Responsibility Descriptions

The office of the Chief of Naval Personnel provided a breakdown of the diverse roles, duties and responsibilities associated with RW NECs.

The training for robotics warfare specialist will evolve in a similar manner to other ratings. As the operational requirements and the technology change, the training will be updated and evolve accordingly. The command spokesperson noted currently, sailors who already possess an identified RW NEC code (757B, 789A, 799B, 803A, 825G, 826G, 838A), and have a qualifying ASVAB (Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery) line score, will be eligible for direct conversion to RW. 

A further explanation of the NECs follows:

757B - Expeditionary Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (ExUUV) Supervisor performs UUV operations to enable the amphibious task forces, special operations and other component commanders with intelligence preparation of the battlespace, mine countermeasures and other joint operations support;

789A - Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV) Operator performs duties as a member, or in support of a UUV activity, to include sortie planning, launch and recovery, local or remote watch, post mission analysis, and organizational level maintenance;

799B - Basic MK 18 Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) Operator and Maintainer performs system operation and maintenance, sonar image interpretation, sensor data analysis, and mine warfare mission execution essentials of the MK 18 UUV Family of Systems to safely and effectively conduct assigned tasking;

803A - Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Systems Organizational Maintenance Technician performs organizational level maintenance on UAV systems and support equipment;

825G - Expeditionary Force - Unmanned Systems (UAV/USV/USG) Maintenance troubleshoots and repairs the UAV/USV/USG control systems, fuel systems, electrical systems, launcher associated ground support equipment, and power plant (mechanical engine);

826G - Expeditionary Force - Unmanned Systems (UAV/USV/USG) Operator conducts reconnaissance and surveillance missions; operate sensors for target detection; plan and analyze flight missions; deploy and re-deploy ground and air systems; operate and perform operator level maintenance, assembly and disassembly on communication equipment, power sources, light wheeled vehicles, ground control stations, ground data terminals, portable ground control stations, portable ground data terminals, transport, launch and recovery trailer, tactical landing system; and

838A – Naval Special Warfare (NSW) UAS Operator/Maintainer develops and inputs Air Vehicle (AV) flight plans, directs mission tasking, monitors, and provides control inputs to AVs in-flight. Operates all NSW UAS mission payloads and sensors during all phases of flight. Performs organizational maintenance to include safe-for-flight duties. 

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