President Biden has nominated Navy Rear Adm. George Wikoff to be the next commander of 5th Fleet, which oversees an unmanned task force that is spearheading the sea service’s experimentation with drones in operational environments.
Wikoff, who is currently vice director of the Joint Staff at the Pentagon, has also been selected for appointment to the grade of vice admiral, with assignment as commander, U.S. Naval Forces, Central Command and commander, Combined Maritime Forces, Manama, Bahrain, the Defense Department announced on Friday.
The assignments would connect him to Task Force 59, which is developing a “mesh network” of unmanned surface vessels and other assets enabled by artificial intelligence and the cloud. The organization, which falls under 5th Fleet and is currently led by Capt. Michael Brasseur, recently reached full operational capability in the Middle East region.
Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro told DefenseScoop in December that the service plans to create additional unmanned task forces, modeled after Task Force 59, in other regions.
Wikoff has an aviation background, having served operationally in Fighter Squadron (VF) 102 and VF-154, according to his official Navy bio.
His command assignments have included Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 211 deployed onboard USS Enterprise (CVN 65), VFA-122, Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 3 deployed onboard USS Harry S. Truman (CVN 75), and Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 5 forward deployed to Yokosuka, Japan onboard USS Ronald Reagan (CVN 76).
His shore assignments have included the Naval Strike and Air Warfare Center, as TOPGUN training officer; Naval Personnel Command as a placement officer for the Tomcat and Super Hornet communities; Joint Staff as an action officer in the Operations Directorate, Deputy Directorate for Antiterrorism and Homeland Defense (J-34); chief of naval operations staff as air warfare special programs requirements officer (N88); the Combined Air and Space Operations Center as battle director in Qatar; U.S. Naval Forces Central Command as chief of staff and maritime operations center director in Bahrain, executive assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations, and Joint Staff as deputy director for operations (OT-5) and assistant director for Global Integration and Current Operations (J-33).
If confirmed, Wikoff would succeed Vice Adm. Brad Cooper. The DOD personnel announcement did not address Cooper’s future or his next assignment.