WASHINGTON Jan 5 (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy needs to strengthen its naval power, learn faster, and expand partnerships with industry, allies and other government agencies to stay ahead of potential rivals such as China and Russia, its top admiral said Tuesday.

U.S. Chief of Naval Operations John Richardson said the scope, complexity and fundamental uncertainty of the current security environment demanded a different, more agile approach, but also offered strategic opportunities.

Richardson released a new strategic document entitled "A Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority" aimed at keeping ahead of rapidly changing threats from China, Russia, North Korea, Iran and global extremist groups.

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"We must do everything we can to seize the potential afforded by this environment," he wrote. "Our competitors are moving quickly, and our adversaries are bent on leaving us swirling in their wake." He said the fiscal 2017 budget plan, to be released in February, would include more details about the new approach.

Richardson cited increases in maritime traffic, the rise of the global information system, and the "astonishing" rate of technological development as key factors changing the security environment.

Russia and China had a growing arsenal of high-end weapons, many of which were focused on U.S. vulnerabilities, he said.

But both countries were also engaging in "coercion and competition below the traditional thresholds of high-end conflict," while exploiting "the weakness of accepted norms in space, cyber and the electromagnetic spectrum," he said.

Budget constraints meant the Navy would "not be able to 'buy' our way out of the challenges we face."

Richardson underscored the importance of replacing the Navy's aging nuclear-armed Ohio-class submarines, the undersea leg of the so-called strategic deterrent triad that includes intercontinental ballistic missiles and long-range bombers.

General Dynamics Corp is developing a replacement for the submarines together with Huntington Ingalls Industries Inc, a project that may cost nearly $100 billion.

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Richardson's plan calls for the Navy to work with the Marine Corps to develop more options to address the threat of long-range precision missiles, advance the use of information warfare, and explore new types of weapons.

Richardson said the Navy would expand the use of simulators, online gaming and other tools to achieve what he called "high-velocity" learning for individuals, teams and organizations to make the service more efficient.

The Navy would also work to streamline its headquarters, improve its personnel system and strengthen leadership training, while increasing information sharing with key allies, adding more combined military operations, and expanding work with commercial industry and other non-traditional partners. (Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Andrea Ricci)