Undersea Warfare Conference: A Novel Force – Integrating Undersea, Subsea, and Seabed Capabilities in Distributed Maritime Operations


The history of maritime warfare has proven the biggest navy does not always win the fight at sea; the victor tends to be the more agile, versatile, and interconnected fleet.  For example, the Greeks utilized the trireme to defeat the superior Persian navy at Salamis, the British fleet’s agility and firepower bested the superior French and Spanish navies at Trafalgar, and the United States use of an integrated fleet against the Japanese Empire in battles such as Guadalcanal and Midway during World War II proved how slight advantages in modernization and readiness make all the difference in naval warfare.

             While the United States is the dominant global maritime force, the Chinese have steadily grown and modernized their fleet to challenge the United States’ Naval superiority.  Their advancements in industry, technology, and workforce have provided a pacing threat capable of challenging the United States’ maritime dominance.  In response to this threat, the National Defense Industry Association, (NDIA) hosted the 2021 Virtual Undersea Warfare Conference on March 23rd and 24th.  NDIA brought together subject matter experts from government, industry, and academia to provide a forum to discuss and counter the Chinese's challenges.  

Deterrence is a cornerstone of National Security, especially in response to a pacing threat such as China.  The Navy’s missile program will continue to exceed requirements and provide weapons with relevant capabilities and components that can be replaced quickly.  Like the United States Army, long range firing capabilities are a critical component against a near-peer adversary.   The ability to fire missiles, such as Boeing’s Harpoon or Raytheon’s Tomahawk, from undersea accurately will prove advantageous in battle. Still, to carry out the mission, the Navy will need to integrate its undersea forces by utilizing AI capabilities.  Communication between undersea vessels, manned or unmanned, will require the use of antennas, advanced sonar technology, and a secure platform capable of delivering messages between maneuvering Naval elements—both under and above sea—to operate with maximum lethality. 

An often overlooked yet critical aspect of warfare is the strength of the defense workforce.  Preparing a flexible and adaptive workforce to face 21st-century problems will require policymakers, industry, and the military to look at the entire education and employment pipeline as the future Navy will be a beneficiary of a robust workforce.  Educating, recruiting, and retaining talent in STEM fields will deliver our warfighters' necessary capabilities to maneuver, cyber defend, and defeat future adversaries. Further investments in skilled careers such as welders and engineers will strengthen the shipbuilding industry.  In recognition of these concerns, the Navy has developed Pathways to Partnership programs such as NavalX, Tech Bridge, and TechSolutions to address and fill gaps in the workforce. 

NDIA is proud to support the warfighter and highlight issues facing the Defense Industrial Base by hosting events such as Undersea Warfare.  To stay up to date on NDIA’s efforts, feel free to join the conversation on NDIA Connect or follow on Twitter @NDIAToday or @NDIAPolicy.  

Topics: Undersea Warfare, Sensor Systems, Defense Innovation

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