Part of the series: Emerging industry trends with Systematiq
As the defence industry eagerly awaits the Government’s recommendations following the independent analysis of Navy’s surface combatant fleet capability, along with further budget announcements to come, we are reminded of the importance of our maritime security and stability through recent global events.
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the ongoing conflict in the Middle East and the Red Sea, which is responsible for constraining waterways responsible for AU$1.51 trillion worth of maritime trade every year, along with China’s antagonism in the South China Sea, we are sharply reminded that it is essential we focus on building an enhanced maritime capability.
According to the Defence Strategic Review (DSR), Australia is a ‘maritime nation’ dependent on sea lines of communication and maritime trade.
To be focused and effective, the Australian Defence Force (ADF) requires ‘enhanced, all-domain, maritime capabilities for sea denial operations and localised sea control’.
As such, being aware of new developments and innovations relevant to maritime warfare, both locally and internationally, is essential to the continuing enhancement of our nation’s maritime capabilities.
DARPA Developing US UUV Capabilities
Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) is a US government innovation department. Their unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) program, dubbed the “Manta Ray program”, recently took its first in-water splash test in September of 2023. A scaled prototype was submerged and tested to verify various functionalities, such as its sensors and autonomy behaviours.
The Manta Ray program is an innovation that seeks to develop technologies for Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUVs). These UUVs would be capable of operating independently for extended periods and enhance operational flexibility for other sea vessels.
This first in-water test marks a key milestone for the program, providing key insight and data to inform future development of the UUVs.
If successful, then the UUVs developed through the Manta Ray program would be a new class of long-duration, long-range UUVs. These UUVs would provide increased capacity to commanders without relying on manned vessels and ports once deployed.
UK Admiral Addresses Need for Innovation in Maritime
In his keynote speech on May 17, 2023, the First Sea Lord, Admiral Sir Ben Key, emphasised the importance of the UK's Armed Forces, and particularly the Royal Navy, to invest in cutting-edge capability.
With a sentiment that echoes that of our own Australian Defence Strategic Review (DSR), he notes the rapidly changing technological and strategic environment:
‘…the pace of change we find ourselves in in the world today and our navy is rapid; we are facing an environment that is evolving faster than ever.‘
Touching on topics such as autonomous capability and artificial intelligence, he comments that identifying relevancy and swiftly adapting to new and emerging technologies is key to enhancing the seapower nation’s ‘accuracy, efficiency and lethality’.
Only a month after his speech, the Royal Navy tested its own autonomous capabilities, in the form of three remotely-piloted vessels designed for mine countermeasures. The autonomous nature of these vessels removes the risk of exposing sailors to minefields.
These mine-hunting vessels are a key example of the core theme reiterated throughout Admiral Ben Key’s speech: to succeed in a rapidly developing strategic environment, the goal must be to identify and swiftly implement relevant new technologies.
Australia Adapting with New Maritime Capability
Australia is in the process of modernising its undersea capabilities to meet this evolving strategic environment.
The Royal Australian Navy is embarking on the Modernisation of Maritime Electronic Warfare (MMEW) project, aiming to enhance its capabilities in controlling and operating the electromagnetic spectrum.
Currently in the Request For Information (RFI) stage, the technology developed through the MMEW will enable various shipboard capabilities, such as laser detection and tracking, improved maritime domain sensing, non-lethal actions against Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) platforms, and the ability to counter Uncrewed Aerial Systems (UAS) with shipboard lasers.
Aligning with the Defence Strategic Review directives, these capabilities will support a range of maritime mission objectives, with the primary goal of force protection, deterrence and sea control.
Systematiq Supports Maritime Projects
At Systematiq, we're here to guide you through the rapidly changing strategic landscape occurring across the globe. We’re well aware of the importance of maritime capabilities in securing Australia’s shores, and possess the knowledge required to support them.
With expert insight gained from decades of combined defence experience and past work done on maritime projects for companies such as Leidos, JFD, and PFG; Systematiq can support your business across your defence project.
We can also assist in aligning your business to the directives of the DSR, allowing you to capitalise on new opportunities and innovations.
Systematiq provides solutions and fills capability gaps across all stages of your project lifecycle. Contact us at our website systematiq.com.au to learn how we can move your business forward today.