Now Hear This - Abandon the Littorals . . . To Robots!

By Peter von Bleichert

Purpose-built UUVs would use fouling-resistant jet drives, provide sensors for the networked group, and detect and localize targets for the LDS or other vessels. The UUVs would have the ability to automatically detect and avoid obstacles, as well as bypass others—for instance by cutting commercial or defensive netting. As the UUVs creep quietly beneath the waves, USVs would ply them.

The USVs would be semisubmersible to minimize profiles and signatures. They would have automatic obstacle avoidance, a range of sensors for awareness and targeting, and would carry a remote gun, ultra-lightweight antiship missiles and torpedoes, as well as less-than-lethal capabilities for antipiracy or other operations. Using variable buoyancy, a reinforced hull, jet drives, and powered keel rollers, the USVs would traverse reefs, rocks, and man-made barriers. Flying over the LDS’ USVs and UUVs are her UAVs.

Armed and unarmed UAVs would provide battlespace awareness as well as targeting or direct attack against surface and submerged targets. The UAVs would be protected from aerial threats by the group’s surface-to-air missiles as well as aircraft from an amphibious or carrier strike group, or those that are land-based, if feasible.

Besides penetrating and then dominating contested near-shore areas, the LDS and her unmanned vehicles would also provide lane-clearing for manned systems such as SEAL delivery vehicles and Marine Corps ship-to-shore tractors.

The littorals are too dangerous for the big expensive submarines and ships of the Navy and their crews, and they are far too dangerous for smaller manned vessels that lack comprehensive defensive and offensive systems. Whether preparing the littorals for Special Forces, for an amphibious assault, or executing anti-piracy or other near-shore domination operations, by designing, deploying, and employing unmanned vehicles tailored to littoral domination, the United States can deter aggression, undermine asymmetric tactics, and project force ashore while minimizing the casualties that our enemies will so desperately seek to inflict.

Mr. von Bleichert is a college instructor and past contributor to Proceedings . A PhD candidate (public policy and administration, specializing in homeland security), he also is the author of Fourth Crisis: The Battle for Taiwan (Amazon Digital Services, 2013).


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