We can’t know for sure in what ways future adversaries will challenge our Fleet, but we can assess with some certainty how technology is affecting their principal capabilities. Judging from the evidence at hand, future Fleet actions will place a premium on early sensing, precision targeting, and long-range ballistic- and cruise-missile munitions. Increasingly sophisticated over-the-horizon and space-based sensors, in particular, will focus on signature control and signature deception. Thus, we must ask ourselves how best to win this battle of signatures and long-range strike.
In the current Fleet, submarines are the gold standard for signature control. But unless they receive intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) from other sources, they have limited sensing ranges. While surface combatants have longer-range sensing capabilities in multiple domains, they pay for it with a significantly higher signature. This balance between signature and sensing will, in large measure, dictate the future Fleet’s architecture.