In the Western Pacific, China is building up its anti-access/area-denial (A2/AD) capabilities—including communications jamming, cyber-warfare, and antisatellite weapons. In the event of a conflict, Chinese forces are likely to attack those vital communication links that enable U.S. forces to operate cohesively. In those communications-degraded/-denied environments, unless a system is manned, autonomy might be the only way to go.
For the U.S. Navy, there is an added dimension—as was postulated by Jan van Tol, Mark Gunzinger, Andrew Krepinevich, and Jim Thomas at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments. The service’s aircraft carriers no longer have a safe haven in coastal waters 200 nautical miles off shore.1 With the rising threats to the carrier in the form of antiship cruise and ballistic missiles, those ships may be forced to stand off a significant distance—more than 1,000 nautical miles—from the enemy shoreline.