Neuro-Navy and Future War Impact

Neuro-Navy:  Potential advances in cognitive functions, combat career screening, and treating combat-stress injuries.

In my current capacity as a military student, one of my requirements is to complete a master’s thesis focused on future warfare.  This year I have decided to write on the implications of  future neuroscience developments and the impact on naval warfare, (up to ~15 years out).  Below is my thesis proposal, which I submit to your view in the hopes of starting a conversation.  I look forward to your comments and further discourse.  

Proposed Research Question: How will advances in neuroscience improve naval capabilities?

Proposed Thesis:  Future advances in neuroscience research and development will improve naval capabilities in both the cognitive executive functions of decision makers and enhanced situational awareness through a melding of neurotechnology with biological sensory.

Discussion:  Many discussions on the fog and friction of war relate to the common denominator of the human mind.  Despite advances in unmanned and autonomous technology, the basis of all military strategy and campaigns is the ultimate execution by military personnel, reliant on cogent decision-making. 

The field of neuroscience has seen drastic growth in the last decade.  Exceeding its biological origins the field has exploded, infusing research with psychics, psychology, medicine, and computer science – to name a few.  Through studies of the nervous system at numerous levels (functional, cellular, sensory), future neural research is gaining interest beyond traditional scientific communities and the implications for military development should be explored.

The continued research into genetic and environmental aspects of neural systems and decision-making explore the processes of the human nervous system and interaction with cognitive executive function.  Through future neuroscience development, naval forces may be able to apply new technology and biological understanding to effectively screen young military leaders to categorize individual cognitive strengths and weaknesses.  The ability to place these leaders in appropriate career positions may improve naval warfare communities that continually operate in high-risk environments.  Furthermore, the ability to track cognitive weaknesses provides the opportunity for the naval training organization to produce brain fitness programs to improve these areas.

With the future development of cognitive screening, naval forces could develop programs (such as DARPA’s Enabling Stress Resistance program) to mitigate stress through behavioral and pharmacological interventions.  The increase in this screening, combined with advances in neuropharmacology, will allow naval forces to complement battlefield simulators with individual-oriented stimulants, to increase the stressors on combat decision-makers while in a safe environment and approach a real-time fog of war. 

Neurotechnology may also provide enhanced human intelligence analysis, through the development of brain-signal processing linked to visual intelligence as it occurs.  This capability may increase the speed and accuracy of image analysis and improve operational assessments.           

Preserving the most expensive naval weapon

In addition to cognitive development, the field of neuroscience may provide enhanced manpower recovery options to deployed expeditionary forces.  Advances in clinical and evolutionary neuroscience are improving current naval medical corps’ ability to identify, diagnose, and treat PTSD.  Continued research could produce an expeditionary force capable of preparing forces not only upcoming combat stressors, but follow-on operations that require increased time on station.   The ability to prevent PTSD and keep military personnel on the battlefield will provide an advantage in future protracted conflicts.  Future developments in prosthetic limbs, linked with effective neural links, will advance an operational force commander’s ability to limit his reserve force, assuming his naval ships have the capacity to treat injured personnel afloat.

Lastly, the possibility of employing non-kinetic neuro-weapons, developed in the field of cellular neuroscience, to make the enemy to believe that operations have occurred (pseudo-feint) may provide naval forces an advantage when planning major operations.  The enemy’s belief that the war is lost may be enough for the friendly forces to declare victory – or further tactical/operational goals in the interim.  The capacity to develop and employ such a weapon is worthy of further research and discussion.  

A.J. “Squared-Away” is a husband, father, and U.S. Navy Surface Warfare Officer.  He has deployed on patrol boats, destroyers, and aircraft carriers to the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf, and aboard Iraqi oil terminals.  He is currently a student at an advanced military warfighting school.  The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy.

Israeli Naval Options For Gaza

An Israeli Sa’ar 4.5-class missile boat – a likely player in Israeli naval options

As fighting continues Friday between Israel and Hamas, the region braces for an expanded Israel Defense Force (IDF) incursion into the Gaza Strip – a possibility indicated by the government approval of a mobilization of up of 30,000 reservists.  Such a move would consist mostly of air and ground forces, but the Israeli Navy would also have a role to play. 

The bulk of the Israeli Navy consists of these missile boats and patrol craft, plus a handful of more-capable corvettes and subs.  Missile boats have already shelled (and perhaps struck with missiles) Hamas security positions along the coast, and the Navy continues to enforce its blockade of the Strip.  As Dr. Robert Farley and Galrahn, a pair of prominent naval bloggers (see our @CIMSEC twitter stream conversation), say naval options during this and expanded Israeli operations will mostly be confined to further shore bombardment and interdiction, along with ISR and effective surgicial strikes ashore.  Martin Skold, another CIMSEC member, notes that the normal missile load-out of Israel’s naval platforms limits the frequency of such strikes, especially when options such as the F-16 are readily available.  On the flip side, Israeli naval vessels may tempt Hamas as targets – especially as with the case of the Hezbollah attack on the INS Hanit in 2006 if they let their guard down.  It will be interesting to see if Hamas has the capability to attempt a similar strike.

             An Israeli Dabur-class patrol boat

Other scenarios tossed about for expanded fighting in the region include Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Egypt.  The latter would present the greatest naval challenges with 6 American-built frigates, 4 Romeo-class submarines, and roughly 200 other ships and craft.  But as the former showed with the Hanit, one should never count out the damage non-state actors can do to a Navy.

LT Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founding director of the Center for International Maritime Security and holds a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.
 
The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy. 

Symmetric Warfare – The Return to Symmetry

The torpedo: enabler of an asymmetric attack….

Asymmetry is a very popular word these days and, in my estimation, one applied too frequently to too many things.  Prof. Robert Farley makes the point that asymmetric expectations lie at the foundations of decisions about all battles.  “Combatants engage because they have different expectations about likely outcomes,” he says.  But not every search for gaining advantage in battle is asymmetric.  Using all available means and conditions to throw an opponent out of balance is a core of Liddell Hart’s indirect strategy.  So perhaps returning to symmetry and conceptually focusing on symmetric warfare would help ease understanding of complex problems related to ship roles and design.

Asymmetry is a strategy of weak against strong.  One side has no chance to match its opponent in a blow-for-blow fashion, and instead uses a type of attack for which the stronger opponent has developed ineffective defenses.  This is more of a conceptual framework than anything tied to a particular weapon, and in fact the same weapon can be both asymmetric or symmetric attacks depending on its use.  Torpedoes launched by a destroyer against a battleship constitute asymmetric warfare, but launched against another destroyer screening that battleship becomes symmetric.  PLA Navy anti-access doctrine and capabilities are asymmetric versus the U.S. Navy, but the same capabilities linked to a more Mahanian concept would be symmetric versus JMSD Forces, or overwhelming versus the Vietnamese Navy.  In the last case we would witness a reversal of roles.

Asymmetry is also a transient phenomena.  Use of torpedo boats was seen by Jeune Ecole as an asymmetric strategy aimed at Britain’s Royal Navy and its commerce, but very soon the British were able to control this threat and reinstate the symmetry by creating the destroyer.  The same torpedo, supported by excellent training, was part of an Imperial Japanese Navy asymmetric strategy in night actions against the (locally) numerically superior American counterpart.  Radar soon nullified this concept, although as Capt. Wayne Hughes noted in his Fleet Tactics and Coastal Combat, it took some time for the U.S. Navy to grasp the concept of using the radar, in spite of the fact that it was already technically in service during the battle at Savo Island.

…and frozen yogurt surprises!

The advantage of conceptually coming back to symmetry as a guiding principle is seen in the way warships were built and designed in the past.  A battleship was supposed to carry offensive weapons able to destroy the battle fleet of an enemy.  At the same time, armor was to give it protection against similar (symmetric) opponents.  In the case of cruisers the story was different, mostly because of Washington Treaty limitations, but the last cruiser designs without such limits returned to the need to fight opponents of the same class.  For modern ships it would be much easier to think in terms of their primary mission, while taking as a rule ability to fight a similar class opponent.

Looking at a contemporary example, the LCS surface warfare mission package’s primary mission is to counter asymmetric threats, like swarm attack, but it lacks capabilities to counter a symmetric opponent like a missile corvette.  My analysis could be viewed as an oversimplification, but could nonetheless help frame part of what should be a rational discourse among people who have no chance get to grips with real-world CONOPS.  I like the way Master Chief Petty Officer Brett F. Ayer explains Offshore Patrol Cutter requirements.

 

Przemek Krajewski alias Viribus Unitis is a blogger In Poland.  His area of interest is broad context of purpose and structure of Navy and promoting discussions on these subjects In his country

 

Despite Lavish Funding, Russian Navy Dead In The Water

This Old House: The Russian navy HQ moves back to St. Petersburg.

As of 31 October, the Russian Navy moved its headquarters back to the Admiralty building in St. Petersburg where it had been based until 1925. This is further, if superficial, evidence of President Vladimir Putin’s desire to revitalize and modernize the Russian fleet, and “maintain Russia’s place as a leading sea power.” Also on 31 October, the head of the Russian Navy, Admiral Viktor Chirkov, stated that he expects to add “up to five warships and auxiliary ships every year” through 2020. That is not a particularly impressive figure, but it is nothing to scoff at either. The number of ships added to the Russian Navy’s lists is only half the story. If President Putin hopes to strengthen Russian sea power relative to other maritime powers, then the Russian shipbuilding plan must be competitive with what others are doing. After accounting for the rate of decommissioning of Russian ships and the amount actually budgeted for Russia’s shipbuilding plan to 2020, as compared to U.S. plans, for example, it quickly becomes apparent those five ships a year are insufficient to achieve Putin’s desired revitalization of the fleet.

According to the state-owned news agency RIA Novosti, the Russian government set aside $156 billion for shipbuilding to 2020, or roughly $19.5 billion annually. This funding is expected to result in eight nuclear missile submarines, 14 frigates, 35 corvettes, six small artillery ships, and six landing ships – a total of 69 vessels. The average cost per unit under this plan is $2.26 billion, with only a handful of the hulls major combat assets. On the surface, the only major concern is the rather high cost for ships with limited capabilities. However, since Putin is concerned with improving the Russian Navy in both absolute terms and relative to its rivals – he wants Russia to be a great power again- it is a useful exercise to compare this shipbuilding plan with those of other leading sea powers.

A recent Congressional Budget Office (CBO) report on the U.S. Navy’s 2013 30-year shipbuilding plan notes some interesting differences. The U.S. Navy plans to add 268 ships by 2042, at a CBO projected cost of $599 billion.1 This is just shy of $20 billion per year, with a mean 8.9 ships commissioned annually.2 The cost per ship, however, comes in at $2.23 billion on average, cheaper than their Russian counterparts.3 On top of this, the planned U.S. ships are much more capable vessels. The plan includes 70 Arleigh Burke-class destroyers, 12 new ballistic missile submarines, 46 new attack submarines, 18 amphibious warfare ships, 46 logistics and support ships, and several aircraft carriers.4 Furthermore, these figures exclude the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS), roughly equivalent to a Russian corvette. When the two plans are held up against each other – admittedly an inexact comparison given the different time frames – the Russian Navy will continue to decline vis-à-vis its U.S. counterpart.

If the Russian Navy is to match President Putin’s ambitions, the rate of construction will not only have to be competitive with other naval powers, but will also have to be sufficient to compensate for the number of vessels decommissioned annually. In 2011, for example, two SSBNs and five landing ships left the fleet while one frigate and six landing craft entered service.5 A net neutral quantitative change, but arguably a net negative qualitative change. In 2010, one SSBN, a cruiser, two destroyers, two frigates, nine patrol craft, 13 mine countermeasures vessels, and seven landing craft entered or re-entered Russian service. This is compared with the loss of one SSBN, 28 patrol craft, an amphibious ship, a landing ship, and 11 landing craft.6 That is a net loss of seven vessels, but an arguable gain in capabilities. In 2009, the Russian Federation Navy added four attack submarines, one destroyer, and a landing ship but lost one SSBN, a destroyer, six frigates, and a landing craft.7 This is a net loss of three vessels, and a definite decline in capabilities. Now, admittedly this is not a perfect record of the comings and goings in the Russian Federation Navy as The Military Balance could be inaccurate. The Russian military is not known for its transparency, after all. The trend over the last three years appears, however, to be a decline in the size of the Russian Navy with, perhaps, some countervailing improvement in capabilities in certain areas. In 2011, seven ships were decommissioned, in 2010, 42 left service, and in 2009, nine were removed from the lists. Given the age of the majority of Russian vessels, it is unavoidable that a significant portion of the current Russian fleet will have to be decommissioned over the next five to ten years. Some of the oldest ships in the Russian fleet happen to be some of the most capable, meaning the loss will not be simply quantitative. The addition of five ships a year until the end of the decade certainly will help rejuvenate the aging Russian fleet, but it will not counteract its decline to the extent desired.

The Russian Navy appears dead in the water at this point. President Putin may wish for Russia to “maintain its status [as] one of the leading naval powers,” but the fact is that the Russian fleet is in decline and present plans are insufficient to absolutely or relatively increase its size and capabilities.8 Russia may or may not be America’s – or any other state’s9 – main geopolitical foe, but in the naval arena it is not much of a contest. Without even more money, the Russian Navy looks set to continue its decades’ long decline.

Ian Sundstrom is a graduate of the War Studies Masters Program at King’s College London.  He is currently engaged on a research project for Imperial War Museum – Duxford in Cambridge, United Kingdom.


[1] Page 3.

[2] Page 7.

[3] Page 3.

[4] Pages 8-9.

[5] International Institute of Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2012 and The Military Balance 2011

[6] International Institute of Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2011 and The Military Balance 2010

[7] International Institute of Strategic Studies, The Military Balance 2010 and The Military Balance 2009

[8] The recent firing of Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov may signal a change in Putin’s designs for the military, but it is too soon to tell.

[9] Space considerations have prevented me from discussing other navies’ shipbuilding plans. The reader may wish to consider the trajectory of the British, Japanese, and Chinese navies and how they compare to the Russian fleet. My very brief, preliminary look suggests Russia is set to make some quantitative headway against Britain and Japan, but Russia’s position sandwiched between four major seas renders the gains less than impressive. Compared to the Chinese Navy Russia is in clear decline.

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas.

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