Tag Archives: Maritime Domain Awareness

MFP 8: The Future of Small-Nation Maritime Forces

What advice would you give to a smaller nation on the maritime investments it should pursue, and why?

This is the eighth in our series of posts from our Maritime Futures Project.  For more information on the contributors, click here.  Note: The opinions and views expressed in these posts are those of the authors alone and are presented in their personal capacity.  They do not necessarily represent the views of their parent institution U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, any other agency, or any other foreign government.

Simon Williams, U.K.
The nation in question must clearly enunciate what it seeks to gain from the maritime realm. Only in doing this will it construct an appropriate approach to its engagement with the sea.

Prof. James Holmes, U.S. Naval War College:

Deceptive Vietnamese maritime defenses?
        Deceptive maritime defenses in Vietnam?

Lesser maritime nations often seem to assume they have to compete symmetrically with the strong in order to accomplish their goals. That would mean that, say, a Vietnam would have to build a navy capable of contending on equal terms with China’s South Sea Fleet in order to fulfill its strategic aims. That need not be true. Here at the College we sometimes debate whether small states have grand strategies, or whether grand strategy is a preserve of the strong. Small coastal states do have grand strategies. In fact, there’s a premium on thinking and acting strategically when you have only meager resources to tap. Our Canadian friends, for instance, take pride in operating across inter-agency boundaries. Small states can’t simply throw resources at problems and expect to solve them. They have to think and invest smart. That’s my first bit of advice.

What kinds of strategies and forces should the weak pursue? Here’s the second bit of advice: they should consult great thinkers of the past. The French Jeune École of the 19th century formulated some fascinating ideas about how to compete with a Royal Navy that ruled the waves. Sir Julian Corbett fashioned a notion of active defense by which an inferior fleet could prevent a greater one from accomplishing its goals. In effect it could hug the stronger fleet, remaining nearby to keep the enemy from exercising command of the sea. Mao Zedong’s writings about active defense also apply in large part to the nautical domain. The notions of sea denial and maritime guerrilla warfare should resonate with smaller powers today. Clinging to an adversary while imposing high costs on him is central to maritime strategies of the weak.

And third, what does that mean in force-structure terms? It means smaller maritime powers should look for inexpensive hardware and tactics that make life tough and expensive for bigger powers. I have urged the Taiwan Navy to downplay its sea-control fleet in favor of platforms like missile-armed fast patrol boats that could give a superior Chinese navy fits. Such acquisitions are worth studying even for a great naval power like Japan. So long as Tokyo caps defense spending at 1 percent of GDP, it has to look to get the most bang it can for the buck. Sea denial should be in its portfolio. Bottom line, lesser powers should refuse to despair about their maritime prospects. They should design their fleets as creatively as possible, taking advantage of the home-field advantage all nations enjoy in their immediate environs. That may mean a navy founded on small craft.

Anonymous, USN:
Protect your resources and people. Make friends with powerful nations that can help guard you.

LT Drew Hamblen, USN:
Design high-speed, helicopter- and small boat-capable ships that can combat piracy and enforce maritime law. A few guided-missile cruisers may be needed to augment coastal defenses. Expeditionary navies will increasingly become obsolete in favor of submarine patrols and small surface surveillance units.

Felix Seidler, seidlers-sicherheitspolitik.net, Germany:

Drug runners prove navies and coast guards don't have a monopoly on maritime forces in South America.
Drug runners prove navies and coast guards don’t have a monopoly on maritime forces in South America.

My advice would depend on the region. Latin American nations surely do not need blue-water capabilities, and instead should focus on small, mobile units to fight drug trafficking, etc. In conflict zones, my advice would be to build up sophisticated cyber-forces soon. From a cost-benefit perspective, the easiest way for a small nation to target a large one is cyber-warfare. With regard to naval vessels, I would definitely recommend submarines. It does not make any sense for smaller nations to try and get the upper hand on the surface. Instead I would advise using cyber and submarine forces for asymmetric tactics.

Matt Cosner, U.S.:
I believe that smaller maritime nations – particularly those concerned with controlling significant maritime frontiers and resources vice projecting power – would be better served acquiring land-based maritime patrol and reconnaissance aircraft (MPRA) rather than buying additional warships. One needs look only at Japan as an example. Japan has a much smaller ship count (70 vs. 280 ships) than the U.S. Navy, yet fields only slightly fewer MPRA (80 vs. 120 aircraft).

For a smaller maritime nation, say Indonesia or the Philippines, an MPRA doesn’t necessarily have to be something as capable (and expensive!) as the P-3C Orion or P-8A Poseidon. These aircraft are optimized for long-ranged anti-submarine warfare, yet many countries have little need for this specialized capability.

In my opinion the better solution for most smaller maritime nations is something like a marinized Reaper UAS. Persistent maritime ISR is an enormous force multiplier that the U.S. Navy is only beginning to understand with its MQ-4 BAMS. In the context of a smaller nation – a squadron of 5 Reapers could provide persistent (24/7) surveillance over a very wide expanse of water, as well as a kinetic response if/when required.

LT Alan Tweedie, USNR:
Invest in modular small combatants. I can’t stress the modular concept enough, many industries, including civilian shipping companies have been doing it for years. Modularity brings flexibility with lower cost, two must-haves for a small nation.

CDR Chris Rawley, USNR:

Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) comes in many forms and has provided service in operations including counter-drug and counter-piracy.
Maritime Patrol Aircraft (MPA) comes in many forms and has provided service in operations including counter-drug and counter-piracy.

Buy small patrol vessels (or even converted commercial/fishing vessels) your country can sustain without external support, be that maintenance contracts or fuel. There is no need to purchase expensive, complicated, technologically intensive “maritime domain awareness” (MDA) solutions. Rather, acquire as many intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft – whether manned or unmanned – and the infrastructure to support them, as you can afford. Most importantly, invest in a competent and professional boarding team capability. These teams are the main battery of a nascent navy or coast guard with the primary missions of policing coastal waters and controlling maritime borders against smugglers, pirates, and the like.

LTJG Matt Hipple, USN:
Don’t expand beyond your interests. For example, Pakistan has a “navy” with FFGs, but their interests don’t lie beyond their shores and serves little more than targets for India at sea. Maintain a bubble of security and legitimacy within your “realm” using corvettes and a corps of professional highly paid sailors and law-enforcement officers. Find maritime partnerships within which you can grow organically.

Dr. Robert Farley, Professor, University of Kentucky:
The core role of a navy is to secure a state’s maritime interests. For a small, poor nation this will most often involve protection of fisheries, local anti-piracy measures, anti-smuggling, and other missions that run along the divide between military and law enforcement. Small, poor countries should concentrate on developing manageable, reliable, easy-to-maintain flotillas that can conduct these kinds of operations, and on developing a corps of sailors capable of doing their jobs well.

Small rich nations have different problems; many of them (in Europe, for example) already have relatively secure littorals. These states can focus on developing capabilities that will allow them to participate in and contribute to multilateral operations.

CDR Chuck Hill, USCG (Ret.):
Not every coastal nation needs a navy, but they all need a coast guard – see Costa Rica for example. It is their only armed force.

Bryan McGrath, Director, Delex Consulting, Studies and Analysis:
It depends on where that nation is. If it is in the South China Sea, I would recommend that their maritime investments be targeted on understanding the battlespace around their territory. Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA)—from the land, on the sea and in the air.

Sebastian Bruns, Fellow, Institute for Security, University of Kiel, Germany:
Be flexible. Find a niche. Work to provide the right framework and circumstances. Be reliable and somewhat predictable: politically, operationally, and strategically.

Bret Perry, Student, Georgetown University:
Smaller nations should focus on procuring sustainable, simple systems. The following example illustrates my advice: a second- or third-world nation would be better off with a fleet of armed RHIBs (rigid-hull inflatable boats) than one or two larger patrol boats to protect their waters. Many second- or third-world navies lack the capability or willingness to maintain these “larger” ships; as a result, they sit in port and fall out of service. The same sometimes happens to the smaller RHIBs, but since they might have dozens of these, damaged ones can cannibalized for spare parts. These simple systems, combined with investments in training, will allow smaller nations to effectively conduct basic maritime security operations.

YN2(SW) Michael George, USN:
Rather simply, keeping the “quality over quantity” perspective when training, building, and forming their forces will go further than hustling as many ships and troops/sailors out there as possible.

LT Jake Bebber, USN:
Missiles are cheaper than surface or subsurface platforms, and a small nation can probably raise the “entry fee” into their littorals enough to discourage a maritime power like the U.S. (or China for that matter) from operating near their coast with land-based missile systems. If the small nation can afford a few diesel submarines and maritime patrol aircraft, it can significantly increase the cost of power projection over their shores from a larger maritime power. As Lord Nelson said, “A fool’s a man who fights a fort.” Today’s anti-ship cruise missile (ASCM) systems – both land-based and platform based – are the modern equivalent of the 18th century coastal fort. They alone cannot win a war for a smaller nation against a maritime power, but they can certainly discourage one.

MFP 3: Impediments and Expedients for Mission Accomplishment

If you are a current Sailor or member of the Coast Guard, what are some of the biggest impediments to getting your job done? What promised development or technology would most aid you in the accomplishment of your assignment?

This is the third in our series of posts from our Maritime Futures Project.  Note: The opinions and views expressed in these posts are those of the authors alone and are presented in their personal capacity.  They do not necessarily represent the views of their parent institution U.S. Department of Defense, the U.S. Navy, any other agency, or any other foreign government.

CDR Chuck Hill, USCG (Ret.):

Impediments:  The U.S. has the largest Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in the world.  Its area exceeds that of the total land area of the U.S. and most of it is in the Pacific.  However, most U.S. Coast Guard assets are in the Eastern U.S. where most of the population (and political clout) resides.

ExpedientsImproved Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) has the potential to assist in search and rescue (SAR), fisheries enforcement, drug interdiction, coast defense, and protections of ports.  The Coast Guard cannot afford a comprehensive MDA system solely for its own purposes, but if it can share information with DOD agencies also interested in monitoring the maritime approaches to the U.S., including perhaps cruise missile defense, it could make the employment of assets much more efficient.

MDA through AIS
                                                            Maritime Domain Awareness through AIS

LTJG Matt Hipple, USN:
Impediments:  The answer is simple.  The real impediment is people, time, and flexibility.  We have fewer people, which leaves us fewer man-hours and perspectives to get work done.  Having fewer people means we have less time… less time for schools, fewer people to run the schools, and less time for training.  The training regimen itself has been increased, by more required schools for alcohol awareness, marine species safety, and the like, having little-to-no bearing on the actual work of the sailor.  This non-essential training, considered more important and tracked more diligently than regular warfighting training, further drains the pool of man-hours for an already diminished grouping of sailors that, having less time to train or go to school, or spots open in school for them to go, are also less ready than they could be.

Added to that death-spiral between people and time, the Navy is increasingly removing the room for flexibility.  While an entire article could be written on the cost-effects of our inflexibility, the fact I can’t, for example, install fire-proof hoses that exceed the necessary requirements without special fleet approval, requiring regular renewing, is itself evidence enough.

NKO
 NKO: Aid or hindrance?

LCDR Joe Baggett, USN:
ImpedimentsLack of interoperability (Common data networks).  Maritime forces are now and will continue to be employed in confidence-building among nations through collective security efforts in a common global system that links threats and mutual interests in an open, multi-polar world.  This requires an unprecedented level of integration among our maritime forces, enhanced cooperation with the other instruments of national power, and the capabilities of our international partners.  No single nation has the resources required to provide safety and security throughout the entire maritime domain.

LT Drew Hamblen, USN:
Impediments:  The amount of required training extraneous to job proficiency (for example, General Military Training (GMT) requirements on Navy Knowledge Online) is cumbersome and only getting lengthier.

The number of passwords required for our systems is unmanageable and results in personnel writing them down, potentially compromising information assurance, or spending inordinate amounts of time on the phone with NMCI.

NMCI storage (and data storage capacity in general) is severely limited and outages are too frequent.

LT Scott Cheney-Peters, USNR:
Impediments:  Others here already address most of what I view as the major impediments to mission accomplishment in the sea services on a day-to-day basis.  At a general level these include a dearth of manning (whether afloat, in aviation squadrons, or ashore) and burdensome administrative requirements.

Expedients:  Short of increasing manning (not likely), or reducing requirements (possible, and some real efforts have been undertaken, but truly it’s never-ending struggle), there are two areas of focus that could help alleviate the effects.  The first is better collaborative tools and sharing of lessons learned. There’s a lot of ‘reinventing the wheel’ that goes on in the fleet, for instance completely different versions of mandatory instructions that only need to be 5% different.  This sort of thing can be reduced through better collaborative tools – especially at the squadron or fleet level.

The second is better integration of data streams.  Akin to the low levels of communications interoperability, sailors must deal with a multitude of data streams that often require manual integration in the form of data entry.  This wastes time and effort.  For example, having to manually search online databases for further information about a ship transmitting AIS data to determine its point of origin or destination.

Luckily disaggregated data steams have not escaped notice, especially those from a ship’s organic sensors, resulting in general trends to develop all-encompassing combat system suites rather than stand-

Look it up, or hook it up?
                            Look it up, or hook it up?

alone weapon and sensor systems.  AIS, for example, is today better integrated into navigation displays, and it seems logical it will be integrated into future combat systems suite upgrades.  The trend for aggregated data is also progressing in remote-site monitoring, enabled by better sensors throughout things such as a ship’s engineering plant, helping displace some manually integrated data streams generated by the old Mark I Eyeball.  But data streams for administrative tasks – true data entry between different IT and web-based programs, or just plain old excel spreadsheets – still have a long way to go.  IT certificates and tokens can reduce some of the most redundant data-entry requirements (e.g. “type in your name, rank, and date of birth”), but there’s still a long way to go.  And, with increasing reliance on inter-accessible and integrated data comes the need for better cyber defenses, whether ashore or afloat.

Rex Buddenberg, U.S. Naval Postgraduate School:
Impediments: From a programmatic point of view we keep fixating on platforms (i.e. new
cutters, Deepwater, Navy FYDP shipbuilding, and LCS) rather than making
the platforms work together.  We need to focus on integration.

YN2(SW) Michael George, USN:
Impediments: As a Yeoman dealing with primarily administrative functions, I am usually able to perform my job duties and responsibilities with simply a computer, printer, and some pens, so there’s not much need for improvement on the hardware side.  However, the current setup of processing personnel administrative information uses collateral-duty Command Pass Coordinators (CPCs) and an online system (TOPS) that correspond with ashore Personnel Support Detachments (PSDs) for all matters of pay and personnel support.  This is a good idea in theory to help reduce shipboard manning, but it’s handled poorly, as it grants junior Sailors at PSDs across the fleet the power to supersede orders simply because the person giving the order is not a CPC.  It also causes people like myself in the Yeoman rate (and worse, many ENs, LSs, CMs, and more) to spend an inordinate amount of time on collateral duties, handling personnel paperwork that members used to be able to go directly to their PSD or a true shipboard expert to handle.

LT Jake Bebber, USN:
Impediments: The biggest impediment to maritime cryptology is not a piece of equipment … it is the lack of leadership in the cryptologic spaces.  We need to refocus our cryptologic space-leaders – the LPOs, the Division Chiefs, and the JOs – and reorient them to emphasize the quality and quantity of cryptologic reporting.  This can be done by simply “getting back to the basics” of maritime cryptology and practicing sound fundamentals.  Too often, we are complacent because the advanced equipment we use can appear to do the work for us.  But the most important piece of equipment in a cryptologic space is what’s between the ears, not the new computers or gear.  Our cryptologic leaders – especially Chiefs – need to be present in the spaces, ensuring quality and teaching fundamentals.  The JOs need to be there as well, learning from their Chiefs, LPOs and subject matter experts instead of standing watches on the bridge or combat.  Too much time is being spent by JOs and Chiefs doing things not related to the cryptologic mission, outside the cryptologic space.

Indian Maritime Security After Mumbai

 

Captured Mumbai attacker Ajmal Kasab

Last week the Indian government announced that it had arrested Abu Jindal, an alleged Lashkar-e-Taiba leader accused of masterminding the November 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai which killed at least 160 people.  His capture was only the most recent of a series of arrests and trials in India, Pakistan, and the US of people involved in planning or participating in the attack.  Those events spurred a major re-evaluation of India’s maritime security posture, but the efforts that India has undertaken to improve those capabilities demonstrate some of the inherent difficulties of applying the concept of Maritime Domain Awareness to missions like counter-terrorism.

Following the attack the Indian Navy was designated as “the authority responsible for overall maritime security which includes coastal security and offshore security,” effectively relegating the Coast Guard from its primary coastal security role.  Organizationally, a series of Joint Operations Centers were established with responsibility over the various coastal regions, with the intent to institutionalize information sharing between the Navy, Coast Guard, and local agencies.  The Navy and Coast Guard began acquiring long and medium range surveillance aircraft and UAVs for a new “three-tier aerial surveillance grid.”   The Navy also set up a new coastal security unit, the Sagar Prahari Bal (SPB), with the mission of  day/night operations and “seaward anti-terrorist patrols.”

Despite these efforts, it does not seem like India’s improved maritime security framework has been successful.  In 2011 the Indian Comptroller and Auditor General issued a highly critical report stating that the Coast Guard “remains ill-equipped to discharge its enhanced role and meet the challenges of today… Post 26/11, the response of ICG and government has been ‘ad hoc’ as can be witnessed by increased patrolling, increased funding, fast tracking procurements.”  The most embarrasing instance was when a ship originally abandoned off the coast of Oman escaped detection by India’s new “multi-layered coastal security” system and washed ashore in Mumbai during July 2011.  Even though Indian authorities claimed that patrols have increased, as of 2011 the planned Command & Control network, radars, and AIS receivers enabling them had yet to be fielded as planned.  Only 250 or so of the 1000 SPB billets had been filled, and none of the planned 80 interceptor craft had been purchased.

 Whether or not India’s efforts at improving Maritime Domain Awareness and interagency cooperation between the Navy and Coast Guard are successful, it still remains unclear how either entity would have been able to act against the attackers.  It was later revealed that the US had provided warnings to the Indian government warning of a seaborne attack and that hotels were potential targets in Mumbai.  It is unclear whether those warnings were disseminated to Navy or Coast Guard units at the tactical level, or whether that would have even made a difference.

 According to the lone culprit captured alive after the attack, the attackers left Karachi on the ship “AL HUSSEINI,” and then hijacked a fishing trawler named “KUBER” in Indian waters.  They killed all the crew but the captain, who was then killed after guiding them to Mumbai.    The attacker claimed that the fishing trawler that they had hijacked had been detected by an Indian Navy or Coast Guard vessel, but that Navy or Coast Guard patrol did not stop the trawler.  Being detected was the event that spurred the attackers to leave the trawler and start their final movement ashore in small inflatable boats.

Assuming that story is true and the trawler was seen by the Navy or Coast Guard, there still is not necessarily a reason that those authorities would have had to justify them interdicting and boarding the suspect trawler.  It is plausible that they could have been ordered to stop all suspect vessels, but it is not clear that the trawler full of terrorists would have met the criteria of a suspect vessel at first glance (it was just a fishing boat heading to Mumbai).  Without a good description or location of the boat, how would the Indian Navy or Coast Guard target it?  This instance demonstrates the difficulty of both achieving something like total Maritime Domain Awareness, and then applying that knowledge to drive successful operations.

How often did Indian intelligence and/or the various maritime security agencies get warnings of this type, and if so, would the operational result of that be instructions to interdict all vessels in a certain area?  How would the boundaries of such a search area defined?  How would “suspect” vessels be identified without an accurate description of the target?  How long could any maritime force sustain widespread interdiction of suspect vessels?  Even an unlimited number of maritime platforms and ship-tracking sensors will not make any difference in terms of differentiating the bad guys from the rest of the civilian traffic if the bad guys are able to blend in.  Realistically, the only way that the Indians would have been successful in stopping the attackers would have actionable indicators derived from analysis or penetration of those illicit networks such as the location or description of a specific boat.

Lieutenant Commander Mark Munson is a Naval Intelligence Officer and currently serves on the OPNAV staff. He has previously served at Naval Special Warfare Group FOUR, the Office of Naval Intelligence and onboard USS ESSEX (LHD 2). The views expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the official viewpoints or policies of the Department of Defense or the U.S. Government.