All posts by A. J. Squared-Away

15-year USN, SWO. Damage Contol Assistant, Boarding Officer, Navigator, Operations Officer, Planner, Battle Watch Captain, XO. Husband, Father, CrossFit trainer. "We Are..."

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.

Sea-based Nation Security

 

“I’m going to work and live on THAT?”

This was my initial response when arriving  (via helicopter) 1000m away from Iraq’s Al Basrah Oil Terminal (ABOT).  As part of a coalition maritime security group, security forces have been protecting Iraq’s economic gem for over a decade, and over the course of that time many security lessons have been identified.  So naturally, I can’t help but relate these issues to the concept of Seasteading and my corresponding thoughts on security, which will be the focus of this post.

 

Home, sweet light crude home.

 

Point or Area Defense?  

One of the first questions to settle is whether the infrastructure be treated as a single point in the ocean, designed to be defended in 360 degrees.  It is possible that to have full coverage, the seastead will require roving patrols.  Non-Lethal technology (such as the LRAD), although only somewhat effective at distracting incoming small boats, must be employed in various positions for overlapping coverage.  In point defense, this will therefore require dedicated security personnel, on watch 24-hours a day, to field effective coverage.     If a seastead could utilize multiple supporting infrastructures in the near vicinity, or was a considered part of a country’s territorial archipelago, tactical considerations might alternately suggest an area defense approach to defend the seastead. This would entail routine patrols of the area and require more centralized security programs.  If the seastead decided to employ maritime patrols as a means to interdict unknown approaching vessels, the employment of patrol craft would be determined by the size of the area and amount of working security boats.

 

Buffer Zone

Another important question to consider is the distance from the seastead that will be considered a warning zone.  Implementing current anti-piracy measures may defend against approaching vessels through deterrents and security systems, but the infrastructure must also consider the terrorist/extremist threat of waterborne attacks.  Anecdotally it seemed to me that infrastructures often attract the best fish, so these platforms may also attract fishermen.  Considerations must be made to keeping unauthorized fishermen away from the platform, as the possibility of a water-borne improvised explosive device (WBIED) attack increases with added fishing traffic.  In addition to local fishing, the potential of large, commercial traffic – e.g. supertankers, liquid natural gas (LNG) ships – poses a kinetic threat to a seastead.  This threat must be gamed as both a non-malicious (navigational safety hazard) and malicious (terrorist hijack).  After determining the distance for the buffer zone, the seastead must also include a means to thwart approaching ships that look likely to violate it.  Patrolling security vessels capable of providing shouldering and defensive capability must be considered, yet their implementation weighed against the complex operational control required of maintaining security zones for a large infrastructure.

 

Personnel Control

The issue of entry/exit point control is a great point raised by Mr. Harmon in the video linked above.  This is an important aspect of security on a maritime platform, yet the seastead must weigh the thoroughness of processing against the costs of excessive time requirements.  A detailed inspection of incoming personnel may require the halting of offload or possibly return of vessels.  If a suspicious individual or group is identified, what detention facilities will the infrastructure maintain until further transfer is warranted?  At-sea vessel inspections from boarding teams, prior to their arrival at the seastead can be an effective means of providing entry control, yet this requires a dedicated boarding team with transportation.

 

Piracy 

As a final question to consider, is the seastead prepared to be boarded by pirates or other criminals and held for ransom?  While in his interview earlier this week Randy Hencken prevents compelling arguments against the threat of piracy afflicting seasteads, history has shown that human ingenuity – evil as well as good – often find a way to capitalize on societies in flux.  Therefore seasteads need to be prepared.  What security controls will be in place to prevent, thwart, and recover from piracy?  Is the platform capable of receiving airborne inserted counter-piracy forces?  Are the personnel living/working onboard the seastead well-versed in piracy scenarios and prepared to respond accordingly?  If pirated, “who ya gonna call”?

 

Seasteading is a great concept for advancing maritime occupancy and development, yet just as the concept is entering our collective discussion, so must the security challenges.

 

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 planner course. 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.  

Crimea River – Will the Syrian Conflict spread into the Black Sea?

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Potentially the first time anyone’s been told to stay ON someone’s lawn.

As Russia continues to conduct port visits and provide weapons to Syria amidst the violence, it does so with a preponderance of transits through the Turkish Straits.

The Montreux Convention of 1937 set forth guidelines for warship transit in the Dardanelles Straits, for which, Turkey was established as gatekeeper. Black Sea littoral nations are permitted uncontested warship transit (with a few caveats), yet Turkey is the initial authority in both restricting access to foreign warships and disputing local (riparian) warship transits during times of war.

For thousands of years, both the limits of anti-access and the role of gatekeeper have been contested by the Black Sea littoral nations (primarily Russia and the Ottomans). The authority granted by the Montreux Convetion has, for the most part, gone uncontested as global powers acknowledge the strength in stability that anti-access regulations provide to the region, but the recent conflict in Syria poses a dilemma for regional powers, primarily Turkey. Should Turkey restrict the transit of Russian warships through the Straits that are providing military support and weapons to Syria? With Russia’s only warm-water port based in Syria at Tartus, Russian diplomats would (on the surface) contest any such restriction and claim that any and all transits from the Black Sea to Syria are part of ongoing alliances and in support of established naval facility agreements.

Yet in this situation Turkey has the upper hand thanks to the Montreux Convention, specifically in Article 20:

“In time of war, Turkey being belligerent …the passage of warships shall be left entirely to the discretion of the Turkish Government.”

With the recent downing of a Turkish warplane and various conflicts on the Syrian border, a “time of war” is a reasonable description for Turkey. Any future Turkish political decisions to employ military operations in Syria should solidify Turkey as a “belligerent.” If these events were to unfold and Turkey enacted Article 20 on the Russian Navy, the question remains as to which, if any, international body would attempt to stop Turkey. Although many might assume that the U.N. is the appropriate governing body for such discussions, it is important to recognize that the Montreux Convention has gone virtually unchallenged since inception and still includes outdated references to things such as the League of Nations. This small loophole may be enough for Turkey to disregard any public or diplomatic outrage from Russia and its allies and deny Mediterranean access to the Russian Black Sea Navy.

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 planner course. 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.

Big Trouble in Little Cyprus

 

Greek Cyproit Navy patrol boats.

As part of the EU presidency trio program, Cyprus will become the new leader of the EU council on 01 July for a 6-month term. This may seem trivial to maritime security enthusiasts until they consider the historical tensions in the Eastern Mediterranean and the recent oil exploration discoveries in Cyprus’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Since the 1974 Greek coup d’ etat and subsequent Turkish invasion the island has been hotly contested between the two mediterranean powers.  This has resulted in an isolated Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), completely reliant on the Turkish mainland, the only country to recognize the TRNC as a sovereign state. Turkey is also a non-signatory to the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and continues to contest demarcation agreements as it supports the occupied Northern Cyprus. 

As the Turkish Navy patrols the Eastern Mediterranean, it will be interesting to see how new Cypriot leadership within the EU addresses maritime security and the prominence of EU Naval Force Somalia.  With continued rotations of EUNAVFOR ships to the Horn of Africa, the cyclical transits through the Suez Canal begs for EU presence while en route.  Although unlikely, if presence operations were to increase in the immediate vicinity of Cyprus, EU warship commanders would be challenged by:

  1. Patrol boundaries, sensitive to avoid escalating tensions with Turkey
  2. The immediate vicinity of Syria’s EEZ.
  3. Acknowledging Southern Cypriot’s EEZ. Doing so simultaneously challenges Israeli maritime claims that spill over into Lebanese and Cypriot waters.

Sprints to claim oil and gas exploratory rights will not improve the cloudy Eastern Med. geo-political situation without UN involvement and agreed-upon EEZ boundaries. Until such a resolution we can only expect increased tensions.  On July 1st, Cyprus is dealt a fresh set of cards, we can only sit back and see what hand is played. More to follow.

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. 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.