Navy enters critical year for maritime domain awareness efforts
By ROXANA TIRON, Seapower Correspondent
Eyes in the Sky
The U.S. Navy has been taking assured leaps to
transform its ship-based force into a multifaceted battle network that draws on information
gathered by its ships, aircraft, unmanned systems above
and under water, satellites and international partners.
The Navy is expanding its reach by investing in
technologies that would keep it perpetually alert and
informed, from narrow straits to the open ocean. Some
of those investments, long in the planning stage, will
begin to materialize this year.
What marks a shift in the Navy’s pursuit is that it
wants to achieve so-called maritime domain awareness
and persistent intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) without investing heavily in the manpower usually associated with its platforms.
The Navy will crystallize its enduring maritime ISR
picture over the coming decades not only through specific technology programs, but by partnering with
other navies through a global fleet station concept,
along with the Coast Guard and merchant vessels.
Traditionally, carrier battle groups were essential to the
ISR and maritime domain awareness mission by putting
their aircraft over the open, sometimes hard-to-discern
ocean. But now, the Navy is changing its game.
Achieving persistent ISR is an
ambitious endeavor, spanning from
satellites to underwater systems,
tapping into the ever-growing
stamina of advanced robotic systems, and harnessing the power of
sensors and communications technology that ultimately relay information to commanders tasked with
“Trying to establish maritime
domain awareness around the globe
is a tremendous undertaking,” said
Bob Work, vice president of strategic
studies at the Center for Strategic and
Budgetary Assessments. “Everything
that becomes a sensor has to talk to everybody else.”
And while the Navy’s new approach will come into
focus over the next few years, this year is crucial to
jump-starting several technology developments.
Among them are the pending Broad Area Maritime
Surveillance (BAMS) unmanned aerial system (UAS)
and the new manned EPX aircraft [see story, page 20],
used to gather ISR and for targeting.
At press time April 15, the Navy had yet to select a
BAMS contractor. Teams led by three defense giants —
Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman —
are vying to lead the multibillion dollar program to
provide persistent maritime surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities for U.S. naval decision-makers
worldwide. A decision initially was scheduled for
January, but has been delayed pending further review
of the designs.
BAMS, essentially a multimission ISR system, will
support strike operations, signals intelligence and
communications relay efforts. It will operate independently or in direct collaboration with other assets in the
maritime environment. BAMS is expected to operate at
altitudes exceeding 40,000 feet, above the weather and
most air traffic, to conduct continuous open-ocean and
Key manned and unmanned aircraft programs will help expand
the Navy’s area of observation.
■ The Broad Area Maritime Surveillance unmanned aerial system
will support strike operations, signals intelligence and communications relay efforts.
■ The P-8A Poseidon aircraft will carry out many of the Navy’s
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions.
■ The Navy plans to integrate radar technology onto the Fire
Scout unmanned aerial vehicle for patrolling littoral waters.