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March 17, 2022

Naval tech trends: Submarine top on Twitter in February 2022

Submarine leads as Naval Technology lists the top five terms tweeted on naval tech in February 2022, based on data from GlobalData’s Aerospace, Defence and Security (ADS) Influencer Platform.

The top trends are the most mentioned terms or concepts among Twitter discussions of more than 150 naval experts tracked by GlobalData’s ADS platform in February 2022.

1. Submarine – 422 mentions

A report on the US Navy’s Columbia-class submarine programme, AI and unmanned systems assisting in underwater stealth missions, and used submarines offered to the Royal Thai Navy by China for training purposes, were some of the popular discussions in February 2022.

USNI News, the official account of the US Naval Institute, shared an article detailing a report submitted to the Congress on the Navy’s Columbia-class (SSBN-826) ballistic missile submarine (SSBN) programme. The programme includes the design and construction of 12 new SSBNs to replace the Navy’s 14 outdated Ohio-class SSBNs, the article noted. The US Navy’s 2021 budget submission estimated the total procurement cost of 12 ships at $109.8bn. The US Navy received the first Columbia-class vessel in 2021 at a procurement cost of $15bn. The second vessel is expected to be delivered in 2024, with $1.6bn in advance procurement funding allocated under the fiscal year 2022 budget.

The report also highlighted the challenges faced by the US Congress as part of the programme, including delays in building the ships due to funding-related issues, Covid-19 pandemic and technical challenges. Other risk factors included increase in the programme cost, the impact of funding for the Columbia-class programme on funding other Navy programmes, and the challenges involved in constructing both the Virginia-class attack submarines (SSNs) and the Columbia-class boats.

Information Warfare Community Self Synchronization, a website providing news and information about the US Navy Information Warfare Community, further shared an article on AI and unmanned systems aiding in undersea combat along with submarines. An undersea battle force includes ballistic missile submarines, attack submarines, anti-submarine warfare (ASW) forces, maritime patrol aircraft, and unmanned and autonomous systems, according to Rear Adm. Richard Seif, USN commander of Undersea Warfighting Development Center (UWDC).

The UWDC aims to provide undersea superiority by combining technologies and creating policies related to multidomain undersea warfare. Adm. Seif advocates the growing significance of unmanned or autonomous systems in undersea battles highlighting that they can carry out a number of stealth operations, including tactical oceanography, navigation, communications, surveillance and reconnaissance, and ASW. He added that both AI and ML are important for datacentric missions such as the Project Harbinger, which applies AI and ML to acoustics. The technology is expected to allow analysts to scrutinise acoustics data from a range of sources including submarines, aircraft, surface ships, sonar buoys, and unmanned systems to help Navy leaders take decisions prior to fighting their adversaries, the article detailed.

 Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative (AMTI), a website providing information and analysis on maritime security issues in Asia, shared an article on China offering two used submarines to the Royal Thai Navy for training their staff. The used submarines were offered as the assembly of two S26T Yuan-class submarines ordered by the Royal Thai Navy from China was delayed due to issues related to purchasing an engine from Germany-based engine manufacturer MTU Aero Engines. MTU declined to sell the engine to China after discovering that it will be installed in a new submarine for sale to another country. The delivery of the new submarines, being assembled in Wuhan, is now delayed to April 2024 from the earlier delivery schedule of September 2023, the article highlighted.

2. Frigate – 136 mentions

US Navy exploring VDS options for new frigate, the successful deployment of the German Navy frigate despite Covid-19, and Poland shortlisting contractors for a $2bn frigate programme were some of the popular discussions in February.

Chris Cavas, a naval warfare journalist, shared an article on the US Navy’s Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) releasing a request for information (RFI) for a variable depth sonar (VDS) system for the planned Constellation-class frigates. The article detailed that NAVSEA will perform a market research to find prospective sources for a mature, fielded and proven VDS system that possesses the qualities to meet guided missile frigate (FFG) ASW mission requirements.

The Constellation-class guided missile frigate (FFG 62) has high survivability and is built for operations in littoral areas and the blue sea, the article noted. The frigate requires a VDS system that is capable of detecting, locating and identifying different types of submarines, unmanned systems and other underwater objects in challenging scenarios. French defence electronics company Thales’ Combined Active and Passive Towed Array Sonar (CAPTAS-4) system is being considered for the new frigates. CAPTAS-4 not only helps in stealth performances, but also allows surface ships to track submarines over long distances and identify them beyond the range from which they can attack, according to Thales.

The term was also discussed by Sebastian Bruns, head of the Centre for Maritime Strategy and Security at the Institute for Security Policy at the University of Kiel, who shared an article on the successful seven-month deployment of the German Navy Frigate FGS Bayern (F217) despite Covid-19 and other challenges. The article highlighted that the 4,500t AWS frigate completed 26 exercises with various other navies including harbour calls in nine countries. Commanding Officer Cmdr. Tilo Kalski stated that the frigate also participated in the Annual Exercise 2021 (ANNUALEX) in the Philippine Sea led by the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force (JMSDF) and including participation from units from the US, Canada, and Australia. The operation was the longest trip made by a German warship in decades and the first time a German Navy warship was deployed without any support vessel, leaving the ship dependent on support from host nations and at-sea replenishment by partner navies.

In another tweet, International Naval and Maritime News, a naval and maritime news platform, tweeted on the Polish Ministry of National Defence selecting UK-based aerospace company Babcock International and Germany-based naval services provider Thyssenkrupp Marine Systems for a $2bn Miecznik (Swordfish) frigate acquisition programme. Three new coastal defence frigates will be procured as part of the programme, to improve Poland’s naval capabilities in the Baltic Sea. The new vessels will replace two Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigates currently operating with Poland’s navy. The defence ministry shortlisted Babcock’s Arrowhead 140 vessel and Thyssenkrupp’s Meko-A300 destroyer, as part of the programme. The vessels are expected to be built in 2023, with the first vessel scheduled for completion by June 2028 and the others by 2034.

3. Maritime Security – 95 mentions

International Maritime Security Construct (IMSC) participating in unmanned integration operations in the Arabian Gulf, India and Sri Lanka planning to sign three defence deals, and operation ATALANTA attending the EU-India maritime security dialogue, were some of the popular discussions during the month.

SeapowerMag, the official publication of the US Navy League, a non-profit organisation, shared an article on the IMSC participating in unmanned integration operations in the Arabian Gulf during the international maritime exercise (IMX) that took place on 03 February 2022. The article detailed how IMSC staff handled two Saildrone Explorer unmanned surface vessels. The Saildrones were launched by Task Force X, a combined task force designed for conducting parts of the exercise. The 23ft-long and 16ft-high Saildrone Explorer relies on wind power for propulsion and is packed with sensors that are powered by solar energy. Commodore Don Mackinnon, commander of CTF Sentinel, a multi-national maritime initiative, stated that the exercise demonstrated a picture of a digital ocean, where navies used a combination of manned and unmanned systems to create situational awareness.

Maritime security was also discussed by AMTI in an article on India and Sri Lanka planning to finalise three defence deals to boost co-operation on maritime security between the two countries ahead of Sri Lankan finance minister Basil Rajapaksa’s visit to India. The deals are expected to promote the capabilities of the Sri Lankan armed forces and includes the purchase of two Dornier aircraft and a 4,000t naval floating dock. Colombo is also planning to post a naval liaison officer at the Indian Navy’s Information Fusion Centre-Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR) to address maritime terrorism and piracy, the article highlighted.

In another tweet, EU NAVFOR, the official account for Operation ATALANTA (previously European Union Naval Force Somalia), discussed on the operation attending the European Union (EU)-India maritime security dialogue to strengthen Indo-pacific co-operation and increase interoperability. Operation ATALANTA handles EU counter-piracy operation off the coast of Somalia and had previously met with the Indian Navy to conduct a joint naval exercise in June 2021. Many workshops and seminars were held as part of the EU Critical Maritime Routes in the Indo-Pacific (CRIMARIO) project, including an Interoperability Workshop with India’s Maritime Information Fusion Centre for the Indian Ocean Region (IFC-IOR).

4. Missile – 79 mentions

The Indonesian Navy planning to bolster its battle fleet with Naval Strike Missiles, and the US Navy releasing information on the next-generation guided missile destroyer, were some of the popular discussions in February.

Collin Koh, a research fellow at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies in Singapore, shared an article on the Indonesian Navy planning to buy the Naval Strike Missile or Kendal Bullets from Norway-based technology systems and solutions provider Kongsberg. The missiles have a shooting firepower range of 250km and are expected to strengthen the capabilities of the navy’s warships. The missiles also offer easy manoeuvrability and can be controlled from the main ship, according to Skorge Arild, business development manager at Kongsberg. Arild added that the missile will be more effective when carried on a small fast missile boat as it will be difficult to be tracked by the enemy.

Missile also trended in a discussion about the US Navy sharing details about the next-generation guided-missile destroyer, the DDG(X) large surface combatant, in an article shared by a defence news platform. The new missile destroyer is designed for enhanced efficiency and interoperability. It will feature an updated hull and integrated power system that will facilitate the integration of new systems and upgrades in the future. Tom Rivers, executive director for the amphibious, auxiliary and sealift office under the Naval Sea Systems Command, stated that the new platform will take advantage of the Flight III Arleigh Burke-class destroyer’s combat systems capacity. The Navy has requested $121.8m in research and development funding for the programme in its budget for fiscal year 2022, the article highlighted.

5. Fleet – 71 mentions

Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet redeploying Su-24s crews from Crimea-based airfields to other regions, and the US Navy planning to introduce unmanned platforms in its fleet by the 2030s, were some of the popular discussions during the month.

International Naval and Maritime News shared an article on Su-24 crews from the Russian Navy’s Black Sea Fleet holding exercise drills on surviving an enemy strike and evacuating to nearby airfields. The drills were carried out under the framework of drills for shipborne forces, naval aviation and units of the Black Sea Fleet’s coastal troops that were led by Fleet Commander, Admiral Igor Osipov. About ten Su-24 jets relocated from Crimea-based airfields to other regions as part of the drills, the article noted.

In another tweet, Breaking Defense, a digital magazine on defence, tweeted on US Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Michael Gilday stating that unmanned platforms should become part of the navy’s fleet by the 2030s. He added that the navy is assessing problem sets such as payload addition on larger unmanned systems, reliability of engineering plans as well as flight controls on other unmanned vehicles to determine the value of unmanned systems, the article detailed. He anticipates more unmanned vehicles to be available to Navy commanders in the next eight years. Gilday added that the navy will take an evolutionary approach of initially introducing smaller unmanned systems and scale up capacity in the next decade, the article noted.

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