The general media has gone to great lengths to point out, correctly, that many of our potential enemies have or are pursuing asymmetric advantages. Mines, small boat suicide attacks, small boat swarms, fast attack missile boats, intermediate range ballistic missiles, small and quiet non-nuclear subs, and so forth. What isn’t discussed is the fact that the
possesses, or could develop, asymmetric advantages of our own. US
Our two biggest conventional advantages are technology and money (current budget problems notwithstanding!). These can be leveraged into asymmetric advantages. What kinds of asymmetric advantages? Well, this is where the imagination can go wild. For the sake of brevity, I’d like to nominate one particular area that few other countries or non-state actors can match and that would provide disproportionate advantages for us.
|Underwater Glider UUV|
Let’s look a bit further at Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs). By comparison to UAVs, UUVs are in their infancy. The Navy and industry are currently developing a variety of UUVs and there is no point attempting to describe specific systems. Conceptually, UUVs offer the potential to retain many of the advantages of UAVs while avoiding some of the limitations.
UUVs, by their very nature as underwater vehicles, are extremely difficult to detect. Consider how hard it is to detect a full size submarine and how much harder it must be to detect something a fraction of that size. Once deployed in their operating area, UUVs can provide very close range surveillance of ships, mines, subs, harbors, coastlines, water conditions, geography, etc. with little risk.
Various technologies are being explored which may allow UUVs to operate almost indefinitely, thereby overcoming one of the limitations of UAVs. Solar power, wave regeneration, thermal recharge, ionic recharge, etc. are all methods that offer the possibility of extremely long endurance. Consider the advantages inherent in a UUV that can loiter for days or months, undetected, and providing continuous monitoring of an area.
|Undetectable and Long Endurance|
UUVs offer a potential asymmetric advantage that is extremely powerful and well worth continued intense development. Few other countries and no non-state groups can either utilize or counter this technology. The Navy would do well to commit significant resources to developing this potential advantage.