LCDR Ritchey is a Submarine Officer (Reserve Component), currently serving on an active duty fellowship
with the CNO Strategic Studies Group (SSG) at the Naval War College in Newport, RI. He previously served on active duty at United States Fleet Forces Command (USFF, then CFFC) as the Submarine Special Projects Program Manager (N23), and Engineering Officer on USS MONTPELIER (SSN 765). LCDR Ritchey has served in reserve assignments with both the Naval War College and the U.S. Forces Korea support units. In his civilian career he works at Raytheon Integrated Defense Systems as the Program manager for the Virginia-Class Submarine Combat Control system.
Editor’s Note: LCDR Ritchey was awarded the 2008 Naval Submarine League Naval War College Prize for the best essay
on submarines and antisubmarine warfare for this article on UUV’s.
1. Introduction- Asymmetric Undersea Warfare
For almost a century, undersea warfare has generated strategic and operational surprise for maritime planners. In World War I, the German decision to engage in unrestricted submarine warfare was a key factor behind the United States’ decision to enter the war. In World War II, the German U-Boat campaign almost brought Britain to its knees, and disaster was averted only through the extraordinarily rapid fielding of new technologies and operational methods; while in the Pacific, the spectacular success of American submarine commanders in their guerre de course against Japanese merchant shipping eviscerated the Japanese wartime economy. During the Cold War, submarines evolved into a strategic deterrent role fueling a decades-long competition for dominance in the cold waters of the
If there is one constant in undersea warfare, it is its unwelcome intrusion into the carefully constructed schemes of military planners. Undersea warfare is inherently maverick, unconventional, and disruptive. There is little reason to suspect that, as conflict becomes ever more asymmetric, undersea warfare will not again demonstrate the ability to disrupt operational planning. The continued rapid evolution of technology, combined with inherent
complexity and difficulty in domillating the undersea environment, challenge confidence in any enduring claims of undersea superiority. Particularly threatening to such claims are the nascent capabilities of Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUVs).
One of the most salient military technology trends is the growing prominence of unmanned vehicles. The promising
potential of unmanned technology has already reached fruition in the air domain, as witnessed in the recent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is every indication that there could be similar impact in the undersea domain. This paper contends that Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUVs), currently most prominent as Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (IS R) assets and as capabilityaugmentation to capital platforms, will come into their own as an
independent combat capability, creating operational and strategic level effects and, through their inherent asymmetry, deliver powerful capability to lower-tier navies and even non-state actors. Without anticipatory planning, and perhaps even despite it, top-tier state actors such as the U.S. will find themselves challenged in their ability to counter the threat of sea denial posed by UUVs. UUVs could have a major effect on the operational level of war, by challenging many key assumptions around which campaign planners have based their planning.
2. UUV trends and development potential
UUVs are a rapidly expanding area of investment and research across the globe, both commercially and militarily. The high price of oil and seabed minerals is driving commercial investment in UUVs for oceanographic research. Militarily, there is significant investment from at least a half-dozen European navies, in addition to the United States, and there arc probable covert programs in China, DPRK, and elsewhere. Illicit activity – especially drugrunning- is yet another source of investment in low-end UUVs.
The primary role anticipated in today’s military UUV development efforts is mine-hunting, for which purpose hundreds of UUVs have already been delivered to a wide array of international customers’. A notable secondary mission driving UUV development is ISR, to include hydrography and mapping. These primarily defensive and supporting missions belie the potential for offensive employment ofUUVs.
Because the primary overt investment in these programs comes from NA TO countries, there is less interest in offensive employment of UUVs than might be the case for potential adversaries. The operational concepts favored by dominant western navies, which generally presuppose a superior force with the objective of sea control, have less need for autonomous offensive capability delivered from a UUV. U.S. and NATO operational ideas also are
heavily dependent on robust C2 arrangements, and require considerable operational flexibility,~ for which UUVs are generally are less well suited than multi-mission manned submarines. Furthermore, legal considerations and the need to remain compliant with existing legal regimes significantly complicate development by first world navies. Finally, safety considerations, especially considerations associated with arming UUVs, present obstacles to the U.S. and its allied navies.
The trajectory of current UUV efforts, however, should not limit consideration of how developments might be leveraged by nonWestern powers. The experience of asymmetric warfare has repeatedly shown that challengers will willingly and eagerly co-opt western technical developments, and modify and adapt them to suit their own purposes. UUV technologies lend themselves especially well to this approach. The UUV market is already heavily internationalized, with relatively little control over technology transfer.
Most UUV development is heavily COTS (Commercial, off-thcshelf) based,4 and UUV development tends to be modular, in order to accommodate payload interoperability, a design that facilitates adaptation for offensive purposes. Compared with many other systems, UUV design is relatively straightforward, with fewer interoperable systems and component parts, facilitating reverse engineering of any components that might be restricted in the commercial marketplace. All of these factors increase the likeli-hood that even a low tech adversary could build on western UUV R&D to field offensive, autonomous UUVs.
Three very achievable developments arc especially foreboding for this future asymmetric threat. First is the arming of UUVs to create Unmanned Combat Undersea Vehicles (UCUVs). This is, in fact, already accomplished, in a sense. Torpedoes might be considered UUVs5 – operating autonomously, in many cases, without real-time connectivity back to their launch platform. What distinguishes them from UUVs, in common parlance, is their limited duration and operational flexibility. However, these limitations are mostly CONOPS driven, as opposed to technically driven. A simple armed UUV might be constructed around a torpedo, with the simple addition of a propulsion booster module to add range and endurance, and a basic communications package.
A second potential technology development is radically extended operational ranges for these armed UUVs. Already, the U.S. and others have invested in programs to create long-range underwater gliders to conduct long-range Intelligence Preparation of the Operational Environment (!POE) missions. While the technologies enabling the glider approach probably do not provide the flexibility and propulsion power to enable armed UUVs, such programs will significantly advance the state of UUV navigation and communications technologies. Leveraging these advancements, other nascent technologies- such as Air-independent-propulsion (AIP, e.g. Fuel Cell) propulsion or perhaps Aluminum/Vortex Combustors, could provide the propulsion power necessary to effectively deploy armed UUVs even well outside of the operating area limitations of conventionally powered submarines, indeed, even globally.
Divorced from the human sustainability considerations that limit manned submarines, there are few remaining
constraints on the range of UUVs. Underwater navigation, when safety considerations are minimized, is remarkably easy (assuming accurate charts are available); and global communications are already a reality.
Finally, autonomy for these armed, long range UUVs will allow them the flexibility to conduct operations far away from the base of an adversary. Artificial intelligence (AI) based autonomous control systems are being developed at a frenetic pace, fueled principally by demand for improved UA Vs. Such developments will directly contribute to UUV autonomy, but in fact, arc not actually necessary for the majority of sea denial missions envisioned for UCUVs.
Even with current state of missile seeker technology, UCUVs would only need enough autonomy to navigate to a known area of operations for U.S. forces (a port, choke point, or coastal location) and launch, and the missile would do the rest. For more complex missions, weapons could be guided by an on-site observer, for instance on a trawler or even on foot ashore, in real-time or nearreal-time. In short, there arc a remarkably small number of hard technology barriers standing in the way of the proliferation of long range, autonomous, armed and capable UUVs. There is little reason to think that this capability will be limited to high end, state actors.
3. The threat to U.S. Operations
Even the best current Operational Art practice leaves U.S. forces with significant vulnerabilities to the dramatic new capabilities that these UUVs will introduce. While armed UUVs will, no doubt,
make significant contributions to sea control and sea supremacy, it is in their role as a centerpiece of a sea denial strategy that their impact will be most profound. To illustrate this, consider vulnerabilities of U.S. forces in three of the six operational functions around which operational planning is based. Operational Sustain-
ment (logislics) is especially vulnerable, as are Operational Protection and Operational Maneuver. Operalional Sustainment is a major concern due to the risk of attack on the massive seaborne logistics train associated with
expeditionary operations. Such disparate missions as Peace Enforcement, Major Combat Operations, SSTR, etc. all have in common the need for heavy sealift. Sealift requires significant footprint at Seaports of Embarkation (SPOEs), a lengthy transit, often through choke-points, and finally, significant footprint at Seaports of Departure (SPODs). At each point, the often predicable sealift train is extremely vulnerable to UCUVs, which will be
difficult to counter. In historical examples of submarine threat to scalift, convoying was an effective counter, but only because of the risk to the submarine of attack against escorted merchants. This risk is not shared by expendable UCUVs.
It is also important to note that long range UCUVs can threaten
operational sustainment in ways that the submarine threat, especially in recent times, has not. While German U-Boats in WWII had the range to threaten maritime logistics even into U.S. territorial waters, in the subsequent half-century no adversary Submarine Force other than the Soviet Navy has had the capability to threaten U.S. operations on a global scale, and especially into U.S. home waters. Most of the conflicts of the past fifty years have been regional. In this context, a defensive Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) posture within the theater of combat has become familiar.
However, planners have not had to anticipate a submarine threat in home waters, in transit in adjacent theaters, or within the protected confines of SPODsR UCUVs break this paradigm, thereby complicating sustainment planning, indeed threatening the very concept of a regional war, perhaps giving regional actors a global strike
capability. Operational Protection and Operational Maneuver arc also challenged by UCUVs. Just as UCUVs can threaten sealift assets, the UCUVs could be armed with weapons systems to either attack personnel (afloat, or ashore)9 or capital ships. Prominent commentator and analyst Robert Work of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA) is one of the few strategists who has understood the potential of UUVs in this role. Work notes that
“UUVs could determine which ships arc coming out of port and move in to attack them.” 10 While the mechanism of this attack (cruise missile, torpedo, etc.) and the lethality of the payload (conventional explosive or mass-effect) is not unique to the U UV, the surreptitious method of delivery and vexing ability to defend against it makes a UCUV-based attack fundamentally unique at the operational level of war.
The net effect of the threat to these three operational functions can be summarized to conclude that UCUV employment is a form of sea denial. While UCUVs have a limited role to play in offensive operations, they can be highly effective in denying the use of the sea to a more powerful adversary. As such, they comprise a potentially powerful asymmetric tool that can level the playing field especially against an expeditionary adversary. The sea denial concept of a fleet in being- the threat posed by the mere presence of a capability is especially pronounced for UCUVs, which could be used very effectively as a first-strike capability due to their low operational profilc.
Some might disagree with this assessment of vulnerability, and counter that the U.S. already takes undersea warfare seriously, as evidenced by our standing ASW capability and history of ASW excellence. This stands in marked contrast to past wars, in which lack of preparation created vulnerabilities to undersea threat. Some would argue that despite current challenges, our ASW capability still should be evaluated as good, by historical standards.
However, such an argument overlooks the fundamentally asymmetric nature of undersea warfare. History demonstrates that undersea warfare will adapt to attack the seams of an opponent’s plans, whether they arc strategic or operational vulnerabilities (e.g., unprotected merchants), technology gaps (e .g., acoustic vulnerabilities), or legal/ROE constraints (e .g. , unrestricted submarine warfare). Current ASW practices, designed to counter manned
submarines, arc not sufficient to counter UUVs. Upon further examination, the ASW template breaks down completely as a method for addressing the UUV threat.
4.1. ASW- Founding assumptions and gaps against UUVs
ASW has never been an easy capability to master. However, today’s U.S. Navy can claim a history of over fifty years of ASW excellence, through the exploitation of certain characteristics that make submarines vulnerable. The first of these comes in the ability to detect submarine communications. The most basic and useful information that might be gathered is location. Starting in World War 11, High Frequency Direction Finding (HF/DF) was the first historical breakthro11gh in ASW. Submarines have reacted to DF by minimizing communications and employing technologies to mask the location of their communications. However, in many cases, vulnerabilities exist despite precautions. Even highly capable submarine forces arc vulnerable to techniques exploiting patterns in the communications themselves or the progression of Areas of Uncertainty (AOU) over time. These vulnerabilities arc an important clement of today’s U.S. ASW capability. Another key element of submarine detection and tracking is acoustic sensing. First developed towards the end of World War I, sonar became the main enabler of ASW during World War II. In response, submarine designers and operators took steps to reduce
acoustic signature, both to active sonar, through the use of hull
coatings, and to passive sonar, through the use of quieting techniques. Commanders learned to use the ocean environment to mask signature to both forms of sonar. Today’s ASW practices remain heavily dependent on acoustic sensing. Submarine based ASW assets primarily use passive sensing, surface ASW platforms arc more likely to use active sensing, and airborne AS W assets can effectively employ both. Additionally, fixed and deployable sensor arrays can be used to significant effect, but in a more limited number of scenarios.
Finally, a critical enabler of today’s U.S. ASW capability is Indication and Warning (l&W). Through a wide variety of highly sensitive technologies, especially space-based SIG INT systems, U.S. ASW greatly benefits from the ability to focus ASW platforms on a manageable number of candidate submarines. Typically there is cueing that submarines have deployed from their piers, and additional intelligence information gives insight into the likely operating areas, duration of deployment, and mission of deploying submarines. While adversaries can employ countermeasures such as covering submarine piers and other OPSEC measures, the U.S. has nonetheless found effective ways to gamer highly useful intelligence. This is due, in large part, to the generally manageable number of submarines employed worldwide; even the largest submarine forces do not have more than a few dozen operational submarines in their inventories. This enables rigorous hull accountability as a technique to both enhance alcrtment and prescribe technical parameters for acoustic search. The I& W capability of the U.S. is aforce multiplier for ASW forces, and helps to enable ASW forces to overcome the challenges of submarine detection.
Across each of these critical enablers of ASW, however, UUVs will undermine the credibility of current ASW practices. It has already been demonstrated that quiet, modem diesel (SSK) and AIP (SSI) submarines arc incredibly difficult to detect with either passive or active sonar, 13 and their simple design and smaller size will make this even more true for UUVs. The dramatically reduced need for a large pressure hull for crew safety and operations, which in manned submarines is a major design constraint, will further reduce the complexity of the UUV and also allow it to operate at depths prohibited to manned submarines, complicating both active
and passive sonar detection.
Communications from UUVs will not be markedly easier than for manned submarines, and UUVs, like manned submarines, will be vulnerable in proportion to their communications. However, because these UUVs will be single mission units- unlike multimission manned submarines, there will be less need to communicate to coordinate operations. Also, as unmanned vehicles, there will be less need to communicate for safety-of-ship reasons or crew matters. Nonetheless, for effective use, some communications will be required, even in the most cavalier Command and Control (C2) arrangements. However, in many of the asymmetric missions in which UUVs might be employed, these communications might be masked in the noise of commercial communications, perhaps even through the use of commercial cell phone, widely available in the near littorals, or fNMARSAT. While detectable, such a communication would be near impossible to discriminate, especially if there is little in the way of pre-alertment or an established operating
pattern. For a high-end adversary employing UUVs, lowprobability-of-intercept (LPI) SA TCOM is just as feasible from a UUV as it is from a manned submarine.
Because of their small size and independence from crew concerns (manning, provisioning, etc.), there will be little need for UUVs to be deployed from conventional naval facilities. These UUVs could be deployed by either dropping them off the side of a commercial vessel 14, or even by dropping them from a truck into the sea, directly from any coastal location. This flexibility in deployment, coupled with the lack of any need for deployment preparations (maintenance could be done well inland, away from prying eyes), will severely challenge r& W alertment of UUV deployment.
While it is difficult to predict the specific costs of future armed tong-haul UUVs, it is likely that they will be significantly cheaper to build than manned submarines. Operating costs will also be lower, from both maintenance and manning/training perspective. Because of this, it is likely that navies or irregular forces employing UCUVs will have considerably more units in inventory than is the case with manned submarines. This large quantity alone, coupled with the I& W challenges already mentioned, will critically
challenge ASW practice.
4.2. Mine Warfare (MIW) paradigm challenges
Since ASW is, therefore, fundamentally unsuited to address the problem of UUVs, an alternate approach is needed. In examining the way UUVs might be used for sea denial, it becomes apparent that the effect of UCUVs is very similar to the effect of mines. ” The asymmetric employment of mines allows low-capability forces to effectively challenge the most powerful navies, leveling the paying field. Use of a MIW template against UUVs, however, is a culturally unconventional approach, and furthermore, the MIW template has shortcomings of its own against the kind of dynamic threat that UCUVs will present. MIW doctrine is based around several key assumptions, which UCUVs will challenge. M IW generally assumes that mines arc static in location. While
some mines can use techniques such as remote detonation, floating/sinking, etc, they arc still primarily fixed in location. While Free-floating mines exist, despite legal prohibitions to their unrestricted use, even free-floating mines can generally be localized to an area of uncertainty, based on currents, tides, and patterns of mine laying, enabling Tactics, Techniques and Procedures (TTPs) to facilitate operations even in spite of their presence. UCUVs, in contrast, can operate almost anywhere.
The assumption that mines arc static is breaking down with technological evolution, however. Some modest transiting mobile mines exist, and continue to be further developed. While the range of such mines still makes them limited in effectiveness when compared to UCUVs, the similarities between mobile mines and UCUVs are unmistakable, as CBSA ‘s Robert Work has noted. Developments in mobile mine technology challenges M IW in ways that will closely resemble the challenges ofUUVs.
Another assumption of MIW is that the primary function of mining is for Anti-Surface Warfare (ASUW) and ASW, and
specifically, against ships in the immediate vicinity of the mines. UCUVs, on the other hand, while likely sharing ASUW as a primary mission, might also be used to accomplish significant effect in strike warfare or electronic warfare (EW). Employing a Land-Attack Cruise Missile (LACM) or Electronic Warfare (EW) package on a UCUV is only modestly more challenging than employing a torpedo. Indeed, strike and EW packages arc already employed on manned submarines, which will facilitate efforts to employ them on UUVs.
Finally, another key assumption of MIW is that the act of mine laying can be detected. Effective M IW can be seriously challenged by covert mine laying. However, TTPs exist to address this challenge through “M aritimc Domain A warencss” based on continuous observation of the operating patterns of neutral/merchant shipping that might be used for covert mining. This is resource intensive, and generates only limited freedom of action for friendly forces, but can still be effective in keeping open the sea Janes to critical SPODs. For UCUVs, such techniques will be far less effective.
While these mismatches arc significant, the most serious problem with depending on a MIW approach to counter UCUVs is that, put bluntly, the U.S. is not very good at MIW, even today. Technologies to effectively detect mines arc elusive, and the sheer quantity and diversity of mines on the marketplace challenges effective M IW. An unfavorable cost balance, with mine countermeasures costing far more than the mines themselves, further challenges effective MIW. UCUVs will only exacerbate the current problems of U.S. MIW. Clearly, MIW docs not provide a suitable
approach to address the UCUV vulnerability.
4.3. A New Paradigm- the convergence of ASW and MIW
UCUVs exploit the gap between ASW and MIW templates. The operational flexibility, low detectability, and potential quantity of UCUVs threaten to overwhelm ASW practices, while their mobility, range, and capability challenges MIW . The evolution of UCUVs, from a submarine genesis towards resembling both submarines and mobile mines, demonstrates the convergence of the spectrum of undersea threats. This convergence calls for a synergistic, integrated undersea warfare approach inclusive of both M IW and ASW . In what appears to be pure happenstance, a movement for
organizational synchronization of these two warfare areas is indeed already underway. On I October 2006, the Navy’s MIW (COMMINEWARCOM) and ASW commands (FLTASWCOM) were merged into the new Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command (NMA WC). The drivers for this merger were, however, NOT based on a sense of operational synergy between the warfare areas. Rather, programmatic synergies- in advocacy, training, and resourcing- drove the merger, which has been met with underwhelming support from both communities. Prominent naval analyst Milan V ego notes “this reorganization was generally poorly received by many mine warfare professionals, mainly because of a concern that ASW will receive far more attention and resources than MIW. Based on the Navy’s traditional neglect of M IW, these fears arc not ungrounded. It is also hard lo see the reason, apart from saving money, for merging and thereby blurring the lines between ASW and MIW .”
However, as the case of UCUVs illustrates, there arc benefits beyond saving money. The NW A WC merger could facilitate the closing of a looming gap in operational art. NMA WC already has a vision for the advancement of Theater AS W, as the operationallevel bridge between tactical level and theater level success in AS W . The integration of M IW into AS W at NW A WC creates the opportunity to transform this into an integrated theater ASW /MIW effort. This combined effort could be much more effective at addressing the operational level actions needed to counter the challenges of ASW, M IW, and UUV threat, which are converging in their technology gaps, methods of employment, and nature of risk.
5. Recommendations for Action and Further Research
While NW A WC might serve as a focal point, much broader effort must be applied to regain superiority in the undersea environment and counter a broad spectrum of undersea threats. General awareness of acute shortcomings in both ASW and M IW has failed to generate a sustained commitment to this objective. The potential of UUVs to give an even broader range of adversaries a powerful sea denial capability provides even more urgency. The program to address this threat should include technology investment, TTP development, operational reorganization, and revision
lo plans and planning to take UCUVs into account.
While technology investment is not a panacea, the right investments can be of great benefit. Investment should be made into systems to detect UUVs, and to neutralize them. UUV detection is inherently challenging, and payoff of investment is by no means guaranteed. This investment should include deployable fixed-array systems that can be placed in strategic choke points, and nonacoustic ASW (NAASW) techniques. The potentially large quantity
of UUVs that a potential adversary might simultaneously employ also warrants investment specifically in neutralization technology.
Current ASW neutralization approaches- especially torpedoes- arc ill suited to address the quantity ofUCUVs that might be inbound on U.S. assets. In this respect, mine neutralization optionsespecially systems such as the Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMICS) supercavitating machine gun- might be better than ASW weapons. Organizational and procedural steps arc as important as technology investment. Recent trends towards the establishment of a theater ASW commander could be broadened, from an ASW specific charter to include the entire spectrum of undersea thrcatssubmarines, UUVs, and mines. This would improve operationallevel preparedness, and better assessment of risk to the Joint Force Maritime Component Commander’s (JFMCC’s) forces. Intelligence functions must ensure that the JFMCC receives an assessment of UCUV quantities and capabilities in potential adversaries Ordersof-Battle (OOBs), as well as warning of adversaries’ intentions for use of UCUVs to create operational surprise. HUMINT will be especially important in this respect, given the low SIGINT/ MASlNT footprint ofUCUVs both in development and operations. Logistics planners will need to incorporate realistic assessment of threat posed by UCUVs into their plans and processes. Even if the technology and organizational steps are embraced, the threat of UCUVs will likely only be partially mitigated. Given the variety of actors that might employ UCUVs, and the difficultly of detecting and neutralizing them, logistics planners will likely have to make substantially more provision for combat losses of sea lift assets than is currently the case. This will likely have the perverse effect of requiring more sealift assets, thus giving UCUVs that many more targets. The use of large maritime Pre-positioning ships (MPS)- which tend to operate in very localized areas- should also be questioned, as their operating patterns make them easier to target with low-end UCUVs. The impact ofa loss ofa ship of the size of a MPS would be devastating. Logisticians will also have to take into account significantly more risk in operating in friendly home waters and SPOEs, and likely additional time required to operate in patterns to address this risk. Considerably more research is needed into the threat posed by UUVs. Almost the entirety of current literature on UUVs is written from a perspective of blue-force employment, with very little focused on potential asymmetric uses. This paper has limited its scope to describing the effect of UUVs at the operational level of war, it has not explicated the potential use of UUVs to attack nonmilitary targets- notably, critical U.S. undersea infrastructure, or homeland security targets. This is not to understate these significant strategic vulncrabilitieswwhich will further encourage investment in UUVs by adversaries, especially rogue states or non-state actors.
Finally, this paper has not delved into the significant ways in which ROE constraints might severely limit an operational commander’s courses of action (CO As) in responding to a UUV threat. Historica lly, ambiguities in maritime law regarding submarines have led to costly missteps in the promulgation of ROE, and UUVs provide even more complicating factors. Current U.S. doctrinal approaches, as exemplified in NWP 1-14M, 21 threaten to create significant problems by effectively treating UUVs exactly like manned submarines, instead of like mines. As th is paper has demonstrated, such an assumption is ill-founded.
UUVs will present a formidable asymmetric threat to U.S. Operational Art in the coming decades, potentially becoming a premier tool for sea denial. While armed UUVs- UCUVs· are not yet a prominent feature in the order of battle of potential U.S. adversaries, their arrival is only a short matter of time; few technology barriers stand in the way of the proliferation of low cost, capable UCUVs. Because they arc free of many of the operational constraints that have limited employment of manned submarines, UCUVs will introduce even more threat into the already vexing ASW problem that confronts U.S. planners. With greatly expanded operational range, UCUVs threaten to give even minor regional actors a global strike capability and threaten the very concept of a regionally co11tai11ed war. U.S. shortfalls in addressing the threat of UCUVs arc similar to those it has in delivering effective MIW . Like mines, UCUVs threaten to become a highly effective tool for sea denial in the hands of low-end nations and non-state actors. These vulnerabilities across the spectrum of undersea warfare illustrate a systemic shortcoming in operational art. Particularly vulnerable to the asymmetric employment of UCUVs arc supporting functions such as scalift as part of operational sustainment. The U .S.’s considerable investment, in both lives and dollars, to create a powerful maritime capability arc at significant risk if the threat of UUVcnablcd undersea warfare is not fully appreciated and diligently addressed.