Superpowers are unlikely to fight each other directly. It's just too dangerous. That's why past conflicts involved proxy nations, or even proxy rebel groups who fought another group or groups or even another nation state of a coalition of nation states. Such situations create asymmetrical conflicts and often result in the use of asymmetric weapons such as Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs).
The wars of Iraq and Afghanistan have shown how effective IEDs can be. Similarly, naval mines have proven extremely effective against the most modern navies. It is therefore reasonable to assume that rebel groups will at some point use floating or submerged IED, and/or mine-like improvised naval bombs in ports, harbors, or attached to military and commercial vessels' hulls. The sea-born suicide attack against the American USS Cole in Yemen (October 2000) is one such prime example.
In fact, one can predict with a fair certainty that any conflict involving water is likely see a surge in the use of marine IEDs - and that such asymmetric weapons will be able to create significant human, equipment, and economic damage.
It is also reasonable to predict that alongside a surge in marine IEDs, we will witness a surge in research, development and deployment of counter marine IEDs.
Underwater technology for countering mines and UIED exists, and unmanned systems have proven relatively effective in this task, with the potential of being very effective. Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) offer to be for Underwater IEDs (UIEDs) what Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) have been for land-deployed IEDs: a life-saving tool.
Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) can scan a harbor's seafloor and inspect piers to facilitate detection of UIED threats. The port of Sydney is mapping its seafloor and performing change detection to identify new objects. They can also detect bottom, surface, and moored mines. Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) are able to remove and "neutralize" mines; upcoming UUVs will be able to carry out all these tasks.
The hull of a vessel, where a bomb could be attached, is of special interest to terrorist groups. Static systems such as divers' detection and bottom mounted sonars system offer good options for persistent surveillance. For example, the Harbor Shield system (developed by Battelle, an independent R&D organization) offers to scan the underhulls of ships as they enter ports. The HAUV by Bluefin Robotics is a small AUV used partly for ship hull inspection, performing the job quicker than divers.
UUVs have been demonstrated as capable tools for underwater threats to homeland security and global defense. They offer the first line of defense (and the safest) against UIED.
To learn more about the Maritime Security and Unmanned Maritime Systems market, please visit: "Unmanned Maritime Systems ‐ Defense & Security UUV & USV Markets, Technologies & Opportunities Outlook 2012 ‐ 2020" on ASDReports.com (follow the link in this article)
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