Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Behold the naked fragile egg

History is full of transition points where technology changes everything. As with any innovation, be it the Maxim gun or nuclear weapons, the first adopter has an advantage. With luck and good OPSEC, that monopoly on a new technology can be extended. There is one thing that is hard to classify, that is math.

In the exceptionally Darwinist nature of military progress, there is a sharp capability/counter-capability mechanism that is always at work. With every great threat, there is an equally great effort to counter that threat. Eventually, there is a counter. The greater the threat, the greater the effort to blunt that threat.

Great recent examples from the cold war were the U-2 vs SA-2 vs SR-71 saga, and the great acoustic chess game. Technology races technology - and you have to be open to someone taking away your greatest advantage.

Let's go back to that great open source capability - math. Everything can be broken down in to an equation. Everything in the physical world. There are no exceptions. Moore's Law has brought our computers to an almost unimaginable capability to process the big data that our sensors can collect. The right sensors, the right algorithms, the right person - and in the blink of an eye, new capabilities are born.

If you are lucky, you know what your opponent is developing, if not - you are in for a shock.

One should always look at your competitive advantage and wargame out, "What if I didn't have that anymore?"

My favorite one is our assumption about access to the electromagnetic spectrum for networking, especially via satellites. Over at TheNationalInterest, our friend James Holmes gives us a polite tap on the shoulder about another one;
Subs are uniquely suited to loiter unseen off such narrow seas, watching—and potentially interrupting—traffic that passes through.

But what if they’re no longer unseen? If the sub and its human crew must keep their distance to avoid anti-access defenses, will UUVs—robots without human intuition and powers of observation—provide an adequate substitute? If not, strategies like “archipelagic defense” in Asia could underperform. If subs and their robot fleets can’t close narrow seaways to surface and subsurface traffic, the outlook for strategies premised on controlling them could prove dim. Thinking ahead about workarounds is imperative.
Amen, amen, amen. Read it all.

Think about the submarine - what is its competitive advantage? It is "unseen." Why? It hides in water. In living memory - barely - the night gave one that advantage for aircraft - but in large measure with peer and near-peer, no more.
More likely, the vicissitudes of naval competition being what they are, the subsurface theater will come to resemble the aerial and surface theaters. The silent service will periodically introduce new passive and active measures to restore its advantage of concealment, while access deniers will experiment with countermeasures of their own. And on and on the cycle of one-upsmanship—of challenge and reply—will go.
Holmes makes the call to "embrace it." Absolutely. I would add, "Accept it; assume it; embrace it; own it."

No one wants to be the 21st Century version Admiral of the Fleet David Richard Beatty, 1st Earl Beatty to replace ships with submarines;
"There seems to be something wrong with our bloody submarines today"

No comments: