Impact of technology on maritime warfare
IN the past two decades, second and third generation wars between the great powers became exceedingly rare.
This is mainly because of nuclear weapons, international constraints and advent of the fifth-generation warfare. The former wars proved long lasting and the risk of loss of lives was also greater.
The rise of urban conflicts also limited the use of traditional weapons of wars like tanks, artillery and bombers and pushed countries towards the usage of more technological weapons like drones and laser missiles.
Similar is the situation in maritime warfare where in the recent era, wars are fought with technology gadgets.
As far as drones and laser missiles are concerned, they are altogether interlinked with the computer systems and thus require less crew to be operated from the ships. Hence, they reduce the risk of loss of lives.
The major drawback of ships is that they take long time to be built as they have now become complex with computerized sensors and missiles systems. But these ships can be reduced to cinders only at one shot of missile.
For instance, if a ship gets destroyed, especially during war time, the navy doesn’t have enough time to find a replacement or build a new one. Likewise missiles, as modern maritime warfare, now heavily bank on missiles.
In the present global IT setup, their construction is quite complicated in the ammunition factories.
That’s why missiles are being used in extreme situations of war. Other than time, one of the major cons of these large vessels is the huge expenditure.
Aircraft carriers, especially, cost over ten billion dollars and are equipped with planes, missiles and munitions worth several billion dollars.
In the modern era, naval ships require the latest networks of radars that are collectively interlinked with awfully high-priced weapons.
Therefore, when a ship gets destroyed, countries have to wail over the loss of billions of dollars. In that case, they can either purchase new vessels or modernize the current vessels.
The modern maritime warfare is now fought at a very high speed and from long distances. For example, the Chinese missile DF 2060 can target the ship from 3,000 kilometres away, thus creating an enormous zone, where no ship can hide from it.
The vessels with increasingly less expensive air and ground launch can possibly eliminate an entire fleet of vessels.
Therefore, as the technology progresses, it will get worse for the navies to operate such expensive ships.
Nowadays, the latest and most popular technology used in maritime warfare is lasers. They are much cheaper per shot as compared to missiles and also occupy less space on ships.
However, these are difficult to operate as they require high power energy and are also very sensitive.
It is, however, yet to be discovered how effective they will be against the ballistic missiles and saturation attacks.
In addition to this, the alternative tool which can be opted for is munitions which when fired from the ship’s main guns can destroy the target in the air like aircraft and possibly even missiles.
The anti-ship missiles’ technology has made things awful as they are evolving at a greater pace as compared to the past. For example, sea-skimming missiles can avoid the detection until seconds before the impact.
Therefore, the time for ships to react has highly reduced even if the missiles could be seen from naked eye.
Moreover, due to their high speed and flight trajectory, it has become extremely difficult to get defended against them. So, they are readily used by many countries.
In the present times, ships have become harder to target as they have radar jamming systems installed in them but parallel to this, the newly invented anti-missiles ships have already paved their way to get through these jammer systems via the use of artificial intelligence.
With the technology spreading so fast in maritime, it is possible that in the near future defence of these ships will heavily rely on the radar systems.
Another method or technique which can be used to cater the ballistic missiles is to increase the number of ships by building smaller ships which are cheaper in price. Thus, when they get destroyed, they will not be costly for the navies.
Building autonomous ships is also another good option for wars. These are crewless vessels and are mainly used for transporting cargo.
This will tear out the fear of loss of lives, cutting of food supply for the crew and need of human interaction and thus, will enable loading more weapons and ammunition on the ships.
By concentrating on dramatic improvements in the mission and capability and the rapid change in technology, one can see more clearly the nature of fundamental changes in the way war has been conducted at sea, and predict more safely the essence of future revolution.
In this era of renewed great power and rivalry, such an approach could be more useful to the planners of policy, budgets and advance research.
Surely, it’s going to be an interesting time in the future for the Navy as combat will become a challenge.
—The author is a researcher working at the National Institute of Maritime Affairs who occasionally contributes to the National Press.