When the Iranian or Chinese Navy Come Calling Why Not Throw Them a Curve Ball?


By Robbin Laird

We have heard a lot about A2D2 and about the authoritarian powers and their asymmetric threats,

Well two can play this game.

The U.S. Navy has within reach a new capability to throw curve balls into the con-ops of an Iranian or Chinese navy approach to challenging the U.S. Navy.

And a recent example comes from an event in the Arabian Gulf which has been relayed to me by a reliable Middle Eastern source, an advantage coming from my years of visiting the UAE and Bahrain.

What is the curve ball?

A highly maneuverable, high speed when needed, high-g capable autonomous asset that can operate up to sea state five and operate 24/7.

I am talking about a maritime autonomous vessel or as it is referred to as unmanned surface vessel (USV) operating today and not in the distant ghost fleet future.

This particular USV operates autonomously for significant periods of its operational time with control of the vessel able to be executed in multiple ways.

According to this source, a slow-moving U.S. Navy ship – not a high value capital ship – was being escorted by this USV in the Straits of Hormuz.

The Iranians sent a drone then a second drone to see what they could see.

Then they sent the kind of fast attack vessel which causes significant challenges to U.S. Navy capital ships. The problem which the fast attack boats cause is precisely around rules of engagement and when is the U.S. capital ship authorized to respond with lethal response.

The Iranians reportedly requested that the U.S. Navy withdraw the USV. Not having gotten the result they wanted they sent more fast attack boats in waves to try to disrupt the USV from its escort mission. Aided by the intervention of a USCG vessel, the USV continued its mission. Later the Iranians sent a warship.

With current capabilities, the USV can provide single ship escort. With further software and C2 development USVs can provide a defensive perimeter for U.S. Navy capital ships and to provide the picket fence for ROE enhancement – you attack my picket ship, and I can sink you.

This is something the Iranians need to experience from my point of view.

Take this capability to the waters west of Taiwan and the Chinese navy now faces a threat to their sea control.

The U.S. Navy does not have to have sea control of the waters west of Taiwan; it simply has to have sea denial.

With the acquisition of USVs and working their wolfpack con ops the Taiwanese and any allied navies who would operate these systems would be delivering a curve ball to Chinese plans for sea control of the waters off of Taiwan.

In other words, it is about time that the bad guys start worrying about our ability to mess with their con-ops.

There is no gray zone if you don’t accept it.

Credit Picture: Shutterstock