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Deniz Mehmet Irak – From maritime security to naval warfare

Deniz Mehmet Irak – From maritime security to naval warfare

I was walking in the garden of the Naval High School. I was yet an 18-year-old young naval officer. A classmate mentioned that there was an attack on the U.S. and that the Twin Towers were burning. I went to the TV room and everyone was watching the burning towers. It was the true meaning of the word “horror” for the mankind. However, the Middle East had had many more painful days full of “horror,” and it was to have more of that days. Sept. 11 was just the beginning…

As a high school student, it certainly was not possible at that moment to understand the influence of those two towers on the world’s military-political environment. However, the world would evolve in a different direction after that day. For the post-Cold War United States, the enemy was now al-Qaeda and similar “Radical Islamic Organizations.” I will not go into commenting on the speculations on this attack, such as the role of U.S. intelligence in it and that it was designed to intervene in the Middle East.

That is a subject for another piece. What I want to talk about is something else.

The world has witnessed many military operations and transformations after Sept. 11. That transformation would of course not be limited to the land operations and there would be changes on the sea, too. The Cold War paradigm was over the world seas met the term “Maritime Security.”

Maritime Security meant the inspection of a giant mechanism that consisted of 50 thousand ships, 200 routes, 20 thousand ports and more than 10 billion tons of freight. The world going on healthy was dependent on uninterrupted sea transportation. That was the point the term Maritime Security appeared and paved the way for NATO to inspect world seas and maintain security of the sea routes.

Seas after Sept. 11
However, the Sept. 11 attack showed that even the oceans are not enough to prevent a threat that would reach the U.S. mainland. Hence the U.S. and its allies sought ways for hegemony over the seas with a new method. In such period, the International Maritime Organization (IMO) prepared the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS) and asked for a series of measures. NATO started Operation Active Endeavour to control the commercial traffic in the Eastern Mediterranean. Concepts such as piracy, control of commercial traffic, illegal immigration, control of weapons of mass destruction, drug trafficking took the center stage in the navies’ operations. Of course, the initial reason for such environment was that the U.S. conventional power had no match. NATO planned to reach all sees by keeping trade and energy under control with “Freedom of Seas” and Maritime Security concept. The hidden meaning under this approach: The U.S. was nor a neighbor to all countries that had a shore.

Is the paradigm changing?
But the paradigm is changing. Maritime Security concept has fulfilled its lifetime. Now it is again time to maintain “Sea Control” and ‘’Command of Sea.” Bernard Brodie defines command of sea as: The side that has the advantage in the ability to continue its trade and stop its enemy’s is the side that has the command of sea.” It is difficult to command vast oceans, so the concept of sea control comes up.

We can say that the real reason for this is Russia and China. The U.S. National Security Strategy openly states that “China and Russia challenge American power, influence, and interests, attempting to erode American security and prosperity.” The fact that the Chinese economy will be bigger than the U.S. in 2030 and the impact of the Russian energy on Europe are just part of the economic side of the issue. But what made the concept change on the seas a must is the development of the Chinese and Russian navies. The Chinese Navy is building its second aircraft carrier in Dalian Shipyard and is not only using reverse engineering methods, but also developing new skills in shipbuilding. In addition, the time between launching of the ship and sea trials is only 54 months. The British, who built a similar ship, HMS Queen Elizabeth, needed three years for that. Isn’t the Chinese Navy’s technical ability pushing the limits for a country which did not build an aircraft carrier before?

How to maintain Sea Control?
All these data are just a section of the whole picture. In such situation, transformation is inevitable. NATO and the U.S. Navy will in the near future return to their Cold War approach. The question here is: “Yes, there will be a return to command of sea and sea control concepts and Cold War approach, but how?” How will the new concepts and doctrines will be updated and what will the new technological priorities be?

We can first of all say that all weapons, platforms, technologies, concepts and doctrines will be updated with the perspective of “offensive.” This is an important thing, because it is a strategic decision. It will have an impact on all other tools with a domino effect. And we will see the projection of this decision on the field within a decade.

Aggressive sea control
Today, many navies are having difficulty in determining the enemy without being attacked, and hence prefer a defense-based sea control strategy. The offensive mode requires the “destruction perspective.” This means significant weapon power and shooting range. But having such abilities requires a comprehensive budget management.

In addition, security environment assessment in such new and changing approaches is a must. This assessment, as mentioned above, was made in the axis of Russia and China. For this reason, it can be clearly said that a new view based on sea command and power transfer will prevail with its focus on “offensive.” Therefore, we can evaluate that the use of billion dollar water platforms in maritime security operations has come to an end. It will not be surprising that smaller vessels or coast guard units will take on these missions.

We must say that game changing factors will be prioritized based on assessments as platforms and abilities. The first idea that comes to mind is “network centric warfare,” which was first heard in 2001. However, the concept has not significantly developed since then. It will not be a surprise if this idea comes as a game changer ability in the near future. Another important issue will be joint operation. During war, joint operation brings asymmetric gains. Hence the joint operation of air and sea units and marines will be a priority.

For this, as I mentioned above, the development of technological weapons will be one of the prioritized fields. Issues such as the design of weapon modes that can be used for more than one purpose and increasing their shooting range, projectiles that can be used in multiple missions, refilling of projectiles on board without the need of land support, decreasing the size of the projectiles while increasing the ammunition volume will be on the agenda.

In addition, an increase in the use of electromagnetic and laser weapons, which may also be game changers, should be expected. Cyber and electronic warfare, supporting the fire power, will put their signature in the future war zones.

We can talk on many details about underwater and new technological fields, but we will detail them in another piece. What is important is to know that there is a transformation and to create ideas on the road map for the preparations; to be able to get from the garden of the Naval High School to the ring of fire of the war zone and to be able to get ready for the tensions of the future Middle East.

To be able to get the personnel to the battle positions.

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