- Day 2 at UDT 017
By Team ADU
Bremen, Germany. 01 June 2017. The plenary continued on the 31st of May, the second day of The Undersea Defence Technology conference and exhibition 2017, in Bremen, Germany. This time, the panel consisted of officers of the German Navy, experts of their respective fields, and they addressed the development of the German military as regards the maritime, both surface and subaquatic. A strong allusion was made throughout the plenary to the importance and growing necessity of underwater defence, not just presently, but in the future as well.
The first speaker, Commander (s.g.) René Levien, Staff Officer Plans, Policy and International Cooperation, German Navy, begun the conference with a recapitulation of the current effective German navy, and outlined projections and future targets. The drastic rate at which technology advances requires the constant renewal of current equipment, and thus in order to “refurbish and modernise” many initiatives and projects have been undertaken.
First and foremost comes the implementation of new systems and modules that will provide the capacity for defensive and offensive phase operations at the same time. Then, the upgrade of weaponry, such as torpedos, and infrastructure, such as frigates, is also considered to be of high priority. Sensors and sonars, amongst the many other components that are being altered, have additionally been taken into account. Seeing as NATO has reminded Germany to take care of self-defence in the underwater domain though, their navy has set a focus. The first results are expected to show by 2020, with a clear overhaul by 2025.
Commander (s.g.) Stefan Rings, Staff Officer, German Navy Headquarters, Branch Plans & Policy; Chair, Cat. B Project Maritime Mine Countermeasures – Next Generation, European Defence Agency, proceded as the next speaker with an account of the advancements in the field of underwater technology and warfare, more specifically related to naval mines as well as mine countermeasure vessels, known as minesweepers.
An MCM triangle was developed as a concept for the future, which contains a toolbox with plans for the appropriation of all forms of unmanned vehicles, whether UAVs, USVs, UUVs, AUVs, and more. A process of development is also underway, with aims of deploying Hybrid Platforms, with all systems and equipment, by 2027.
The panel, comprising of two additional members, Commander (s.g.) Christian Moritz, Staff Officer Plans, Policy and International Cooperation, German Navy, and Captain Joachim Brune, German Navy, commenced by presenting two questions, along with two stances:
“The submarine will present any fleet remaining at sea continuously… It is astounding to me how the very best amongst us fail to recognise the vast impending revolution in naval warfare and naval strategy that the submarine will accomplish.” – Admiral John Arbuthnot Fisher, First Sea Lord (1904)
The stance taken by the German navy included that a modern conventional AIP submarine should be considered a strategic asset.”Most of the Navy’s attention is given to strike warfare, while so-called ‘defensive warfare’ areas, such as antisubmarine warfare, defence and protection of maritime trade, and mine warfare, are given a short shrift.” – Milan Hugo, Professor of US Naval War College (2008). The stance taken by the German navy included that with new approaches to ASW and NMW underwater warfare is on the rise again.
Commander (s.g.) Christian Moritz thus presented the importance of submarines and subaquatic warfare through the concepts of sea control and sea denial. The submarine was an advantageous sea denial platform, with the capacity to enter high-threat zones whether covered by land-based missiles, or with lack of air support. After all, history is evidence of this, with multiple quotes from Churchill revealing that the most feared German asset was the submarine force during Second World War, which were close to shutting the lifeline of the US to the UK.
Furthermore, recent developments, such as the AIP, have allowed for previous disadvantages, mobility in this case, to be reduced or effectively nullified. As such, the production and assimilation of additional capabilities and missions to submarines will only increase their necessity in underwater defence.
The audience in turn did not hesitate to discuss the statements, prodding for more information and data, while providing arguments and counterarguments. The German Navy was asked whether such large-scale changes to their equipment could really be possible by 2025, to which the response was that the peak of such changes would appear then, and the expected completion was further away.
Later on, an argument provided in support of Commander Moritz’s perspective, but for entirely different motives, was presented by Captain Herman de Groot, who emphasised that the importance of the submarine was not because of the equipment and future capabilities for which it allowed, but rather due to their existence. Whether a submarine is in the area or not, just because the opponent has it, one is forced to react at the strategic level. This in itself is an asset.