A Good Water Fight Requires Research and Planning

By Richard Sterk, Naval Systems Analyst, Forecast International.

Best described as an umbrella-type program overseen by the U.S. Navy, the Ocean Warfighting Environment Applied Research program covers a wide variety of marginally related projects that cannot easily be fit into any one category. The importance of the work can be surmised by how much of it remains classified.  The program enjoys steady funding and has an unusually high number of efforts, with the average project lasting around three years from initiation to completion.

Efforts focus on naval missions and future capability needs to address the complex challenges presented by irregular/asymmetric warfare.  Under this program, basic research on the natural environment is transformed into technology developments that provide new or enhanced warfare capabilities.  The terms natural environment and battlespace environment are used interchangeably, with each term potentially encompassing aspects of the ocean, atmosphere, space, or land.  Contained within this program is the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP), a major component of which supports the development of organic mine countermeasures.

However, it should be noted that the collective nature of this program, and the wide number of issues it covers, means that most of the work performed is not described anywhere in any detail. Several of the projects covered by this program are concerned with the basic science behind acoustic propagation in complex maritime environments.  Marine animal welfare and environmental issues will continue to be program influencers.

It is not hard to envision how these projects are being applied to the detection of medium-size and small submarines in coastal waters.

This program will likely see stable to slightly increased funding over the next ten years as coastal- and shallow-water low-intensity conflicts replace the deep-water Soviet ballistic missile submarine threat of the Cold War.

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