The Grey Zone: Undersea Technologies to Protect Maritime Trade, Operations & Infrastructure
In the post-Afghanistan and Iraq operational era, UDT 2022 offers an opportunity to explore another aspect of underwater defence and security that is of increasing importance to navies and governments worldwide: the grey zone.
An increasing number of ‘events’ have occurred in the space between political diplomacy and war. The grey zone’s complexity, ambiguity and importance has been widely recognised by military planners and governments. Populations, industries and wealth continue growing their dependence on sea lanes of communication, offshore industries, and seabed infrastructure. Given our ability to monitor much of the activity in space, on the earth’s surface and airspace, the undersea provides a significant opportunity for those wishing to conduct grey zone operations.
We have already witnessed grey zone type operations and, in most cases, they are well thought-out, use off the shelf technologies (drones etc) and are plausibly deniable at a governmental level. If planned and executed well, these attacks can avoid categorical attribution whilst also avoiding a substantial military reprisal, and yet can potentially contribute significantly to the long-term strategic goals of the aggressor. While clearly a navigational incident, the blocking of the Suez Canal serves to illustrate the vulnerability of our seaways.