A REUTERS SPECIAL REPORT:
In response to China’s growing naval power and advancements in maritime warfare technology, the U.S. Navy is revamping its Integrated Undersea Surveillance System (IUSS). This overhaul, the largest since the 1950s, aims to modernize the existing network of underwater acoustic spy cables and equip surveillance ships with advanced sensors. The initiative also includes deploying unmanned sea drones and leveraging artificial intelligence for data analysis. The U.S. has agreed to sell similar technology to Australia to strengthen allied defenses in the Pacific.
China, concurrently, is developing its maritime spy program, the Great Underwater Wall, escalating tensions in the South China Sea. The program involves laying sonar-equipped cables along the seafloor and constructing a fleet of underwater drones. China’s efforts extend into the Pacific, with sensors placed in strategic locations capable of detecting submarine movements near U.S. bases. This development signifies the Indo-Pacific as the primary stage for U.S.-China naval competition, with both nations focusing on advanced surveillance and warfare technologies.
The urgency for the U.S. Navy’s surveillance enhancements is fueled by China’s rise as a sea power, the potential threat to Taiwan, and the need to protect critical undersea infrastructure. Developments in maritime warfare tactics, as demonstrated by Ukraine, and rapid technological advancements contribute to this urgency. The U.S. Navy is investing in next-generation capabilities, including autonomous vessels and advanced sensors, to maintain its lead, amidst concerns of China rapidly catching up. The focus remains on mastering new technologies for offensive operations and defense against potential threats.
The U.S. Navy’s efforts include experimenting with stealthier methods of subsea surveillance, utilizing small, unmanned sea drones, and deploying portable listening devices. Companies like Saildrone have supplied the Navy with autonomous vessels equipped with surveillance technology. These vessels, potentially upgradable with weaponry in the future, represent a significant shift in naval warfare. The developments underscore the technological arms race between the U.S. and China, with both nations investing heavily in innovation to gain a strategic advantage in a rapidly evolving maritime landscape.