The main objective of the CapTech Maritime is to support European Navies on current and future challenges within the naval areas of research and technology. In order to achieve this objective, the CapTech Maritime aims to build a shared vision among the governmental and non-governmental members of the CapTech on the most urgent technological gaps and technical challenges.
The CapTech Maritime addresses naval platforms, both surface and underwater, including Unmanned Maritime Systems and integrated systems (including sensors, weapons, energy propulsion, etc.), addressing their design, integration, and life-cycle improvement.
Overall objectives include improvement of platform protection, enhancement of guidance and control systems for underwater defence and surveillance, and improvement of intelligence and surveillance capabilities for ships, submarines, unmanned vehicles, and distributed sensor systems. Human factors in the maritime arena are also an important factor to be considered for the maritime domain. It will therefore be addressed transversally in coherence with the CBRN and Human Factors CapTech, in particular for simulation-aided training and decision support for surveillance and defence situations, as well as operational research and systems analysis.
The work of the CapTech Maritime can be categorised as technology pushed, but also capability driven, mainly by the EU Capability Development Priorities (CDP). From a technology-push perspective, twelve key research and technology areas have been identified within the CapTech which are applicable across five naval task areas: Surface/Submarine Platforms, Above water/Underwater Systems and Equipment, Services and Maintenance.
The maritime domain is a complex and challenging environment that has traditionally necessitated a high level of technological innovation to gain access to. 90% of the EU’s external trade is transported by sea entailing that the economic well-being of the EU is dependent upon a safe and secure maritime environment. Further challenges include the prevention of human and drug trafficking, the migrant crisis, increased pollution, a decrease in fish stocks and the many difficulties posed by regional instability on the EU’s borders. With an increasing world population settling on coastal areas, competition for resources arises which consolidates an increasing contested maritime domain. In the European Economic Area for example, around 90% of the region’s oil and 60% of its gas production originates from offshore.
Power and stability projection and the use of the maritime domain are intertwined. World power competition is rising with the potential of high intensity conflicts re-emerging. Regional and emerging powers are increasing investments in strategic maritime capabilities such as anti-submarine warfare (ASW) and thus, increasing their freedom of manoeuvre and expanding their reach. Strategic capabilities increasingly include Anti-access and Area Denial capabilities (A2AD) which are geared towards denying adversarial forces the freedom of action and inhibiting their ability to project power into maritime zones of interest. The proliferation of technology has also removed the barrier for entry to operate at sea and increasingly, non-state actors are utilising the domain for their own interests, with piracy being one such example.
Maritime Mine Countermeasures (MMCM) has long been a key driver for activities within the CapTech Maritime. Technological advances and proliferation of sea mines have increased the asymmetric threat to expeditionary forces in the littorals as well as naval forces in general. Mine countermeasures are a complex area of naval warfare, and the existence of a robust capability is critical to the successful execution of naval operations. The potential exists for non-state actors to acquire sea mines and to subsequently employ mine warfare as a means, crippling naval forces throughout the range of military operations. There is, therefore, an obligation to develop and effectively employ capabilities to counter the threat.
Recent years have seen a proliferation in the numbers of modern attack submarines. A key feature in Naval arsenals submarines are versatile platforms with the ability to attack surface ships, conduct ASW, deploy mines, and attack land targets once equipped with missiles. Furthermore, submarines offer a significant intelligence gathering capability and can also be used to launch shore landing parties. Finally, given the many challenges in detecting submarines, there is a high level of uncertainty generated, which can have a significant impact on operational planning.
Electrical power generation, its storage and management are essential for the effective operation of Naval vessels. New technologies relating to directed energy weapons, rail guns, electro-magnetic shielding, electromagnetic aircraft launch systems (EMALS), as well as high resolution and range RADAR and sensors ensure that energy consumption on ships will drastically increase. Their integration and impact on ships architecture will require new power generation and storage solutions, with the caveat that they should be of a size to be integrated onboard vessels. New energy management systems will be required to ensure that other ship systems are catered for.
These new power requirements, along with superior mission requirements, such as survivability, re-configurability, efficiency, stealth, compactness, and increased autonomy, are drivers for change for traditional ship system configuration. Conventional ship power systems consist of Prime Movers for propulsion and electrical power generation. In addressing the new power and operational demands, solutions could focus simply on the addition of further power sources on board. However, the additional increase in space requirements and weight makes this an impractical solution. Furthermore, there are detrimental effects on ships signature, while the requirements are very much on the reduction in ships signatures. The integration challenge is therefore a fundamental element to consider.
Recent years have seen a proliferation of UMS in the maritime domain. In an operational context, this has been centered on air systems dedicated to Intelligence Search and Reconnaissance (ISR) operations. However, surface, and underwater systems have also experienced developments where their operational use is mostly focused on MMCM and ASW.
The undersea domain itself can be considered as a driver for technological change and it is an environment that is becoming increasingly contested with increased competition for maritime resources and the continuing need to preserve sea lines of communication. Challenging and unstable environmental conditions such as water salinity, temperature currents and reflections from the sea floor means that the communication and transfer of data is challenging. Technology may struggle to overcome these physical limitations necessitating advances in autonomy. The ability to function autonomously allows systems to reach their goals in unpredictable and unstructured environments. It is certainly conceivable that the undersea domain might be the place where autonomy could come to fruition faster than anywhere else.
Digitisation and artificial intelligence (AI) are disrupting the way industries and other actors of the market build their processes. It applies to different aspects of the value chain, from manufacturing to integration and maintenance. Their use by military personnel during operational deployments is also modified, which has a direct impact on training modules.
The CapTech Maritime is a forum that facilitates the development of technological solutions to meet capability needs. At its core is the Strategic Research Agenda (SRA) which elaborates upon a shared vision, provides a cornerstone for collaboration and a mechanism for addressing identified technological gaps. It has proven to be an effective platform for the development and delivery of complex and challenging projects that are fully aligned with EDA participating Member States (pMS) capability needs.
To structure the work programme, a dedicated SRA was developed, and a number of Technology Building Blocks (TBBs) were identified. For each TBB, an implementation roadmap was developed and approved by Member States. These roadmaps are currently in implementation and cover the following TBBs:
- TBB01 - Communication and distributed sensor networks, surface and underwater
- TBB02 - Simulation and Training
- TBB03 - Platform Survivability and Operability in challenging conditions
- TBB04 - Energy and Propulsion
- TBB05 - Increased Autonomy and Robotics
- TBB06 - Identifying and Countering Threats, High-Energy Weapons Integration
- TBB07 - Smart Industrialization and Predictive Maintenance
Membership is drawn from Governmental entities, including Navies, National Research centres, universities, and industry, with the broad span of membership reflective of the many areas to be addressed.
The Area of Responsibility (AoR) includes both surface and underwater elements with a particular emphasis placed upon the latter. Furthermore, the development of technologies related to Unmanned Maritime Systems (UMS) has been a priority area over the lifetime of the CapTech with a clear track record of project development and delivery.
The EU Capability Development Priorities (CDP) 2018, serves as the mechanism for identifying priorities requiring technological solutions for development. Employed also in the preparation of the agenda is the Technology Taxonomy (TT) and the Generic Military Task List (GMTL).
To achieve its mission, the CapTech Maritime undertakes the following:
- Prepare and maintain the CapTech SRA providing guidance, encompassing pMS and industrial views on technical challenges to be solved, and establishing the roadmaps for developing future technologies to overcome identified capabilities shortfalls;
- Generate, launch and assess progress in pMS collaborative Research & Technology (R&T) Projects and Programmes within the Area of Responsibility of the CapTech;
- Propose EDA-funded studies in specific areas to form a common understanding on research requirements;
- Contribute with the necessary expertise in preparing wider projects and programmes when required;
- Facilitate information exchange relating to:
- National R&T priorities and activities;
- EU and non-EU R&T initiatives;
- Priorities coming from other EDA work-strands (CDP, PTs) and following the progress of the activities launched under those work strands (top-down);
- EDA R&T activities originated under the CapTech (e.g. ongoing Ad Hoc Category B [CAT Bs]) or from other EDA working groups that may have an impact on the CapTech.
- Evaluation of industrial proposals considered relevant to pMS R&T priorities;
- Forming groups of interested pMS for the further preparation of R&T proposals;
- Conducting technology watch, foresight activities and technology assessment in order to identify R&T areas of importance and provide guidance for the updates of the CapTech SRA and R&T taxonomy;
- Interacting with other EDA working groups and CapTechs to understand and provide contributions for developing defence capabilities;
- Organising and proposing workshops on relevant topics to broaden the contribution and consultation of the expert community.
The CapTech maritime meetings are held 2 - 3 times per year, with a maximum duration of 2 days. All information is shared via EDA’s online collaborative workspace. In addition to CapTech meetings, workshops dedicated to specific topics are organised to investigate areas and promote cooperation.
Requests for membership for the CapTech can be submitted to the CapTech moderator and are subject to approval by the respective CapTech National Coordinator. The approval of the CNC will be needed to become a Governmental Expert (CGE) or non-Governmental Expert (CnGE), and for your participation in a CapTech event. To become a member of the CapTech (CGE or CnGE), please contact us at: Cap.Tech.Maritime@eda.europa.eu
- A new project entitled ‘Swarm of Biomimetic Vehicles for Underwater ISR’ has just been launched. The project will kick off in Q4 2021
- New projects under preparation focus on the areas of modular lightweight minesweeping, thin line array technology, the laser identification of underwater targets, Signature response analysis of multi-influence sensors and submarine hydrodynamics and hydroacoustic.
- The CapTech is a participant in framework contracts on hybrid meta materials as well as on quantum technologies.