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New age solutions for new age problems

New age solutions for new age problems

INNOVATION  |  2 MARCH 2022


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Maritime defence operations have an increasing workload.

Protecting exclusive economic zones (EEZ), mitigating illegal fishing, thwarting piracy and responding to humanitarian and disaster relief (HADR) efforts are intertwined with shifts in geopolitics and operational sustainability.

The complexities of the modern maritime world are daunting, but innovative ideas around sustainability, communication and unmanned vehicles are on the horizon.

L3Harris is at the intersection of technology and defence, focusing their R&D to design forward-thinking hardware and software for maritime security. We speak with Mr Scott Roberts, corporate vice president of L3Harris’ Singapore operations to understand how technologies can help navies work smarter, safer and in unison, to respond to threats.


1. Military affairs have evolved in response to the zeitgeist of modern geopolitics and strategic competition. Where is the next wave of military and defence evolution heading towards?

The next wave of military and defence evolution is heading towards automation in the form of artificial intelligence and machine learning, unmanned vessels and collaborative environments built on the modular open systems approach. The technologies that support this move include sensors and processing, intelligence and situational awareness and networked-sensor communication.


2. What do you see as today’s modern challenges or opportunities that will likely underly the strategic imperatives for maritime and national defence?

The rapid growth of economic and military activity in the region has caused a fundamental shift in maritime and national defence over the last two decades. This has resulted in continuing difficulties for peacekeepers. In addition to their primary role, defence forces are challenged to effectively manage the increasing workload imposed by illegal fishing, human trafficking, piracy, illegal immigration, and other illicit activities with the limited capability of their combat systems. These activities pose a major threat to the security of the region. L3Harris is developing technology today to support these shifts and enable maintaining national defence with products ranging from advanced sensors and processing to the unmanned and autonomous vehicles that carry them.

3. How does challenges today drive technology? Where do we see the need for innovation?

Advances in technological development have produced improved tools and systems for dealing with these problems in areas such as improved sensors and processing, intelligence and situational awareness and networked-sensor communication.

New combat systems incorporating these advances present appealing options to defence agencies attempting to curb the ongoing threats in this area.

L3Harris continues to incorporate advanced technology into our Anti-submarine Warfare (ASW) product line. These include improved sensors and processing using adaptive processors, integrated hull and variable depth sensors, scalable commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) architecture, textured ceramics-based transducers, unmanned vehicles; as well as networked intelligence situational awareness applications, and networked-sensor communications.


4. Operational efficiency and sustainability have an impact on national security and can often be overlooked. What is the industry doing to drive these and what are some of the new technologies we expect to see over the next few years? 

The goal of operational efficiency is to achieve compliant, repeatable, and sustainable processes for delivering and maintaining combat systems. The supply chain responsible for the sustainability of combat systems equipment needs to move to indigenous suppliers. L3Harris uses local industry to build and maintain much of our systems. Navies benefit from this with a reliable supply chain and 24/7 support. 

Operational efficiency increases with operator proficiency. Traditional infrequent classroom training is insufficient in the long run because operator proficiency is a perishable skill. Introducing portable training systems such as the L3Harris sonar emulation system can be such a large asset in this area. These portable systems provide the entirety of the system training and are portable, allowing frequent use throughout the operator’s assignment. 


5.     Environmental degradation and climate change are also some of the many non-traditional security issues to address. How can we convince littoral states to pay attention to this and what are some of the technologies or sustainable processes navies can consider adopting?

Climate change and the ensuing environmental degradation is happening now, and the related security issues need to be recognized and addressed by regional powers.

Navies can address this situation through adaptation and mitigation practices.

Technologies that mitigate the impact of climate change are part of L3Harris’ portfolio and focus on reducing the power consumed by our sensors and systems. The COTS equipment we use follows Moore’s Law with a reduction of power consumption over time. Our high-efficiency transducers in development are built with textured ceramic technology that will provide greater output at less power.

Warmer climates will allow increased access to Arctic resources and cause new conflicts. Navies will adapt and respond to these conflicts by engaging in joint operations whose success depends on advanced networking and radio systems that allow cooperating vessels to communicate and collaborate.


6.    What does the future of naval defence and the intelligent ship of tomorrow look like?

The future of naval defence will see a shift from few, large platforms to many and less expensive ones, where the larger platforms act as motherships. They will be built on connectivity, artificial intelligence and machine learning. In combat, larger ships will need to process large amounts of data from a varied assortment of sources, requiring the ship and crew to react to threats and direct resources accurately and effectively. Navies that are successful will use intelligent techniques and automation and will have a significant impact across the domain.


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