No News is Not Good News

By Dr. Ann Griffiths, 8 November 2023

Few days go by without seeing something in naval news sources about uncrewed maritime systems. It’s a rapidly growing field for navies. We’ve seen how Ukraine has utilized uncrewed maritime systems in its war with Russia. The US Navy and Royal Australian Navy (RAN), for example, have pursued air, surface and sub-surface uncrewed systems for almost two decades. Both the RAN and the USN have laid out their approaches to maritime uncrewed system adoption by publishing strategies. Australia released RAS-AI Strategy 2040 in October 2020; the USN released Unmanned Campaign Framework in March 2021. RAN also published the supporting RAS-AI Campaign Plan 2025 which provides milestones and measurable performance indicators to implement the strategy.

In addition to strategy, the USN has Task Force 59 which has been given broad leeway to explore, develop and utilize uncrewed systems. It was established in 2021 and by January 2023 had reached full operational capability as it delivers drones and artificial intelligence for maritime operations in the Middle East. Australia just finished Exercise Autonomous Warrior, a two-week exercise involving the RAN and defence industry to test surface and sub-surface autonomous and uncrewed systems that have the capacity to transform the way navies conduct warfare.[1] The annual NATO exercise known as REPMUS (Robotic Experimentation and Prototyping with Maritime Uncrewed Systems) was undertaken in September 2023 to test concepts, requirements and technologies in terms of maritime uncrewed systems. I could go on.

With all the news about maritime uncrewed systems, it’s hard not to get discouraged about Canada. Canada/the RCN is rarely mentioned on these news reports. The RCN’s flagship maritime uncrewed system project is RCN Intelligence, Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance Unmanned Aircraft System (RCN ISTAR UAS), a project still in the definition phase, planned to deliver up to six ISTAR UAS to be integrated into and operated from the Halifax-class frigates.[2] But what else can we expect? I’d like to know more – about projects and strategies. And, by the way, there’s an interesting Canadian Forces College paper online by Lieutenant-Commander Anonymous, called “A Maritime Uncrewed Systems Strategy,” that’s worth reading,[3] but it would be nice to start seeing news stories about RCN uncrewed system success.

1 Australia, Department of Defence, “Autonomous and uncrewed systems tested as part of Exercise Autonomous
Warrior,” 3 November 2023.

2 Canada. Department of National Defence, “Business Case Analysis v2 - Royal Canadian Navy Intelligence,
Surveillance, Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance Unmanned Aircraft System (RCN ISTAR UAS),” Royal Canadian
Navy, September 2021, pp. 15, 32.

3 Lieutenant-Commander Anonymous, “A Maritime Uncrewed Systems Strategy,” Canadian Forces College paper, Anon773.pdf (


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