The U.S. Navy would like to develop an underwater system similar to the Aegis shield that protects its surface ships with a bubble of situational awareness, says Navy Oceanographer Rear Adm. Jonathan White, director of oceanography, space and maritime domain awareness.

Speaking Oct. 22 at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Naval Science and Technology Partnership Conference, White told attendees and would-be Navy contractors to “think about an undersea Aegis,” saying the service needs to “see the environment” with the same clarity as an Aegis-equipped cruiser or destroyer. “We can’t today,” he says.

The ship-carried Aegis shields are considered to be the global standard for ship defense. The systems are now being used for ballistic missile defense as well.

To develop such an undersea shield network, White says, the Navy’s platforms need to be “communicating and sharing data undersea in real time. We’ve got to figure that out.”

And the Navy needs to go beyond simply creating such networks and links for its own vessels and equipment.

“Don’t forget about our allied partners. We can’t do it alone,” he says, acknowledging that requirement presents a host of security concerns. “How do we share just what we need?” he asks. “How can they share what they need?”

Such an undersea Aegis system, he says, would answer the call from Adm. Jonathan Greenert, chief of naval operations (CNO), to make warfighting the first priority and “maintain dominance in the undersea realm until 2030.”

The focus on developing an air-sea battle plan, he says, “tells me they are looking toward conflicts in the future where they don’t have a large landmass to use.”

Furthermore, he says, “You can tie this very closely to information dominance.”

To make systems like an undersea Aegis possible, he says, the Navy needs networks it can rely on, with secure and plentiful bandwidth.