NATO, the Portuguese Navy and industrial partners successfully completed Exercise Dynamic Messenger 23 off the coast of Sesimbra and Tróia, Portugal.
One focus area of the exercise was the important task of monitoring and protecting Critical Undersea Infrastructure (CUI). Following NATO’s Vilnius Summit in July, the Alliance agreed to establish a Maritime Centre for the Security of CUI within NATO’s Maritime Command (MARCOM).
Off the coast of Portugal, new and emerging technologies were put to the test at sea. The latest Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV), which allow for longer, persistent presence at depth, built a common underwater picture of CUI. These underwater assets were used in combination with several advanced uncrewed air and surface capabilities, as well as the more conventional crewed systems, enabled by both 5G and SATCOMs and space-borne sensors. With an abundance of subject matter expertise, Dynamic Messenger demonstrated that these technologies, supported by AI, can help to identify suspicious activities above and below surface, enabling the efficient use of military assets to provide an effective response to the CUI threat.
Dynamic Messenger is the first NATO exercise to include a specific focus on CUI, and it benefits from joining allied navies with industry. Participants were briefed on the complex legal, political and technical environments surrounding the overall protection of CUI. The potential for new and existing capabilities was explored, including uncrewed systems, to carry out tasks such as surveillance, detection and responding to threats against CUI. The exercise also provided the starting point for refining the operational command and control processes needed to carry out such tasks.
In addition, Dynamic Messenger facilitated a network of NATO Allies, private sector and other stakeholders to improve information sharing and exchange best practice.
While Maritime Security Operations and Maritime Situational Awareness underpinned the whole exercise, Dynamic Messenger 23 focused on specific warfare areas, all of which integrated the latest technology in autonomous assets. They included Protection of CUI with Maritime Unmanned Systems and Mine Countermeasure assets; Naval Mine Warfare; Maritime Security Operations; Force Protection; Underwater Warfare; Amphibious Operations; Rapid Environmental Assessment and Medical and Logistics.
Dynamic Messenger also provided a platform for strengthening the Alliance, with NATO Partner Sweden participating throughout, and visits by observers from the Republic of Korea, Japan and New Zealand.
The task now falls to MARCOM, industry and academia to analyse the data, in order to build a better understanding of how new and emerging technologies could be employed in future operations.
Dynamic Messenger 23 followed the Portuguese Navy-led Robotic Experimentation and Prototyping with Maritime Unmanned Systems (REPMUS) exercise, which focused on capability development and interoperability. REPMUS and Dynamic Messenger together demonstrate the growing importance of employing autonomous vehicles in multi-domain operations.