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The First Sea Lord’s Sea Power Conference 2018: Maritime Strategy in the Twenty-First Century

Peter Roberts and Sidharth Kaushal
Conference Reports, 27 June 2018
Military Sciences, Global Security Issues, Maritime Forces
A report on the proceedings of The First Sea Lord’s Sea Power Conference 2018, hosted by RUSI. The conference addressed the potential for human-machine combat teaming, implications for force design, disinvestment strategies and people from the year 2035.

After a long strategic holiday, the security community is once again engaged with maritime strategy. As the opening remarks of Defence Secretary Gavin Williamson made clear, a changing threat environment has made sea power a focal issue to a degree that has not been matched in the recent past. Within this context, the First Sea Lord’s Sea Power Conference represented an effort to bring together decision-makers and leaders from across the academic, military and think tank domains in order to provide a forum for cross-domain discussions regarding the future of sea power and the ramifications of a twenty-first century threat environment for maritime strategy.

Major observations from the conference include: 

  • There has been a lack of analysis regarding the long-term future of naval warfare. A compelling narrative was lacking as to what the range of futures might look like, without immediate reference to legacy platforms.
  • The absence of discussion regarding the mix of high and low warfare, and the efficacy of capital ships in an era dominated by information and technology was a significant concern.
  • The inability to come to terms with potential trade-offs between efficiency and resilience in military industrial policy requires more work from government and industry.
  • In common with discussions in the land environment, the aspirations for collaboration with industry in order to share scarce human resources was never grounded in sufficient detail to warrant optimism.

BANNER IMAGE: Ships and submarines participating in Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercise in 2012 in formation in the waters around the Hawaiian islands. RIMPAC is the world's largest international naval warefare exercise. Courtesy of US Navy/US Indo-Pacific Command

Professor Peter Roberts
Director Military Sciences, RUSI

Peter is Director of Military Sciences at the Royal United Services Institute, having been the Senior Research Fellow for Sea Power and... read more

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