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The RUSI FUTURE MARITIME OPERATIONS CONFERENCE 2008 will consider the value of future surface combatants in supporting policy, the tasks they will undertake, the capabilities they will require, and the demands on customer and supplier to work together to provide an affordable capability for delivering presence, maritime security, force projection and combat power.

The groundwork for this conference is the output from a series of expert workshops held at RUSI over the past six months. The event will be particularly timely for the United Kingdom as the Royal Navy’s Future Surface Combatant (FSC) programme emerges as a major force development issue. With a focus on the future strategic context, the conference will provide an early opportunity to shape the UK’s FSC debate.

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Supported by the Royal Navy and to be opened by the First Sea Lord and Chief of the Naval Staff Admiral Sir Jonathon Band, the conference will hear addresses from senior representatives of several navies, and will draw together a range of speakers from government, acquisition staffs, industry and the academic community. The event will provide an opportunity to discuss concepts, capabilities and challenges for future surface combatants.

The Strategic Importance of Surface Combatants

A principal challenge for many of the world’s navies is a reduced political profile and increased financial constraints in the face of immediate and dominant land-orientated military concerns. It is important, however, that the value of surface combatants is clearly articulated so that force development does not leave defence policies wanting, in the medium and long term, in essential maritime capability.

The conference will consider the roles, tasks and missions which surface combatants may be required to address to meet the changing demands of global security. Surface combatants are building blocks for sea-based task forces which make a core contribution to joint operations. They also support national interest in other contexts at home and overseas and are therefore both multi-purpose and specialist platforms used for a wide range of missions, including:

• Maritime Security Operations (MSO), defined by the Royal Navy’s Future Navy Vision 2006 as the level of presence, assurance and capability required to protect home and sovereign territories, to protect Sea Lines of Communication (SLoCs) and the military and trade vessels using them, to protect joint, Allied and coalition military forces in oceanic and littoral areas, and to support and sustain the free, safe and lawful use of the high seas, particularly global trade and legal networks;

• urgent operations of national obligation such as the evacuation of civilians from a crisis area;

• perennial demands of disaster relief and humanitarian operations;

• flexible global reach, forward deployment, sea control, and maritime manoeuvre;

• access (at both strategic and operational levels);

• presence, a strategic capability by which forces based at sea show support both for national interests and for other nations (including in alliance and coalition contexts), deter threats, reduce risk of conflict, and provide contingent capability to adapt to changing circumstances;

• the defining roles of high intensity war-fighting, with significant defensive and offensive military capability. Such conventional capability is a deterrent in itself, with navies being as important in preventing wars as they are in fighting them.

Future Challenges

Current improvements in surface combatant technology, coupled with developments in acquisition processes and with budgetary challenges, raise a number of important questions. Will these more capable future platforms allow for a reduced number of ships to meet levels of tasking which might well increase in the future? Or will fewer ships limit a navy’s ability to have global reach notwithstanding the capabilities of individual vessels? And what sort of surface combatant force structure will navies be able to afford? The scaling down of surface flotillas may require navies to prioritise their tasking and governments may need to be selective in their maritime commitments and be forced to abandon some long standing tasks.

Around the world a large number of naval ship building programmes are under way. The conference will hear perspectives, on the development of operational concepts and capabilities, from representatives of some of the more significant of these projects. The views of industry are particularly important, and the conference will bring together customers and suppliers to discuss processes for delivering capable platforms at affordable prices, in relation both to unit production and through-life capability and cost management.

Confirmed Senior UK Speakers Include:

  • Admiral Sir Jonathon Band KCB ADC, First Sea Lord and Chief of Naval Staff
  • Rear Admiral Robert Cooling, Assistant Chief of Naval Staff
  • Rear Admiral Amjad Hussain, Director General Weapons, Ministry of Defence
  • Rear Admiral Bob Love, Director General Ships, Ministry of Defence
  • Rear Admiral George Zambellas, Commander UK Maritime Force (COMUKMARFOR)
  • Commodore Steve Brunton Royal Navy, Director Equipment Capability (Above Water Effect), Ministry of Defence
  • Commodore James Morse Royal Navy, Director Force Development, Ministry of Defence
  • Commodore Mark Sloan Royal Navy, Director Maritime, Development, Concepts & Doctrine Centre, Ministry of Defence
  • Amyas Morse, Defence Commercial Director, Ministry of Defence
  • Professor Geoffrey Till, Director, Corbett Centre for Maritime Policy Studies, King's College, London

Confirmed International Speakers Include:

  • Admiral Muhammad Afzal Tahir NI(M), Chief of Naval Staff, Pakistani Navy
  • Admiral Pierre-François Forissier, Chief of Naval Staff, French Navy
  • Dr Norman Friedman, independent analyst and author
  • Rear Admiral Anders Grenstad, Chief of Naval Staff, Swedish Navy
  • Commander Jeroen de Jonge RNLN, Head Above Water Warfare and Theatre Ballistic Missile Defence, Operational Requirements Navy, Defence Staff, Ministry of Defence, Netherlands
  • Rear Admiral Michael Mahon United States Navy, Deputy Director Surface Warfare, United States Navy
  • Captain William Martin Royal Australian Navy, Naval Adviser, High Commission for Australia, London
  • Captain Niels K Olsen, ACOS Plans and Policy, Royal Danish Navy
  • Commander Frank Schwarzhuber, Deputy Branch Chief Plans & Policy/International Co-operation, Ministry of Defence, Germany
  • Commodore Anil Jai Singh, Naval Adviser, High Commission of India, London
  • Rear  Admiral  Rinaldo  Veri, Italian Front Line Naval Forces Commander
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