Contested Seas: Maritime Domain Awareness in Northern Europe

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Operations in littoral waters present numerous challenges for modern navies, challenges that are especially acute in the waters of the Baltic Sea and around Northern Europe. Russia’s increasing menace above, on, and under the waves—combined with its deployment of new and upgraded maritime capabilities and considerable commercial and civilian activity in the region—calls for enhanced vigilance from the United States and its allies and partners. Establishing effective maritime domain awareness (MDA) in congested and increasingly contested littoral environments will require multilateral, networked, and cost-effective solutions that leverage advancing technology and enhanced operational concepts.

To better understand and help address the MDA challenge in the Baltic Sea and surrounding North Atlantic littorals, CSIS’s International Security Program embarked on a study that sought to answer three key questions:

  1. What are the specific operational, technological, capability, logistics, infrastructure, and policy requirements for creating MDA networks in contested littoral environments?
  2. How are these requirements shaped by both geography and threat?
  3. What are the common elements that inform the development of MDA networks in the Baltic Sea, North Sea, Atlantic, and Arctic Littorals?

A previous CSIS study, Undersea Warfare in Northern Europe, explored how Russian undersea capabilities were affecting the U.S., allied, and partner nations throughout the region. This study drew on this research foundation but took a holistic view of the MDA challenges in this region. It culminated in a report release and launch event in early Spring 2018 that offered recommendations as to how the United States, NATO allies, and European partners can develop enhanced MDA for operations in the contested environments of Northern Europe.

This project is made possible by the support of Saab AB.