Stay Hunting and Avoid Being Hunted
The interest in submarine programmes has reached unprecedented levels as countries realise the cost benefits to support national interests by maintaining a covert underwater presence which is fully integrated with their surface navy and air forces.
This interest hasn’t just confined itself to the corridors of power within Naval headquarters. The internet has become both a method of attack and defence through the use of open source intelligence (OSINT), where anyone who has access to the world wide web can blog, comment and chart submarine activity.
Underwater Defence & Security’s dedicated Submarine focus day will feature a unique presentation from H I Sutton, an OSINT Consultant and Author of Covert Shores, discussing the impact of OSINT on operations and what we know about the Russian Pr.09852 Belgorod submarine program derived from OSINT sources.
We interviewed Mr Sutton to find out more…
Can you explain what open source intelligence (OSINT) means to military in terms of effects on operations and solution providers in terms of assisting governments in avoiding detection?
Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) is not a new phenomenon but the Internet Age has changed the ground-truth. Naval activity, include submarines, are now more visible to potential enemies. They now have an online signature which can be monitored. Some of these open sources are easily quantifiable, but a larger portion are somewhat amorphous; such as the internet activity of the crew.
There are ways that OSINT exposure can be reduced, maybe even managed. The Russian military recently announced a ‘selfie ban’ on some contract soldiers posting on Social Media for example. But it would be particularly challenging to eliminate it completely for an operational submarine. I think that it is a topic which should be explored more thoroughly so that practical solutions can be developed.
Why is it particularly pressing now?
OSINT capabilities are not restricted to major navies and intelligence agencies. Minor states and non-state actors with limited traditional intelligence capabilities can rapidly gather information on an adversary which would not have been possible twenty years ago. In fact, journalists, political activists, and enthusiastic amateurs can also, which could multiply Operational Security risks during times of tension.
How can OSNIT be used to track submarine missions? Does this apply just to their dry status or when they are actually on missions underwater?
There are very few scenarios when OSINT would have a direct impact on Tactical Intelligence. To know which submarines are in port during the final hours before a surprise attack, or to alert ASW assets as a submarine leaves its base perhaps. But mainly it is part of the threat analysis toolset, to be data mined over a long period of time.
There are a number of ways in which OSINT can lay bare key aspects of submarine capabilities and operations based on observing when a submarine is in port. Crewing training levels, hull availability, readiness, maintenance activity, and many other aspects that traditionally took substantial investment to gather can now be quantified more readily from a myriad of publicly available sources.
You're going to be attending Underwater Defence & Security 2018 to also talk about the Russian Pr.09852 Belgorod submarine program. Without giving too much away now, what key points will you look to address during the presentation?
The Russian Pr.09852 Belgorod submarine is a unique program without comparison in the West. I will summarize what we know from open sources and explore the remaining mysteries and apparent contradictions in its design and mission. The talk will touch on related programs such as the ICEBERG under-ice hydrocarbon project, the HARMONY sensor network, Losharik deep diving submarine and KANYON nuclear-armed nuclear-powered torpedo.
Download the confirmed conference agenda to view the full speaker line-up and find out about Mr Sutton’s presentation in more detail.