Page 4 - NAVAL FORCES 06/2017
P. 4

Editorial


                                   Battle of



                           Perceptions






          A couple of months ago I was invited to do a short presentation   The upgrades being made by the Royal Canadian Navy to
         at a university in Australia on the modernisation of Asian navies   its Maritime Coastal Defence Vessels, as reported in the article
         and the key drivers behind these programmes.         ‘Kingston Class 2.0’, confirm that sea mines have made a signifi-
          Foolishly convinced that I would be presenting in front of a   cant come back on the list of key threats to watch out for the world
         group of students in public policy and international affairs who   over. Saab’s future concepts for mine countermeasure operations,
         only had a general idea of what navies are about, I focused my   as introduced in ‘Equipment Supplier’s Edge’, further  emphasises
         presentation on introducing naval platforms, key drivers and main   the importance of these missions in the future, especially in an
         players. Having spent ten years of my life in a university environ-    environment like the Baltic sea where 50,000 mines are believed
         ment, I should have known that students would have preferred   to still be lying on the sea bed.
         a relaxing lunch with friends rather than sit another hour in a   If the mine threat is underestimated, relegated in people’s mind
           classroom; instead, the room filled with lecturers already quite   to mostly World War II and World War II movies, the  versatility
         knowledgeable in the field and eager to learn more from the expert   of navies and their platforms in carrying out a wide variety of
         (me!). My saving grace? I never give long, detailed  presentations;   missions remains widely unknown. I stopped counting the
         I prefer offering food for thought to elicit  interesting questions   number of people, outside this field, who have asked me how
         during the Q&A session.                              I feel writing about ‘destruction’ when my PhD was about ‘post-
          And question they did!                              conflict reconstruction’. “Navies are not only here for wars,”
          One in particular had me on the spot for a moment: considering   I find  myself explaining, “they are also a diplomatic instrument
         the way warfare changes throughout the centuries/decades,   and, just as  importantly, carry out a large spectrum of missions
         which platforms, a history professor asked, are most likely to   including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR),
         become redundant in the future? “Aircraft carriers are out,”   counter terrorism and anti-smuggling.” That there are platforms
         one person exclaimed. “Submarines are arguably the most impor-  such as amphibious assault ships, that are used to offer support
         tant platform, everything else will eventually stop being relevant,”   to land missions or carry out HA/DR as discussed in the article
         another added. I let this ping-ponging go on for a moment, while   on  power projection, seems to amaze them and confuse them in
         I mulled over my answer, and suddenly it all hit me: the work   equal  measure.
         we are doing with our specialised magazines is not only key to   As I stood there explaining this to that classroom in  Australia,
         relaying information to key players, but it should also serve to   I thought how we, as defence journalists, have a long way to go
         illustrate to non-experts how wars and threats around them are   to debunk pre-conceived ideas of ‘war’ and ‘navies’. A friend
         changing, and how even the smallest platform is crucial to tackle   once said that the job of Editor in Chief is that of ‘gatekeepers
         these complex dynamics.                              of knowledge’, that we are here to make sure that people have
          This issue of NAVAL FORCES certainly would have answered   access to all our writers’ knowledge to form their own opinion.
         that professor’s question.                           But opinions are none other than perceptions shaped by the news
          Concerns over the US Navy capabilities’ readiness, as reported   we read everyday, and as I look at the mainstream media regularly
         in the ‘Letter from Washington’, the article on safely piloting navy   conveying stories of death and destruction I realise that we too are
         ships and the article on the DDG-1000, bring to light the strategic   engaged in our own fight: the battle of perceptions.
         importance of these platforms and the capability gap created by
         destroyers momentarily lost to collisions or amphibious transport
         docks and destroyers entering the fleet with unfinished work or
         quality problems. The article on the ‘Columbia’ class SSBN, on
         the other hand, proves one of the participants’ points: submarines   Dr Alix Valenti
         are as important today as they ever were.            Editor-in-Chief
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