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The Underwater Environment and Europe’s Defence and Security


Technological advancements in the field of uncrewed underwater vehicles (UUV) and the increasing number of underwater critical infrastructures (UCI) – such as pipelines and internet cables – have made the environment below the seas’ surface a prominent stage for geopolitical competition. The Nord Stream sabotage clearly demonstrated that UCIs are vulnerable to covert actions that are difficult to prevent or attribute. Moreover, operating in this challenging environment requires mastering advanced technological solutions to cope with high pressures and the opacity of water, which severely limits or denies wireless communications technologies commonly used above the surface. Large and mid-sized navies around the world are enhancing their submarine fleets or acquiring this technology for the first time, leading to an ever more competitive and contested underwater domain. Italy has launched the Near Future Submarine programme by relying more than in the recent past on domestic shipbuilding and defence companies, and is establishing a National Underwater Hub aimed at fostering technological cooperation between military and civilian, as well as public and private actors.

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