Protect Unmanned Surface Vessels in the Gray Zone

USV employment is at a critical juncture between innovation and gray zone warfare.

By Commander Clay Robinson, U.S. Navy (Retired)

January 2023


Vol. 149/1/1,439

The U.S. Navy’s unmanned surface vessels (USVs) are proliferating across multiple areas of operation, participating in increasingly more elaborate tests, integrating with partner navies, and being tactically employed. However, recent incidents involving the seizure of USVs highlight an ambiguous legal environment that foreign adversaries can exploit in the gray zone (described by former Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work as avenues of approach in which adversaries use agents, paramilitary organizations, deception, infiltration, and persistent denial to achieve their goals).