9 Biggest Technological Advancements in Naval Warfare

Navy NATO. Largest military war games

9 Biggest Technological Advancements in Naval Warfare

What are the biggest technological advancements in naval warfare? A lot gets said about the technological prowess of branches like the United States Army and the Air Force. However, when it gets down to it, the United States Navy is right there alongside the other service branches in terms of high-tech achievements. With that in mind, we can take a closer look at some of the big jumps forward in naval warfare.


Radar screen with green display indication on a captains bridge of modern ship
The invention of sonar saw a massive shift in how naval battles were fought.

When looking at the biggest technological advancements in naval warfare, sonar deserves a special mention. The Second World War saw the birth of many technologies still in active use today. Sonar would be instrumental in aiding with the detection and destruction of enemy submarines. Before sonar, actively hunting submarines with surface ships was fraught with peril.


Mono vs. Stereo
Hydrophones function like normal microphones, allowing submariners to hear the movement of enemy ships.

The concept of having something as low-tech as a special microphone seems almost quaint. However, when you consider how undersea combat works for submarines, the hydrophone is at the top of the heap for technological advancements in naval warfare. The Second World War did see an improved housing development for hydrophones. This in turn made them more reliable and accurate. These days, it’s almost like listening to a regular microphone pick up things.

Depth Charges

Italian Naval submarine ship on her way back from Sea Trial in Augusta, Sicily, Italy
Depth charges served as an effective anti-submarine weapon for destroyers and battleships.

Surface ships didn’t really have much to combat submarines initially. While the First World War would see the development of the convoy system for shipping, it wasn’t until the development of depth charges that the tide would turn. Previously, a submarine that could launch torpedos beneath the waves could fire with impunity. A combination of sonar and depth charges gave surface ships a fighting chance without forcing the submarine to surface.


old torpedo with launcher containers
The bathythermograph took the guesswork out of torpedo aiming for submariners.

This interesting instrument would see its introduction during the Second World War. That said, it is one of the most important technological advances to grace naval warfare. The bathythermograph was originally a torpedo-sized instrument loaded on submersibles. Its express purpose was to detect the depth and temperature of a vessel. Having more accurate readings on how far a ship could go aided in the accurate firing of torpedos at enemy submarines.

Anti-ship Missiles

Anti-submarine hydrofoil ship "Vladimirets". 060.
Anti-ship missiles are devastating to any surface vessel. They can be carried by the smallest ships fielded by a navy.

Ships are tough, acting almost as bulwarks in the waterways. Sinking an enemy ship is incredibly difficult, at least by conventional means. The anti-ship missile makes this a trivial task. These missiles are expensive but effective at their goal. When you consider even a basic missile boat can tote one around, it suddenly makes more expensive ships look pointless.

Stealth Ships

naval warfare
Stealth ships are too new to speculate on in naval warfare, but these designs might start becoming common.

How can a ship be stealthy? The advanced needs of modern warfare have resulted in some interesting requirements. 2016 saw the introduction of the first stealth ship in the United States Navy fleet, the USS Zumwalt. Interestingly, this ship doesn’t require much to deflect active radar pings or radar from the likes of anti-ship missiles. It could turn into a paradigm shift away from the carrier-heavy composition of the modern Navy.

Long-range Submarines

naval warfare
Extended range allowed submarines to become the wolves of the sea.

Believe it or not, submarines were once relegated to coastal duties. One of the most important technological advances in naval warfare came in the expansion of the range for these vessels. The long-range submarine became a quantity during the First World War when German ships terrorized the Allied shipping lines on the Atlantic. This in turn resulted in an arms race that could carry on well into the Cold War.

Aircraft Carriers

Aerial drone photo of USS Gerald R. Ford latest technology nuclear powered aircraft carrier anchored in deep blue open ocean sea
The development of aircraft carriers was instrumental in modern naval doctrine.

It is hard to imagine modern naval warfare without the aircraft carrier. Originally introduced in the Second World War, it represents a technological leap for naval warfare. Imagine carrying a small contingent of aircraft, battleship cannons, and enough crew to keep everything running. The aircraft carrier is one of the dominant ships seen through the United States Navy and for good reason.

Nuclear Reactors

naval warfare
Nuclear reactors let ships travel for years, rather than being tied to a diesel turbo-engine.

Long before the advent of nuclear reactors, ships relied on things like sails and coal to navigate the seas. The nuclear reactor represents a massive technological advance for naval warfare. No longer were ships tied to fossil fuel sources like diesel to stay at sea. The modern ship is capable of drifting about the oceans indefinitely if they so choose.

To top