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Forget China’s ship-killer missiles. Future naval wars in contested areas like the South China Sea could be decided by a new naval weapon: “swarming sea mines.”

Military analyst Zachary Kallenborn writes in an article for the Center for International Maritime Security that the US Navy’s next capital ship may not be a ship. He says it may be a network of humans and machines that deliver superior firepower through legions of undersea drones.

“Such a network could consist of networks of sea mine swarms and their support ships,” Kallenborn writes. “Networked sea mine swarms could converge on masses of adversary ships, bringing to bear overwhelming force. The visibility of surface support ships would enable the network to generate conventional deterrence by signaling the swarm’s presence, while helping maintain the swarm itself.”

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