Canadian Admiral: Kids Won't Join the Navy if Ships Don't Have Wi-Fi

Marines and Sailors with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Sailors with America Amphibious Ready Group received an opportunity to talk to family using their mobile phones aboard USS America, Aug. 24, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Jacob Pruitt)
Marines and Sailors with the 15th Marine Expeditionary Unit and Sailors with America Amphibious Ready Group received an opportunity to talk to family using their mobile phones aboard USS America, Aug. 24, 2017. (U.S. Marine Corps photo/Jacob Pruitt)

The next generation of Canadian sailors has grown up with phones in their hands, and they're not likely to give up their connectivity for life on the high seas.

When working with industry partners designing the technology needed on future Royal Canadian Navy ships, leaders are putting internet connection high on the list, Rear Adm. Casper Donovan, director of the navy's general future ship capabilities, said Tuesday.

"We have sailors who've grown up in a digital world -- they are digital," Donovan said at the annual Sea-Air-Space expo near Washington, D.C. "... When they embark on a Canadian surface combatant and we tell them to lock up their phone, they won't just go 'OK.'

"They won't join the navy," he said.

The Royal Canadian Navy only recently lifted its ban on Wi-Fi at sea. Last year, a sailor making a FaceTime call with family members using ship Wi-Fi made national news. Vice Adm. Ron Lloyd, head of the Royal Canadian Navy, called the service's strict rules about stowing cell phones away while at sea "draconian," according to CBC News.

"There are other navies that operate with NATO that have Wi-Fi in far more spaces than we do," Lloyd said. "And we're saying, 'No you can't have it aboard' -- period? That's crazy."

Donovan acknowledged that opening up Wi-Fi networks doesn't come without concern. Cybersecurity remains a top priority, he said, but it must not stop the Royal Canadian Navy from making technological progress.

"What we were seeing from a Royal Canadian Navy aspect is that [we're told] we can't do that digital thing, can't put Wi-Fi on this ship, we can't put anything in the cloud ... because of cybersecurity," he said.

But the world is changing quickly, and the military must adapt, he added.

"As far as cybersecurity goes, we've got to work through it," Donovan said. "We have to take that nut, and we have to crack it."

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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