The EU-funded project UAN (Underwater Acoustic Network) was aimed at conceiving, developing, and testing at sea an innovative and operational concept for integrating underwater and above-water sensors in a unique communication system to protect offshore and coastline critical infrastructures. This work gives details on the underwater part of the project. It introduces a set of original security features and gives details on the integration of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) as mobile nodes of the network and as surveillance assets, acoustically controlled by the command and control center to respond against intrusions. Field results are given of the final UAN project sea trial, UAN11, held in May 2011 in Norway. During the experimental activities, a UAN composed of four fixed nodes, two AUVs, and one mobile node mounted on the supporting research vessel was operated continuously and integrated into a global protection system. In this article, the communication performance of the network is reported in terms of round-trip time, packet loss, and average delivery ratio. The major results of the experiment can be thus summarized: the implemented network structure was successful in continuously operating over five days with nodes seamlessly entering and exiting the network; the performance of the network varied greatly with fluctuations in the acoustic channel; the addition of security features induced a minor degradation in network performance with respect to channel variation; the AUVs were successfully controlled from a remote station through acoustic signals routed by the network. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.