Zinc oxide (ZnO) is a unique wide bandgap biocompatible material system exhibiting both semiconducting and piezoelectric properties that has a diverse group of growth morphologies. Bulk ZnO has a bandgap of 3.37 eV that corresponds to emissions in the ultraviolet (UV) spectral band. Highly ordered vertical arrays of ZnO nanowires (NWs) have been grown on substrates including silicon, SiO2, GaN, and sapphire using a metal organic chemical vapor deposition (MOCVD) growth process. The structural and optical properties of the grown vertically aligned ZnO NW arrays were characterized by scanning electron microscopy (SEM), X-ray diffraction (XRD), and photoluminescence (PL) measurements. Compared to conventional UV sensors, detectors based on ZnO NWs offer high UV sensitivity and low visible sensitivity, and are expected to exhibit low noise, high quantum efficiency, extended lifetimes, and have low power requirements. The photoresponse switching properties of NW array based sensing devices have been measured with intermittent exposure to UV radiation, where the devices were found to switch between low and high conductivity states at time intervals on the order of a few seconds. Furthermore, NW based UV sensors and focal plane arrays (FPAs) show promise for imaging in the near marine boundary layer, an area extending up to about six meters above the ocean surface characterized by a relatively high degree of aerosols and turbulence. Envisioned applications for such sensors/FPAs potentially integrated into submarine photonic masts (which would maintain their effectiveness even in bright daylight conditions) include threat detection and threat warning.