Name any epic U.S Naval battle or amphibious landing through history and odds are that weather and sea conditions played as important a role in the battlespace as the Sailors and Marines in the fight.
“The enemy and nature get a vote in any warfare scenario,” explained Oceanographer of the Navy Executive Assistant Capt. A.J. Reiss, from the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy. “Naval Oceanography provides warfighters with unique oceanographic products for operational and tactical decision making.”
A major component of the Naval Oceanography enterprise is the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. CNMOC, comprised of approximately 2,500 globally distributed military and civilian personnel, is responsible for the collection, processing and exploitation of accurate, relevant and timely oceanographic, meteorological, hydrographic, precise time and astrometric information.
One way CNMOC personnel collect vital information is by utilizing unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs.)
The U.S. Navy established Littoral Battlespace Sensing-Gliders (LBS) as a program of record in 2010 and has used gliders operationally since 2012. Today, Naval Oceanography employs a fleet of LBS gliders around the world and aims to have one-third of the gliders deployed operationally.
“Naval Oceanography has more than 20 years of experience operating UUVs in support of surface warfare, mine warfare and anti-submarine warfare,” Reiss said. “We have sensed or surveyed more than 250,000 linear miles of ocean using a combination of 100-plus unmanned ocean gliders and autonomous underwater systems.” Reiss explained that while it sounds like much of the ocean has been explored and or mapped it has not. “We know more about the surface of Mars than we do about our own oceans,” Reiss said.
Pilots control the gliders and monitor scientific data and glider performance around-the-clock via Iridium satellite from the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVO) Glider Operations Center located at Stennis Space Center, Mississippi. LBS gliders collect thousands of profiles around the globe every year providing oceanographic data such as water temperature, salinity, water clarity and depth.
According to Reiss, the Navy prefers gliders in lieu of traditional over-the-side shipboard “CTD” (conductivity, temperature and depth) instruments because they are more cost effective, can collect data faster and are persistent.
“Persistence is key since gliders are able to collect data in a particular area of interest to the Navy for months at a time, which helps us refine our ocean models that support operations in those regions,” Reiss said.
Deploying remotely piloted, unattended and autonomous systems that can be adaptively networked to generate physical battlespace awareness and a common operational picture optimizes employment of Navy platforms to fight and win at sea, Reiss said.
Reiss explained the advantages of utilizing gliders vice conducting ship-based profiling. In addition to cost savings, gliders act as a force multiplier. After being deployed from a ship, a glider can sample for months with no local ship presence. This frees the ship to perform other functions at the same time.
“Over time, each glider profile costs less than $100 and can provide thousands of profiles per month, compared to dozens of profiles a month at a cost of about $10,000 for a ship-based over-the-side profile,” Reiss said. “Most importantly, it frees the ship and crew up to keep moving and conduct critical data collection with its other sensors.”
Reiss said that data collected from gliders is also used to help create climatologies, tools scientists use to determine approximations or ocean properties in areas where real-world data do not exist.
In 2014, IHS Jane’s reported that a Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy submarine commander was awarded a medal for saving his crew and ship when the boat suddenly began sinking due to a sudden change in the density of the water around it. The Chinese diesel submarine was able to maneuver to avoid sinking to depths at which it could not escape.
“That’s an example of how important it is to understand the physical battlespace and have a competitive advantage. Our gliders collect data that really help ocean models identify a potentially hazardous environment so we can avoid situations like this — keeping our fleet safe,” Reiss said.
In addition to its fleet of UUVs and oceanographic survey ships, including USNS Maury (T-AGS 66), which was accepted by the Navy earlier this year, nearly every Navy platform from aircraft carriers to Aegis destroyers have sensors that collect weather and oceanographic data.
“Right now, Naval Oceanography is challenged to keep up with all the data and high resolution images collected, Reiss said. “Advanced algorithms and faster computer processing can mitigate the problem. hat’s where Naval Oceanography’s experience with optimum human and machine teaming comes into play. We have to make intelligent decisions on what data needs human intervention and then let the supercomputers process the rest.
“At the end of the day, we need better automation to process the most benign data being collected, and then a symbiotic human-machine team to work through the most complex problems. Naval Oceanography is fortunate to have both: access to supercomputing through a longstanding operational partnership with the DoD’s Distributed Supercomputing Resource Center and a roster filled with highly intelligent and highly motivated oceanography experts.”
To learn more about the Unmanned Systems Strategy recently released by Oceanographer of the Navy and Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command Rear Adm. Tim Gallaudet visit: http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=91231.
Follow the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/OfficeoftheOceanographeroftheNavy
Sharon Anderson is the CHIPS senior editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brian Leshak, Corporate Communication Director in the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy, contributed to reporting.