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Old 04-13-2018, 12:59 PM
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Arrow An Eye on the Fleet with Chris Cavas + two more stories

An Eye on the Fleet with Chris Cavas + two more stories
By Mark Tempest | 41 Days Ago

With a new administration well over a year in and a clearer view of the direction our Navy is headed, now is a great opportunity to check in with one of the most knowledgeable observers on the maritime scene, Chris Cavas.

Join us this Sunday from 5-6 pm Eastern for an hour-long broad-ranged discussion of national and international naval issues.

Chris was the naval warfare correspondent for Defense News from 2004 to 2017 and is a former managing editor of Navy Times . He has reported on Navy issues across the globe, including aboard USS Ponce in the Fifth Fleet and aboard National Security Cutters.


The Internet of Waterways
By Ensign Michael Civay, U.S. Coast Guard | 42 Days Ago

Insights from a network of autonomous waterway sensors, properly adjudicated through intelligence and command centers, will multiply the effect of operational units.

As a small, dynamic force that protects 95,000 miles of our nation’s coastline, the Coast Guard has long leveraged the latest technologies to cull available intelligence in the optimal deployment of its resources. As Alexander Hamilton put it in 1787, “A few armed vessels, judiciously stationed at the entrances of our ports, might at a small expense be made useful sentinels of the laws.” This succinct statement outlines a force multiplication philosophy relevant to this day.

In the early 1930’s a 75-foot patrol boat, the CG-210, became the first signal-intercept ship in U.S. history. With its dual purpose as a patrol boat and signal intelligence asset, the CG-210 played a significant role in stemming the flow of smuggling and paved the way for modern naval operational intelligence collection. More than 80 years later, intercepting and decoding messages is still of critical importance, but so too is predictive modeling, and once again the patrol boat has a significant role to play in signal collection.

Predictive Modeling with Operational Environment Data

Predictive modeling is in use to forecast flooding, migration trends, illegal fishing and other such activities. These models rely upon the latest data to inform historically weighted algorithms to project the conditions for the possibility of a future event.

The collection of operational data, its manipulation, and the resulting computer driven decision engine is known as the “Internet of Things” (IoT). Operational data collected through sensors can be stored and transmitted through a local area connection (such as RFID, BTLE, NFC, etc…) to nearby patrol boats or other Coast Guard assets and on to intelligence centers.

Durable, low energy sensors can be used to monitor water levels, water quality, bridge integrity, intrusion detection, shipping container location, communication traffic, even vessel type and positioning with sonar echolocation. This data when connected with command center intelligence computing can be seen as an “Internet of Waterways” (IoW).

Coast Guard vessels actively patrol their Areas of Responsibility (AOR) to ensure waterway safety and security. The crews of these vessels rely upon their training, teamwork, and situational awareness to provide successful outcomes. An IoW augmented AOR would provide intelligence centers a robust, relevant and reliable data set that when properly adjudicated and disseminated to operators, will optimize resource deployment and augment command center & responder situational awareness.

A Moveable Feast

As unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV’s) and body cameras stream video, IoW sensor data collected, and radio communications ingested, command centers will find themselves faced with a glut of operational information. Distributed storage and dataset processing can be put to task. Visualizing concise, actionable intelligence at command centers can be accomplished with Big Data methodologies. Aside from the technical and policy challenges, refinements to dissemination methods and command center authorities will further the value of this data and ensure the high standard of operational experience and training is maintained.

The value of accurate situational data to an operator is best illustrated with the decision- making process called the OODA loop. Air Force fighter pilot John Boyd asserted that the more rapidly one loops through the following steps, the more successful the response:

• Observation: The first phase in the process where the decision-maker must make use of the best sensors and other intelligence available.
• Orientation: After all situational data is collected, new observations are put into a context with the old.
• Decision: In this third step the decision-maker selects the next action based on the combined observation and local knowledge.
• Action: With this last step in the cycle, the selected action is carried out.

The OODA loop illustrates a pragmatic decision approach, where the quality of available intelligence dictates the success of the loops outcome and thereby response success.

An Agile Culture

As a component of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and a branch of the armed forces, the Coast Guard is at a unique intersection in the execution of its 11 statutory missions.

Technology acquisitions can easily be influenced by requirements which have not been internally validated, leading to waste. To remain responsive to its core missions, the Coast Guard must remain self aware by tracking all investments to validated requirements. Iterative and incremental development methodologies further hold solution development in-line with changing operational realities.


With the cornerstone initiatives of operational internet access and mobile computing well underway, fleet reliance, expectations, and an agile culture will demand Coast Guard capability alignment with those of the IT industry. By 2020 more than 26 billion connected devices are projected to be in use, the majority of these devices will serve every day applications, monitoring home appliances and tire pressures. A few connected devices, judiciously stationed in the formation of an IoW, might at a small expense be made useful to the safe and effective deployment of the guardians of our nation’s waterways.


Terror in the Water: Maritime Terrorism, Mines, and Our Imperiled Harbors
By Lieutenant (junior grade) Daniel Stefanus, U.S. Navy | 73 Days Ago

In the early hours of 6 July 1984, a small merchant vessel glided out of her Libyan homeport bound for the crux of Eurasian trade: the Suez Canal. Her crew was gone, replaced by sailors hand-selected by Muammar Gaddafi.[1] A few days later, the sailors quietly lowered their cargo into the Red Sea: deadly Soviet mines. In the coming weeks, panic rippled throughout the region as 19 vessels reported striking mines near the Suez Canal.[2] Global trade shuddered, its agents more self-conscious than ever of the system’s fragility. The world’s powers raced to sweep the region free of mines and terror, but the United States, the West’s naval hegemon, was forced to take a backseat due to a lack of ready, deployable mine countermeasure forces.[3] A few dozen Soviet mines laid by a third-rate power in an act of state-sponsored terrorism had rendered the world’s greatest naval power impotent.

Mine warfare has long been the little-loved realm of a few passionate, but often sidelined, U.S. naval leaders. A checklist item in pre-deployment work-ups, the threat of mining is both poorly understood and underappreciated. As we transition into a new era of increasingly well-resourced transnational terrorists, the greatest threat to daily maritime security will not be a sudden naval conflict, but maritime terrorism. Of the myriad low-cost, high-effect weapons available to global terrorist networks, mines offer a deadly, easy-to-use, and cost-effective option for the aspiring lone wolf or well-developed cell. Mines are also the option the U.S. Navy is least enthusiastic about and prepared for; yet, three mines dropped into the Port of Los Angeles by two terrorists in a pickup truck rapidly would sow panic among a metropolitan area of 13 million and unleash chaos in the United States’ largest port. The U.S. Navy must accept that it is underprepared for such a black swan event and aggressively scale up its domestic mine countermeasure capabilities—especially unmanned and autonomous vehicles—and its cooperation with the U.S. Coast Guard. As international terrorist networks become increasingly sophisticated, the Navy must rapidly improve its capacity to counter this threat against the United States’ vast coastlines and harbors.

Mining is a Natural Asymmetric Tactic for Terrorists

Offensive mining operations represent one of the United States’ most likely maritime terrorist threats as the risk-reward is tilted markedly in terrorists’ favor. This is asymmetric warfare at its best: a flexible, inexpensive, and powerful weapon could paralyze the world’s most powerful navy and the trade-dependent economy it defends. Examples of successful mining operations such as those against the USS Samuel B. Roberts (FFG-58), USS Tripoli (LPH-19), and USS Princeton (CG-59) reveal how mines costing mere thousands of dollars can cause millions of dollars in damage and completely derail crucial operations.[4] However, a terrorist need not sink a U.S. Navy warship to achieve his or her aims; any ship in American waters will do. It is never the material damage that a “terror”ist cares about—it is the chaos, the hatred, the fear. A sunken tugboat in New York harbor would be as devastating a blow to Americans’ sense of safety as the USS Arleigh Burke (DDG-51) striking a mine off the Virginia Capes. The immediate psychological effects of a sunken ship in an American harbor would echo across the nation and the seas, prompting a global economic panic as the world’s largest economy froze and fear engulfed the country.

Mines are not only cheap; they are stealthy, powerful and, above all, psychologically crippling. It is impossible to know how many mines are in a newly-encountered minefield, so one terrorist with one improvised barrel mine could close a harbor for weeks as the U.S. Navy would be compelled to search the harbor exhaustively even if no other mines remained. The uncertainty caused by a single mine is what most appeals to offensive users. This uncertainty dramatically scales up the cost for those defending against mines, as all mines must be cleared if true safety and security are to be restored. If this “one-per-harbor” improvised mine strategy were executed across the United States’ major ports, the U.S. Navy would be overwhelmed, unable to sweep more than a fraction of the potentially mined areas in the initial weeks following the attack, and U.S. maritime trade would grind to a halt.

Moreover, mines are difficult to “fingerprint” as there are so many makes, models, and mine-exporting countries that ownership is fluid and difficult to track. Many countries are willing to sell generic mines to whomever has the money. The Chinese and Russians have made and sold hundreds of thousands of advanced mines in the age of cheap arms proliferation following the end of the Cold War, and second-hand mines are now owned and sold by most of the world’s maritime countries. Such anonymity, and the fact that a mine cannot tell its secrets if it has detonated, provide the perfect coverup for radical or state-sponsored terrorists seeking to control how much the United States knows about who is using what against us.

Beyond mines’ tactical implications for port operations and merchant traffic, from an operational and strategic perspective, a coordinated mining campaign would undermine the economic and social foundations of the United States’ national security strategy and cripple the Navy’s ability to deploy and maintain its commitments abroad. Navy ships would be forced to undertake dangerous patrols in or near mined waters as public demands for safety and security in American waters would drown out all other operational concerns. Overseas deployments and commitments would be hastily scaled back as the fleet pivoted to defend America’s imperiled littorals, its citizens’ freedom of movement, and the trade that is the cornerstone of its economy.

Why the U.S. Navy Could Not Counter a Coordinated Domestic Mining Operation

The United States’ mine countermeasures (MCM) triad consists of surface vessels (minesweepers), aircraft, and explosive ordinance disposal (EOD) teams. The surface vessels are the twelve ships of the worn-down Avenger class: homeported overseas with the exception of two in San Diego, and in poor readiness conditions due to repeated life-cycle extensions because of the slow development of the littoral combat ship’s (LCS) mine warfare module. There are no surface mine countermeasure forces available on the East Coast of the United States.

The aerial leg of the triad is made up of the equally worn-down MH-53E Sea Dragons. Old and outdated, the 28 MH-53Es are only on the East Coast and suffer from notoriously serious readiness and material issues. While they are slated to remain in the fleet until the final operational capability (FOC) of the LCS mine warfare module in 2024, they are already struggling and will continue to degrade.

The final leg of the triad, the EOD teams, are the best in the world and highly capable at discovering and disarming mines using marine mammals, unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), and divers. Nevertheless, the EOD leg alone is insufficient to make up for the heavy equipment deficiencies of the air and surface legs, which are most useful for large-scale mine clearance operations. Furthermore, marine mammals can be fickle and are very expensive to train and sustain, leading to smaller numbers than would be optimal for large, global mine countermeasure capabilities. An EOD team with marine mammals could handle one harbor with limited mining, but a large-scale, coordinated terrorist mining attack as outlined above would be beyond the means of available EOD teams. Mobilizing marine mammals on-station would require at least a few days as well, further delaying our triad’s ability to counter such an attack. The autonomous Mk18 Mod 2 Kingfish UUV represents a more future-facing capability, with highly advanced sensors, but one that is still not the completely independent UUV desired to keep the “man out of the minefield.”

While the Navy’s mine countermeasure triad represents the key to the United States’ response to mine warfare worldwide, the U.S. Coast Guard represents a crucial fourth element for security and detection in U.S. littorals and harbors. The Coast Guard national security cutters (NSCs) have advanced sonar suites capable of detecting mines and room to be outfitted with additional mine warfare equipment. Currently, however, they are not sufficiently plugged in to the Navy’s mine warfare community. In a crisis, the Navy’s MCM triad and the Coast Guard would struggle to operate jointly across multiple, congested, and highly dangerous mined operational areas. Mine warfare is a tertiary concern of the Coast Guard at best, and it has not been equipped with the right gear and training to be independently effective in a large, domestic mine clearing operation.

Clearing Our Way to a Solution

Despite the challenges outlined above, the United States can rapidly build up its capability to mitigate the terrorist mine warfare threat to its harbors and coastlines by embracing the twin pillars of autonomous, unmanned systems and increasing mine countermeasures integration and expertise between the Navy and Coast Guard.

The enormous promise of autonomous and unmanned systems will revolutionize mine warfare in the decades to come, but even today there are developments that will ameliorate some of America’s capability shortfalls. The common unmanned surface vehicle (CUSV) and its towed AQS-20A mine-hunting sonar is particularly well-suited to harbors and the sort of continuous patrolling the United States must have if it is to deter would-be terrorist minelayers and immediately detect laid mines.[5] As an above-the-water unmanned system, it will be more visible to other vessels and hence safer in harbors than the less-visible UUVs and their potential for collisions in highly-congested waterways.

All of the unmanned systems, especially when networked, will play a critical role in future harbor defense and mine threat detection and destruction. By combining the best capabilities of the MQ-8B Fire Scout and its coastal battlefield reconnaissance and analysis (COBRA) system, the CUSV, the Knifefish UUV, and the remote multi-mission vehicle (RMMV), along with supplemental assistance from EOD’s Mk18 Mod 2 Kingfish, we will be able to search for all types of mines in various conditions and detect them quickly for destruction or further assessment and disposal by EOD divers. This family of systems will be more effective and integrated as the LCS mine warfare module progresses towards FOC and progress is made on controlling these vehicles from shore command posts in addition to the current LCS-centric set-ups.[6] The key capability of a networked, autonomous, and unmanned approach to antiterrorism mine countermeasure efforts in U.S. ports is that with enough units and an appropriately sophisticated communication network, U.S. maritime forces could achieve an around-the-clock patrol and detection density that would ensure all threats would be immediately discovered and eliminated before damage could be wrought or panic could emerge.

This integrated, autonomous mine warfare system should be rolled out to all major U.S. ports once it has achieved the appropriate level of automation and capability. Monitoring of U.S. harbors 24/7 is crucial as 90 percent of U.S. trade is seaborne and any threat to the integrity of our free maritime trade would be a devastating blow to the U.S. economy. The safety of U.S. harbors must never be questioned or left to chance.

Furthermore, domestic mine countermeasure patrols are an ideal initial mission for these platforms as the friendly environment and nearby access to development and maintenance facilities would make upgrades, tweaks, and other modifications much easier than if they were first fielded overseas. If local Coast Guard stations were partnered with these harbor defenders and had the right equipment and facilities, it would be even easier to utilize, develop, and repair these systems quickly and directly in the harbors they serve. This also would be a great springboard towards the second pillar outlined above: increased Navy and Coast Guard integration in pursuit of mine countermeasure effectiveness and improved homeland security.

The Coast Guard already has some organic MCM capability with the NSCs’ sonar, but by outfitting NSCs with control suites for some of the autonomous vehicles and the onboard equipment necessary to store and operate them, NSCs could become akin to domestic LCSs—able to rapidly surge to potentially mined areas and act as on-scene control nodes. Moreover, the Coast Guard knows the nation’s harbors and merchant marine much better than the Navy, and as such has crucial local situational awareness that will prove vital in detecting, localizing, and eliminating mining threats in domestic waters. The United States would also benefit by having shipping companies and local harbor authorities included in counterterrorism exercises and informational campaigns related to mining so as to further increase the number of ready eyes and chances of spotting and eliminating mines before it is too late. By improving the Coast Guard’s mine countermeasure involvement, capabilities, and, training, both sea services will be better able to defend the nation’s harbors and littorals.

Truly Safe Harbors

Global terrorism is an enduring aspect of the geopolitical landscape and threat environment for the foreseeable future. Rather than assume that it will not rain today because it did not rain yesterday, the United States must prepare for the high probability that in the coming decade transnational terrorists will discover the cost-effective potency of mine warfare and commit acts of maritime terrorism using improvised or manufactured mines. By harnessing the advanced technologies being developed for the LCS and adapting them to shore command and harbor use, the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard can create a continuous, layered network of mine detection and destruction vastly superior to the current overworked and tired legs of the MCM triad in combating terrorist mining in the United States.

In early 1950, before the Navy’s struggles with mining off of Wonsan, Korea, Admiral Forrest P. Sherman, Chief of Naval Operation, released a report from his staff warning that “ . . . the great danger is that if mine countermeasures continue to be neglected, large wartime appropriations for countermeasures will be almost useless because the fundamental development will still have to be done first.”[7] While the programs replacing the Avenger class, marine mammals, and the MH-53E are expensive, their delays have only further revealed the dangers of extending obsolete and aged equipment. By investing now in advanced, autonomous, and unmanned mine countermeasure vehicles, and working to achieve true jointness with the Coast Guard, the U.S. Navy will be able to swiftly and effectively defeat any mining in American waters: averting operational chaos, global economic panic, and the erosion of Americans’ sense of security and faith in the Navy. As Admiral Sherman warned, the U.S. Navy must act now, before the crisis, if it is to have any hope of prevailing when the threat is at its doorstep.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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