“S” is for Safety, but also for SeaFox

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In the past, mine hunting, identification, and removal tasks were accomplished by explosive ordnance disposal divers or expensive, bulky robots. While divers are still used in identification and removal, new underwater vehicles are supporting these tasks by lightening the workload on divers, eliminating some risk for deep or repetetive dives, and serve as a quickly deployable and recoverable replacement for a heavier, more expensive submersible the U.S. Navy previously used.

To talk more on this is the executive officer of USS Gladiator (MCM 11), Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Gleason.

-Fleet LT

8785963966_8f688b2e78_zMine hunting is the mission. Identification and neutralization is the method. Maintaining open, safe sea lanes is the goal. In the past, these tasks were accomplished by explosive ordnance disposal divers or the antiquated SLQ-48 Mine Neutralization Vehicle. While these units fit the bill and accomplished the mission, the Navy is always looking to complete tasks and missions more quickly, cheaply, and safely.

Enter the SLQ-60  Surface Mine Neutralization System — SeaFox.

Using cuing from the ship’s sonar, the investigation variant of SeaFox can identify possible mines using its onboard sonar and camera, feeding live data via fiber-optics to a display in the Combat Information Center. That information is then compared to the ship’s variable depth sonar sweep of the area to determine if the UUV and ship’s sonar operator are looking at the same object. This entire process can be accomplished in 10 to 12 minutes, much more quickly than employing a dive team or using the legacy MNV.

8747200332_ae6efc249b_zIf a mine is visually identified, a Combat Round can be prepared to destroy the threat. Using this one-shot solution to neutralize a mine threat is safer than deploying divers less time consuming that re-arming a MNV for neutralization.

As a MCM executive officer, having SeaFox aboard adds a more robust hunting capability to our innate sweeping capability. Overall, this is a very capable system that my crew and I are proud to have aboard and train with.

Seafox: Multi-purpose, Multi-use, Force Multiplier.

– Lt. Cmdr. Matthew Gleason, Executive Officer, MCM Crew Reaper.

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Surface Defense and Ballistic Missile Defense

8171820354_305d9e42ec_cMine Countermeasures ships are highly specialized equipment that focuses on a narrow range of vital missions to clear transit lanes of waterborne explosive devices. They are not well equipped to defend themselves, or the divers and robots that help accomplish their missions.

8349515746_9a9ce23521_cThat’s where the conventional Navy ships with advanced tracking systems come in. U.S. Navy cruisers and destroyers are equipped with AEGIS and several systems that work together to automatically detect and track more than 100 simultaneous contacts. This powerful system can help identify possible threats to assets like MCMs and aircraft carriers that are equipped for specialized missions and require additional support for their assured defense. While these AEGIS equipped ships are a formidable asset, upgrades were needed to address a different kind of threat:

Ballistic Missiles.

Ballistic missiles are named because of their trajectory after the payload (part that goes boom) is released, falling parabollically (like a bomb dropped from an airplane) until it reaches it’s target at a high rate of speed  with an impressive degree of accuracy. These vehicles are capable of carrying heavy ordnance and are a viable way of delivering nuclear weapons.

ftm17hopperBecause even the threat of nuclear weapon deployment is a serious concern, upgrading AEGIS to combat these types of long range and intercontinental missiles was vital. That’s where AEGIS Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) comes in. This upgrade helps the sea-based tracking system integrate with land based tracking systems to track missiles from point of origin and determine the best moment to neutralize it with a ship-fired missile (in this case, an SM-3).

Though the system is designed to target missile sized objects, moving at relatively slow speeds, the system was used to detonate the fuel tank of a failing satellite moving at more than 17,000 miles per hour. USS Lake Erie (CG 70) scored a successful hit on the tumbling satellite with an SM-3 on the first try, demonstrating the system’s capability on an extremely complicated target.

7832858940_7075afd5f0_cWhile the cool factor is off the charts, what does this have to do with IMCMEX? Cruisers and Destroyers use this extremely powerful system to protect assets engaged in mine clearance operations, and commercial craft transiting international waterways, providing an impressive picture of the maritime environment to predict, prevent, and engage threats.

It can track and strike a satellite falling from space–sure makes me feel safe.

-Fleet LT

IMCMEX: Patrol Coastal Ships

17SEP2012 (46)

Did you know that the US Navy employs coastal patrol coastal (PC) ships, many of which are forward deployed to the Kingdom of Bahrain? In fact, there are five Cyclone class PCs in the 5th Fleet area of responsibility (AOR) and they perform important tasks in the littorals of the Arabian Gulf. The small ships are extremely well suited to operating in the warm, shallow, busy gulf waters due to their maneuverability and shallow draft.

Picture4As Vice Admiral Miller, commander, U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet, Combined Maritime Forces, said in a related story (Link Here), “[PCs] are capable of many missions, but what they are best suited for is infrastructure protection and maritime security in the region. There is no other platform, I am certain, that could do the job better.”

In addition to infrastructure protection, PCs maneuverability is ideal to combat various nimble small craft in the Gulf region that may be used by violent extremists to threaten or harm shipping, which, in turn, would have economic and political impacts throughout the region.

111001-N-VN693-288-660x462It takes more than big ships with big guns and aircraft to ensure the safety of the maritime environment—it takes an organized team to carry out a variety of missions. PCs are a part of that team and their mission includes infrastructure protection and maritime security operations.

Coastal Patrol Ships: Small, Maneuverable, Vital.

– Fleet LT