A Brief History: USS Nimitz

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Each of our naval vessles has a rich history. What they’ve done, where they’ve been, and who they were named after. To begin what I hope to be a series that covers our carrier and expeditionary strike groups, the flagship of the Nimitz CSG is first on our list. Here to talk about this fine piece of engineering, is the commanding officer, Capt. Jeff Ruth.

–Fleet LT

7027737895_f138f3658e_cUSS Nimitz (CVN 68) is the U.S. Navy’s oldest aircraft carrier in active service, and she is now operating in the Arabian Gulf.

Our legacy comes from the rich history of Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, and the long service of the ship—the lead in the Nimitz class of aircraft carriers. Both the man and the ship share deep roots in tradition, dedication and service to the United States Navy.

Chester_Nimitz_as_CNOFleet Admiral Chester William Nimitz, USN (February 24, 1885 – February 20, 1966) was a five-star admiral in the United States Navy. He held the dual command of Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet, for U.S. naval forces and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas, for U.S. and Allied air, land, and sea forces during World War II. He was the leading U.S. Navy authority on submarines, as well as Chief of the Navy’s Bureau of Navigation in 1939. He served as Chief of Naval Operations from 1945 until 1947. He was the United States’ last surviving Fleet Admiral.

8703363020_efd7256684_zHis rise to Fleet Admiral was not without hiccups. While he was an ensign in command of the destroyer USS Decatur, the ship ran aground on a sand bar in the Philippines. The ship was pulled free, however, Nimitz was court-martialed, found guilty of neglect of duty and issued a letter of reprimand. He obviously recovered from that misstep and continued to develop as a leader, encouraging his men to question authority, while telling them to not worry about what they could not control, and to learn everything they could about their job.
A few of my favorite quotes from Admiral Nimitz:

  • 6989928362_08dc58e3ed_zGod grant me the courage not to give up what I think is right even though I think it is hopeless.
  • Our present control of the sea is so absolute that it is sometimes taken for granted.
  • Among the Americans serving on Iwo island, uncommon valor was a common virtue.

USS Nimitz was commissioned on May 3, 1975 by Rear Adm. Richard E. Rumble, Commander, Fifth Naval District, at Pier 12, Naval Station Norfolk, Va. with President Gerald R. Ford and more than 20,000 guests in attendance. Nimitz’ commissioning marked the beginning of a new “Nimitz class” of aircraft carriers.

7136736685_bbe778571b_zNimitz has been called upon many times to deploy around the world to support both war and peace efforts. The men and women who have ensured the continued success of this ship and her missions have done so through great effort and dedication to their work and to their country. No matter the generation, no matter the mission, Nimitz Sailors have answered the call, and we couldn’t be more proud to be conducting our current mission here in the NAVCENT AOR.

Now, as ever, teamwork is our tradition.
-Capt. Jeff Ruth, Commanding Officer, USS Nimitz (CVN 68)

Mammals, Drones and Darts: The future of protecting critical infrastructure in the Gulf

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Technological advances make life better, more interesting, more sustainable, more defensible, and what have you. Advances, from my perspective, come from building on established ideas and filling a need (new or re-invented), or mimicking observable phenomenon. In today’s post, I aim to discuss a few of these types of innovation, examples in technology, and a few notes on why this matters from a Navy and global community perspective.

Sound like a lot to cover? Yeah, to me too, so let us get started.

Mimicry

One of the biggest idea generators is the world around us and our desire to explore it. The desire to fly as birds do led to manned flight. Sure, the first flight lasted less than a minute, could only hold one person (a bicycle mechanic), and was powered by a buggy motor; but thousands of years of desire and failure were quenched by a few equations, an internal combustion engine and a few very big dreams. Want to see what’s going on underwater? Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus. Want to see what’s on the sea floor? Submarines and unmanned underwater vehicles. Investigate things that are too dangerous for people? Robots.

Enduring FreedomWhile people are able to duplicate useful systems like sonar for echo location, the ability to send and receive multiple tonals with the same device and analyze the data in seconds becomes a complicated problem. Add in the small size and agility of a dolphin or a porpoise, and the level of sophistication required is daunting.

Why not just train a dolphin to do it? Good question. Fact is the U.S. Navy does train marine mammals to perform tasks that would take a team of well-trained people to do, and possibly several days to do it. Dolphins are very intelligent animals and are capable of quickly identifying underwater objects and people, deftly maneuvering in tight spaces to reach them, and can repeatedly dive deeply without the dangers of decompression sickness.

Robert Simmons, Navy Underwater EOD Assistant Program Manager, said during IMCMEX 13 MIP Symposium, “Mammals are particularly well suited for precision location in a cluttered acoustic environment.” He went on to say that mammals are also the “only asset capable of detecting, marking and neutralizing partially buried or buried mines.”

2dudes and a dolphinThe use of mammals is not new, but with mine countermeasures re-emerging as a global focus, these agile, capable animals may again become a staple of our identifying and marking potential subsurface hazards. Additional information on the mammals used and the mandates that govern their treatment can be found on NNMP’s data-rich website.

Filling a Need and Re-purposing

Items like remote controls and toasters are good examples of things made convenient by decreasing the effort of achieving a result. While toasting bread over a fire or on a pan achieves the same result as resistance heated coils in close proximity to bread that is time limited by a heat sensitive thermocouple. The difference lies in the rheostat that adjusts the heat/time limit based on the signal sent by the thermocouple, allowing people to “set and forget” while still getting made-to-order toast.

8779354149_53ea5cacbe_zUUVs in relation to mine hunting serve a similar role: increasing convenience and safety while decreasing effort. The REMUS UUV was developed in the late 1990s by Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute. The U.S. Navy calls REMUS the MK 18 UUV, an underwater autonomous surveillance and reconnaissance vehicle that operates on a pre-programmed path for hours and surfaces at a set time at a set location with an enormous data packet on the acoustic survey of a harbor or waterway. This allows a small boat with 2 or 3 crew members to do in a day what it would take a team or two of divers a month to do. Sure, divers (or specialized submersibles) are still needed to identify suspicious targets and neutralize threats, but the amount of man hours needed to search an area is drastically reduced.

Additionally, the Navy is developing Knifefish, a heavyweight Surface Mine Countermeasure (SMCM) UUV that is designed to hunt for buried mines and mines in high clutter environments with high confidence and low false alarm rates. Knifefish Flight 1 is equipped with low frequency broadband side scan sonar and operates in the littoral regions as part of the Littoral Combat Ship MCM Mission Package.

e6d625bbd7b14cad9425bdb4a22a074f-0x0Want a robot to visually identify and make a threat go boom? We’ve got those too (and so do other nations). SeaFox is a mine neutralization submersible that has been adopted by the U.S. Navy and is being tested to replace/augment the older mine neutralization vehicles that are much larger and less sophisticated. The SeaFox system can be used to visibly identify and neutralize objects of interest, previously located by sonar from ships or other UUV systems.

Sailors are still a part of this equation, whether piloting the Sea Fox with more fidelity or analyzing the data transmitted, but this remote system provides an enhanced level of convenience and safety during mine hunting operations that have become integral to the way the mine countermeasure mission is accomplished.

Innovation

Innovation has been described many different ways by people far more educated than I am. That being said, I am going to talk about a common concept and attack it from a different direction. Take the 90’s and 2000’s wave of making cell phones smaller, easier to text, etc. The team at Apple, made phones bigger and turned them into interactive personal computing devices that happen to make phone calls.

How’s that for left field? The story’s been told enough times that it’s commonplace, but the innovation of that team is undeniable.

As for mines, and mine neutralization, we focus on approaching the problem mainly with surface and subsurface assets and technology (some mentioned above). Aside from the sweeping and hunting gear that an MH-53 helicopter drags through the water, there isn’t much of an air-based MCM capability. Until now.

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Researchers are developing air-dropped munitions that can neutralize mines in the surf zone, and even inland. The aerial Assault Breaching System (ABS) Countermine System (CMS) deploys dart-like projectiles that can render mines ineffective while naval forces and shipping vessels wait a safe distance away. This system also has the potential to neutralize other targets.

The Horizon

Cool things are in the works all the time. Rail guns and Lasers at sea have gotten some attention lately, but for MCM and MIP, unmanned vehicles and airborne response options are where it’s at. 41 countries from all over the world gathered for the sixth Maritime Infrastructure Protection Symposium this year, and got to talk with technology representatives about new systems and new developments with old systems like the ones mentioned above. This conference is held every 18 months and is a critical forum to exchange ideas so that infrastructure protection and mine countermeasures can outpace the capabilities of hostile actors.

Hope you enjoyed the not-so-terse tour of tech.

–Fleet LT

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