“Sea Buoys: Solid Templates In Navy’s Hyped Race For Maritime Autonomy” –Forbes

Forbes brings us a reality check on the future of Unmanned Surface and Subsurface systems, including considerations that apply to the Coast Guard as well as the DOD.

At sea, robots certainly offer the potential for lots of new and exciting capabilities. But that will mean nothing, if, in the race to chase new capabilities, the Pentagon overlooks the harsh operational realities facing any brave robot sent out to cruise our big and increasingly contested oceans all alone.

This is probably less of a problem for the Coast Guard, because as a very conservative and tight fisted organization, it is less inclined to overreach, and tends to allow other services to go through the development process before jumping in. We really have a very small R&D budget.

There is a lot of information in the article about the successes and failures (that we don’t hear so much abour) of the Saildrone program. A program the author holds in high regard.

As the principle support organization for buoys, our own and NOAA’s, perhaps the Coast Guard has experience that the Navy might benefit from.

I do have one question. If the Navy has engines that can run a Large Unmanned Surface Vessel for months without anyone on watch and without maintenance, why haven’t they put them on manned vessels?

Perhaps a second question. I was surprised to see that vandalism was such a problem for our buoys. If we have warships with no one on board, what is to stop the many bored Chinese fisherman from vandalizing our unmanned warships?

“New Coast Guard Team to Flesh Out Unmanned Systems Requirements” –National Defense

 

MQ-9B Seaguardian during the maritime capabilities demonstration flight over Southern California waters in September 2020. GA-ASI picture.

National Defense reports that during a round table following the Commandant’s State of the Coast Guard address, he stated that the Coast Guard would be standing up an unmanned systems requirements office in headquarters. Unmanned surface and sub-surface systems will be considered in addition to air systems.

“We learned that the future of our unmanned systems strategy will most likely rely on more diverse systems and effective integration of machine learning to unlock actionable data for Coast Guard operators,” he said. “These are valuable lessons as we stand up an unmanned systems element within our Coast Guard requirements shop to consider how unmanned technology can augment our future fleet…It’s really a UxS office,” he said of the new group that will be set up to look at requirements.

Thanks to Lee for bringing this to my attention. 

“SEA CONTROL 219 – USCG COMMANDANT ADMIRAL KARL SCHULTZ” –CIMSEC

Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz visits with Coast Guard crews stationed in New York City. U.S. Coast Guard photo illustration by Petty Officer 1st Class Jetta Disco.

(I meant to cover this earlier, but perhaps still worth a listen)

CIMSEC’s Podcast “SEA Control,” had an interview with the Commandant, Dec. 27, 2020. You can find it here.

At first I thought I had heard it all before, but toward the end, there were some surprises.

He talked about  Arctic, Antarctic, and IUU. He talked about the Arctic Strategic Outlook and the IUU Strategic Outlook.

Illegal, Unreported, Unregulated fishing got a lot of attention. He related that it was gaining visibility and had become a national security issue since overfishing has created food security issues for many countries. He pointed to Coast Guard Cooperation with Ecuador in monitoring a fishing fleet off the Galapagos Islands. Internationally he sees a coordination role for the USCG.

Relative to the Arctic he mentioned the possibility of basing icebreakers in the Atlantic and the need for better communications.

He talked about the Tri-Service Strategy and the Coast Guards roles in it, particularly in less than lethal competition.

More novel topics started about minute 38 beginning with Unmanned systems. He talked about the recent CG experiments with unmanned systems and went on to note that the CG will also regulated Unmanned commercial vessel systems.

About minute 41 he talked about the Coast Guard’s role in countering UAS in the Arabian Gulf. He added that we have a lead role in DHS in counter UAS. “We are in the thick of that”

GA-ASI Concludes Successful Series of MQ-9 Demonstrations in Greece

He said the service was looking at MQ-9 maritime “Guardian” (minute 45)

When ask about reintroducing an ASW capability he said that while the Coast Guard was looking at it, the service would have to be cautious about biting off too much. (My suggestion of how the CG could have an ASW mission with minimal impact on its peacetime structure.)

He talked about balancing local and distant missions and concluded that the CG could do both (47), and that the Coast Guard was becoming truly globally deployable (48).

He noted that the first two FRCs for PATFORSWA would transit to Bahrain in Spring, followed by two more in the Fall, and two more in 2022. (49)

He noted technology is making SAR more efficient. “Hopefully we will put ourselves out of the Search and Rescue business.” 50

He talked about the benefits of “white hull diplomacy.” (52)

Asked about our funding for new missions he said it was sometime necessary to demonstrate the value of the mission first, then seek funding. (55)

He also talked about raising the bar on maintenance.

Sea-Air-Space 2019 Virtual Tour

Like most of you I did not make it to the Navy League’s 2019 Sea-Air-Space Exposition, so I have found some YouTube reports that can at least provide some of the information passed along at the event. The descriptions below each video are from the YouTube description.

Day 1 video coverage at the Sea Air Space 2019 exposition. In this video we cover:
– Boeing MQ-25 Stingray aerial refueling drone with Rear Admiral Corey
– Future USVs and XLUUV/Orca programs with Captain Pete Small
– Austal USA new range of medium and large size USVs
Textron Systems CUSV with surface warfare payload
– ST Engineering range of USVs

Day 2 video coverage at the Sea Air Space 2019 exposition. In this video we cover:
– Raytheon SPY-6 radar
– Raytheon / Kongsberg NSM for USMC
– Northrop Grumman PGK for naval 5 Inch and 155mm guns
– Lockheed Martin Freedom-class lethality and survivability upgrade
– Lockheed Martin FFG(X)
– Navantia / BIW FFG(X)

Day 3 video coverage at the Sea Air Space 2019 exposition. Washington-based naval expert Chris Cavas is our guest speaker for this third and final day at Sea Air Space 2019. Cavas covers the follow topics:
– Bell V-247 Vigilant VTOL tilt-rotor UAV in U.S. Navy configuration
– Austal USA USV concepts
– Austal USA FFG(X) Frigate
– Fincantieri FFG(X) Frigate
– GD Bath Iron Works FFG(X) Frigate
– Lockheed Martin Type 26 CSC
– Lockheed Martin hypervelocity missile
– Mic drop

SNA Symposium, Virtual Tour

airbus ds trs 4D SNA 217

If you were unable to attend the Surface Navy Association Symposium, but would like to see what you missed, NavyRecognition offers a series of videos. They include a number of systems that have been discussed here including, smart projectiles for the 57mm, unmanned surface vehicles, the LRASM Long Range Anti-Ship Missile, SeaRAM as a replacement for Phalanx, TRAPS Towed Reelable Active Passive Sonar, MK20 Mod 1 Electro-Optical Sensor System (EOSS), TRS-3D Baseline D multi-mode radar (MMR) ordered for the ninth NSC.

If you want to look primarily at the frigate proposals as well as the proposed weapons modules for the LCS which might also be applicable to the icebreaker, there is this composite video. 

Incidentally why was there no mention of this symposium on the National Cuttermen Association Chapter, Surface Navy Association website?

R&D Center on Healy

It looks like the Healy has been having an interesting voyage. They had aboard a team from the Research and Development Center that were aboard to try out some new technologies.

Here you will find a listing of what they hoped to do while aboard. Projects included.

  • 3-D Printing
  • NOAA buoy
  • Passive Millimeter Wave Camera
  • Oil Skimmer
  • Small Unmanned Aircraft System
  • MSST San Diego Dive Team in Cooperation with a Navy dive team
  • Unmanned surface and subsurface vehicles

A later post shows how it turned out–lots of photos. It is presented in reverse chronological order, August 6 to July 21, so you might want to read it from bottom up.

JANUS, the Standard Underwater Language

NATO has announced,

The NATO Science and Technology Organization’s Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation has developed a standard for underwater acoustic communications called JANUS, which is recognised as a NATO standard by all NATO Allies since 24 March 2017. This marks the first time that a digital underwater communication protocol has been acknowledged at international level and opens the way to develop many exciting underwater communication applications.

I think this might become important to us. It is not just a military system.

Thanks to EagleSpeak for bringing this to my attention. 

China Seizes US Unmanned Underwater Vehicle

lbs-glidersystem

A U.S. Navy glider similar to one seized by Chinese forces. US Navy Photooceanglider

The US Naval Institute News Service is reporting,

“A U.S. Navy unmanned buoyancy glider was taken by Chinese forces in international waters earlier this week, two defense officials confirmed to USNI News on Friday.

“The glider was operating with U.S. Military Sealift Command ship USNS Bowditch (T-AGS-62) about 50 miles off of Subic Bay in the Philippines when a People’s Liberation Army Navy ship took the glider both defense officials said.”

Perhaps this will prompt some rethink on the Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vehicle, or ACTUV. Maybe a self destruct option is in order.

Brookings Institute–A conversation with Commandant of the U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Paul F. Zukunft

Another video, this one almost an hour.

Common (Unmanned Unit) Control System

It now seems obvious that Unmanned Systems (air and possibly surface and subsurface) will play a part in the Coast Guard’s future, but the service has been, perhaps understandably hesitant to commit to any particular system.

Because of the variety of proprietary systems, integrating the control systems into the organization of the controlling unit, particularly ships and aircraft, and then integrating the resulting information into a common operating picture has been problematic.

Eaglespeak reports, it looks like DOD, through the Office of Naval Research, is moving in the direction of a platform agnostic software application that will permit common hardware to control different unmanned system.

This might permit Coast Guard units which commonly control small unmanned aicraft (sUAS) to be quickly adapted to

  • Control a much more capable UAS.
  • Hunt for mines using unmanned surface (USV) or subsurface (UUV) systems.
  • Control optionally manned surface craft to search for smugglers or enhance asset protection.
  • Control UUVs towing acoustic arrays, searching for submarines.
  • Direct a USV equipped with AIS, lights, and signals into position to serve as a temporary aid-to-navigation.