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January 2012 Issue


Oceanographer’s Duties Expand to Space, Maritime Domain Awareness


By RAdm. Dave Titley
Oceanographer of the Navy
Fifty years ago on January 1, 1962, the position of Oceano­grapher of the Navy was established by a U.S. Navy directive, and the Naval Hydrographic Office was renamed the Naval Oceanographic Office. Today, the office functions as the resource sponsor for the Naval Oceanography Program. It includes the Navy’s fleet of ocean survey ships, with the Naval Meteorology and Oceanogra­phy Command serving as the operational arm of the Naval Oceanography Program.

Navy Survey Fleet and UUVs
The U.S. Navy now has six Pathfinder-class T-AGS 60 multimission ocean survey ships, operated by the Military Sealift Command, with scientists and technicians from the Naval Oceanographic Office conducting the surveys.

The latest addition to the survey fleet, the USNS Maury (T-AGS 66), is under construction at the VT Halter Marine shipyard, with a scheduled launch date in 2012. The T-AGS 66 will be 24 feet longer than the Pathfinder-class ships to accommodate an 18-square-foot inboard moon pool. This feature will allow access to the water through the ship’s hull for the deployment and retrieval of UUVs.

UUVs, particularly gliders, continue to be a strong focus area for naval operations. The Navy’s Glider Operations Center provides command and control of deployed gliders that, as of the end of October, have accumulated more than 46,500 nautical miles and 81,750 hours of operational experience since 2007.

The Oceanographer of the Navy is the resource sponsor for the Littoral Battle­space Sensing Unmanned Under­water Vehicle program. Last year, Teledyne Brown Engineering, together with Tele­dyne Webb Research, delivered 15 low-rate initial production units to the Battlespace Awareness and Information Operations Program Office.

The units were delivered ahead of schedule, leading to an accelerated full-rate production decision. The first option calls for production of 35 gliders with additional options for 100 more.

Hydrographic and bathymetric data that survey ships and UUVs collect are used by the National Geospatial-Intel­ligence Agency to produce the nautical charts that the Navy’s ships and submarines use to ensure safe navigation.


Navigation Technologies
The Oceanographer’s continuing relationship with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency was critical to the Navy’s efforts to transform ship navigation from manual plotting of position on paper charts to the use of systems conforming to the Electronic Charting and Display Information System-Navy (ECDIS-N) standard. Approximately 75 percent of the planned ECDIS-N installations in commissioned Navy ships and submarines were completed last year.

Since the creation of the office, the Oceanographer has acted as a resource and requirements sponsor for the U.S. Naval Observatory (USNO). Today, USNO missions of precise time, astrometric mapping and Earth orientation are critical components of the Naval Oceanography Program. In August, the USNO Robotic Astrometric Telescope made its first successful images. This telescope will provide a full-sky survey of predominantly red stars, which are most commonly used by celestial guidance systems. The telescope uses the world’s largest charge-coupled device camera, manufactured by Semiconductor Technology Associates Inc.


Climate Change Challenges and Weather Prediction
It was the oceanography community’s expertise in atmospheric and ocean sciences that prompted the Chief of Naval Operations to appoint the Oceanographer to direct Task Force Climate Change. The task force was created in 2009 to assess the national security implications of the changing climate and to recommend policy, strategy, road maps, force structure and investments for the Navy regarding Arctic and global climate change. Ultimately, the goal is to ensure the Navy is prepared to meet any challenges to readiness throughout the 21st century.

The near-term focus is on the Arctic, where climate change is having the most immediate effects. Last year, as Arctic sea ice reached its second lowest extent since the beginning of satellite coverage in 1979, the task force completed an Arctic environmental assessment and mission readiness assessment, accomplishing important action items from the five-year plan outlined in the Navy’s 2009 Arctic Roadmap.

Throughout the federal government there is a need for better predictive capabilities for both near-term severe weather events and the longer-term impacts of a changing climate. The Oceanographer’s office is spearheading an interagency effort to develop a more holistic approach to seamless prediction spanning tactical to strategic timescale modeling, an initiative known as the Earth System Prediction Capability (ESPC). As envisioned, ESPC will incorporate ocean, atmosphere, ice, terrain and space data to make a more comprehensive assessment of the forces that affect the Earth’s climate. Last year, the Office of Naval Research approved a multiyear investment in support of this initiative.


Information Sharing and Navy Satellites
When considered together, all of these disciplines provide the Navy with information about the physical battlespace, information that is critical not only for the safe operation of forces but also to provide a the Navy a competitive advantage in conflict.

The ability to collect, process and disseminate information has increased exponentially, and in recent years, the Navy has recognized information as a main battery of naval warfare. This recognition resulted in the establishment of the Information Dominance Corps, collectively bringing together such information-related disciplines as intelligence, cyber warfare, command and control, electronic warfare, knowledge management and oceanography. Consequently, the Oceanographer of the Navy now reports to the deputy chief of naval operations for information dominance.

In the ensuing staff reorganization last March, the portfolio of the Oceanographer again expanded, this time taking in the space and maritime domain awareness directorates. The space division is focused on providing the right space-based capabilities to the Navy’s operational forces. This includes ensuring that Navy needs are considered when federally funded environmental sensing satellite programs are planned, but it also includes Navy intelligence and communication satellites, and the Tactical Exploitation of National Capabilities program.

Last September, the Navy launched TacSat-4, a joint tactical microsatellite that was developed and built by the Naval Research Laboratory with the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory. This small satellite weighs 990 pounds, which is roughly 3,300 pounds less than the industry standard, and is less expensive than a conventional system. It is designed to provide worldwide coverage for up to two hours, three times daily.

This year, the Navy will launch the first of five satellites in its Mobile User Objective System (MUOS) that will provide narrowband tactical communications in the ultrahigh-frequency. When fully operational, MUOS will provide 10 times the capacity of the existing communications system.

The lead developer for MUOS is the Communications Satellite Program Office of the Program Executive Office for Space Systems in San Diego, California. Lockheed Martin has designed the satellites alongside a number of subcontractors, including General Dynamics, Boeing and Harris Corp.

Maritime Domain Awareness
Maritime domain awareness means maintaining an effective understanding of anything associated with the global maritime domain that could impact the security, safety, economy or environment of the United States. This requires developing a way to comprehensively acquire and manage data that enables commanders to quickly identify and respond to threats.

With millions of vessels on the world’s oceans at any one time, separating the threats from legal traffic is a monumental task that requires the participation of numerous federal agencies and international partners.

An interesting interface between maritime domain awareness and oceanography is the Piracy Performance Surface model developed in 2009. This probabilistic tool overlays intelligence about pirate activity and operating procedures with environmental conditions to produce a forecast of threats as a function of probable location and time.

Ultimately, all environmental prediction is probabilistic; it is essential that we’re correct more often than our adversaries. The Naval Oceanography Program ensures U.S. forces and our allies maintain that competitive edge. We operate in nature’s casino—and I intend to count the cards.




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