What You Can’t Find…


Every Drone Can Be a Minesweeper?

A frequently cited fact in my days training to be a naval officer was that the most common weapon for damaging a warship since World War II was the naval mine.  The recently concluded International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2012 (IMCMEX 12), held in 3 distinct OPAREAs throughout the U.S. Fifth Fleet Area of Responsibility (AOR), demonstrated both the difficulty of mine countermeasures (MCM) operations (detecting and clearing mines) and the potential of new technology to mitigate those dangers.

PBS’ News Hour quotes a retired naval officer and observer of the exercise, Capt. Robert O’Donnell, stating of the 29 simulated mines in the exercise, “I don’t think a great many were found…It was probably around half or less.”

The response from the Navy is a little confusing:

The Navy declined to provide data on how many practice mines were located during the two-week naval drill but did not dispute that less than half were found. However, a spokesman insisted that the figures do not tell the whole story and that the event was “‘not just about finding” the dummy mines.

“We enjoyed great success,” said Cdr. Jason Salata, the top public affairs officer for the 5th Fleet. “Every platform that was sent to find a shape found a shape. We stand by that.” Salata asserted that “there were no missed mines, each platform that had an opportunity to find the mine did so.”

While it is true that a 100% detection rate is not what the exercise was all about, that rate is still an interesting figure.  It could indicate that every mine was found, but perhaps not by every platform – instead as a result of the cumulative MCM effort.  It’s likewise unknown how the success rate broke down by platform and nation – more than 27 international partners operated with U.S. Fifth Fleet as part of the exercise.  What is known is that MCM remains a difficult and deadly business, particularly in the context of some of the most likely future conflict scenarios, including Iran and North Korea. 

While the exercise results will disappoint some (again, we don’t know who or what had difficulty finding what types of mines), they will also serve to reinforce the arguments for recapitalizing the Avenger-class MCMs, outfitting the USS Ponce as an Afloat Forward Staging Base, and placing rigorous demands on getting the LCS MCM mission package right.  As mentioned above, the exercise was additionally an opportunity to test out some new kit.  Before the exercise got underway, NavalDrones provided a preview of some of the Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) slated for testing in the drill, as well as a recap of other drones designed for MCM duties.  Furthermore, a pair of similar threats might spark the development of crossover technology for use in MCM.

In addition to the more traditional types of naval mines, detecting and defeating the waterborne IEDs and enemy drones (AUVs and ROVs) of both state and non-state actors is seen by some as increasing in importance, and may rely on many of the same technologies used in MCM.  Like the land-based IED/counter-IED arms-race of the past decade, we could be witnessing the start of a similar set of opposing innovation escalations.  Foreign Policy earlier this week reported that the creation of the Iraq/Afghanistan wars, the Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO), is executing its own Pivot to the Pacific to focus on the typically lower-tech threats of waterborne terrorists and IEDs.  Meanwhile NavalDrones last week highlighted some of the detection and clearance technologies that could be used against the evolving undersea drone fleets.  The next decade is shaping up to be an interesting time for technology under the waves.


LT Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founding director of the Center for International Maritime Security and holds a master’s degree in National Security and Strategic Studies from the U.S. Naval War College.


The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the U.S. Navy. 


Naval Drone Tech: Countering UUVs

Dolphin with pistol strapped to its head? Your days may be numbered…

As the recent Israeli shootdown of a Hezbollah UAV reminded us, it is relatively easy to destroy an unmanned aircraft.  But what about the proliferating numbers of unmanned undersea vehicles?  The growth in these systems for naval applications will inevitably result in the requirement to  counter an adversary’s underwater drones.  Detection of a small man-made object moving underwater is not trivial, but also becoming easier with the advent of technologies such as high-resolution imaging sonars and Light Detection And Ranging (LIDAR) systems.

However, once an AUV is detected, how can it be destroyed?  This problem set isn’t new. Mini-subs and combat swimmers have threatened ships in port since World War II.  The old school way of dealing with frogmen is to drop a concussion grenade over the side of a boat.  Alternatively, some navies have experimented with dolphins to counter swimmers.  These sorts of mammal-based systems could conceivably be trained to work against AUVs.  Other advanced technology developments will allow mammals to stay out combat.

Super-cavitating bullets, like those produced by US-based PNW Arms and Norway-based DSG Technology (see video) offer a potential weapon for defeating AUVs.  According to PNW Arms, “supercavitation is the use of cavitation effects to create a bubble of gas inside a liquid large enough to encompass an object traveling through the liquid, which greatly reduces friction drag on the object and enables the achievement of very high speeds.”  DSG Technology’s Multi-Environment Ammunition allows ordnance ranging in size from 4.5 mm through to 155 mm to transit from air to water or vice versa.  Conceivably, AUVs could be detected and engaged from the air.  The U.S. Navy’s AN/AWS-2 Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMICS) technology demonstrator used a helicopter equipped with a blue-green LIDAR to locate mines near the surface, then a 30 mm super-cavitating round to neutralize them at depths of up to 60 meters.  The program was cancelled in 2011 due to technical and budgetary issues.

Super-cavitating rounds also open up the possibility of hunter-killer unmanned undersea vehicles, guarding a port from other AUVs, mini-subs, and swimmers.  Submariners often remind other sailors that the best ASW weapon is another submarine and the same may be true with AUVs.  However, discriminating between an AUV and a similarly sized fish or marine mammal before pulling the trigger might be difficult without some sort of corroborating data, or image recognition algorithms.

This article was re-posted by permission from NavalDrones.com.

Return to Regularly Scheduled Program

We went a little long with our International Maritime Satire Week – according to my wife I’m apparently I’m “not allowed to blog on our anniversary.” In any case we are returning you to your regularly scheduled, non-satirical NextWar Blog, but first wanted to recap our twitter feed (@CIMSEC) of headlines you might not have seen:

– SECNAV Reintroduces Grog in the US Navy:http://goo.gl/nDGu7

– Autobiography Reveals Alfred T. Mahan Spent Nights Secretly Writing “Twilight” Fan Fiction

– CNO Introduces Equal Opportunity Red Teams: http://goo.gl/hk5SF

– Following Success of Shipboard Breathalyzers, SECNAV Introduces New Parental Chaperone Program

– UAV Weds Topgun Instructor

– Pentagon Announces Sequestration Scenario for Navyhttp://goo.gl/BMC1N

– General Atomics Partners with Cyberdyne for New T-800 Drone

– US Joins UNCLOS; Washington Immediately Seized by UN Forces

– US Navy Introduces New LCS Mission Packages: http://goo.gl/Wn8Qs

– Sign-up now for winter Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Navy Photoshop Seminars!

– Xinhua Oped Says Great Barrier Reef a Sacred and Integral Part of China

– Iranian Navy Plans to Alleviate Burden of Global Maritime Responsibilities from US http://goo.gl/nDXKP

– New Somalia National Government Developing a Bailout Package for Failing Piracy Industry

– Admiral’s Staff Completes PowerPoint Magnum Opus – To Be Performed at 1630 Brief.

– Sneak Preview of CNO’s US Navy Birthday Message: “Antarctica Will be Ours!”

– IRGCN Admiral says Iranian Navy Plans to Patrol US Great Salt Lake

– Mothership Tours and Skiff Rides at Somali Piracy Week: http://goo.gl/8RnRm

– North Korea Loses 4 Patrol Boats in Skirmish with South Along Border, Declares “Glorious Unparalleled Victory”

– US Navy to Power Great Blue Fleet with Unobtainium

– Chinese name second aircraft carrier “Panda Express”

– Putin Announces New, Innovative Naval Policy: Build Massive Navy: http://goo.gl/Goh6b 

– US Navy CO Fired to Meet Navy Times Quota

– MQ-8B Fire Scout Spends Crew Rest Dominating Friends on X-Box

– Pakistan Says Claims Osama Bin Laden Found in Abottabad “Insultingly Untrue”

– Spain Says Iran Has Secret Vintner Tech, Crossing Red Wine Line; Ahmejinedad Threatens to Close Strait of Gibraltar

– President Deploys US 10th Fleet to Cyberspace: http://goo.gl/zxEzJ

Pentagon Announces Sequestration Scenario for Navy

International Maritime Satire Week Warning: The following is a piece of fiction intended to elicit insight through the use of satire and written by those who do not make a living being funny – so it’s not serious and very well might not be funny.  Our apologies to those who read this without the warning and mistakenly believed it to be true. 

The expensive military officers and civilian strategists in the AirSea Battle Office will be outsourced to members of “Earth, Wind & Fire” as part of the Pentagon’s efforts to meet the budget cuts imposed by sequestration.

Due to the looming threat of congressionally mandated spending cuts known as sequestration, the Pentagon today outlined how the drastic decrease in funds would impact the sea service:

– US Naval Academy shuttered – Midshipman curriculum to consist of  instructional training video “Annapolis”

– The next Arleigh Burke-class destroyers will be named USS Comcast (DDG 117) and USS Verizon (DDG 118) in a landmark sponsorship/naming rights deal

– Services’ Unfunded Requirements Lists posted to Kickstarter

– AirSea strategy outsourced to members of “Earth, Wind & Fire” 

– Navy SEALS will moonlight as personal trainers and facilities attendants at fleet recreation centers and gyms

– Littoral Combat Ship production line replaced with Literal Pocket Battleships

– Latest Aegis upgrades to include dual-sided 8×8 peg boards; sound effects

– Navy’s contribution to the interservice F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program to consist of home-made cookies and punch at meetings

– Carrier pigeons will augment carrier fleet

– Racing stripes stand in for scheduled F-18 Super Hornet upgrades

– Taking cue from NASCAR, Navy to sell advertising space on warships

– Forced to scrap railgun program, the Office of Naval Reasearch will keep excitement about future weapons alive by testing railroad guns aboard fleet surface vessels

– “Pivot to the Pacific” rebranded the “Amble to Asia”

– Galley cooks will serve dual-duty as galley oarsmen

– Retirement pension after 20 years of service cut in favor of coupon book for service-members in their fleet concentration area of choice

– Fleet shipbuilding plan will include lifeboats in its 300 ship Navy total

Fostering the Discussion on Securing the Seas.

Skip to toolbar