Tag Archives: MCM

Call for Articles: PEO USC Launches CIMSEC Mine Countermeasures Topic Week

Submissions Due: October 14, 2019
Week Dates: October 21-25, 2019
Article Length: 1000-3500 words
Submit to: Content@cimsec.org

By Dr. Sam Taylor, Senior Leader, Mine Warfare
Program Executive Office, Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC)

Naval experts almost universally agree that conducting effective mine countermeasures (MCM) is one of the most difficult and time-consuming missions for navies to successfully execute. Mines come in many different and increasingly deadly types, and can be deployed in deep or shallow waters, and in the surf zone. The bottom clutter and the dark, turbid ocean environment effectively helps to hide them from easy detection.

While difficult to undertake and execute well under demanding operational conditions, achieving success in the MCM world is not a mission impossible. For the U.S. Navy, MCM has been comprised of minehunting and minesweeping tactics using a dedicated force of MCM-capable ships, helicopters, and specially-trained Explosive Ordnance Disposal units. But the legacy MCM inventory is becoming increasingly costly to maintain and is rapidly approaching the end of its useful service life.

Today the Navy is approaching a strategic juncture in MCM where a host of emerging technologies provide new opportunities for widening the traditional approach to mine warfare and could, if successfully executed, bring about a 21st Century renaissance in MCM. Harnessing these new technologies to assist in resolving the very challenging MCM mission set is critical to the future of how the U.S. Navy conducts mine warfare, especially in light of emerging global great power threats.

The list of emerging technologies goes well beyond the additional capability being brought to the Fleet through the modular MCM Mission Package on the Littoral Combat Ship, to include new airborne and unmanned systems and integrated processing capabilities. These systems offer increased speed of operations, faster processing times to identify mines and other underwater objects, and fewer false alarm rates. The modular LCS MP will increase the pace at which Navy formations can clear mined waters. But this is just the beginning for how MCM can transform to conduct future mine warfare operations.

Some of the most salient technological opportunities of importance to naval mine warfare include exploring the integration of artificial intelligence and machine learning; the increasing technical maturity of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) and unmanned surface vessels (USVs), combined with their expanding inventories; assessing new advances in communications, especially underwater; new algorithms being developed for the execution of swarm tactics; the assessment of advances in computer processing speeds; and modular systems engineering techniques for mine warfare.

Technologies and tactics that can help conduct in-stride mine detection are also of keen interest, because dedicated and optimized modular MCM forces will not be available everywhere and at all times. Similar to the tactics U.S. military land forces adopted in Iraq and Afghanistan over the last two decades, the Navy is keen to understand how risk to general purpose forces, operating in a distributed maritime fight, can be reduced through technological and tactical advances that can help these ships avoid the most common mine threats they may encounter. Optimization of ships and submarines for an MCM “mark and move” capability will be critical to ensuring the Navy can maintain freedom of access and maneuver during great power conflict.

To better understand the impact emerging technology poses for MCM and to jumpstart critical thinking, the Navy’s Program Executive Office for Unmanned and Small Combatants (PEO USC) is teaming with the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC) to solicit new ideas. Here are some of the strategic questions that PEO USC is seeking to explore regarding the future of Navy MCM systems:

  • How do we more creatively apply new, innovative technologies to address the operational and tactical challenges posed by mines?
  • Are there better, more innovative operational constructs that can be employed to expand the use of unmanned systems to tackle MCM?
  • How can we employ more innovative operational MCM concepts that seek to take advantage of new technologies and other scientific advances while still maintaining fleet support?
  • Can we re-think the entire approach to confronting the MCM problem?
  • Were we to develop a new generation of MCM tactics and doctrine from first principles, based on our current understanding of technology trends, how might MCM fundamentally change?
  • What new areas of science, technology, or mathematics might we exploit to significantly enhance current and future MCM capabilities?
  • Are we effectively using the right set of metrics and algorithms in MCM?
  • How do we expeditiously translate these new technologies and operational concepts into more flexible and adjustable requirements?

Contributors can answer these questions and more to help chart the course for the future of U.S. Navy MCM capabilities and concepts. Please send all submissions to Content@cimsec.org.

Dr. Sam Taylor received his doctorate degree in Engineering from the University of Memphis in 1994, where his major was electrical engineering. He received his bachelor’s degree and master’s degree in electrical engineering from the same institution in 1990 and 1991, respectively. Dr. Taylor is responsible for the overarching leadership of the Mine Warfare portfolio within PEO USC and works to ensure the seamless delivery of mine warfare capability to the fleet. Prior to joining PEO USC, Dr. Taylor worked at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division, Florida, in numerous positions, including the Deputy Department Head for the Littoral and Mine Warfare Systems Department and Chief Technology Officer.

Featured Image: (September 21, 1987) Mines on the Iranian ship Iran Ajr during a personnel inspection of the USS Lasalle in the Persian Gulf. (AP Photo/Mark Duncan, Archive)

Mines of Yemen: Operation SUNNY SALAMANDER

By Patrick Van Hoeserlande

YEMEN TILL 2027

The Yemeni Civil War was an ongoing conflict that began in 2015 between two factions: the then-incumbent Yemeni government and the Houthi militia, along with their supporters and allies. Both claimed to constitute the Yemeni government. Houthi forces controlling the capital Sana’a, and allied with forces loyal to the former president have clashed with forces loyal to the government based in Aden. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant have also carried out attacks, with AQAP controlling swaths of territory in the hinterlands, and along stretches of the coast.

On 21 March 2015, after taking over the capital Sana’a and the Yemeni government, the Houthi-led Supreme Revolutionary Committee declared a general mobilization to overthrow Hadi and further their control by driving into the southern provinces. A week later they reached the outskirts of Aden, the seat of power for Hadi’s government; Hadi fled the country the same day. Concurrently, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched military operations by using airstrikes to restore the former Yemeni government; the United States provided intelligence and logistical support to the campaign.

Notwithstanding warnings from the United Nations (UN) that 13 million Yemeni civilians faced starvation in what it said could become “the worst famine in the world in 100 years,” this war claimed 30,000 dead and hundreds of thousands as a result of a year-long famine.

Finally, in 2021, the fighting fractions came to an agreement on how to govern the nation. With all infrastructure destroyed and institutions neglected, the United States Security Council (UNSC) agreed on the United States Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 3001 creating the UN Mission for Rebuilding Yemen (UNMRY). The mission’s HQ was in Aden chosen for its symbolic value and its port.

Acknowledging the fragility of the ceasefire agreement between the warrying parties, the UNSC requested NATO to provide the forces for an emergency evacuation of a minimal staff. Although, the UN had plans to reduce, in case of raising tensions, the in-country staff to less than 250, there were indications that in case of an evacuation, more people, not related to the UN mission, would try to get a lift out. Although NATO as the most powerful and cohesive alliance could not refuse such a request, it took the North Atlantic Council (NAC) two months to answer positively.

Soon after the UN started its preparation to deploy the mission, NATO stood up amphibious Task Group Yankee (TG-Y). The vicinity of the port led to the decision that an evacuation via the harbour had the best chances for a flawless evacuation. Due to resource limitations, TG-Y was not a permanent group but assembled during collective training and exercise periods followed by periods wherein the group was spread across the globe. However, nations providing the troops had assured that the group would be ready when needed. To further reduce the burden on the troop-contributing nations, TG-Y was kept on a flexible readiness status in relation to the assessed risk on the ground. An unannounced readiness test by SACEUR showed that the majority of the ships were indeed at the requested readiness, although some nations had stretched the interpretation of readiness.

After the turn of the year 2027, troubles again started in Yemen. Assessing the risk in the first half of that year was troublesome work. As a result, the readiness of TG-Y fluctuated throughout that period. SACEUR urged the participating nations to increase the number of exercises to assure interoperability, and, not spoken out loudly, the readiness of the group. By the end of May, a Houthi militia splinter group threatened a possible evacuation of the UN mission leading to an UNSC decision to initiate the operation. The NAC responded quickly by activating the Execution Order for the Evac Ops SUNNY SALAMANDER. 

NORTHWOOD

In the weeks before the NAC decision, MARCOM’s Ops Centre and in particular its Naval Mine Warfare Coordination Unit (NMWCU) had already started preparing the battlefield. Closely following-up the crisis, they knew it was a matter of weeks for the ‘go ahead’ and they did not want naval mines to spoil the timeline.

Fregatkapitein (BEL) Samantha (Sam) Vleugels was the commander of this small unit and the first Belgian NMW officer trained solely in the use of Maritime Unmanned Systems (MUS). She was one of the first members of the growing group of maritime officers who had never sailed on a manned minehunter ship. Yes, she had done her time aboard, but these ships were not specially designed solely for mine warfare. They were all multipurpose platforms or ships of opportunity. The new mine warfare systems could be deployed from almost everywhere, even on land.

Her Norwegian colleague Flaggmester (NOR) Thorben Jørgensen had served several years on a minehunter. He had loved looking for mines along the Norwegian coastline. Although the latest generation of ships used MUS to ease the task, his adventurous spirit told him that it was more fun to feel the present danger of mines. He was good at his current job, but would immediately go for another tour out there in the icy cold. The rainy weather typical for the British Island made Northwood not an ideal place for a Norwegian sailor to live.

“COMMARCOM asked me to make sure that TG-Yankee can operate safely in the waters around Aden,” she told the chief.

“PSA Charlie did a sweep two months ago. The group is now busy along the Somali coast. We could send them for another run,” he replied. Persistent Surveillance Glider Group Africa Charlie, in short PSGGAC but commonly referred to as “PSA Charlie,” was a loose collection of gliders specialized in seabed mapping. They did not really look for mines, but by using their data and comparing the different surveys over time, artificial intelligence could detect potential targets and classify those targets that were most probably mines, historical or new ones. This kind of information was crucial to assess the mine threat and to prepare a quick countermeasure plan.

She had considered that option too, but found it not sufficient in the light of the events on the ground. “Let’s do that and also retask WTF Africa 05.” Wave glider Task Force Africa 05 (WTFA05) was a group of Mine Hunting MUS (MHMUS) under the control of a wave glider. The latter served as the link between NMWCU and the underwater drones and as a charging station. The central point of WTFA05 was a new type able to operate covertly. It only deployed its antenna when necessary and, if needed, it could dive for a short period. That made it ideal to prepare an amphibious landing zone.

“Good idea. It will take them some days to be on station, but consider it done.” Thorben turned his chair towards the computer screen and formulated the task to both groups. He did not have to command every asset individually, no, he just had to formulate the task of the two groups and the planning software proposed a Course of Action (CoA). If the levels of risk and the operational elements were within the task parameters, he told the AI he agreed with the assessment and things got started. The software decided on the number of assets to retask, ensuring that old and new tasks were executed according to the stated parameters.

Just for his awareness, he requested the computer to run a simulation of the proposed CoA. He also had a look at the risk maps based on the last survey of PSA Charlie and interacted with the AI to prioritize some promising corridors for demining. Happy with the result, he called it a day.

Vleugels and Jørgensen felt successful when they heard that Ops SUNNY SALAMANDER was initiated. It was the first time that the new concept was put to a test and they already scored. In the old days, only a mine hunter TF could be sent to the area. As these ships were not made for speed, the first part of the operation would already have delayed the whole operations. Speed was of the essence and this time the naval mine threat would not delay the action.

“The assumption of the plan was that TG-Y would sail to Yemen via the Suez Canal, but because they are on exercise in the Atlantic the fastest transfer is via the Arabian Sea. PSA Charlie did a survey there and we can use ‘Ocean of Data’ to identify potential mines in the route, but we lack a minehunting capability,” concluded Sam. “Ocean of Data” was a database of oceanographic data maintained by a company using civilian MUS. Although not as detailed as the military’s own, for deeper waters this data was good enough. Because NATO provided unclassified data collected with the national MUS, the unit had easy access to this database through a partnership agreement.

“The task group does not have a minehunter with them. There are no ships in the vicinity that we can use as a vessel of opportunity,” answered the chief.

“Let’s broaden our possibilities. Does AIRCOM have access to MHADs?” she replied. MHAD or Mine Hunter Air Delivered was an underwater drone designed to be dropped by almost any aircraft or helicopter. This made it an ideal asset for speedy delivery of a minehunting capability.

He started a search in the database of stand-by capabilities and answered:” Yes, AIRCOM has MHADs available. France has offered them for the current stand-by period.”

“OK, send AIRCOM a request for support and make sure that SHAPE is in CC,” she ordered. While he launched the request, something was bothering her. Not all mines were huntable. Having only minehunter drones in the area would not be enough.

“Chief, are there minesweepers in the area?”

“Negative. No ships, no drones,” while he kept on typing, “but … the USS Michigan is not that far away.” 

“Does she carry LBMS?” LBMS or submarine-launched Large Body Mine Sweepers were torpedo-like workhorses designed to tow a minesweeping array. Before the chief could give her answer, she was heading to the submarine warfare unit. Sam knew that he could not answer her question because that kind of details on subs were not readily accessible, and even if they were, she had to ask her colleagues to get out the task.

USS Michigan  

The USS Michigan, commissioned in 1982 and the third ship to bear the state’s name, was a United States Navy Ohio-class nuclear powered ballistic missile submarine converted to a guided missile submarine (SSGN-727). Later she had undergone a modification to accommodate special weapons and to serve as a mothership for unmanned underwater vehicles.

After they had changed their course toward the Arabian Sea, they arrived at their firing position. Although they would not fire the sub’s normal weapons, the crew used the standard tactical vocabulary.

“Tubes one and two ready, sir.”

Captain (USA) Jean-Jacques Smith smiled when he heard the reply. His parents were both vivid divers and they named their son after the famous French diving pioneer Cousteau. Their love for the underwater world had turned his gaze towards the silent world of submariners. The mystery of the dark held him in its grasp.

A second “Sir?” brought him back to the task at hand.

“Launch number one.”

A metallic sound followed by a whoosh marked the departure of the first LBMS.

“Torpedo one away.”

“Confirmed. LBMS one is active.”

“Launch number two.”

 “Torpedo two away.”

“LBMS two also active.”

“Confirm the launch to HQ and bring us back to our holding station.”

“Aye, sir.”

His order was further translated to the different stations of the sub. The highlight of the day was over, now they had to make sure that the sub slipped quietly into obscurity without any detection.

NORTHWOOD

The night shift briefed on the successful launch of the LBMS and the preparation of a German A400M sub-strategic airlifter to drop the MHADs. They confirmed that the robotic sweepers were already sweeping mines cooperatively on the far segment of the approach to Aden.

When Sam entered the area of her unit, Thorben had verified the activity of the two minesweepers. The first elements of WTFA05 were already busy hunting mines in the last leg of the sea route and PSA Charlie was active in other potential landing zones. Things were going well.

“What’s the status of the A400M?”

“According to the Info from EATC the aircraft will leave at 1000 for Cazaux Air Base to pick up the two DHAMs.” The European Air Transport Command or EATC was a single multinational command with its headquarters located at Eindhoven Air Base, the Netherlands. The fleet of over 300 assets were located at the national air bases through the twelve member nations.

She looked at her watch and decided they still had some time. “The Task Group wants a minehunter ship in front of them and the admiral agreed to it.”

“But that doesn’t make sense. The drones are doing a good job. The route will be clear. They don’t need a ship.”

“I know, but the old guys don’t trust what they don’t see. They want a ship to feel safe. The Mine Warfare advisor Captain Wiegmann could not convince his COMTF, so we have to stick to the task.”

“The German captain is a decent guy and a great specialist. If he was not able to turn the decision, nobody can,” answered the chief.

“Do you know him?”

“Yes, I worked with him during exercise ARTIC MINE. Great commander.”

“Then you will be glad to see him because he is online now.”

That moment Kapitän zur See (DEU) Rolf Wiegmann’s face appeared on the right screen. He was an old-school mine warfare specialist but experienced in the use of new technologies.

“Hi team. I guess you have heard about my admiral’s request?”

“Yes commander, we are aware of it.”

“Any proposal on how to get a ship for us?”

“There are no ships around. Not even an ‘Old Lady,’ so we have to go for another solution,” said Thorben. Sam did not like the expression “Old Lady” for a worn-out, stripped ship equipped for (semi)autonomous operations in a minefield. These ships, small or big but always old, could be used as minesweepers but also as a quick and dirty test for the presence of mines. Through the years she had accepted that sailors talked about a ship as a ‘she’ and that there was nothing odd about that. But, sending an old lady unprotected into a minefield was still hard to accept.

“Looking at the characteristics of the local seabed, an ABNL – the Belgian-Dutch maritime cooperation – ship would be perfect because she could be used to assist the landing if necessary. The Dutch and the Belgian are accustomed to operate in sandy conditions,” Sam declared with some proudness in her voice. The chief picked up that tone and knew she was right. His navy was specialized in rocky coasts, but these were not found around Aden.

“They are too far away to be on time. Their operational ships are participating in the live clearing activity in the Baltic Sea. Even if they turn around now and sail at high speed they will arrive after D-day.”

“Right,” she sounded a bit disappointing.

“We have a Portuguese Fast Multi-purpose Support Ship ready to sail out and join the naval exercise in the Mediterranean Sea. If we ask it to sail through the Suez Canal, it could join the task group in time,” proposed Thorben.

“Let’s do that,” replied Rolf. “What about the mine clearing module? I know the Portuguese don’t have those yet.”

“We could ask Den Helder to provide us with one of their modules. If we fly the container to Port Said International Airport, the Portuguese ship could pick it and the crew up,” proposed Sam regaining her enthusiasm.

“Great idea,” confirmed the chief.

“Okay, team, keep me posted and if you need my support, don’t hesitate to call me. Rolf out.”

“Nice to have this figured out.”

“I’ll talk to my national chain of command; can you take care of the Airbus for me?” Sam asked.

“Already busy with it.”

AIRBUS A400M

After the pick-ups in Melsboek, Belgium, and Cazaux, France, they had been flying to Said. A quick stop to drop of the mine clearance module and its crew of six, they refuelled the plane and took off again. According to their flight plan, their current leg would soon end above the Red Sea.

A buzzing sound announced the opening of the cargo door. The noise of the four turboprop engines swelled and filled the cargo bay. The crew chief looked down and saw the inviting surface of the Red Sea. It was dark and there were only distant lights. Good, nobody is watching was the thought that went through his mind.

“Cargo door open and locked. Ready to drop.”

“Roger that,” responded the pilot.

The red light went on indicating that the loadmaster had to start the final check. The parachutes were hooked on. The cargo clams blocked in the right direction. Nothing visible that could hamper the release.

A nightly parachute extraction drop was always spectacular and dangerous. Once the main release handle was pulled over, there was no stopping to it. Everything, intentionally or not, attached went overboard. The two air force specialists had no intention to drop something else except the two DHAMs. They did not really know the purpose of this drop. They did not care. Their task was to execute a clean drop.

The orange light went on. Instinctively they both stepped back into safety.

“Crew chief clear.”

“All clear in the back.”

Green light.

Immediately, the loadmaster pushed the handle and the parachute left its storage place. Taking air at high speed, it instantly deployed fully and with a hard jerk, it yanked the container out. They could hear the noise in their active noise reduction headsets. They both witnessed the white splashes of the two DHAMs, but lost all sight of the black chute.

“Closing door.”

“Going home,” replied the pilot.

TASK GROUP YANKEE

“All systems functioning as planned. Sea approach cleared above requested confidence level,” stated the report.

“The Portuguese ship will join us in the afternoon. Everything will be ready for the evacuation, admiral,” concluded Rolf in his briefing.

“Job well done, Rolf. Thank MARCOM for me,” responded COM TASK GROUP YANKEE.

NORTHWOOD

“Our German captain sends us thanks from his boss. A job well done,” said the chief. It was the first time that they had used the new concept of MCM operations to prepare an amphibious operation. All those years against critics finally paid off. The underwater drones enhanced by AI did what they were supposed to do.

Suddenly the screen flashed red. A red rectangle warned them about an explosion. This warning came from the wave glider of WTFA05. Its hydrophones had picked up the noise of the explosion. The next line informed the unit that MHMUS 04 was damaged and sinking to the bottom. Chief Jørgensen started the forensics diagnostics program to have a better idea of what just happened.

“It looks like a commercial ship was leaving the port while MHMUS 04 was busy neutralizing a mine. The ship must have come too close to the mine, so 04 decided to let it explode before it could finish the job,” explained the chief.

“Why did it do that?” wondered Sam, although she knew the answer.

“We think that these drones do that to protect the ship and prevent collateral damage, but we’re not sure. Their program has learned it that way and the manufacturer left it as it was,” Thorben explained. Sam knew that was half the truth. The manufacturer had no idea how the AI-based software had come to that conclusion and was unable to de-program it. AI was not a rule-based software but the result of endless iterations of data interpretation cycles. Changing the outcome was not as easy as changing a line in the software.

“Nothing we can do about it. Note that we have to pick up the damaged drone in the near future. A task for the Portuguese?”

“OK, I will launch a request for that,” answered the chief.

“I wonder how the other side will react to that incident.” 

TASK GROUP YANKEE

“Good morning team,” said Rolf.

“Good evening. You have read our report on the explosion?” asked Sam.

“Yes, thanks for that. Any changes?”

“No, no reaction from the other side as far as we can detect.”

“Okay. Our MQ-10 is on station. I’m forwarding its feed to your station now.” The General Atomics MQ-10 Havoc (sometimes called maritime Reaper) was an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capable of autonomous flight operations developed primarily for the United States Navy. The MQ-10 was an improved version of the MQ-9 hunter-killer UAVs and designed for long-endurance, high-altitude armed surveillance.

“We have it. Thanks,” replied Sam. “Can you fly over SIERRA beach? We want to see if there are mines in the breakwater zone.”

The drone operator changed the course a bit and swept the camera towards the beach where the special operations team would go ashore.

“There, and there, and maybe here,” said Thorben while his pointer went over the spots on the image from the camera. “Possible UWIEDs.” The homemade naval mines or Underwater Improvised Explosive Devices were placed to prevent an assault from the sea. Because they were positioned in the breakwater zone, they were hard to detect with a MUS. The UAV’s multispectral camera was a great help to detect possible mines in shallow water.

“There is a truck on the beach,” announced Rolf.

Immediately the operator zoomed in on the truck. All saw the cargo in the back of the truck. They all thought the same: more UWIEDs.

“Should we destroy the truck?” asked Sam.

“Yes, they could add more mines. We can hit it with our gun,” proposed Rolf.

“Wait a moment!” It was the chief. “Can you hit this spot first,” he said while marking a spot in the shallow water of the beach, “and then walk towards the truck?” On the second screen they could see the map with estimated mine threats. There was a dark green area running to the indicated spot. They understood that the requested firing pattern would clear possible UWIED in the breakwater. It would open a safe passage for the SOF team without giving the intent of clearing an infiltration path away.

They heard a long drumming sound and a moment later, the camera filmed the effect of the rapid fire. Water spewed up followed by a destructive trail towards the accelerating truck that ended up in a ball of flames. It was a beautiful but deadly spectacle.

With an alarming sound, a red text popped up: POSSIBLE ONGOING MINE LAYING OPERATION DETECTED. “Helvete! Can you turn the camera to the entrance of the port?” asked the chief in disgust.

The screen turned blurry to stop with an image of the inlet. Without being asked, the drone operator zoomed in on the deck of the ship. They were witnesses of the drop of another sea mine. There were still some mines left on the small ship. If they would allow this crew to continue their activity, their preparatory clearance work would be in vain and the whole evacuation operation would have to be postponed. This in turn would increase the risk for the UN staff.

“Deal with it!” Rolf requested without consulting the others. The operator threw a quick glance at her mission leader who gave an approving nod. Two seconds later Fox 1, an advanced small calibre air-to-ground missile, left its rail. The missile rushed towards its target turning it into a burning wreck. The secondary explosions were violent witnesses that the ship’s cargo of sea mines were destroyed as well.

They did not have time to enjoy this little victory as Thorben announced that the computer estimated that the Houthis probably had dropped four sea mines. Enough to delay the operation with some days depending on the type of mines. “Our gunfire must have shielded the noise of their sneaky activity,” he concluded.

Disappointment quickly followed victory. The two operation centres turned quite.

With “Can you show me the results of the surveillance by PSA Charlie?” Sam broke the loud silence.

“Sure thing.”

“Right, have a look at the beach to the East of Little Aden.” All eyes followed the move to the East. Sam zoomed in. They all recognized the way out. There was a stretch of at least 200m of dark green on the chart. An amphibious landing zone. “Go where there are no mines” was one of the catchphrases in the concept. A pass by the MQ-10 would confirm the absence of UWIEDs in this breakwater zone. The operation on the ground would be a bit more complicated, but it was doable within the planned timeframe.

“Quick thinking team,” were the thankful words spoken by Rolf.

“Thanks. It’s part of the job description.”

“Nevertheless.”

“Does the task group still need the Portuguese ship?”

“Why do you ask?”

“Well, this little action we had, made me think. We can use it to reinforce their idea that we will use the port for exfiltration and recuperate the damaged MHMUS 04.”

“Elaborate,” asked the captain.

IN THE VICINITY OF ADEN

After the captain had explained their deception plan to his commander, the multipurpose ship with the ABNL modules sailed toward the port of Aden. At a safe distance, the crew put up a good show of a demining operation. They even ignited an old sea mine to increase the theatrical effect.

Observers of their activity at sea quickly concluded that the Houthis had at least five days before the port would be accessible. Time enough for their own plans.

However, the real activities under water had no relations with this show. Mine hunter drones were widening the green zone of SIERRA beach while another drone salvaged the damaged number 4.

As planned, in the middle of the night the SOF team came ashore and organized the evacuation. The surprise was complete and all staff evacuated safely and without real incidents.

BRUSSELS

The Secretary General read the UNSC letter felicitating NATO for the flawless evacuation of its staff out of Yemen. Listening to the diplomatic sentences, Captain Wiegmann reflected on the excellent work of the team and the value of the new concept. In the old days, this evacuation would have been much more difficult to pull off.

Major Van Hoeserlande (BEL Air Force) is an aeronautical engineer with thirty-five years active duty on the counter, including command tours and deployments in joint environments. His love for writing and storytelling started in high school and has never panned out. As a diver-editor most of his articles are about underwater adventures, but his interests include innovation, management, technology and travel. As from August 2018, he is concept developer in NATO’s Strategic Headquarter in Norfolk, VA and uses stories to illustrate conceptual ideas. The views presented are those of the author, and do not reflect the views of NATO or Belgium.

Featured Image: Underwater minefield by Juan Jose Torres

The Deep Ocean: Seabed Warfare and the Defense of Undersea Infrastructure, Pt. 2

Read Part One here.

By Bill Glenney

Concepts from the CNO SSG

From 1998 to 2016, the CNO Strategic Studies Group (SSG) consistently recognized and accounted for the challenge of cross-domain maritime warfare, including the deep ocean. The Group generated several operational concepts that would give the Navy significant capabilities for the deep ocean part of the maritime battle.

Vehicles and Systems

Within the body of SSG concepts were reasonably detailed descriptions of a range of unmanned underwater vehicles, undersea sensors, and undersea weapons such as the towed payload modules, extra-large UUVs, logistics packages, and bottom-moored weapons. All would use the seabed and undersea for sensing, attacking, and sustaining in support of maritime forces.

One vehicle worth discussing is the armed UUV for single-sortie obstacle neutralization that would provide the Navy with the capability to counter armed UUVs, or conduct search for and clearance of fixed and mobile mines without the need for local air/surface superiority, or a manned support ship.1 It could plausibly do so at tactical sweep rates higher than today’s MCM forces. This can be achieved well before 2030, yet this capability is something neither the existing nor planned MCM forces can do.

The SSG XXXII concept can be achieved by integrating the following capabilities on the conceptualized extra-large UUV (XLUUV):

  • A synthetic aperture sonar – a capability the Navy had in 2013 
  • Automatic target-recognition software – a capability the Navy was developing
  • A 30 mm cannon that shoots super-cavitating rounds – a capability previously funded but not developed by the Navy

But, instead of focusing on the vehicles, there are two examples of operational-level concepts that exploit these vehicles and systems in recognition of the fact that the deep ocean is a critical yet misunderstood and underutilized part of maritime warfighting. 

Blitz MCM

In 1999, the SSG generated a concept called “Blitz MCM.”2 This work has stood the test of time technically and analytically, but has not been adopted by the Navy. And, while the SSG described it in terms of mine countermeasures, this same approach can be applied to deep ocean warfighting and the defense of undersea infrastructure.

At its most basic level, Blitz MCM resulted from the recognition that sensor performance in the undersea was not going to improve significantly from a tactical perspective over the period of 2000-2030. For clarity, yes, the accuracy of various undersea sensors has improved routinely, providing accuracy down to fractions of a meter and able to produce fairly detailed pictures of objects. But the effective range of these sensors has not and will not dramatically increase, still being measured in hundreds and maybe a thousand yards at best. These short ranges preclude their use as a single sensor when it comes to tactical maneuver in the maritime environment.

The SSG solution was to use large numbers of these individual sensors.

In order to enable the rapid maneuver by maritime forces, the force must be able to conduct in-stride mine reconnaissance and clearance of approach routes and intended areas of operations. In order to avoid lengthy operational pauses to search large areas and neutralize mines or armed UUVs or undersea explosives, Blitz MCM uses relatively autonomous UUVs that rely on sensing technology only moderately advanced beyond that available to the fleet 20 years ago. However, unlike today’s operations where small numbers of mine-hunting vehicles and aircraft are involved, Blitz MCM relies on the deployment of large numbers of unmanned vehicles out ahead of the force to rapidly work through the areas of interest to find, tag, or clear threats. Hundreds of small UUVs can work together as an intelligent swarm to clear thousands of square miles of ocean per day.

In some cases, based on the information provided by the vehicles, alternate approach routes or operating areas would be chosen, and the movements of closing units can be rapidly redirected accordingly. In other cases, the required paths will be cleared with a level of confidence that allows force elements to safely continue through to their intended operating areas.

As illustrated in figure 7, UUV-Ms use conformal, wide-band active/passive sonar arrays, magnetic sensors, electric field sensors, blue-green active/passive lasers, and trace chemical “sniffing” capabilities to detect mines. Onboard automatic target recognition capabilities are essential to the classification and identification effort. Acoustic and laser communications to near-surface relays or seabed fiber-optic gateways maintain connectivity.

Figure 7 – Mine Hunting and Clearance Operations (CNO SSG XIX Final Report)

Unmanned air vehicles are critical in their role as UUV carriers, especially when rapid deployment of UUVs is required across a large space. UCAV-Ms contribute to the effort with their mine-hunting lasers. They also serve as communications gateways from the “swimmer” UUVs to the network.

The UUV-Ms will generally operate in notional minehunting groups of several dozen to over a hundred vehicles. Teams of vehicles will swim in line abreast formations or in echelons with overlapping fields of sonar coverage. Normally they will swim at about 8-10 knots approximately 50 feet above the bottom. Following in trail would be additional UUVs assigned a “linebacker” function to approach closely and examine any suspicious objects detected. Tasking and team coordination will be conducted by the UUVs over acoustic or laser modems. Once a linebacker classifies and identifies a probable mine, its usual protocol will be to report the contact, standoff a short distance, and then send in a self-propelled mine clearing charge to destroy or neutralize the mine. Each UUV-M could carry approximately 16 of these micro-torpedoes. When one linebacker has exhausted its supply, it will automatically trade places with another UUV-M in the hunting team.

Rapid neutralization of mine threats is key to the clearance effort. Today, this dangerous task is often performed by human divers. 

Blitz MCM uses a “leapfrog laydown” of UUV-Ms, as illustrated in Figure 8. Analogous to the manner that sonobuoys are employed in an area for ASW coverage, the force would saturate an area of interest with UUV-Ms to maximize minehunting and clearance capabilities. Once dropped into the water, the UUV-Ms quickly form into echelons and begin their hunting efforts. Navigation and communication nodes will be dropped along with the Hunter UUV-Ms.

Figure 8 – Leapfrog Laydown of UUVs (CNO SSG XIX Final Report)

Large delivery rates will be possible with multiple sorties of UCAV-Ms each dropping two to four UUV-Ms on a single load and then rapidly returning with more. Upon completion of their missions, the Hunter UUV-Ms will be recovered by UCAVs or USVs and returned to the appropriate platforms for refueling, servicing, and re-deployment.

First order analysis indicates that with approximately 150 UUV-Ms in the water and a favorable oceanographic and bottom environment, reconnaissance and clearance rates of about 6,000 to 10,000 square miles per day (a 20-mile wide swath moving at 12-20 knots) should be achievable. This capability is several orders of magnitude over current MCM capabilities.

Naval Warfighting Bases

The SSG XXXII concept called Naval Warfighting Bases3 requires the Navy to think about sea power and undersea dominance in an entirely new way. And this new thinking goes against the grain of culture and training for most naval officers and is unconventional in two ways:

  • First, in Naval Warfighting Bases, forces ashore will have a direct and decisive role in establishing permanent undersea superiority in high interest areas
  • Second, “playing the away game” – the purview of forward deployed naval forces − is not sufficient to establish and sustain undersea dominance at home

As shown in Figure  9, afloat forces – CSGs, ESGs, SAGs, and submarines – do not have the capacity or the capabilities to establish permanent undersea dominance of the waters adjacent to the U.S. homeland and its territories (shown in yellow) and of key maritime choke points (shown with white circles), while simultaneously reacting to multiple crisis spots around the world (shown in red). The Navy must discard its current model of undersea dominance derived solely from mobile, forward deployed at-sea forces and replace it with one that is more inclusive − one that looks beyond just afloat forces. This new model must capitalize on the permanent access the Navy already has from shore-based installations at home and abroad (shown with yellow stars).

Figure 9 – Global Requirements for Undersea Superiority

Naval Warfighting Bases builds on detailed local understanding of the undersea, coupled with the projection of combat power from the land to control the sea; thereby providing permanent undersea dominance to defend undersea critical infrastructure near the homeland, protect major naval bases and ports of interest, and to control strategic chokepoints. Naval Warfighting Bases also provides the critical benefit of freeing up afloat Navy forces for missions only they can conduct.

At home, the U.S. Navy could establish something called an Undersea Defense Identification Zone, akin to the Air Defense Identification Zone, to detect and classify all deep sea contacts prior to their entry into the U.S. exclusive economic zone (EEZ). By enhancing the capabilities of key coastal installations, the Navy will transform each into a Naval Warfighting Base. The base commander will be a warfighter with the responsibility, authority, and capability to establish and maintain permanent undersea superiority out to a nominal range of 300 nautical miles seaward from the base to include the majority of U.S. undersea and maritime critical infrastructure.

Figure 10 – Undersea Defense Identification Zones Provide Permanent Undersea Superiority

Base commanders will have the capability to detect and track large numbers of contacts as small as wave-glider sized UUVs. Each Naval Warfighting Base will have a detachment of forces to actively patrol its sector. Naval Warfighting Base commanders will be able to maintain continuous undersea understanding, enabling control of the deep ocean.

Naval Warfighting Base commanders will also have an integrated set of shore-based and mobile weapons systems with the capability to neutralize adversary undersea systems, such as UUVs, mines, and sensors. Naval Warfighting Base commanders will be capable of disabling or destroying all undersea threats in their sector, employing armed unmanned systems, and employing undersea warfare missiles fired from ashore.

An undersea warfare missile is a tactical concept that combines a missile and a torpedo, similar to modern ASROC missiles. The missile portion would provide the range and speed of response, while the torpedo portion would provide the undersea killing power. Broadly integrating undersea warfare missiles into a variety of platforms would provide a tremendous capability to cover larger areas without having to tap manned aviation or surface assets for weapon delivery. These missiles would provide responsive, high volume, and lethal capabilities. And they could be fired from land installations, submarines, surface combatants, and aircraft.

As practiced today, waterspace management (WSM) and prevention of mutual interference (PMI) result in a highly centralized authority, and extremely tight control and execution for undersea forces. This type of C2 would prevent undersea forces and Naval Warfighting Bases from becoming operational realities, and it would eliminate the warfighting capabilities from a balanced force of manned and unmanned systems. Undersea dominance is not possible without more deconflicted C2. The submarine force in particular must get over the fear of putting manned submarines in the same water as UUVs, and develop the related procedures and tactics to do so.

Defense of Undersea Infrastructure as a Navy Mission

As early as 2008 in their final report to the CNO, after having spent a second year of deep study on the convergence of sea power and cyber power, the SSG gave the CNO the immediately actionable step to:

take the lead in developing the nation’s deep seabed defense (emphasis in the original), given the absolute criticality of seabed infrastructure to cyberspace. Challenge maritime forces and the research establishment to identify actions and technologies that will extend maritime domain awareness to the ocean bottom, from the U.S. coastline to the outer continental shelf and beyond. Prepare now for a future in which U.S. commercial exploitation of the deep seabed – including the Arctic – is both commercially feasible and urgently required, making deep seabed defense a national necessity.”4

In 2008 and again in 2013, Navy leadership offered that there is no requirement for the U.S. Navy to defend undersea infrastructure except for some very specific, small area locations.5 In this context, the term requirement is as it relates to formally approved DON missions, functions, tasks, budgeting and acquisition, but not actual warfighting necessity.

Conclusion

The force must have the capabilities to sense, understand, and act in the deep ocean. The capabilities to do so are already available to anyone with a reasonable amount of money to buy them. Operationally speaking, hiding things on the seabed is fairly easy. On the other hand, finding things on the seabed is relatively difficult unless one is looking all the time, and has an accurate baseline from which to start the search and compare the results. The deep ocean presents an “area” challenge and a “point” challenge simultaneously, and both must be addressed by the maritime force. Understanding the deep ocean and fighting within it is also a matter of numbers and time – requiring lots of vehicles, sensors, and time.

The U. S. Navy is not currently in the game. With a variety of unmanned vehicles, sensors, and weapons coupled with Blitz MCM, Naval Warfighting Bases, and making undersea infrastructure defense a core U.S. Navy mission, the fleet can make the deep ocean – the entire undersea and seabed – a critical advantage in cross-domain warfighting at sea.

Professor William G. Glenney, IV, is a researcher in the Institute for Future Warfare Studies at the U. S. Naval War College.

The views presented here are personal and do not reflect official positions of the Naval War College, DON or DOD.

References

1. Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group XXXII Final Report, Own the Undersea (March 2014, Newport, RI), pp 4-6 to 4-9.

2. Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group XIX Final Report, Naval Power Forward (September 2000, Newport, RI), pp 6-8 to 6-12.

3. Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group XXXII Final Report, Own the Undersea (March 2014, Newport, RI), pp 2-15 to 2-20.

4. Chief of Naval Operations Strategic Studies Group XXVII Final Report Collaborate & Compel – Maritime Force Operations in the Interconnected Age (December 2008), pp 8-1 and 8-4.

5. Author’s personal notes from attendance at SSG XXVII briefings to the CNO on 19 July 2008 and SECNAV on 24 July 2008, and SSG XXXII briefing to the CNO on 25 July 2013.

Featured Image: Pioneer ROV (Blueye Robotics AS)

The Deep Ocean: Seabed Warfare and the Defense of Undersea Infrastructure, Pt. 1

By Bill Glenney

Introduction

Given recent activities by the PLA(N) and the Russian Navy, the matters of seabed warfare and the defense of undersea infrastructure have emerged as topics of interest to the U. S. Navy.1,2 Part One of this paper presents several significant considerations, arguably contrary to common thinking, that highlight the challenges of bringing the deep sea and benthic realm into cross-domain warfighting in the maritime environment. Part Two presents three warfighting concepts drawn from the body of work done by the CNO Strategic Studies Group (SSG) that would give the Navy capabilities of value for the potential battlespace.

The Deep Ocean Environment

For clarity the term “deep ocean” will be used to cover the ocean bottom, beneath the ocean bottom to some unspecified depth, and the ocean water column deeper than about 3,000 feet.3 The deep ocean is where the U.S. Navy and the submarine force are not. Undersea infrastructures are in the deep ocean and on or under the seabed for various purposes.

How does the maritime fight on the ocean surface change when there must be a comparable fight for the deep ocean? In the maritime environment, it is long past time for the U.S. Navy to be mindful of and develop capabilities that account for effects in, from, and into the deep ocean, including effects on the ocean floor. Cross-domain warfighting demands this kind of completeness and specificity. As the Army had to learn about and embrace the air domain for its Air-Land battle in the 1980s, the Navy must do the same with the deep ocean for maritime warfare today and for the future.

However, the current frameworks of mine warfare, undersea warfare, and anti-submarine warfare as practiced by the Navy today are by no means sufficient to even deny the deep ocean to an adversary let alone control the deep ocean.  To “own” a domain, a force must have the capability to sense and understand what is in and what is happening in that domain. The force must also have the capability to act in a timely manner throughout that domain.

Today, the Navy and many nations around the world have radars and other sensors that can detect, track, and classify most of anything and everything that exists and happens in the atmosphere from the surface of the ocean and land up to an altitude of 90,000 feet altitude or higher, even into outer space. The Navy and many nations also have weapons – on the surface and on land, and in the air – that can act anywhere within the atmosphere. Some nations even have weapons that can act in the atmosphere from below the ocean surface. In short, with regard to the air domain, relevant maritime capabilities abound, including  fixed or mobile, unmanned or manned, precise or area. Naval forces can readily affect the air domain with capabilities that can cover the entire atmosphere.

But the same cannot be said for the deep ocean. Figure 1 below is based on information drawn from unclassified sources. Consider this depiction of the undersea in comparison with the air domain. Notice that there is a lot of light blue space – space where the Navy apparently does not have any capability to sense, understand, and act. The Navy’s capability to effect in, from, and into the deep ocean is at best extremely limited, but for the most part non-existent. Capabilities specifically relative to the seabed are even less, and with the Navy’s mine countermeasures capabilities also being very limited. What systems does the Navy have to detect unmanned underwater vehicles at very deep depths? What systems does the Navy have to surveil large ocean areas and the resident seabed infrastructure? What systems does the Navy have to act, defend, or attack, in the deep ocean?

Figure 1 – The Deep Ocean

Arguably, the Navy has built an approach to maritime warfighting that dismisses the deep ocean, and done so based on the assumption that dominating the top 3,000 feet of the waterspace is sufficient to dominating the entire waterspace – ocean floor to ocean surface. Undersea infrastructure is presumably safe and protected because the ceiling over it is locked up.

However, the force must have the capabilities to sense, understand, and act in the deep ocean.

While the assumption for dominating the deep ocean by dominating the ceiling may have been useful in the past, it clearly is no longer valid. In the past, it was very expensive to do anything in the deep ocean. The technology was not readily available, residing only in the hands of two or three nations or big oil companies. This no longer holds true. The cost of undersea technology for even the deepest known parts of the ocean has dropped dramatically, and also widely proliferated. If one has a couple hundred million dollars or maybe a billion dollars, they can sense, understand, and act in the deep ocean without any help from a nation or military. Unlike the U.S. government-funded search for the SS Titanic by Robert Ballard, Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen independently found USS Indianapolis in over 15,000 feet of water in the Philippine Sea. The capabilities to sense, understand, and act in the deep ocean are available to anyone with a reasonable amount of money to buy them.

Figure 1 is misleading in one perspective. At the level of scale in figure 1, the ocean floor looks flat and smooth. If something is placed on the ocean bottom, such as a towed payload module, a logistics cache, sensors, or a weapon system, could it be easily found?

Figure 2 is a picture of survey results from the vicinity of the Diamantina Trench approximately 700 miles west of Perth, Australia in the Indian Ocean. The red line over the undersea mountain is about 17 miles in length. The water depth on the red line varies from 13,800 feet to 9,500 feet as shown on the right.4

Figure 2 – Diamantina Trench

Consider figure 3. The red line is just under three miles in length. The depth variation ranges from 12,100 feet to 11,900 feet.5 These figures provide examples of evidence that the abyssal is not featureless. The assumption of a flat and smooth ocean floor is simply wrong, and severely understates the challenge of sensing and acting in the deep sea.

Figure 3 – A Closer View in the Diamantina Trench

How hard would it be to find a standard-sized shipping container (8ft x 8ft x 20ft or even 40ft) on this floor? It could be incredibly difficult, requiring days or weeks or even months with many survey vehicles, especially if the area had not been previously surveyed. This is a lesson the U. S. Navy learned in the Cold War and has long since forgotten from its “Q routes” for port access. And it would be harder still if one were purposefully trying to hide whatever they placed on the ocean floor, such as in the pockmarks of figure 3.

Based on reported results from a two-year search for Malaysian Airlines flight MH-370, approximately 1.8 million square miles of the ocean floor were searched and mapped to a horizontal resolution on the order of 100 meters and vertical resolution of less than one meter.6 Yet, the plane remains unlocated.

Hiding things on the seabed is fairly easy, while finding things on the seabed is incredibly difficult. Unless one is looking all the time, and has an accurate baseline from which to start the search and compare the results, sensing in the deep sea is significant challenge. The next consideration is that of the matter of scale of the geographic area and what resides within it. This is what makes numbers matter.

Figure 4 provides a view of the Gulf of Mexico covering about 600,000 square miles in area and with waters as deep as 14,000 feet. There are about 3,500 platforms and rigs, and approximately 43,000 miles of pipeline spread across the Gulf.

Figure 4. – The Gulf of Mexico (National Geographic)

Of note, the global economy and worldwide demands for energy have caused the emergence of a strategic asymmetry exemplified by this figure. China gets most of its energy imports by surface shipping which is vulnerable to traditional anti-shipping campaigns. The U. S. gets much of its energy from undersea systems in the Gulf of Mexico. While immune from anti-shipping, this infrastructure is vulnerable to seabed attack. In late 2017, the Mexican government leased part of their Gulf of Mexico Exclusive Economic Zone seafloor to the Chinese for oil exploration.

Figure 5 provides a depiction of global undersea communication cables with some 300 cables and about 550,000 miles of cabling.

Figure 5 – Global Undersea Telecommunications Cables

Figure 6 provides a view of the South China Sea near Natuna Besar. This area is about 1.35 million square miles with waters as deep as 8,500 feet. Recall that in the two-year search for Malaysian Air flight MH 370 they surveyed only 1.8 million square miles, and did so in a militarily-benign environment. 

Figure 6 – The South China Sea

The deep ocean demands that a maritime force be capable of surveilling and acting in and over large geographic areas just like the ocean surface above it. Undersea infrastructure is already dispersed throughout those large areas. In addition, because the components of undersea infrastructure are finite in size, the deep ocean also demands that a maritime force be capable of surveilling and acting in discrete places. While it is arguable that defense in the deep ocean is a wide-area challenge and offense is a discrete challenge, the deep ocean demands that a maritime force be capable of doing both as part of the maritime battle. Therefore, the deep ocean presents an “area” challenge and a “point” challenge simultaneously, and both must be addressed by maritime forces.

In addition, the size of the area and the number of points of interest means that a dozen UUVs or a couple of nuclear submarines are not in any way sufficient to address the maritime warfighting challenge of defending the deep ocean and undersea infrastructure of this scale. Furthermore, the situation is exacerbated by systems and vehicles in the deep ocean above the seabed. The threat is not a few, large, manned platforms, but many small unmanned vehicles and weapons.

The historical demarcation among torpedoes, mines, and vehicles is no longer productive except maybe for purposes of international law and OPNAV programmatics. Operationally and tactically, the differentiation is arbitrary and a distraction from operational thinking. The Navy should be talking in terms of unmanned systems – some armed or weaponized, and some not; some mobile and some not; some intelligent and some not. Torpedoes can easily become mobile, armed UUVs with limited intelligence. Mines can also become mobile or fixed UUVs with very limited intelligence.

In the course of the author’s research and in research conducted by the CNO SSG, there were no situations or considerations where reclassifying mines and torpedoes as UUVs was problematic with regard to envisioning war at sea. Doing so eliminated a significant tactical and operational seam and opened up operational thinking. The systems for the detection and neutralization of UUVs are the same as those needed to detect and neutralize torpedoes and mines, and the same for surveilling or attacking undersea infrastructure.

Conclusion

Ultimately, understanding the deep ocean and warfare in the deep ocean is a matter of numbers and time – requiring plenty of sensors, and plenty of time. Part Two will present three warfighting concepts drawn from the body of work done by the CNO Strategic Studies Group (SSG) that would give the Navy capabilities for the deep sea battlespace.

Professor William G. Glenney, IV, is a researcher in the Institute for Future Warfare Studies at the U. S. Naval War College.

The views presented here are personal and do not reflect official positions of the Naval War College, DON or DOD.

References 

1. This article is based on the author’s remarks given at the Naval Postgraduate School Warfare Innovation Continuum Workshop on 19 September 2018. All information and conclusions are based entirely on unclassified information.

2. See for example Rishi Sunak, MP, Undersea Cables:  Indispensable, Insecure, Policy Exchange (2017, London, UK);  Morgan Chalfant and Olivia Beavers, “Spotlight Falls on Russian Threat to Undersea Cables”, The Hill, 17 June 2018 accessed at http://thehill.com/policy/cybersecurity/392577-spotlight-falls-on-russian-threat-to-undersea-cables;  Victor Abramowicz, “Moscow’s other navy”, The Interpreter, 21 June 2018 accessed at https://www.lowyinstitute.org/the-interpreter/moscows-other-navy?utm_source=RC+Defense+Morning+Recon&utm_campaign=314b587fab-EMAIL;  Stephen Chen, “Beijing plans an AI Atlantis for the South China Sea – without a human in sight”, South China Morning Post, 26 November 2018 accessed at https://www.scmp.com/news/china/science/article/2174738/beijing-plans-ai-atlantis-south-china-sea-without-human-sight;  and Asia Times Staff, “Taiwan undersea cables ‘priority targets’ by PLA in war”, Asia Times, 6 December 2017 accessed at http://www.atimes.com/article/taiwan-undersea-cables-priority-targets-pla-war.

3. Based on unclassified sources, manned nuclear submarines can operate to water depth of 1,000-1,500 feet, manned diesel submarines somewhat shallower, and existing undersea weapons to depths approaching 3,000 feet.

4. Kim Picard, et. al., “Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 search data reveal geomorphology and seafloor processes in the remote southeast Indian Ocean,” Marine Geology 395 (2018) 301-319, pg 316.

5. Kim Picard, et. al., “Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 search data reveal geomorphology and seafloor processes in the remote southeast Indian Ocean,” Marine Geology 395 (2018) 301-319, pg 317.

6. Kim Picard, Walter Smith, Maggie Tran, Justy Siwabessy and Paul Kennedy, “Increased-resolution Bathymetry in the Southeast Indian Ocean”, Hydro International, https://www.hydro-international.com/content/article/increased-resolution-bathymetry-in-the-southeast-indian-ocean, accessed 13 December 2017.

Featured Image: Deep Discoverer, a remotely operated vehicle, explores a cultural heritage site during Dive 02 of the Gulf of Mexico 2018 expedition. (Image courtesy of the NOAA/OER)