Mine Warfare Moves Forward . . . From the Sea

By Captain Buzz Broughton, U.S. Navy

These demonstrations, which provide a method of rapidly transferring advanced technology from developers to the end users, are playing a significant role in revolutionizing the Department of Defense acquisition process. The process, designed to be user-friendly, represents an effort by DoD to assemble and demonstrate new military capabilities using mature advanced technologies on a larger scale. Specifically, ACTDs are designed to:

  • Evaluate a technology's military usefulness before committing to a major acquisition effort
  • Develop a concept of operations for employing new technology
  • Provide a low-cost residual capability.

The bottom line is that an ACTD can identify quickly appropriate technologies for continued development and acquisition. Critical funding then can be focused on programs that have demonstrated their effectiveness in supporting documented warfighting requirements.

The Countermine Scenario. The Commander in Chief, United States Atlantic Command, is the operational sponsor for the two-phase JCM ACTD. The first phase was conducted from 18 August to 6 September 1997 in conjunction with Joint Task Force Exercise (JTFEX) 97-3 in the vicinity of Camp Lejeune, North Carolina; the exercises are used routinely to evaluate and certify the readiness of naval forces for deployment.

The basic JTFEX 97-3 scenario was expanded to emphasize mine warfare operations along with the normal certification process. This highlighted various mine countermeasures systems and permitted their evaluation in the context of the larger exercise. In addition, the scenario emphasized two key components of the ACTD that will be phased into operational use rapidly.

Information, Please! The Joint C4I component of the ACTD will integrate existing information architectures and systems, using workstation software applications and a mobile networking capability consisting of an object-oriented mobile router and supporting hardware. The workstation software will permit presentation of the complete mine warfare picture to all levels of a joint task force using individual service C41 suites. The mobile router performs protocol conversions, bridging, and routing from host networks to current and potential military communication systems. These will provide improved situational awareness and mine warfare planning support to future joint task force operations at all levels of command.

The Joint Countermine Operational Simulation (JCOS) is a powerful modeling and simulation network that can evaluate the operational usefulness of joint tactics, techniques, procedures, and mine countermeasure systems. The system consists of four synthetic force applications (representing each of the services), an after-action review system, a C41 gateway for the collection, exchange, and dissemination of data in a variety of formats, an exercise management and control system, and a three-dimensional display system. The gateway provides the capability to transfer simulated data to currently fielded systems.

Finding the threat.... Mine warfare is like any other warfare area in that the same threat engagement sequence is applicable. The threat must be detected and identified before it can be engaged or neutralized. Phase one of the demonstration evaluated several mine detection technologies including:

  • A Littoral Remote Sensing (LRS) program that focused on the employment of national-level remote surveillance and reconnaissance assets to support expeditionary operations. The program's goal is to develop, demonstrate, and transition new collection techniques and exploitation algorithms for covert detection of coastal defenses including barriers, land mines, sea mines, and defensive positions as well as natural hazards found in the littoral regions of the world. Coastal regions are among the most difficult to chart and update because of restricted access, environmental dynamics, and human interactions. Many regions of the world in which naval forces may conduct expeditionary operations have limited or non-existent mapping and charting. Remote sensing may provide the primary or possibly the only means of environmental characterization.

The program is evaluating the use of existing national sensors in the littoral regions and identifying optimal collection parameters for the littoral battle space. It supports development of techniques aimed at a variety of the essential elements of information (EEls) pertinent to littoral warfare and developing tools to create intelligence products that identify elements critical to the joint commander. Products are formatted to move into and through existing communication infrastructures, both secure and uncovered. A variety of products may be produced to meet the dissemination and bandwidth limitations of the lowest echelon tactical units. The tools developed by the program are intended for use by operational units, such as Joint Intelligence Centers (JICs), to enhance existing intelligence products.

  • The Army's Airborne Standoff Minefield Detection System (ASTAMIDS) and the Marine Corps' Coastal Battlefield Reconnaissance and Analysis (COBRA) System are both based on unmanned aerial vehicles. The Army system uses imaging infrared sensors to detect minefields, while the Marine Corps system employs multispectral optical sensors to detect mines in craft landing zones and on the beach-it also can provide near realtime information on beach conditions. Both systems will link data to processing stations either ashore or afloat. During phase one, the Army sensors were tested from an Army helicopter while the Marine Corps sensors were mounted on a Cessna 172 light aircraft.
  • The Close-In Man-Portable Mine Detector (CIMMD) incorporates a standoff infrared thermal imager and ground penetrating radar. The two sensors can be employed separately or together, with the radar confirming targets detected by the thermal imager.

The Navy also demonstrated a variant of the operational Magic Lantern system adapted to detect and classify minefields and obstacles rapidly in very shallow water, surf, and craft landing zones. The system uses an unmanned aerial vehicle to carry an imaging light interferometer detection and ranging system that detects mines in the surf zone. It is an adaptation of the Magic Lantern (Deployment Contingency) system developed to detect floating, moored, and submerged mines in deep water. During the demonstration, the system was employed from an SH-2F helicopter. The upgraded sensor adds specific modifications and additional functions to achieve the required high probability of detection and a low probability of false alarm in the surf zone.

. . And eliminating it. A mine threat, once detected, either must be avoided or neutralized. Mine neutralization systems demonstrated included:

  • An Explosive Neutralization Advanced Technology Demonstration (ENATD) that examined the capabilitiy to deploy accurately explosive arrays and line charges from extended ranges to breach assault lanes in the surf zone. It is a follow-on to the Distributed Explosive Technology (DET) and Shallow-water Assault Breaching (SABRE) systems. The array and line charges are launched from air cushion landing craft (LCACs) from beyond the breaking surf. The JCM ACTD demonstrated a fire-control system that accounted for the effects of LCAC motion on the ballistics, payload flight characteristics, and environmental conditions. The system computed firing solutions and steered the LCAC to launch points, initiating dry-firing sequences when established parameters were met.
  • The Off-Route Smart Mine Clearance (ORSMC) system, an Army program that uses a remotely operated High-Mobility Multi-Purpose Wheeled Vehicle to duplicate the signature of target vehicles and trigger smart mines deployed near its path. Acoustic and seismic signals are generated as well as infrared decoys.
  • The Clausen Power Blade (CPB) demonstrated the capability to conduct rapid follow-on clearance operations. The CPB consists of a standard angled cutting edge; a steel track laid on edge to form a belt traveling around two vertical axes; five hydraulic motors with sprockets attached to the blade to drive the belt; and an auxiliary power unit designed to mount on the rear of an armored Marine Corps D8 bulldozer. The system provides power directly to the steel belt, actively removing soil from the blade before it accumulates to the point the tractor's forward motion is stopped. The steel belt rotates around the two vertical axes cutting soil and casting it to the side of the vehicle's path. Mines and obstacles are swept aside with the soil. The speed at which the belt side-casts the material is matched to the host platform's forward speed so material is continuously unloaded.
  • The Joint Amphibious Mines Countermeasures (JAMC) System that uses remote-controlled, tracked vehicles for minefield breaching during assault operations. The vehicles are equipped with mechanical, explosive, and electro-magnetic mine countermeasures subsystems with visual and electronic marking devices that allow for very high clearance levels and positive markings for all ground elements of the assault force. A Differential Global Positioning System provides precise location of the vehicles.

Three additional programs will be demonstrated during phase two, which is scheduled for the spring of 1998:

  • The Navy's Advanced Lightweight Influence Sweep System (ALISS) uses superconducting magnets and an underwater sparker to generate simulated magnetic and acoustic ship signatures. During the demonstration the system will operate from the QST-35S surface craft, but eventually will operate from LCACs.
  • The Near-Term Mine Reconnaissance System (NMRS) is a submarine-launched and recovered unmanned underwater vehicle for the covert reconnaissance of minefields in a variety of water depths. The system includes operating consoles and support equipment carried in the submarine's torpedo room. The Navy's Advanced Sensor program will demonstrate the capability to detect, classify, and identify mines from deep to very shallow water using advanced sonars and electrooptic sensors. The packages are towed individually from a Dolphin remotely operated vehicle.
  • An Army classified program (ACP).

The JCM ACTD analysis and documentation team is reviewing Phase I system performance and will report out during the second quarter of Fiscal Year 1998.

Power projection and overseas presence are the fundamental building blocks upon which this nation's military strategy is based. Key to both issues is strategic mobility. Mines at sea and ashore directly challenge that mobility. General John Sheehan, the just retired Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Atlantic Command, has stated "Mines do more than just threaten individual soldiers, sailors, and vehicles. They change the geometry of the battlefield and pose a major threat to our force's ability to get to the fight without sustaining unacceptable casualties." The Joint Countermine ACTD is the first step in dealing effectively with this threat.

 

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