Professional Notes

Few would disagree with the assessment that the key workhorses of the Soviet polar fleet were the nuclear and diesel-electric ships. Nothing could move effectively through the narrow straits of the Russian Arctic without their presence. Annually, they provided eight to ten months of the sustained icebreaking capability necessary for access to much of the Russian maritime Arctic. Practicality and logic determined many of their key design characteristics: nuclear power compensated for the remoteness of the region and lack of viable fueling stations; shallow-draft designs allowed ice channels to be broken in the bays and estuaries of the Ob' and Yenisey rivers on the Kara Sea; and high propulsion-power levels and wide beams were ideal for leading cargo ships through difficult ice fields—normally without stopping. This capability, specifically that provided by the nuclear ships, enabled the Soviet Union to maintain year-round navigation from 1978 onward to Dudinka (on the Yenisey River), port city for the large industrial complex at Noril'sk in the Russian Arctic.

The polar icebreakers and winter cargo fleet, linked together as key elements of an Arctic transportation system, can be viewed in retrospect as valuable strategic assets from an economic perspective. They directly supported the Soviet Union's determined efforts to remain self-sufficient in such critical defense commodities as nickel and copper, both of which could be produced in the Russian Arctic. The huge polar fleet also supported oil and gas development in Western Siberia by transporting heavy equipment to the region beginning in the late 1960s. From a political perspective, the year round presence of a fleet in Arctic waters was to many in the Soviet Union ample justification to assert sovereignty claims, such as "internal" or "historic" waters, for their coastal seas.

The largest polar icebreakers generally have had a good operating record, although the disposal of radioactive waste was always a vexing problem for the civilian managers of the fleet. The Lenin did suffer one serious accident in 1965. Details provided by recent scientific literature show that in February 1965 during repair of her steam generating plant, operator error caused one reactor with spent fuel (of three aboard) to be left without cooling water. The ship sustained significant damage and in August 1967 the entire reactor compartment with the steam generating plant was dumped through the bottom of the ship to the seabed off Novaya Zemlya. The Lenin was fitted with a new steam plant and two improved reactors and continued to operate along the Northern Sea Route until decommissioned in 1989. During 1997 and 1998, the ship was moored alongside the Atomflot icebreaker facility outside Murmansk awaiting an opportunity to serve as a floating maritime museum.

Today, Russia's difficult financial situation has necessitated an unusual combination of roles for the former Soviet polar icebreaker fleet. All ships spend part of the year escorting shipping in the Russian Arctic, but several have been chartered for scientific research, usually organized as joint ventures with foreign partners. Selected ships are employed in a novel and unanticipated trade as polar tour ships on adventure voyages to both ends of the globe. As noted in Proceedings , tourist voyages to the North Pole by nuclear icebreaker have become almost routine. Including the first tourist voyage by the Rossiya in 1990, there have been 20 transits to the Pole with paying passengers through the 1998 summer season. Western tour companies charter the icebreakers, providing much-needed hard currency to the Murmansk Shipping Company. Two non-nuclear ships—the Kapitan Dranitsyn (Murmansk Shipping Company) and the Kapitan Khlebnikov (Far Eastern Shipping Company)—also have been chartered for voyages to nearly all regions of the Arctic and Antarctic. They have sailed with tourists across the Northwest and Northeast Passages, and the Kapitan Khlebnikov even completed the first tourist ship circumnavigation of Antarctica from December 1996 through January 1997. Few could have envisioned such global voyaging by these costly, complex ships specially designed for operations in the Russian Arctic coastal seas.

Changing fortunes in the Russian North have dictated the decline of the polar fleet. Significantly lower federal funding in the 1990s compared to the Soviet era has been budgeted by Moscow for the Arctic. Former state shipping enterprises, such as Murmansk Shipping Company, have been privatized (although their major icebreakers remain state property), and they are struggling financially. Annual shipping along the Northern Sea Route has decreased from a peak of 6.6 million tons of cargo in 1987 to an estimated 2 million tons today. Table 1 data provide several fallouts of these severe constraints: the last diesel icebreaker was delivered in 1981 and the last new nuclear ship became operational in 1993; the Moskva class of five ships began retiring gradually without replacement during the late 1980s until the final ship went to the breakers in 1997; the average ages of the remaining nuclear and diesel icebreakers has increased to 12.4 and 20 years, respectively. In addition, a recent report calls for the Arktika , Sibir , and Yermak to be removed from service in 2000.

These fleet reductions without replacements, or without even a hint of capital investment for follow-on ships, signify the end of an extraordinary era in polar history. The motivations behind the huge investment of the Soviet state in this polar fleet, as with other such notable endeavors as the Soviet space program, are intriguing and subject to debate. The remarkable technological advances and operational successes of the Soviet and Russian polar icebreakers, however, are undeniable. Their legacy is the expertise with which to explore domestic and international strategies for future use of the waterways north of Russia.

Captain Brigham , a longtime contributor to Proceedings and the Naval Review , is at the Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom. He commanded the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Sea (WAGB-11) from 1993 to 1995.

 

Arm the EA-6B with Standoff Weapons

By Lieutenant David Samara, U.S. Navy and Lieutenant Commander Ian Anderson, U.S. Navy

Since the end of Operation Desert Storm early in 1991, the threats to our national security interests have diminished in size but their increased scope and depth appear to have gone unnoticed by those holding the budgetary purse strings. Alter a Desert Storm scenario (several weeks of tactical aircraft conducting battlefield preparation and air support missions) to one of a holding action against an enemy's forces attacking rather than defending, and the situation becomes very challenging for any modern air force—even a "911" force of one or two of today's carrier air wings with the latest generation of air-launched weapons.

Declining defense budgets have swung the Scheduled Depot-Level Maintenance funding pendulum into the red, slowing the induction rate and causing S-3B Viking sea control, F/A- 18 Hornet strike-- fighter, and EA-6B tactical electronic warfare aircraft to start collecting dust waiting their turn. As a result, fleet aircraft are operating at higher utilization rates to meet commitments. Funds redirected to help restore the depot program will not relieve for several years the painful consequences of past budget decisions.

A 1997 reevaluation of aircraft fatigue life revealed that many of the Navy's tactical jets were flying toward the end of their service lives much faster than originally estimated, even with administrative maneuvering limits imposed for training missions. Yet accelerated development of the Joint Strike Fighter provides for fleet introduction no sooner than ten years from today, and budget reductions have decreased the numbers of F/A-18E/Fs (the only new aircraft the Navy is buying over this period) from 1,000 to 548.

Nevertheless, the Chief of Naval Operations proposed moving up funding by several years for CVN-77, the Navy's new nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. In stark terms, it is a decision to save the carrier now: accept fewer, older jets on our carrier decks; and hope for new production aircraft at a later date.

Consequently, the number of strike fighters per flight deck has dwindled from the desired 50 to roughly 36 to 40 (three 8- to 10-plane F/A- 18 squadrons and one 10- to 12-plane F-14 squadron). For the next ten years, with fewer strike fighters and budgets unable to provide for new production, the number of weapons pylons per carrier air wing will continue to erode slowly, absent a dramatic turnaround in defense spending.

Not all is doom and gloom. A new generation of smart weapons, such as the AGM- 154A/B/C Joint Stand Off Weapon (JSOW) and the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), use embedded inertial navigation and the Global Positioning System to achieve circular-error-probable accuracy of 10 to 15 meters in any weather. They fill a middle ground between unguided ordnance and precision weapons, such as laser-guided bombs and Maverick missiles; fewer should achieve the same level of damage as many more of their dumb cousins. Precision weapons, such as the Standoff Land Attack Missile-Expanded Response (SLAM[ER]), offer true standoff capability, allowing launch aircraft to remain outside the heart of most air defenses.

Such weapons, however, may not be able to offset the shrinking flight-deck multiple—which will have a greater negative impact on the number of aimpoints that can be attacked per deck cycle.

Given such an era of reduced strike assets, every airframe must contribute. Fitting the proved, strike-capable EA-6B with standoff weapons would increase the combat power of the carrier air wing and provide the nation's primary player in the air-defense suppression role with a hard kill capability allowing it to improve support to the battle group in any scenario by increasing the number of aimpoints per strike-carrier deck cycle

The Block 89A EA-6B Prowler is ready for a standoff weapon capability. With a no-frills stores management system capable of supporting both the existing AGM-88 High-speed AntiRadiation Missile (HARM) and the AGM-154A/B JSOW family, the Prowler would increase exponentially its mission flexibility and value. Commanders would be able to take advantage of every available combat airframe capable of bringing firepower to bear on the enemy, and all available air crews still will be contributing to the war effort on day five of the conflict.

Make no mistake. The Prowler's primary mission remains the suppression of enemy air defenses, and the aircraft would retain its status as the sole tactical electronic combat platform in the world, reigning as the most effective employer of the HARM for that mission. Equipping the EA-6B with the ability to employ accurate or precision stand-off weapons, such as JSOW and SLAM-ER, will allow commanders to extract the utmost from their primary defense-suppression asset without needlessly endangering it or distracting it from its primary mission.

But even armed with HARMs, the aircraft remains incapable of what has come to be called "Lethal Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses"—permanently removing an air defense threat. Air wing F/A-18s or F-14s must complement EA-6Bs in the suppression role by providing the hard-kill ordnance required to silence a threat permanently, diverting precious strike fighters from their optimal use as offensive strike platforms. Armed with accurate or precision standoff weapons, the EA-6B could pre-emptively or reactively launch JSOW-A/Bs from its suppression operating area to target and destroy critical air defense nodes or missile sites, while maintaining optimum positioning for conducting radar and communications, jamming operations in support of strike-fighter missions.

This would free more strike fighters to attack the enemy's ability to make war. An added bonus would come as the command-and-control load slackens because of the cumulative effects of combat and lethal suppression of the enemy's air defense network. With fewer air defense nodes to target, Prowlers could employ JSOWs to support strike missions while continuing to provide electronic combat support commensurate with the threat.

Massive amounts of firepower delivered from large numbers of aircraft weapons stations would be necessary to combat the equally massive attacking enemy ground forces should Iraq or Iran again covet a neighbor's territory. Both could be expected to advance rapidly, establishing both mobile and fixed air defenses along the way. In such scenarios, a single aircraft carrier may be the only force within effective striking distance on day one. This single floating airfield might be required to slow the tide of the enemy advance for several days at the beginning of the air campaign until more air forces could establish a base from which to augment the carrier air wing.

In those first few days, F/A-18s and F-14s will be very busy launching accurate and precision weapons on close air support and battlefield air interdiction missions; they won't have time to conduct a thorough roll-back of the enemy's air defenses. Here EA-6Bs, reinforced by ES-3s or EP-3s for battlefield electronic surveillance and (initially) a handful of strike fighters, could conduct a hard-kill campaign with a mix of HARMs, standoff weapons, and jamming. Later in the air campaign, after all the major electronic combat and suppression missions have been accomplished, the EA-6Bs could tailor their combined stores load of ALQ-99 jamming pods, HARMs, and JSOWs to support mop-up operations against offensive systems or non-radiating mobile air defenses. EA-6Bs can loiter for long periods near forward positions to provide either electronic or hard-kill support. Once airborne, the JSOW-equipped Prowler will proceed to its operating area, acquire enemy area targets such as command-- and-control-warfare nodes and enemy air-defense sites, send the autonomous weapons on their way, then maintain an electronic combat orbit and neutralize other air defenses, using on-board jamming and HARMs.

Block 89A EA-6Bs are fitted with nearly all of the elements required for JSOW. Like the F/A-18 and F-14D, the EA-6B has redundant Military Standard1553 data busses linking navigation, mission computers, stores management system, and weapon stations. As with every airframe that employs JSOW, the -1760 data bus modification is required to allow the captive JSOW to receive position "truth data" from the EA-6B's digital navigation suite prior to launch. Only 12 of the EA-6B's 32 redundant-1553 serial ports are presently in use; Prowlers have room for growth.

The Block 89A aircraft navigation suite incorporates a state-of-the-art ring laser gyro inertial navigation system that is fully integrated with Global Positioning System (GPS) precision navigation, giving the aircraft the required quality of targeting data to support JSOW; only an enhanced stores management system is required to bridge the gap between weapon and aircraft. Fleet EA-6Bs communicate targeting data to the HARM missile through the HARM control panel, a rudimentary stores management system. Using off-the-shelf technology, the Prowler could be fitted with a better system that would allow its mission computer to communicate with HARM and the new generation of accurate weapons via the control display navigation unit interface panel. The Tactical EA-6B Mission Planning System (TEAMS) software could be upgraded easily to allow sophisticated pre-mission planning of JSOW missions for download into the EA-6B's mission computer system. Stores carriage and separation should pose no problem for this A-6 derived airframe.

The JSOW, with its submunition warhead, is an ideal weapon for lethal suppression, and is capable of achieving a satisfactory hard kill against a variety of radar and surface-to-air missile sites. Given an enemy radar that posed a problem for ingressing strikers but made for a poor jamming or HARM target, a JSOW-armed Prowler could remove it from the picture rather than divert strike fighters from offensive tasking. The weapon would round out the Prowler's suppression capabilities against passive-- guided and reduced-emissions air defense systems. When targeting highly mobile or pop-up air defense threats, high-endurance reconnaissance assets such as unmanned aerial vehicles could locate mobile or relocated surface-to-air missile sites, command-and-control nodes, and operations centers, then pass mensurated GPS coordinates to the Prowler crews who could attack either solo or in conjunction with other aircraft. An EA-6B carrying a combination of HARM, JSOW, and jamming pods could conduct stand-alone command-and-control warfare on critical enemy sites.

The addition of precision standoff weapons such as JSOW-C or SLAM-ER would be the next logical enhancement for the upcoming Improved Capability (ICAP) III Prowler, the final evolution of the EA-6B weapons system due early in the next century. ICAP III Prowlers could plan and conduct their own self contained precision standoff strikes. By incorporating color liquid crystal flat plate displays in the aft cockpit, either or both electronic countermeasures officers (ECMOs) would view the weapons' data-linked imaging infrared seeker in real time and guide each weapon to its respective target. Equipped with two AWW-13 data link pods, two jamming pods, and one external fuel tank, an ICAP III Prowler could provide total mission support for several waves of F/A-18s on a standoff-weapons strike. After weapons release, the strike-fighter crews could maintain heads-up situational awareness on the egress and head back to the ship for more ordnance, leaving the Prowler to provide terminal SLAM-ER or JSOW-C weapons guidance. During this same mission, electronic surveillance or electronic attack operations could be conducted simultaneously against enemy air defenses for other strike elements on adjacent missions. Because ECMOs have full control over the jamming frequency spectrum, deconflictions between the data link pod transmission and the aircraft's jamming would be resolved in mission planning and massaged real-time.

There is no place on today's flight decks for a single-mission aircraft—and the EA-6B is no exception. Evolving air-defense suppression tactical doctrine increasingly favors greater levels of hard-- kill over soft-kill capabilities. Only the EA-6B Prowler and its potential replacement, the F/A-I 8G command-and-control warfare variant of the Super Hornet, have the potential to fulfill these mission needs.

Today's Prowlers are relatively inflexible tactical platforms that become increasingly idle as an air campaign progresses. A simple upgrade would allow the Prowlers to continue to make substantial contributions to the air campaign. The technology is available; we should seize the opportunity.

Lieutenant Samara is a EA-6B Electronic Countermeasures Officer assigned to VAQ-128. He served previously with VAQ-141. Lieutenant Commander Anderson , a graduate of the U.S. Navy Fighter Weapons School, is the VAQ-128 Operations Officer. Prior to transitioning to the EA-6B, he was an F-14 Radar Intercept Officer.

 

Building Bridges in Haiti

By Captain D. C. Covey, Medical Corps, U.S. Navy

Born of a successful slave insurrection, a rarity in history, Haiti's independence from France in 1804 marked the beginning of a long road of rebellion, intervention, and change for the world's first black republic. During its almost two centuries of sovereignty, Haiti has experienced nearly 200 revolutions, coups, insurrections, and civil wars.

The United States has been involved extensively in Haitian affairs over the years. U.S. Marines occupied Haiti from 1915 to 1934, and U.S. troops have been stationed in Haiti since they restored ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to power in September 1994. In spite of this most recent intervention, Haiti remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere; it has few natural resources, suffers persistent political instability, and the government depends on foreign aid for a large portion of its budget. Political infighting has blocked the sweeping economic reforms needed to secure additional international aid, prompting the resignation of Haiti's prime minister in 1997.

Against this backdrop, U.S. force levels have decreased from approximately 20,000 in 1994 to about 500 today. Their continued presence promotes a sense of order and stability while other aspects of Haitian affairs are in seeming turmoil. U.S. forces are today engaged in a number of civil and humanitarian projects to help the Haitian people, both directly and indirectly, by contributing to the country's infrastructure. The Commander, U.S. Support Group Haiti, with a joint staff of about 100 personnel, conducts civil military operations and commands security-contingency forces and those deployed units conducting humanitarian or civic assistance projects. Overall objectives include achieving heightened readiness of U.S. armed forces while helping to strengthen Haiti's infrastructure.

Recent engineering projects have included construction of the $4.4 million Route La Saline/Bon Repos, a 5.5-mile-long road with a 200-footlong bridge over the Grise River that provides a much-needed bypass from Route Nationale 1, the congested main highway north of Port-au-Prince, into the commercial port area. The World Bank financed the project, and Seabees from Naval Mobile Construction Battalions 4 and 74 and Marines of the 8th Engineer Support Battalion built it. This large-scale project afforded the units opportunities to develop their combat engineering skills while making a major contribution to Haiti's transportation system. Other projects included building an elementary school ( Ecole Cazeau ) from the ground up, making major renovations to 16 other schools, and drilling 20 wells to provide drinking water to hundreds of Haitians. A formal port-call program, the collective effort of the support group and crews of visiting U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard ships, has resulted in the renovation of 19 Haitian schools. As part of Operation Starfish, a humanitarian civic effort launched in 1997, support group personnel volunteer their time on weekends to help nearby Haitian communities meet pressing needs. One such effort involved major repairs to the Foundation des Soeurs Redemptices de Nazaraeth , a school and orphanage for 100 children. Another support-group effort, Nous Zanmi (We're Friends), has resulted in the collection and distribution of more than 30,000 pounds of much needed items to schools, orphanages, and other organizations.

The support group's Medical Task Force provides medical support to both U.S. and U.N. personnel and humanitarian care for the Haitian people. Medical teams became an important advance element of a larger U.S. presence—sometimes arriving before the civil engineering teams—to provide medical care and foster good will prior to the inevitable disruptions of heavy construction. The Medical Task Force increased its visibility in Port-au-Prince and the surrounding countryside by increasing the scope and frequency of on-site community medical care and by establishing wide-ranging vaccination programs. Such services are sorely needed among Haiti's people, most of whom live in abject poverty. As testimony to the popularity of these programs, many Haitians travel great distances to be treated by the Americans. During one recent six-month period, support group personnel carried out 203 separate medical missions that provided treatment to more than 23,000 Haitians in the Port-au-Prince and Cul-de-Sac regions.

The current risk to military personnel in Haiti is not from an organized army or militia, but from political groups opposed to U.S. involvement, and from gang or random violence. In recognition of the potential for increased unrest, contingency readiness exercises lasting seven to ten days are conducted periodically to validate existing plans to reinforce or retrograde U.S. forces should the situation deteriorate. As part of the exercises, U.S.-based forces deploy rapidly to Haiti to exercise their contingency plans, augment support group security forces, and conduct unit training amidst real-world security considerations in a designated imminent-danger area.

Although peacekeeping troops departed Haiti with the expiration of the U.N. mandate, President Bill Clinton has announced that U.S. military personnel will remain in Haiti for an indefinite period. In an effort to colocate military operations, enhance security, and return real estate to the Haitians, U.S. forces in Port-au-Prince may be vacate Camp Kinzer in the future and consolidate their base at nearby Camp Fairwinds. Plans are to continue to carry out both humanitarian and civic assistance projects that not only provide exceptional training for U.S. military personnel, but help many Haitians who are in great need.

With an annual per capita income of only $270, a population of 7.2 million that is growing faster than the economy, and a fragile democracy beset with difficulties, the near-term prospects for bettering markedly the lives of most Haitians remain guarded. In spite of these problems, the joint service personnel of U.S. Support Group-Haiti continue to provide a sense of constancy, cooperation, and accomplishment that has enhanced the stature of the United States.

Captain Covey is stationed at Naval Hospital, Bremerton, Washington. He served in Haiti during 1997 as Medical Officer (J-7) on the staff of Commander, U.S. Support Group, Haiti, and as Executive Officer of Fleet Hospital FIVE.

 

Amphibious Night Operations Challenge Technology

By Ted B. Markley

Considerable advantage can be realized by conducting amphibious operations at night. Doing so, however, introduces additional difficulties to what many consider the most challenging operation in warfare.

Amphibious operations are complex, not least because the littorals of the world are economical, cultural, and environmental areas of transition and thus very dynamic. In addition, they are conducted frequently as joint operations, and occasionally involve foreign allies, each of which adds additional complexity. To assure a reasonable expectation of success, the planning for such operations must be meticulous, fully integrated, and comprehensive.

Military forces worldwide approach night operations as a way to gain an advantage over an adversary. The obvious advantage stems from visual concealment, but successful night operations require dominance of the electromagnetic spectrum. Specifically, we are concerned with the visual response of the human eye, i.e., the visible portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Factors affecting vision for night operations can be broken down into three categories:

  • Unaided. The human eye with perhaps some assistance from regular optical devices such as binoculars and telescopes. Training is critical. Trained operators who are able to exploit the capabilities of the human eye to see in darkness or dim light are consistently superior night fighters.
  • Aided. The most rudimentary form of assistance is illumination. It can be as simple as a flashlight or as sophisticated as a pyrotechnic that generates illumination outside the visible electromagnetic spectrum and can be seen only by using night vision devices. Other illumination devices include beacons, chemical lights, lasers, and flares. The U.S. Navy has used various illuminating devices for most of its history. Today, the preferred method of aided vision for night operations are night vision (or electro-optic) devices such as image intensifiers, thermal imagers, and lasers.
  • Countermeasures. These include detection, protection, deception and destruction of an adversary's night-vision or electro-optic devices. The group includes laser-warning devices, laser-protection devices, night-vision detectors and optical augmentation, concealment from and destruction of night-vision devices.

One of the significant problems encountered in night operations is the compatibility of the illumination and the various night-vision devices, which is related to understanding and managing the electro-magnetic spectrum. There are three fundamental compatibility issues:

  • First is the compatibility of image intensifiers and thermal imagers. Since image intensifiers look at the image illuminated by available light and amplify that image while thermal systems operate on the heat variation, they see different things and are quite complementary. High-risk night missions should use both devices.
  • Second is the illumination compatibility problem. Figure 1 illustrates some of the incompatibility problems. All visible light is amplified by the device, so white light and most of the old night operations illuminators (red and amber lights) cause the device to "bloom," a common term for the condition experienced when a bright light source enters the field of view of the night-vision device. In this case, the night-vision device's bright source protection feature activates and limits the brightness of the image to the viewer. This is also known as shutting-down or washout. If there is too much or the wrong kind (wave lengths) of illumination, it will degrade the operation of the image intensifier.
  • Finally, there is a generation gap. Generation II (Gen II) night-vision devices provide more amplification of the violet-blue portion of the spectrum. In contrast, Gen III devices amplify the orange-red (and higher) portion of the spectrum more intensely. This creates problems, for example, when a ship attempts to illuminate for night operations. The most widely used illuminator color for Gen III devices is blue, a color that degrades Gen II performance because of over-amplification. Thus, Gen II and Gen III devices should never be combined in the same operation. This type of compatibility issue may occur any time that image-intensification devices with different spectral responses are mixed indiscriminately in the same operation.

Night operations on board ship require illumination and device compatibility. This is particularly true for aircraft and landing-craft operations. Today, only critical members of the crew supporting air operations are equipped with night-vision goggles (NVG). The remainder of the personnel remain unaided, thus some level of light must be maintained on the flight deck for safety. Most flight operations are conducted with blue flight deck lights to be compatible with the pilot's NVGs and ship's crew working without night-vision devices.

Device compatibility in air operations is a major concern. The NVGs used by the Landing Safety Enlisted and Helicopter Control Officers must be of the same generation or have the same spectral response as those used by the pilots; all must be able to see the same things.

The most expensive compatibility concern is shipboard lighting. If night air operations are to be conducted safely, then the lights on the bridge, primary flight control, and the flight deck must be NVG-compatible. Stray discordant light will degrade the abilities of all NVG equipped operators. Furthermore, proper lighting to support night operations must be considered in designing ships intended to conduct night operations.

Landing craft have many of the same compatibility problems as aircraft. Tests on board the USS Wasp (LHD-1) showed that several modifications will be necessary if landing craft are to operate in a darkened or NVG-compatible well deck:

  • The amber well-deck lighting will have to be replaced with blue light filters similar to lights on the flight deck (or the well deck darkened completely).
  • Ramp masters, safety observers, and other crew members requiring night vision will have to be equipped with night-vision goggles. Preferably, the NVGs should be incorporated with both cranial and eye protection equipment as well as some type of short-range radio communication gear and ear protection.
  • Lights in the landing craft control and staging area in the well deck will have to be altered to be NVG compatible (or turned off).
  • Key areas in the well deck—guidelines and stop points—should be illuminated or marked with NVG compatible lights.

The transit to the beach . Once a landing craft leaves the well deck for the run to a dark beach, several new requirements arise that actually are variations on old themes. If the coxswain is to operate with NVGs, then the instrumentation and craft lighting must be NVG compatible or turned off. (Most aircraft piloted by NVG-equipped personnel are already NVG-compatible.)

Transcending the compatibility issue, situational awareness on board the parent ship(s) and the landing craft could be improved in two areas. First, using a shipboard night vision electro-optic system would make it easier to track landing craft, observe the beach, and exercise command and control. The second improvement would be to place coded infrared emitters on the landing craft. If a thermal device is being used, then some form of thermal signal generator or thermal tape could be used to identify various landing craft. This would improve command and control and combat identification (identification friend or foe [IFF]) and assist in avoiding fratricide. In addition, the emitters would help the landing craft identify each other and aid in maintaining formation and executing required maneuvers.

Approaching the beach . For the landing craft to make a successful approach the beach, they must have an approach lane marked to avoid natural and manmade obstacles and mines. Beacons marking the lane could be designed easily to emit infrared or light visible only to night-vision devices, thus denying visual information to the defenders.

While approaching the beach, it would be desirable to know if the adversary had a night-vision capability. This could be answered by a laser-based interrogator (also known as optical augmentation), which sends out a laser pulse and determines if there is a night-vision device or any system with a focal plane in its path. If so, a laser pulse is sent out to destroy the adversary's night vision devices.

The landing craft also should be able to determine if they are being lased—day or night—and take protective measures, such as donning laser protective eye wear.

On the beach . When the landing craft are in or crossing the surf zone, illuminating the area with lighting invisible to the unaided human eye provides an invaluable advantage to the landing force for beaching and unloading of landing craft. This could be accomplished with static illuminators or infrared pyrotechnic illuminators. At the same time, interrogators, laser detection-protection, and communication-recognition devices should continue to be used. Meanwhile, any type of concealment, camouflage, cover, denial, or deception should be used to enhance the night operation.

Of course, if the beach is to be secured by force, there are a host of night-vision and electro-optic devices to provide fire control for minor caliber weapons and small arms. Such devices are the backbone of our night operations capability. Research since the beginning of such efforts has proven that night shooters usually are more accurate than day shooters.

Across the beach . The sea services have numerous equipment and lighting compatibility issues that apply after crossing the beach. Like most military operations, today's littoral night operations often are joint or involve coalitions. This requires that U.S. forces be compatible not only with each other but also with our current allies. Naval construction battalions provide a case in point. They are a Navy asset until they cross the beach, at which point they come under the control of the Marine Corps. In addition they have become increasingly popular as "combat engineers" for operations other than war, and are being deployed to hot spots worldwide. Thus the equipment, lighting, and night tactics must be compatible with all of the operators in the same area.

None of the technology discussed here is new. Most is available as commercial or government-off-the-shelf, or as non-developmental items. What is new is the identification of the need for a fully integrated and comprehensive approach to night amphibious operations. Management of the electro-magnetic spectrum is now required for one of the most difficult of military tasks: amphibious night operations.

Mr. Markley is an Analyst with the Night Vision/Electro-Optics Program at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division, Crane, Indiana.

 

 
 

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