Home | Contact ST  
Follow ST

Review&Forecast—January 2010 Issue

Naval Oceanography And Information Dominance

By RAdm. David W. Titley
Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy
U.S. Navy

There is a growing recognition within the U.S. Navy that information is evolving from a supporting function to a main battery of 21st century American sea power. In response, the chief of naval operations (CNO) this year reorganized his staff around the creation of an Information Dominance Directorate. As part of this initiative, naval oceanography is joining other information-centric capabilities—including intelligence, information technology, information warfare and the space cadre—in what the CNO has designated as the Information Dominance Corps.

Environmental data collection and processing, long a staple of naval oceanography, is a key contributor to decision superiority. For the naval oceanography community, raw data are turned into actionable information using a concept known as 'Battlespace on Demand,' a four-tiered construct that begins with the collection of environmental data from an array of remote and in-theater sensors. At the second tier, these data are used to characterize and predict the environment using two supercomputing centers and trained specialists. The third tier is translating the predicted environment into fleet and joint force war-fighting impacts. At the final tier, this information facilitates decision superiority by informing options, courses of action, sensor employment, asset allocation and timing, and the quantification of risk based on environmental considerations.

Sensing Technology
Information dominance depends on cutting-edge technology, and the naval oceanography community continues to work with national laboratories, research institutions and universities, and the commercial technology community to ensure we maintain that edge.

The use of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) for monitoring the marine environment is a subject of continuing interest and investment. This year, the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command awarded a contract to Teledyne Brown Engineering Inc. (Huntsville, Alabama) to design the littoral battlespace sensing glider (LBS-G). The contract could deliver up to 150 Slocum gliders between fiscal year (FY) 2011 and FY 2015 if all options are exercised. These autonomously operated vehicles are configured to carry an array of sensors for collecting environmental data.

The command also released a University of Washington Seaglider from the icebreaker U.S. Coast Guard cutter Healy (WAGB-20) while operating in the Chukchi Sea. Data from the glider will improve the performance and aid in the evaluation of oceanographic computer models for the Arctic.

The Naval Oceanographic Office recently took delivery of a Hydroid Inc. (Pocasset, Massachusetts) REMUS 600 AUV to apply multibeam technology to accurate bottom mapping. This system contains an inertial navigation system, a Doppler-aided bottom velocity sonar and acoustic transponder position updates that will greatly improve vehicle positioning capabilities.

The oceanographer of the Navy is also investing in a modified version of the T-AGS oceangoing military survey vessel, T-AGS 66, which will include a moon pool for the deployment and retrieval of unmanned vehicles.

Numerical Modeling
As technological advances increase sensing capabilities, there will be more data available to give us a higher resolution look at environmental parameters, but that also means we need greater capacity with numerical models to enhance our predictive capabilities.

This year, 1,300 separate products were produced to support combat forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than 40 ports were surveyed to provide a baseline for mine countermeasure efforts and on-demand weather modeling requirements increased by almost 10 percent.

A significant advancement this year was the integration of the Navy Data Assimilation System-Accelerated Representer into the Navy's global atmospheric model to incorporate time variability through previous model runs.

This allows the adaptation of observational data into the model run regardless of when the information was sampled and provides the ability to identify trends in the data and get a better initialization before the model starts its run.

One challenge of protecting against piracy attacks off the Horn of Africa is the vast amount of sea space that must be covered. To assist in this effort, the Piracy Performance Surface Model was developed to forecast probable concentrations of pirate activity based on weather, sea conditions and the latest analysis from the intelligence community.

Hosting the world's most extensive oceanographic database at the Department of Defense Supercomput-ing Resource Center in Stennis Space Center, Mississippi, the Naval Ocean-ographic Office has expanded its capabilities so that oceanographic numerical modeling is now on par with our ability to model the atmosphere at the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center in Monterey, California.

The Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model, jointly developed by the Navy and NOAA, is under final validation and on the verge of becoming operational. This model maintains the high horizontal resolution of the Navy's global ocean model, which takes into consideration the influence of atmospheric winds on the ocean surface, but also allows for variable vertical resolution to account for coastal, nearshore impacts on the ocean thermal structure.

This year has seen progress toward the pursuit of partnerships to enhance the capabilities of environmental modeling. The National Unified Operational Prediction Capability is an integration effort of Navy, U.S. Air Force and NOAA models to support unparalleled global modeling capability that can be adapted by individual agencies for specific applications.

Another partnership formed this year was between the Navy, DOER Marine (Alameda, California) and Google Inc. to integrate archived Navy ocean data into the new ocean segment of Google Earth. This will serve to help educate the public on the ocean and expand digital ocean data holdings, enhancing the Navy's ability to process, create and search oceanographic products in an effort to better maintain the safety of the fleet and enhance war-fighter effectiveness.

Climate Change
We will need these partnerships to help us develop models that will improve our understanding of the changing conditions in the Arctic and global climate change in general. The Department of Defense is aware of the challenges and opportunities climate change will present in the future.

Last May, the CNO created Task Force Climate Change to make recommendations to Navy leadership regarding policy, strategy, force structure and investments relating first to the changing Arctic and subsequently to global climate change. The oceanographer of the Navy was appointed to lead the task force, which includes representatives from various Navy and Coast Guard staffs, program offices and fleet commands, and NOAA.

To ensure the recommendations made by this task force are based on the most reliable science, an initial focus is working through partnerships to better assess and predict the timing, severity and types of impacts that climate change will have. For the Arctic, this will be accomplished by improving our current capability to predict, at both tactical and seasonal scales, sea ice extent, concentration, geographical location and thickness. This may be one of the most challenging forecast problems we have undertaken, as it requires a truly integrated air-ocean-land-ice modeling system spanning both weather and climate continuums.

We will depend on our partnerships within the marine technology sector to help us develop innovative sensing capabilities for gathering environmental data, produce platforms and sensors capable of withstanding harsh Arctic conditions, create communications systems that are reliable in the high latitudes and assist in the construction of shore-based infrastructure investments to support safe Arctic operations.

The challenges are significant, but the opportunities are even greater. Our partnerships will ensure the U.S. Navy is ready for any emerging mission requirements.

-back to top-

-back to to Features Index-

Sea Technology is read worldwide in more than 110 countries by management, engineers, scientists and technical personnel working in industry, government and educational research institutions. Readers are involved with oceanographic research, fisheries management, offshore oil and gas exploration and production, undersea defense including antisubmarine warfare, ocean mining and commercial diving.