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Offshore Platform Provides Venue To Test New Technologies
OPSTAR Program Overview


Brendan Applegate

Brian Hill

A U.S. Navy MH-60S Knighthawk inserts a federal assault force aboard an offshore oil platform during the OPSTAR 2013 operational response exercise.
The Offshore Platform Security Threat Awareness and Response Program (OPSTAR 2013) was an integrated series of training, field experiments, and exercise events planned and conducted by the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Asymmetric Warfare. It was conducted to explore the unique issues within homeland security, homeland defense, emergency response and emergency management presented by safety and security threats to offshore oil and gas platforms. In addition, the program provided an operationally relevant venue for the research and field experimentation of developing and transitional technologies related to maritime domain awareness.

The training and exercise environments established during OPSTAR 2013 provided more than 350 personnel from 70 local, state and federal government agencies, as well as private sector organization participants, with unique opportunities to demonstrate and evaluate plans, systems, concepts of employment, and tactics, techniques and procedures. Through the use of various offshore platforms off the coast of Southern California, scalable observations, recommendations and best practices can be applied to other domestic and international platforms with a comprehensive government and industry effect.

The OPSTAR 2013 program was intended as the first phase of a sustained program that combines regional 'whole of government' emergency response and management capabilities with focused private sector preparedness efforts to address threats to offshore platforms and other critical infrastructure in the maritime domain. These events were enabled by actionable simulated intelligence and facilitated by the use of developing information gathering and fusion technologies. These technologies were used to collect information in real time, share it across a geographically dispersed response force, and leverage it to support effective and efficient decision making at the tactical and operational levels.

OPSTAR 2013 events were conducted in October and November of 2013 and consisted of the following activities: offshore platform familiarization visits for local law enforcement and federal emergency response and management agencies based in Los Angeles, Ventura and Santa Barbara counties in California; field tests with MK 6 Mod 3 Marine Mammal System (U.S. Navy Dolphins) to establish a surface and subsurface security perimeter at an offshore oil platform; field tests with the HGH Infrared Systems (Cambridge, Massachusetts) Spynel-S Wide Area Surveillance System to conduct passive thermal detection and tracking on an offshore oil platform; field tests with Ubiquiti (San Jose, California) airMax and airFiber point-to-point radios to establish a distributed wireless network between Naval Base Ventura County—Point Mugu, Port of Hueneme—and various offshore oil platforms to share real-time actionable intelligence and evaluate maritime domain awareness capabilities; field tests with the RQ-20A Puma All Environment unmanned aircraft system to evaluate persistent maritime surveillance on an offshore oil platform for tactical and safety considerations; simultaneous operational response exercises at offshore oil platforms located in two different counties, demonstrating the first full-mission profile of short-notice maritime response conducted by federal, state and local agencies to a platform security incident; and activation drills at Santa Barbara and Ventura County Emergency Operations Centers to demonstrate support to operational response and anticipation of secondary incident at an offshore oil platform.

In addition to achieving these objectives, the OPSTAR 2013 program highlighted a number of major considerations that are significant to the ability of the public and private sector to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from a major safety or security incident aboard an offshore platform.

As demonstrated during the OPSTAR 2013 program, safety and security of offshore platforms is most effectively addressed through the application of a regional solution. No single agency or jurisdiction currently maintains the capability, capacity or resources necessary to prevent, prepare for, respond to and recover from an armed takeover of an offshore facility. Rather, collaboration with regional partners at the local, state and federal levels ensures that an effective and safe response capability is maintained.

Most current all-hazard response plans are inadequate to address the safety and security threats to offshore platforms. While several strategic plans exist to identify frameworks and guidelines for command and control (e.g., Maritime Operational Threat Response, National Response Framework, National Incident Management System), they do not specifically operationalize response architecture, implement and sustain coordinated training programs, and integrate planning and resource coordination efforts. To continue this article please click here.

Brendan Applegate is the deputy director for planning at the Naval Postgraduate School Center for Asymmetric Warfare. He can be reached at bjappleg@nps.edu.

Brian Hill is the lead for asymmetric warfare at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme Division. He can be reached at brian.l.hill@navy.mil.

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