MINWARA MINE WARFARE UPDATE
George Pollitt and Scott Truver
The Spring 2013 Mine Warfare Association (MINWARA) Conference normally held in Panama City, FL, was cancelled due to the sequestration travel restrictions, which had caused many planned speakers and other participants to cancel. In its place, on 23 May MINWARA convened a half-day Mine Warfare Update seminar at Lockheed Martin’s Crystal City facility in Arlington, VA. About 95 people participated, including many who had never attended MINWARA meetings before. In order of presentation: the N95 brief was delivered by CAPT(Sel) Aaron Peters (N952); VADM Michael Connor, COMSUBFOR, gave his perspectives on mine warfare as lead for the Undersea Warfare Domain; RDML(Sel) John Ailes briefed for PEO LCS; and Mr. Jerry Ferguson, Deputy Commander, spoke for the Naval Mine and Antisubmarine Warfare Command (NMAWC). The MIW Update was a hybrid in that two presentations were given live (Peters, Ailes) and two were given via VTCs (Connor, Fergusen).
CAPT(Sel) Peters presented the N95 brief.
Although overall N95 FY13 funding has been reduced by $398M, the mine warfare component (N95B/952) has been increased compared to FY12. In FY13, funding was added to the following MIW programs: AN/AQS-20, AN/AQS-24 (to add synthetic aperture sonar); Littoral Combat Ship/Unmanned Surface Vehicle (LCS USV); and the AN/SSQ-94 trainer. Funding has been reduced as a result of decisions regarding Organic Airborne and Surface Influence Sweep (OASIS), MH-60S towing, Airborne Mine Neutralization Systems (AMNS), and RDT&E for AN/AQS-20 and RMS. That said, funding for mine warfare looks to be slightly lower in FY14.
The USN MIW community clearly has a “champion” in CNO ADM Jonathan Greenert, who has been described as the “MIW CNO.” The challenge MIW faces is to keep legacy, in-service systems as capable as possible given available funding while transitioning to the MIW – MCM and mines – of the future.
Much of the recent activity in mine warfare revolved around urgent MCM capabilities provided to Commander Fifth Fleet (C5F). That includes the MK 18 MOD 2 UUV system, which is performing well in the C5F area of operations (AOR). There are six MCM-1 Class ships in the C5F AOR, which is more than last year. AFSB(I) PONCE was refurbished to serve as the C5F afloat forward support base for MCM, deploying in June 2012. The CF5F MCM-1 ships received High Frequency Broad Band (HFBB) upgrades to their AN/SQQ-32 sonars, and the AN/AQS-24 will receive a volume mine detection upgrade. SeaFox neutralizers have been acquired and sent to the Arabian Gulf. And, the Navy conducted two major International MCM exercises (IMCMEXs) within the last year: IMCMEX 12 in September 2012 with more than 30 nations participating; and IMCMEX 13 in May 2013 with more than 40 nations participating. A critical goal of these exercises was to enhance combined, multinational MCM capabilities – particularly C3 – against a common threat to all nations’ commercial and military interests.
MCM system availability has been up over the past several months. The first LCS MCM Package is due to be delivered around 2019, and three programs were eliminated: MH-60S helicopter tow; Rapid Airborne Mine Clearance System (RAMICS); and OASIS. The Navy’s future MCM vision includes:
- Voice activated computers for use on rigid-hull inflatable boats (RHIBs)
- Air dropped UUVs
- Improved post-mission analysis (PMA) and system turn-around times
- Improved interoperability with the Allies
- Reductions in false alarm density for a variety of systems
- Knifefish to enable buried mine detection for the LCS
- Using current assets for continental U.S. (CONUS) defense
- MCM ops from a future Mobile Landing Platform (MLP)
There is renewed interest in offensive mining, with the final report of the Mining AOA due in June 2013. In the meantime, improvements have been made to the MK67 SLMMs and the aircraft-deployed MK62/63 Quickstrikes. For example, the addition of a “wing kit” and guidance system for the M65 Quickstrike mine will allow standoff, high-precision/accurate mining.
COMSUBFOR/UNDERSEA WARFARE DOMAIN
VADM Mike Connor gave his views of Mine Warfare as part of newly established Undersea Warfare Domain. He said he started to flesh out what the USW domain “was” by attempting to address USW command and control issues, but changed his approach to address the Fleet-centric Community of Interest, and clearly NMAWC is the hub for the MIW component of the USWD efforts.
In the job only a few months, here are some of his first impressions regarding mine warfare:
- The primary platforms are the MCM 1 Class ships and the MH-53E helicopters.
- The need for MCM for the Strait of Hormuz has led to an improvement in reliability and operational availability.
- 24 LCSs will be allotted to MCM, but these ships have no organic minehunting sonars and therefore they cannot enter the minefields.
- The MH-60S helicopters cannot tow
- MCM systems (e.g., OASIS). MCM payloads are evolving faster than the platforms that carry them, thus underscoring the CNO’s emphasis on payloads over platforms in future systems.
- LCS systems were originally developed as Organic MCM systems and the MCM program of record includes old technology and promising new technology takes a long time to get to the fleet, e.g., the RMS has been in development a long time
- PMA time is roughly equal to search time and is labor-intensive, thus PMA constrains MCM effectiveness
- The MK 18 MOD 2 UUV has been carried two to a RHIB, which is a possible payload for the LCS. [The Naval Oceanographic Mine Warfare Center (NOMWC) has briefed its role in the MK 18 program to VADM Connor.]
VADM Connor believes that the future for offensive mining is bright and has strong CNO support. He noted that offensive mining provides asymmetric effects [defensive mining can be equally as important, the same weapon can be deployed offensively or defensively], as it takes a lot more effort to clear mines than to lay them. We need to make our potential adversaries “lose sleep” worrying about how we might use mines in anti-access/area-denial operations against them.
Mines are currently laid by submarines and aircraft, but the SLMM is getting old and only a small number remain in service. Looking to the future, the modular LDUUV could be configured to lay mines, and SUBFOR is looking at a future Modified Heavyweight Undersea Vehicle that would be a combination mine/torpedo.
VADM Connor talked about MIW personnel/platform/partnership issues. We need to keep MIW talent within the community. It’s a complex, hard warfare area, and skilled and experienced people are the foundation for success. Because the payloads keep changing, we need to stay abreast of developments and decisions that affect our people. We need to remember that EOD is an important part of MCM, and internal Navy and external partnerships are needed for MCM. The nodes within the community are NMAWC and C5F, although C7F has unique requirements/demand. And, MCM is a good area for international cooperation.
[In the Q&A period, RADM John Pearson, USN (Ret.) and former COMINEWARCOM, made a point about needing to leverage our sunk cost in mine warfare. Whereas the sunk costs of MCM platforms are small relative to Navy TOA, they represent a very large fraction of the total MCM capability. VADM Connor commented that the Navy lost something when COMINEWARCOM was disestablished, and he stated that NMAWC was not the “right guy’ to carry the banner for mine warfare. Jeff Currer of JHU/APL asked about sharing data with the Allies, which was seconded by an exchange officer who said the exchange of information between the USN and its allies in IMCMEX was an issue. RDML Deb Loewer, USN (Ret.) and former COMINEWARCOM, said that improvements to the mining program are badly needed. VADM Connor agreed with all.]
RDML(Sel) Ailes, PMS 420, spoke for RDML Murdoch, PEO LCS. His “BLUF” was that the LCS/MCM Mission Packages (MPs) systems have the potential to revolutionize USN MCM. [In response to a subsequent question, he stated that he could see no application of the LCS as a mining platform.] Although it is unlikely that we will ever remove the man from the minefield, LCS MCM MPs will allow us to keep the ship out of the minefield.
But, he said improved reliability was needed for neutralization systems. In response to an urgent operational need, for example, the SeaFox system was procured and deployed to the C5F AOR.
He further explained the following LCS-related MCM topics:
- The AN/AQS-24 AMCM sonar will be fitted with iPUMA to provide a volume search capability
- Minehunting USVs are being developed for C5F and will tow the AN/AQS24
- Three LCS MCM packages have been delivered and testing is going well
- Three of four phases of the mission module development are complete
- The MH-60S helicopter will employ the ALMDS and AMNS
- There will be two RMS vehicles onboard each LCS to tow the AN/AQS-20
- The ALMDS must make multiple passes to reduce false alarms
- Algorithms are needed to help reduce false alarms
- The AN/AQS-20 can provide Electro-optical Identification (EOID) or sonar
- VTUAV will carry either EOIR or COBRA
- EOD divers will still be needed, as will the marine mammal systems until future systems (i.e., Knifefish) are in service
- The minehunting USV, called the MHU, will tow the AN/AQS-24 and has been demonstrated for C5F
He said all future MCM will be modular and gave the following list as critical elements of the Navy’s MCM posture:
He recognized the various challenges include the following:
- Launch and Recovery (L&R) from LCS
- Refueling (the RMS must be recovered to download data and refuel the vehicle)
- False alarms (all sensors)
- Vehicle endurance
- Data management, especially PM
With regard to mining, he noted that the Quickstrike MOD 4 is being developed.
He admitted that Sequestration was already affecting testing and fleet introduction schedules, but technically the Navy’s MCM MP program is doing well.
Jerry Ferguson, the NMAWC Deputy, gave the NMAWC perspective. He noted that the CNO’s Sailing Directions clearly identify MIW as a critical element in the “Warfighting is First!” tenet. He addressed the “who are we” question, noting that NMAWC assesses Force MIW capabilities against theater/AOR requirements. For example, the annual “State of MIW” report is a foundation document for addressing MIW requirements, current MIW capabilities, gaps, and ways to bridge the gaps: doctrine, CONOPS, TTPs, training and exercises, and new systems and platforms.
Regarding recent exercises, he noted that for IMCMEX 12, RDML Ken Perry, Vice NMAWC, led the MCM effort (RDML Perry is now Commander, SUBGROUP TWO), but for IMCMEX 13, the C5F CTF led the exercise. He noted that the Vice NMAWC position was vacant pending a review of organizational requirements.
His list of MIW challenges includes:
- False alarm densities
- Mine detection and classification in complex environments
- Image-based solutions to minehunting
- Reliance on sequential minehunting functions
And specific MIW needs include:
- Simplified MCM software
- Automated data exchange
- Automated planning
- Ability to clear in complex environments
- Neutralization UxVs
- Replaceable power units
- Cooperating UxVs
- Minelike contact marking
- Optics for identification
- Fusion for multiple sensors
- Common Operational Pictures (COPs)
- In-stride Detect to Engage (DTE)
- MCM and mining warfighting wholeness
With regard to VADM Connor’s comment about the USW domain, he suggested possibly aligning the Warfighting Centers of Excellence under the Domain Commanders.
Noting that the Vice NMAWC billet is vacant, and that the Vice NMAWC typically plays the MIW TF role, that raised the issue of the need for a COMINEWARCOM.