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Mine Warriors, Industry Plot New Directions

Navy NewsStand

Story Number: NNS070521-22
Release Date: 5/21/2007 4:45:00 PM

By Ed Mickley, Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command Public Affairs

PANAMA CITY, Fla. (NNS) -- More than 20 speakers from the military and defense industry added insight into development, advances and the overall status of mine warfare at the biannual Mine Warfare Conference held May 6-10 at the Marriot Bay Point Resort, just minutes from the Naval Surface Warfare Center in Panama City.

Billed as “Mine Warfare in Sea Shield: Heading Out in New Directions,” the conference attracted attendees that included naval enterprises, corporate entities, government subcontractors and think tank professionals seeking to open new avenues of research and development for mine countermeasures.

The four-day event -- hosted by Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command (NMAWC) based in San Diego, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City (NSWC PC), and the Mine Warfare Association -- was a call to answer the growing asymmetric threat found throughout the world today, noting any number of subversive threats peeking from the shadows at any given time.

“The concept is moving forward to develop the right tools for the right mission at the right time,” said Rear Adm. J.J. Waickwicz, Commander NMAWC. “Our focus is on getting results.”

The research that began in 1945 and has progressed through the years at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, has now moved into high gear, according to retired Adm. Chuck Horne.

“Mine Warfare is integral to any Naval campaign’s success, it needs to move full speed ahead,” Horne said.

At the evening banquet opening the conference, Adm. John Nathman, Commander, U.S Fleet forces Command, emphasized the need for projecting power along with ensuring access for our ships, our strategic partners and our Marines, when necessary. Protecting the freedom of the sea lanes from individuals or groups that endanger our mission is where we need to focus our efforts. Mine warfare is an important tangent in regard to this mission.

“Mine Warfare is an important part, it makes sense -- we need to access our battlespace when necessary,” Nathman said. “Mine Warfare gives us the access to deliver power when needed.”

Waickwicz, building upon success in anti-submarine warfare, is developing new programs to review the programmatic history of mine warfare.

His emphasis is on adding a global concept of operations as well as an improvement program to the mine warefare (MIW) force, thereby directing taxpayer dollars toward the most effective research available.

“We are making sure the process is open, inclusive and data-driven,” Waickwicz stated.

Asked about different technologies, his reply is that various contractors are making tremendous strides in countermeasure technologies, however, “we need to ensure that the money being spent is the right answer at the right amount.”

“We can throw money at problems, but typically, that’s never the right answer,” he said. ”We have some of the brightest mine warfare people looking at potential solutions.”

With the Mine Warfare Improvement Program, a concept borrowed from the Anti-Submarine Warfare Command, resource sponsors, Naval enterprises and working groups research different aspects of mine warfare and countermeasure capabilities, capacities, and performance gaps to develop answers to the asymmetric problem.

“Developing an Integrated Priority Capabilities List (IPCL) is the first step to accomplishing the goal of moving the Mine Warfare Concept of Operations to a global concept,” said Rear Adm. John N. Christenson, Vice Commander NMAWC. “There are questions being addressed -- capabilities and gaps identified so we can put dollars where they will do the best job.”

Accordingly, topics presented included discussions about requirements and priorities, the littoral combat ship (LCS) and the MIW package, port security, and surface MCM readiness.

Industry representatives and contractors displayed potential solutions to the growing and diverse mine threat—answers, perhaps, to fill the capability gaps.

New tools and systems designed to hunt, sweep or incapacitate mines aboard dedicated or organic platforms include ALMDS (air borne laser mine detection system), RAMICS (rapid airborne mine clearance system), Underwater Unmanned Vehicles that utilize side scan sonar or detonation tools, RMS (remote mine hunting system), and numerous other advanced ideas.

In a futuristic scenario 10 years hence, Rear Adm. Jack Hines, Deputy Commander U.S. 3rd Fleet, portrayed the advancements, effect and necessity of mine countermeasures providing needed access and projecting Naval power as noted by Nathman.

“Technological improvements and solutions will allow the maritime combat commander to have in situ, up-to-date information to make intelligent decisions,” Hines stated. “Organic mine warfare systems empower the strike groups with capabilities to gain timely access.”

“There is work yet to be completed,” Hines added. “However, we’re making tremendous strides in developing intelligence gathering methods, providing a data-driven evaluation of the battle space.”

“We need to work with industry partners to develop the road ahead to remotely detect, neutralize and eradicate mines in the battle space,” he added. “This will remove the sailor from the mine field.”

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