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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Navy Team a World Leader in Network-Controlled Maritime Nuclear Radiological Detection

Navy News Service

Story Number: NNS110216-12

By Barbara Honegger, Naval Postgraduate School, Public Affairs

MONTEREY, Calif. (NNS) -- A Naval Postgraduate School experimental team on the cutting edge of network-controlled maritime stand-off nuclear radiological threat detection is now the real-world-testing arm of the Global Initiative for Combating Terrorism.

For five years, a Naval Postgraduate School team led by Principal Investigator Professor Alex Bordetsky has pushed the envelope of network-controlled, stand-off nuclear radiological threat detection through a unique program of Tactical Network Topology (TNT) Maritime Interdiction Operations (MIO) field experiments jointly conducted by the NPS Center for Network Innovation and Experimentation (CENETIX) and Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

"The NPS-LLNL MIO program is now the real-world-testing experimental arm of the Global Initiative for Combating Terrorism (GICT), a collaborative effort under the joint umbrella of the Department of Homeland Security, Domestic Nuclear Detection Office and Defense Threat Reduction Agency," explained Bordetsky, an associate professor of Information Sciences. The Initiative is supported by, amongst others, the U.S. Department of Energy, Special Operations Command, Coast Guard, San Francisco Bay Area first responders, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey and numerous overseas partners including NATO's Maritime Interdiction Training Center.

"This is a high priority, international counterterrorism effort that purposefully pushes the limits of synergistic communication and collaboration among sea, air and land sensors; remote operators and subject matter experts; front-line first responders; special operations forces; homeland security and maritime personnel; and information fusion Tactical Operation Centers," Bordetsky explained.

The program's goal is a layered, wirelessly-networked, globally-integrated nuclear radiological detection, warning and interdiction system in which remote radiation experts and biometric data analysts at geographically distributed command centers can actively see, hear and evaluate data online in near real-time from tagged and tracked small maritime targets, including video feeds and text messaging, to guide further surveillance and collection needed by decision makers.

"NPS Dean of Research Karl van Bibber has called our unique campaign of experimental studies in man-machine integration using collaboration in cyberspace a new direction in science," Bordetsky noted.

"Historically, MIO experimentation emerged out of earlier collaboration among geographically-distributed Special Forces ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] units using cyberspace to track high-value targets," Bordetsky explained. "In 2004, the first German, Swedish, Greek and Singapore officer students did this for their thesis research here at NPS and then set it up when they returned to their countries. We wouldn't have been so successful in developing the international portion of the experimental program if we hadn't had these student ambassadors. Then in 2005, we joined forces with Lawrence Livermore to develop ad hoc mobile self-organizing mesh networks in support of nuclear threat detection and interdiction for both large and small vessels.

"The heart of CENETIX's experimental program is our interdisciplinary faculty-student team," Bordetsky said. "We have the whole spectrum of NPS students – from Information Systems, Information Operations, C4I, and Defense Analysis/Special Operations, with which we enjoy a special relationship."

Two major thrusts of recent experiments are drive-by stand-off screening, detection and pursuit using high-speed fast boats, and bringing remote experts into instant support of front line first responders via video-equipped swimmers and remote operation of unmanned sensors including unmanned surface vessels and unmanned aerial vehicles.

In March, the NPS-LLNL team will take a new direction in an experiment in San Francisco Bay, incorporating real-time reachback to radiological experts into the daily patrols of marine police boats and Coast Guard vessel crews.

"For the first time, this will enable us to obtain long-term observational data on operational crews' daily networking and collaborative command and control patterns between and during radiological source detection events," Bordetsky noted. "This is a bring-your-own-boat, plug-and-play, real-world test bed where we set up virtual private networks [VPNs] in just a few hours.

"One of the great things about this research is that you don't have failures," Bourakov said. "If something goes 'wrong,' you learn from it and do better the next time."

The bi-annual series of experiments is supported by overseas partners from Sweden, Germany, Greece, Denmark and Singapore. In addition to NPS and Lawrence Livermore, participants in the 2010 experimental program were Lockheed Martin's Center for Innovation, the Army Research Center at Picatinny Arsenal, the University of Bundeswehr in Germany, the Swedish Naval Warfare Center jointly with the Swedish Defense Research Agency, and NATO's MIO Training Center in Souda Bay.

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