Companies take aim at terrorists with diver-detection systems
By THOMAS WITHINGTON, Special Correspondent
approach their targets much like
military divers and special forces
Today, several companies are
working on solutions to prevent
terrorists from performing a future
submerged attack on a ship or harbor target.
Based in Omaha, Neb., 21CSI
has built a software system that
can be used to integrate a number
of sensors, such as underwater
diver-detection sonar and above-water surveillance systems, like
closed-circuit television cameras,
to provide a single point of command and control for terrestrial
and subsurface security sensors around a port.
“We started working on this back in 2003,” said
Roger Meisinger, vice president of 21CSI’s WEDJAT
Advanced Security and Surveillance Division, “
actually as a result of the USS Cole incident. We were looking at developing a force-protection system that would
integrate land-based sensors, cameras, radar, unattended ground sensors and actually tie in security personnel on the pier with wireless devices, like Personal
Digital Assistants, to provide situational awareness.
“The U.S. Navy liked our software and invited us to
use the same software for an integrated swimmer
defense system,” he said. “We’re providing the integrating software to bring in the different sensors and
data systems to provide a common operating picture.”
The product, High Resolution Situational Awareness,
or HiRSA, uses open architecture software, Meisinger
said. This allows the user to “integrate new sensors. We
don’t care what kind of sensor it is, whether it’s an infrared
camera, radar, sonar or an unattended ground sensor. We
like to say that our product is ‘sensor agnostic,’” he said.
HiRSA is a key component of the Integrated Swimmer
Defense System being developed by the U.S. Navy. The
Diver- and swimmer-detection systems can increase situational
awareness in ports, harbors and around vessels.
■ 21CSI has developed software to integrate land-based sensors,
cameras, radar, unattended ground sensors and security personnel.
■ Sonardyne International makes a compact, portable sonar system that can track hundreds of targets simultaneously.
■ Westminster International has a diver-detection system that
can disorient a diver if he fails to heed a series of warnings.
■ QinetiQ, which has a portable detection sonar with a range up
to 4,900 feet, is working to further miniaturize the system.
The deadly October 2000 attack on the USS
Cole by an explosive-laden boat in the Yemeni
port of Aden marked the beginning of a sea
change for sonar system designers. How could they
prevent an attack if the terrorists choose to approach
beneath the water’s surface?
Seventeen sailors died in the Cole attack, which
vividly illustrated the fact that ports and harbors are
not safe from terrorist attack.
Four of the world’s biggest cities — Mumbai, India;
Karachi, Pakistan; Shanghai, China; and Jakarta,
Indonesia — are on coasts, and, in their own right, can
be considered “prestige” targets, much like cargo vessels, cruise liners and warships. An attack on a port
risks significant loss of life and could paralyze the local
and national economy.
Although not specifically aimed at the city’s port, the
deadly attacks in Mumbai, India, last November saw the
terrorists arrive in the city from the sea on speedboats. The
10 terrorists attacked more than a half-dozen sites around
the city, killing more than 170 people over three days.
Terrorists intent on prosecuting such targets have a
degree of stealth via the cover of the water and can
SEAPOWER / MAY 2009