What new technologies look promising for fleet
ALLEN: The UUVs — the Mk18 Mod 1, the Mk18 Mod
2 — represent an incredible capability of getting something in the field or in the littorals on very short notice,
almost immediately, to do unmanned mine hunting,
which is an incredible enhancement of our current
techniques or capabilities.
Moving forward, I see unmanned systems conducting sustained MCM and neutralization operations. We
will also continue leveraging our command-and-control capabilities that allow our forces to operate forward in a contested environment with full battlespace
awareness. Right now, it is difficult to do minesweep-ing with the MCM 1-class ships in a contested environment. We see that improving in the future. Knowing
where the mines are translates into effectively neutralizing them simply through avoidance, which is a significant enhancement that these UUVs represent.
The challenge is the rapid and accurate sharing of sensor and location data from a distributed MCM force. We
are focusing on improving those MCM command-and-control programs and we will be watching those technologies as they hit the fleet in the days to come.
Are the acquisition and test establishments
responsive enough to get the technology fielded when you need it?
ALLEN: Yes. I’ve been very impressed in my short time
here at NMAWC on how quickly we’re getting things to
the fleet. The Mine Hunting Unit is actually being deployed ahead of schedule, which is a very promising
trend. For future development: large-diameter unmanned
platforms such as the Autonomous ASW Continuous
Trail Unmanned Vessel or the Large Diameter UUV. They
both are changing the way the Navy thinks about
autonomous capability and the requirement to work
interchangeably with manned platforms.
There is a big appetite for getting those unmanned
systems to the fleet so that we get the operators out of
that environment. It has CNO support all the way
down through the TYCOMs and resource sponsors.
They are pushing very hard to field these things as
quickly and as rapidly as possible so that we can transition from the legacy systems to the new systems.
Is the U.S. Navy leveraging allied and partner
nations for their MCM capabilities?
ALLEN: Absolutely. This is a coalition effort no matter
where we are. We actually find that a lot of NATO
countries conduct significant real-world mine-clearing
operations in their waters. They’ve been doing that
since World War II.
I was in New Zealand last year for a Western Pacific
naval symposium mine countermeasures exercise
involving 22 nations. We found four World War II
mines as a part of that exercise and they weren’t
planned to be found. Countries like Great Britain and
France have incredible skill and capabilities in mine
clearance, in mine warfare.
Our allies and partners bring significant capability
to the fight. They’re a tremendous force multiplier and
we regularly train and exercise with them. These exercises range from small platoon-level bilateral engagements to large scale multinational exercises like RIM-PAC [Rim of the Pacific] and, every time, we find our
partner nations are a key part of the mission. They
actively participate in our operational planning and
employment wherever possible.
Is there anything that you would like to add?
ALLEN: In my own background — years in the combat
search-and-rescue [CSAR] community — CSAR is one
of those things that you don’t need all the time and you
don’t think about it until you see a Jordanian pilot who
is shot down over Syria and now a combat CSAR
becomes incredibly important to the entire nation. Just
like mine clearance operations, it’s a capability that we
don’t see the need for.
It’s kind of a forgotten capability we have in the Navy,
but as soon as you have a ship like the [frigate] Samuel
B. Roberts ship hit by a mine and almost lost [in 1988 in
the Persian Gulf], then it becomes incredibly important
to the nation. We have to maintain the ability to do full-spectrum mine warfare all the time. That is why we are
investing in the LCS mission package, the MH-60S with
its AMCM [airborne MCM] capabilities, the EOD expeditionary companies with their underwater MCM capabilities, because we have to be prepared to execute them
on short notice anywhere in the world that our Navy
travels and operates. ■
“Even a perceived threat of a mine or mine field can stop ongoing seaborne
operations until that threat is neutralized. You don’t want to have a repeat of the
Tanker Wars [in the Persian Gulf in the late 1980s] — where a ship gets hit by a
mine and you almost lose the ship — in order to start dealing with that threat.”