Environmental information is important for successful planning and execution of naval operations. A thorough understanding of environmental variability greatly increases the likelihood of mission success. To ensure that naval forces have the most up-to-date capabilities, the Office of Naval Research (ONR) has an extensive environmental research program. This research, to be of greatest use to the warfighter, needs to be directed towards assisting and solving battlefield problems. To increase research community understanding of the operational demands placed on naval operators and to facilitate discussion between these two groups, the National Research Council's (NRC) Ocean Studies Board (OSB), working with ONR and the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy, convened five previous symposia on tactical oceanography. The sixth and latest symposium in this series, ''Oceanography and Mine Warfare,'' was held in February 1999 in Corpus Christi, Texas.
The symposium, and consequently this report, examined the following issues: (1) how environmental data are used in current mine warfare doctrine, (2) current procedures for in situ collection of data, (3) the present capabilities of the Navy's oceanographic community to provide supporting information for mine warfare operations, and (4) the ability of oceanographic research and technology developments to enhance current mine warfare capabilities. Although, environmental data are also important for offensive mining, a decision was made prior to the symposium and the writing of this report to primarily concentrate on the importance of oceanographic data for mine countermeasures, as it was felt that this community more actively and routinely uses oceanographic data.
Environmental conditions strongly impact mine warfare operations. All aspects of mine warfare, from mine laying to target detection and minehunting and sweeping, are affected by oceanographic and meteorologic variability. To ensure successful mining and counter mining operations in the coastal zone, where most mine warfare takes place, a detailed understanding of the battlefield environment is necessary for all stages of mission planning and execution. In nearshore regions, oceanographic parameters are highly variable. A thorough characterization of these environments therefore requires a combination of historical datasets, in situ sampling, and environmental assimilation models capable of resolving oceanographic variability. This presents a significant challenge to mine warfighters and the community that supports them.
NAVAL OCEANOGRAPHIC CAPABILITIES
The U.S. Navy provides operational oceanographic support for mine warfare through the Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy; Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (CNMOC); the
Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO); with research support funded through the science and technology programs managed by ONR. The Oceanographer of the Navy is responsible for collecting and archiving meteorological and oceanographic data. Once collected, the Oceanographer uses databases and interpretive models to evaluate and predict atmospheric and oceanographic processes. Model outputs are then used by the mine warfighter for mission development and planning.
The role of the naval meteorological and oceanographic community has become increasingly important as operations have shifted from more stable ocean conditions characteristic of the open ocean to the rapidly changing conditions of continental shelf and slope environments. NAVOCEANO is currently adapting its ability to collect information in coastal environments, but it is acknowledged that new, creative approaches must be used to supply the environmental data needed to adequately support mine warfare operations. The ability of NAVOCEANO to adjust to more complex environmental conditions has been greatly aided by research and technology efforts supported by ONR.
An additional challenge to the naval oceanographic community results from the shift in operational focus from a dedicated mine warfighting force to a forward-deployed "organic" mine countermeasure (MCM) force. This change has created the need for in situ oceanographic data collection by advance forces such as carrier battle groups, amphibious ready groups, and other naval assets. After collection, these organic MCM forces must be able to rapidly transfer environmental data to NAVOCEANO for processing and conversion into data products that provide the warfighter with knowledge about battlespace environmental conditions.
ROLE OF SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH IN MINE WARFARE
The research community has an important role to play in support of mine warfare operations by developing an increased understanding of nearshore oceanographic processes. This is particularly true for the surf zone (<10 m), which traditionally has been a difficult area for research activities and naval operations.
Advances in coastal zone research will enhance existing quantitative oceanographic models and enable the development of new ones. These models are essential tools for use in nearshore naval operations, as they can be used to forecast coastal oceanographic variability that is likely to impact mine warfare activities and they can also process vast amounts of data and output these data as parameters useful for mine warfare planning and decision making. Furthermore, visualization hardware and software have become increasingly sophisticated. They provide 3D graphical representations of data in an interactive environment where the operator is able to view, as well as manipulate, oceanographic information in an intuitive manner. The use of "virtual environments" changes the way environmental data are used, providing a sense of presence to the user. The MCM community will greatly benefit from the use of such technology.
The academic and engineering communities can also contribute to mine warfare operations in the areas of database development, data transfer, and interactive visualization techniques. Currently, NAVOCEANO and mine countermeasure forces collect extensive high-resolution environmental datasets and acquire additional ones from other nations. Continued developments in management techniques for data archival and retrieval will ensure that these complicated datasets can be used effectively and efficiently. Enhanced data transfer capabilities are also important for mine warfare operations. Presently, a large portion of naval oceanographic data interpretation is performed at NAVOCEANO. To ensure near real time use of in situ environmental data, it is important that wireless data transmissions are available to move data rapidly from ship to shore and back.
With increased use of complex oceanographic datasets it is essential that mine warfare operators receive advanced training enabling them to understand oceanic processes and operate the tools used to interpret oceanographic data. The academic community can play an important role by developing advanced techniques to increase the quality and efficiency of oceanographic training.
EXPANDING CURRENT ENVIRONMENTAL CAPABILITIES FOR MINE WARFARE
At the symposium, mine warfare operators, naval scientists, academic scientists, and representatives of organizations making up the Navy's meteorological and oceanographic infrastructure met in planary and working
group sessions. These discussions brought together individuals with diverse backgrounds and interests to examine the complexities of mine warfare operations in coastal environments. Discussions concentrated on applying knowledge of oceanographic processes to problem solving for mine warfare operations. The steering committee was not charged with determining implementation strategies for recommendations made to the sponsors and the research community during symposium discussions. The steering committee did however identify a number of salient points raised during symposium and steering committee discussions:
It is important to ensure that naval operational staff have the training necessary to allow them to turn environmental information collected by NAVOCEANO and mine countermeasure (MCM) forces into knowledge the warfighter can use in the battlefield. A greater understanding of coastal zone processes will allow decisionmakers to identify the most advantageous mix of in situ data collection and environmental prediction.
Developing the ability to quantitatively model and predict environmental variability is an important challenge facing nearshore operations. These models will provide a critical capability for mine warfare mission planning. Enhancement of shallow water modeling is dependent on continued support of coastal zone research aimed at understanding nearshore oceanography.
The increasing variety of battlefield environmental data being collected and advances in database capabilities have made it apparent that current mine warfare doctrine should be continually adapted, evaluated, and altered to account for parameters other than sediment characteristics. Updated doctrine should be driven by the high-quality environmental data currently being collected by NAVOCEANO and mine countermeasure forces and should account for statistical properties of those data.
The change in naval focus from deep water to nearshore operations will require the meteorological and oceanographic (METOC) community to continue developing high-resolution environmental data collection capabilities for use in rapidly changing shallow water environments. It is also important that NAVOCEANO continue to enhance database capabilities to store and process oceanographic data from the coastal zone.