US Surface Fleet Gets New Technology for Safe Routes

Interactive software that can dramatically cut the time it takes to plan safe submarine missions is crossing over to the surface fleet and is being installed this month on the guided-missile cruiser USS Mobile Bay (CG 53), officials announced Dec. 16.

Sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the technology adds speed and precision the process of finding the best routes around hazards in waterways around the world.

Sailors spend days or even weeks planning a successful navigation route for a mission. They collect maps and charts, analyze them, double check them and cross reference information that comes in various hard copy and digital forms.

Through partial automation and use of apps and widgets, ONR’s Mission Planning Application technology can review thousands of chart markings in a fraction of the time, pinpointing potential hazards and creating optimal routes around rocks, reefs and other shallow spots. What now takes days could take just a few hours or less, freeing commanders to concentrate on safely executing the mission at hand.

William “Kip” Krebs, program officer in ONR’s Warfighter Performance Department, said:

This system merges a variety of crucial data so planners can integrate information ahead of time and the command team can focus on the critical operations at hand.

Last year, Avenger-class mine countermeasures ship USS Guardian (MCM-5) ran aground partly because errors in nautical charts went unnoticed. In 2005, Los Angeles-class nuclear submarine USS San Francisco (SSN-711) struck an undersea mountain that did not appear on a chart used by the submarine’s crew. Information from other charts that noted discolored water — indicating a possible obstacle — was never transferred to the chart in use.

The installation on Mobile Bay will help researchers refine the mission planning technology for the surface ship community. ONR also will continue to work with the submarine community to ensure a successful transition to the fleet.

The mission-planning software was developed under the Capable Manpower Future Naval Capability program, which aims to deliver advanced technology to the fleet in just five years.

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Press release, Image: US Navy

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