NATO Mine Research Targets CSS Test Range

Friday, June 28, 2002
From an unassuming block structure nestled between luxury waterfront condominiums, a team of international scientists quietly conducted experiments last week that will have a profound impact on the way ships protect themselves from mines in the future. NATO Mine Jamming Joint Research Project operations took place June 10-15 in the Gulf of Mexico at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren's Coastal Systems Station (CSS) training range in Panama Beach. Forty five technical experts from the United Kingdom, Norway, the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Australia, the U.S. and NATO's Supreme Allied Command Atlantic Undersea Research Center in La Spezia, Italy supported the trials. Another 25 scientists, technicians and specialists from CSS worked on the effort, and the Navy mine countermeasures ship USS Warrior (MCM 10) and US Coast Guard patrol boat Coho were also key elements of the trials. Engineers from the Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division tested Warrior's on-board combat systems during the trials to evaluate mine jamming techniques. This event was part of a project CSS has been supporting since 1997. Research to date has indicated that mine jamming, using countermeasures techniques to prevent detonation, reduces the risks, but further investigation is needed. The trials looked at alternative approaches to conventional mine sweeping techniques in reducing the risks of sea mines to combat ships. The testing involved using the CSS range, which has sensors anchored in a two-mile square grid pattern approximately a mile offshore, to quantify what methods of jamming are most effective against today's mine threat. Various jamming techniques were tested against a variety of exercise mines as well as instrumented inert mines produced by a number of countries. Tests were scheduled at night to cut down on the interference from recreational boaters, jet skis and parasailers along the beach. During the day, researchers analyzed data, made adjustments to equipment and prepared for the next night's testing. Warrior and Coho were used to run through the minefields as "targets". If the simulated mines fired as a ship passed, this validated the target. The run was repeated using the jamming technique to see if the risk from a particular mine type was reduced or eliminated. Other research craft towed huge magnetic "dyads" and acoustic generator systems across the minefield to simulate signatures of bigger ships. "Everything went well, the weather cooperated, and all the participants seem very pleased," said Hank Nelson, CSS coordinator for the project. "The tests demonstrated that jamming worked; positive results were attained, and enough data was gathered to keep people busy for two years (analyzing it)." The tireless and dedicated efforts of CSS test engineers Steve Shoner, Sally Lankamer, and scientist Megan Smith were key to the successful completion of the trials, according to Nelson. An essential element in the continuing progress of these experiments, he added, will be sustaining the momentum. "We're already talking about phase three, possibly at (the Navy/Marine Corps exercise) Kernel Blitz in 2005," said the veteran of 37 years in mine-countermeasures research. The first phase took place in La Spezia in 1998, and the CSS range test comprised phase two. Source: NAVSEA Newswire
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