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Mississippi Navy Command Forges Ahead, Surpassing Unmanned Systems

STENNIS SPACE CENTER, Miss. (NNS) —The Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) made history earlier this year, simultaneously commanding and controlling 50 ocean gliders, more than any other governmental or academic entity, and continues to raise the bar this summer.

The U.S. Navy’s leader in the operation of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), NAVOCEANO’s oceanographic and engineering departments are on track to exceed their own milestone, achieved in April 2018. Dozens of additional gliders have been launched from a range of platforms, including the T-AGS class oceanographic survey ships under the command’s technical control, in the last few months.

“We are well on our way to having 100 simultaneously deployed gliders. It has taken hard work and dedication from all involved as we find new ways to implement automation and gain efficiency.” says Pass Christian’s Bryan Mensi, NAVOCEANO glider operations branch head.

The Littoral Battlespace Sensing (LBS) gliders employed by NAVOCEANO are UUVs used to collect environmental data such as temperature, salinity (salt content), water clarity and depth. Once launched from a T-AGS ship or vessel of opportunity, the UUVs are directed to predetermined locations by NAVOCEANO glider pilots based at Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi. The military and civilian pilots manning the command’s Glider Operations Center use satellite communications to direct the vehicles while monitoring data collection and glider performance 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

USNS Bowditch crew members and Naval Oceanographic Office surveyors conduct routine night operations recovering a littoral battlespace sensing glider in the Philippine Sea. These gliders can collect environmental data, such as water temperature and salinity, for months at a time without the need for active propulsion. U.S. Navy photo released.

The temperature and salinity profiles the gliders collect within the water column are assimilated into ocean models that provide underwater forecasts, similar to the way atmospheric models are used to provide weather forecasts. These forecasts are imperative to a wide range of naval operations and have numerous applications, from diver safety to detection of submarines to hurricane prediction.

NAVOCEANO has been operating gliders for decades, and is now home of the world’s largest fleet of these vehicles, which have been launched from an array of vessels operated by the U.S. Navy, U.S. Coast Guard, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as well as universities. With average missions spanning several months, LBS gliders collect thousands of environmental data profiles across the globe each year at a fraction of the cost of ship-collected data.

Naval Oceanographic Office personnel prepare to launch 10 littoral battlespace sensing gliders from USNS Maury in the Eastern Atlantic Ocean in support of NAVOCEANO’s goal to deploy more than 100 gliders globally. These gliders are unmanned underwater vehicles used to collect data that is incorporated into ocean models, ultimately providing underwater forecasts for U.S. Navy operations. U.S. Navy photo released.

NAVOCEANO, comprised of approximately 700 military, civilian and contractor personnel, uses a variety of platforms including ships, aircraft, satellite sensors, buoys and unmanned underwater vehicles to collect oceanographic and hydrographic data from the world’s oceans. U.S. Navy commands at Stennis Space Center contribute approximately $207 million to the region within a 50-mile radius of the center.


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