The future of the Navy's unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) program for mine warfare has been placed in the hands of the new Naval Oceanography Mine Warfare Center (NOMWC), in time for the command's standup ceremony on Oct. 26.
NOMWC assumed the test and evaluation responsibility for the unmanned vehicles from the Naval Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare Command (NMAWC) this summer.
"Our community probably has a longer history with UUVs than any other operational command in the Navy, and with this new responsibility, we are leading the Navy in man-portable UUV operations," said Cmdr. Robert Witzleb, deputy director of Oceanography Operations for Mine Warfare with the Naval Oceanography Operations Command.
The oceanography community has worked with UUVs for several years because of their potential in oceanographic data collection. Members of the community work with other types of UUVs for other applications, such as gliders for anti-submarine warfare and special warfare.
Naval Oceanography enlisted personnel currently man the Naval Special Clearance Team 1 UnManned Systems (UMS) Platoon and worked on the old Mine and Anti-Submarine Warfare UUV platoon.
The oceanography community also has worked in mine warfare for many years and oceanography officer and enlisted Sailors are embedded with mine warfare units. Oceanographers know the impact that ocean and atmospheric conditions have on sensors and operations.
So, the oceanography community seemed a natural fit for mine warfare UUV test and evaluation.
The test and evaluation program is part of a Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) procurement system. NAVSEA is responsible for buying the vehicles for Navy operations, so an operator needs to evaluate the vehicles for their performance in real-world conditions first.
"A big part of what we're here to do is develop all the tactics and techniques" relating to the operation of UUVs in mine warfare, said Lt. James Coleman, NOMWC team's officer in charge.
The team can perform UUV test and evaluation for allied countries and for the Office of Naval Research in mine warfare exercises worldwide, and the team recommends modifications to the vehicles that can be included in future custom-built UUVs, specifically for use in mine warfare.
But the unit is not limited to UUV operation. It is also designed to surge to provide on-scene environmental support for mine warfare operations and exercises anywhere in the world independent of and/or along with UUVs.
"As unmanned systems continue to evolve within the Navy, mine warfare programs are leading the way," Witzleb said. "The Naval Oceanography Mine Warfare Center is comprised of personnel in which the Navy has made a substantial technical education investment. This education is critical to the success of UUVs in support of mine warfare. Furthermore, the ability to support these future systems is dependant upon our understanding of these sensors, the data they yield, and the impacts of the environment upon them."