As the new millennium dawns, the focus of U.S.
Naval Oceanography remains one of collecting oceanographic and meteorological
data and fusing it into tactically useful products and services that
the fleet can use in near real time. Today's world is a problematic and
difficult one in which the Navy must provide much of the nation's power-projection
capabilities, while also placing significant emphasis on sea control.
The maritime strategy of the next century is based to a large extent
upon the concepts of forward presence and knowledge superiority, both
of which are directly supported by naval oceanography and meteorology
programs. Enemy mines, conventionally powered submarines, and antiship
cruise missiles challenge the Navy's ability to operate in the littoral
environment. More than ever before, the fleet needs timely, reliable,
environmental assessments of the battlespace, and that is exactly what
naval oceanographers and meteorologists continue to work toward.
The environmental sciences have been a foundation of U.S. national security
for a long time and will continue to be. For purely practical reasons,
the Navy established a "Depot of Charts and Instruments" in
Washington, D.C., in 1830, to make systematic observations of the sun,
moon, and stars so that the instruments used at sea to determine longitude
and latitude could be calibrated. For the fledgling nation's newly established
Navy, it was important to confirm the accuracy of the star positions
that were listed in whatever almanac the Navy was using, and the time
as kept by the ship's chronometer. The Depot took on the responsibility
for oceanographic studies in 1854, and was renamed the U.S. Naval Observatory
and Hydrographical Office; even earlier, though, its superintendent,
Lt. Matthew Fontaine Maury, had started collecting critical oceanographic
data on currents, tides, storms, sea temperatures, soundings, and sea
creature and iceberg sightings The questions remained, though: How best
to use the ocean currents? How best to predict the weather and use it
to advantage--or avoid it altogether?
The challenge continues: Navy scientists must do whatever it takes to
enable the fleet to operate effectively in all weather and ocean conditions.
Today, astronomy and hydrography also fall under the purview of the oceanographer
of the Navy as disciplines within the five major categories that make
up today's Naval Oceanography program:
Precise Time and Astrometry (PTA): Precise Time refers to the process
of establishing and maintaining the nation's precision time reference--the
Master Clock, which uses resonating atoms to measure time to within a
billionth of a second per day--and disseminating time data for both military
and civil use. Astrometry is the science of precisely determining the
position and motion of the sun, moon, stars, and planets for use in navigation
and guidance systems.
The U.S. Naval Observatory, which reports to the oceanographer of the
Navy, administers the programs in precise time and astrometry, publishes
navigation almanacs, and determines the earth's orientation in space.
The data provided by the Observatory are essential for precision navigation
and targeting over land and sea, in the air, and in space.
Oceanography: the study of the ocean's physical characteristics (salinity,
temperature, etc.), dynamics, chemistry, biology, and geophysics and
their influences on surface and underwater operations.
Meteorology: the science of atmospheric phenomena (clouds, winds, moisture,
etc.) and their effects on the physical world, including airborne and
Geospatial Information and Services (GI&S)--formerly called Mapping,
Charting, and Geodesy (MC&G): the measuring and charting of coastal
and deep-ocean waters, and their gravity and magnetic variations, to
allow the safe and effective operation and navigation of forces involved
in amphibious, surface, and submarine warfare. This discipline also encompasses
hydrography and electronic-navigation databases.
More than 3,000 military and civilian personnel assigned to activities
around the world are now working in the Navy's operational oceanography
program under the leadership of Rear Adm. Richard D. West, oceanographer
of the Navy. Those activities include two major supercomputer facilities
in Bay St. Louis, Miss., and Monterey, Calif.; over 30 oceanography centers,
facilities, and detachments as far away as Adak, Alaska, and Diego Garcia
in the Indian Ocean; and aboard dozens of ships at sea. Astronomers and
support personnel at the U.S. Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C.--and
at the Observatory's stations in Flagstaff, Ariz., Anderson Mesa, Ariz.,
Colorado Springs, Colo., and Cerro Tololo, Chile--also are working in
the Navy oceanography program.
The collocation in Bay St. Louis of the commander, Naval Meteorology
and Oceanography Command (CNMOC), the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO),
and a Naval Research Laboratory detachment creates in Mississippi the
largest concentration of physical oceanographers anywhere in the world.
A New Focus
With the end of the Cold War, it has become clear that the principal
focus of naval operations will, for the foreseeable future, be in the
shallow coastal waters of the world. Warfare is now asymmetric, littoral,
and limited. The challenge today is to gain skills quickly in near-shore
environments while maintaining the deep-ocean capabilities that took
Navy oceanographers the last 50 years to develop and refine.
Navy oceanographers are now in the process of shifting from thinking
in scales of hundreds of kilometers and days to scales of tens of meters
and hours, and of shifting from microseconds to picoseconds. These new
frames of reference demonstrate that, in addition to their traditional
focus on deep-water missions, naval oceanographers must also master the
complicated tangle of phenomena, and related problems, that make up the
science of the littoral, or near-shore, areas: tidal pulses, beach profiles,
reefs, bars, shallows, shoals, channels, sediment transport, fine-scale
hydrography, turbidity, land cover and terrain, dust, traffic, rain rates,
river runoffs, sub-bottom characteristics, and biologics, as well as
the complex weather patterns typical of any coastal area.
The Navy's new focus on littoral operations has created a large backlog
of high-priority oceanographic, hydrographic, and geophysical survey
requirements. To meet those requirements, oceanographers employ traditional
platforms (ships, submarines, planes), as well as new technologies (satellites,
remote sensors, unmanned vehicles, etc.)--while also leveraging the resources
of other national and international agencies.
Increased public awareness of the global ocean has been growing since
the International Year of the Ocean, 1998. In June of that year, during
the National Ocean Conference held at the Naval Postgraduate School in
Monterey, Calif., President Clinton directed his cabinet to prepare a
comprehensive report that would include "recommendations for a coordinated,
disciplined, long-term federal ocean policy." A final report was
submitted to the president in September 1999. He then established a task
force to implement its recommendations. Key among them was a proposal
to develop an integrated ocean observing system. Recent technological
developments and new state-of-the-art sensing techniques have improved
the quality of ocean observations, but significant gaps in important
data still exist in many ocean areas of the world.
To reinforce the Task Force's recommendations, the oceanographer of
the Navy also released a statement last year on the vital need for sustained
and coordinated ocean observations to support national security. The
oceanographer's statement, which emphasizes the Navy's desire to work
with other agencies in developing a fully operational, integrated, global
ocean observing system, calls for improved coordination of data collection
and dissemination to: (a) improve weather forecasting; (b) enhance detection
and forecasting of the ocean components of climate variability; and (c)
ensure the safety and success of all naval/maritime/military operations.
The sophistication of new high-technology communications, weapons systems,
and sensors demands higher-resolution environmental data for optimum
performance. To provide a real-time assessment of the battlespace, Navy
oceanographers develop the capability to sense the environment with smaller
remote sensors and quickly assimilate the data generated to provide the
warfighter with greater spatial and temporal resolution, even in areas
denied to U.S. ships and aircraft. To accomplish their mission, naval
oceano-graphers draw on all five of the geophysical disciplines listed
The oceanographer of the Navy's lower-echelon commands provide meteorological
support for Navy units, meteorological products to the U.S. Marine Corps,
and oceanographic and precise time support to all elements of the Department
of Defense. Basic oceanographic and meteorological research and exploratory
development are funded by the chief of naval research (CNR). Applied
research--the development of new sensors and tactical support systems--is
funded both by CNR and the oceanographer of the Navy and is conducted
by Navy laboratories and by the Navy's "Systems Commands" and
their contractors. Operational support to ships, aircraft, and shore
stations is provided by various CNMOC activities. Direct support to staffs,
ships, and commands afloat and ashore is provided by the teams of officer
and enlisted meteor-ology and oceanography (METOC) personnel assigned
to fleet units. Among the principal shore activities of the naval far-flung
oceanography community are the Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography
Center (FNMOC), the Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO), the Naval
Ice Center (NIC--part of the National Ice Center), six theater METOC
centers--in Yokosuka (Japan), Pearl Harbor, San Diego, Norfolk, Rota
(Spain), and Bahrain--four other facilities (in Naples, Italy; Jacksonville
and Pensacola, Fla.; and Whidbey Island, Wash.), 39 detachments, and
the Joint Typhoon Warning Center in Pearl Harbor.
There are today approximately 430 oceanography officers, 1,600 enlisted
METOC specialists (Aerographer's Mates (AGs)), and over 1,400 civilian
personnel working in billets throughout the naval oceanography community.
These men and women provide a wide range of services to the modern fleet.
Their expertise includes area weather forecasting, aviation flight forecasting,
amphibious assault beach forecasts, electromagnetic forecasts (for radar
performance), ocean acoustics forecasting (for concealing and hunting
submarines), and electro-optic forecasts (for visible and infrared detection
systems) as well as several specialized forecasts for specific weapon
systems and special operations warfare. In short, they help the warfighter
take maximum tactical advantage of the environment.
They also support the operational fleet from a variety of platforms.
The six regional centers, which coordinate environmental services over
the entire world, provide weather forecasts and optimum routing services
for ships at sea, and customized services to nearby type commanders (air,
surface, submarine, and special operations) and shore activities. METOC
detachments are located at all naval air facilities and selected other
METOC personnel also are assigned as permanent crewmembers on aircraft
carriers, selected amphibious assault ships, and staff command and control
ships. As components of mobile deployment teams, they also embark on
smaller ships for specialized missions, and support a wide variety of
shore-based exercises and operations as well.
The Oceanographic Fleet
"For oceanographers, the sea itself is the laboratory, and the
adequacy of ships used will significantly affect the oceanographer's
ability to work at sea." This statement, by Rear Adm. William Behrens
in 1971, is as true today as it was then. To enhance the oceanographer's
ability to work even more effectively in the first decades of the new
millennium, the transition to a "modernized" Navy survey-and-research
fleet is nearing completion. New oceanographic survey ships will allow
Navy oceanographers to deploy anywhere--in any ocean, at any time--to
more efficiently collect an enormous amount of precise data that can
be used to generate the products needed to meet the Navy's high-technology
warfare requirements. A number of Navy research vessels, which are operated
by academic research institutions, also have been upgraded (or newly
constructed) to conduct multipurpose, multidisciplinary scientific investigations
with the most sophisticated equipment available. Again, the words of
Admiral Behrens are applicable: "We are caught in a paradoxical
web. The more we learn and the further we venture, the greater the demands
we place on our facilities. Our new tools of yesterday thus become tomorrow's
obsolescent ships." For the near future, though, the Navy's oceanographic
fleet will be ready to meet the challenges facing it.
Two coastal survey ships (AGSs), USNS McDonnell and USNS Littlehales,
have been operational since 1991. Each is 208 feet long and displaces
2,000 tons. Four multipurpose military survey ships (of the T-AGS 60
class) are deployed globally: USNS Pathfinder, USNS Sumner, USNS Bowditch,
and USNS Henson. Each is 328 feet long and displaces 4,700 tons. A fifth
ship of the class, USNS Bruce C. Heezen, will be delivered in January
Construction of a sixth T-AGS 60 ship also has started: delivery of
that ship is scheduled for December 2001. Named for oceanographer Mary
Sears--whose research while serving in the Navy WAVES during World War
II was critical to the survivability of U.S. submarines during the war--it
is the Navy's first oceanographic ship to be named for a woman.
A parallel modernization program for Navy-owned research ships also
is nearing completion. In addition to the five AGORs currently owned
by the Navy and operated by the academic community, a new research ship,
to be operated by the University of Hawaii, will employ the unconventional
SWATH (Small Waterplane Area Twin Hull) design. The ship design phase
already has been completed and a contract was awarded to Lockheed Martin;
the ships will be built at the Atlantic Marine shipyard in Jacksonville,
Training and Education
In the naval oceanographic community, training and education are constantly
emphasized. All of the Navy's meteorology/oceanography (METOC) officers
are required to earn master's degrees in air/ocean science, usually at
the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif. A two-year master's
degree program in oceanography sponsored by the secretary of the Navy
also enrolls one student per year in a curriculum administered jointly
by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and the Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution. Although it is a small community, approximately 25 percent
of all of the Navy's doctoral billets are filled by METOC officers.
The Navy's enlisted METOC personnel (Aerographer's Mates) receive initial
training at the AG "A" school at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss.
The 10-week school introduces new personnel to the basics of meteorology
and oceanography, the principal tools and equipment used in environmental
measurements and analyses, environmental codes, graphs and charts, weather
observation procedures, and some rudimentary forecasting skills.
After completing a minimum of one tour of duty, METOC enlisted personnel
are eligible for assignment to the AG "C" forecasting school.
This 28-week school provides intensive training in physics and atmospheric
dynamics, forecasting skills, and tactical considerations. Graduates
become certified weather forecasters. Follow-on fleet-level training--such
as that provided by the Joint METOC Tactical Applications Course (JMTAC)
and/or the Tactical Oceanographic Workshop (TOW)--allows AGs to hone
their skills and keep up with the latest techniques and advances.
Forecasting the Atmosphere and Oceans
The Fleet Numerical Meteorology and Oceanography Center in Monterey
is the Navy's, and DOD's, state-of-the-art supercomputer center running
global and high-resolution theater and regional-scale atmospheric and
oceanographic analyses and forecast models. The center receives global
environmental data through links with DOD and NOAA data-distribution
systems. Numerically generated products are distributed on Navy and joint
command-and-control systems via the Navy theater METOC centers, which
then develop value-added products and services tailored to specific military
operations in their areas of responsibility.
In addition to its standard product line, the FNMOC is uniquely capable
of providing high-resolution forecast products on short notice for any
regional area in support of global military and/or humanitarian contingencies.
In the event that NOAA's National Center for Environmental Prediction
loses its ability to generate CONUS (Continental United States) numerical
weather prediction products, FNMOC has been designated the national backup.
That contingency plan became critical in 1999.
The Naval Oceanographic Office is not only responsible for collecting,
processing, and distributing oceanographic, hydrographic, and other geophysical
data and products, but also serves as the Navy's primary processing facility
for NOAA polar-orbiting satellite data, and has been designated a national "Center
of Expertise" for measurements of sea-surface temperatures. Moreover,
because it is both an operational data-processing center and a DOD Major
Shared Resource Center, the research-and-development programs using NAVOCEANO's
large array of Cray and Silicon Graphics supercomputers can be easily
adapted to run Navy operational METOC models.
Additionally, NAVOCEANO's Warfighting Support Center (WSC) provides
near-real-time, tailored oceanographic products to support U.S. naval/military
operations. Those products include, but are not limited to: global ocean-front
and eddy analyses; preprocessed multichannel sea-surface temperature
analyses from polar-orbiting satellites; satellite altimetry and scatterometry
data; high-resolution ocean model output, data, and imagery from intelligence
satellites; and support of various types for special operations forces.
The WSC serves as probably the most prominent example of the Navy's increased
emphasis on littoral support.
Tailored ice forecasts and analyses are provided to a multitude of customers
by the National Ice Center located in Suitland, Md., and jointly operated
by the Navy, NOAA, and the U.S. Coast Guard. The NIC provides--to both
civil and military activities--sea and lake ice analyses as well as forecasts
for the Arctic and Antarctic regions, coastal U.S. waters, and the Great
CNMOC's six theater METOC centers provide broad geographical METOC services
within their areas of responsibility. The centers manage and prioritize
the dissemination of basic numerical products, provide full-spectrum
meteorological and oceanographic services, and generate the tailored
products needed to support theater and other special requirements. Routinely
prepared reports include high winds and seas warnings, area and local
forecasts, en route ship weather forecasts, routing services, tactical
forecasts, and ship track-routing recommendations. The METOC center in
Pearl Harbor and the Joint Typhoon Warning Center (JTWC), with the U.S.
Air Force, issue tropical cyclone warnings to DOD and other U.S. agencies
and offices in the Western Pacific and Indian Oceans, and in the Eastern
and Central South Pacific.
The primary sources of on-scene Navy meteorological and oceanographic
support for forces afloat and ashore in-theater are provided by permanently
embarked Navy METOC personnel, or by deployable assets--Mobile Environmental
Teams (METs). The Navy's permanent afloat meteorology and oceanography
assets are designated Operational Aerography (OA) Divisions, embarked
aboard major aviation-capable combatants and command ships. They interpret
weather and ocean conditions to ensure the optimum use and operational
safety of weapons and sensors; they also provide tailored on-scene products
and services to the assigned task force/group and allied units in Navy,
joint, or coalition military and humanitarian
The METs, the Navy's most deployable METOC assets, provide short-term
on-scene services to units and activities that do not have METOC personnel
permanently assigned. They are assigned their own portable sensing, processing,
and display equipment, and have the ability to set up a Navy automated
weather station at remote sites to provide direct readout and/or transmission
of the data received via satellite. The METs also deploy with portable
systems: (a) to receive, display, and manipulate geostationary meteorological
satellite imagery; (b) to acquire and display the latest gridded data
fields available from FNMOC's numerical model analyses and forecasts;
and (c) to receive enhanced ocean satellite imagery from NAVOCEANO. MET
units routinely deploy to ships and shore sites with self-contained satellite
and communications receivers, tactical forecast software for acoustic
atmospheric refractivity, and weather forecasts based on real-time environmental
To be even more effective in future conflicts, the rapid development
of technologies requires that the U.S. Navy remain interoperable with
U.S. allies. That interoperability will be vastly improved in combined
operations by the development of and experience with the Allied Environmental
Support System (AESS), which is sold to U.S. allies through the Foreign
Military Sales program. AESS, which is similar to U.S. TESS systems,
will ensure that the United States and its allies have access to the
same meteorological and oceanographic products during combined operations.
The AESS is already the centerpiece of shore-based METOC support for
NATO and several non-NATO allied navies.
The U.S. Navy already has in place cooperative agreements with nearly
30 countries for the collection of survey data. These programs are among
the most cost-effective ways of leveraging allied efforts to address
U.S. requirements for data in various littoral regions of the world.
The Hydrographic Cooperation Program (HYCOOP) focuses on the collection
of hydrographic data for the production of nautical charts and related
products. Another initiative, the Oceanographic Cooperation Program (OCOOP),
focuses on oceanographic data collection to satisfy mutual mine-warfare
or antisubmarine- warfare requirements. Under both programs, the partner
nation provides the survey platform, some equipment, and operating personnel;
the U.S. Navy contributes its technical expertise and specialized equipment
for cooperative use during the surveys.
As changes in world politics drive increased opportunities for cooperative
oceanographic agreements and survey access, technological evolution is
driving changes in the requirements for data obtained through these agreements.
A significant example of this latter evolution is the requirement for
digital nautical data that can be used in electronic-charting navigation
systems. Naval Oceanography is keeping pace with technology in this area
by incorporating requirements for digital data within new cooperative
oceanographic agreements. During the past year the cooperative oceanographic
program has remained extremely active with military survey ships operating
in the East and South China Seas, the Arabian Gulf, the Mediterranean,
and the Caribbean. Negotiations also are in progress on nearly a dozen
new international agreements.
Success on the Battlefield
A measure of the success of the Navy's oceanographic programs was seen
in 1999 during the 78-day conflict in Kosovo. The accuracy of the weapons
used depended not only on the accuracy but also on the timeliness of
the environmental information available to the task force commander.
The requirement to integrate weather, oceanography, and terrain data
colored every aspect of the Kosovo operations from air strikes to logistics.
MET teams served on the task group and battle group commanders' ships
to provide full-spectrum forecasts on the environment's effects on electromagnetic
and acoustic sensors and weapons.
The teams depended on meteorological and oceanographic information available
from satellite downlinks--both direct satellite visible and infrared
photos and satellite data links of classified homepages with the latest
forecasts and data. The battlespace ranged from the Adriatic Sea to the
shallow littorals to targets ashore. Local observations of the meteorological
and oceanographic conditions were entered into tactical decision aids
to forecast specific weapons system or sensor performance in the atmosphere
Environmental information also was used to evaluate the enemy threat.
Detection and performance forecasts for shore-based enemy Styx missile
sites and Sava-class attack submarines were provided to U.S battleforce
planners. Data on surface and subsurface currents, as well as bathymetry
and bottom type information, was provided to counter possible mine-warfare
operations by the enemy. Acoustic forecasts and detection and counterdetection
ranges were forecast for undersea warfare operations. (Undersea warfare
still plays an active role in Mediterranean operations, so the Navy's
ability to track and prosecute submarines was thoroughly tested.)
The strike planners required the full array of environmental tools helpful
in modern warfare: climatology well in advance of the attack for planning;
long-range forecasts to choose the optimum window of opportunity; and
short-range "snapshot" forecasts for en route and target conditions.
The Naval METOC Command is structured to provide just such support. The
production capacity at the Naval Oceanographic Office, for example, allows
it to produce large-scale full-color Special Annotated Imagery Littoral
(SAIL) studies of the littoral battlefield, or Special Tactical Oceanographic
Information Charts (STOICs).
For the Kosovo operations these were transmitted to large-format printers
at the Naples Oceanography Detachment, collocated with the battle planners.
Specific computer models also were run for the area to predict mine drift,
swell and wind waves, and sea height. Meanwhile, the Fleet Numerical
METOC Center moved its nested grid model to the Adriatic to begin more
detailed 9-kilometer resolution COAMPS (Coupled Ocean-Atmospheric Mesoscale
Prediction System) forecasting for the area.
The COAMPS forecasts were used in combination with the Navy Operational
Global Atmospheric Prediction System (NOGAPS) and other systems. The
METOC regional center in Rota, Spain, provided operational area forecasts,
Tomahawk launch forecasts, amphibious landing forecasts, satellite enhancements
on the web page, and MODAS (Modular Oceanographic Data Assimilation System)
oceanographic fields to initialize tactical-scale models in the field.
This METOC concept of operations--defining the battlespace for the commander
with on-scene tactical meteorology and oceanography, fed by mesoscale
regional forecasting, initialized by long- and mid-range dynamic modeling
of the air/ocean from the supercomputer centers in the United States--was
a determining factor in bringing the war to a successful conclusion.
The end result was made possible, though, only by having available, and
using, the latest in communications technology and the pyramid of support
collectively provided by the onboard forecaster, the regional center,
and the stateside production centers. In short, the METOC concept of
operations was thoroughly tested and proven, during very difficult weather
and oceanography conditions--making a significant contribution to the
U.S. and allied military operations.