Bolster Crisis Planning for Theater ASW
Fleet Battle Experiment Indicates Common Undersea Picture Sensors Work
By PATRICIA KIME
Sea Power Correspondent
The U.S. Navy's formal report on Fleet Battle Experiment Kilo (FBE Kilo)
is set for a fall release, but preliminary reports indicate the venture--at
least its antisubmarine warfare (ASW) portion--provided numerous insights
into managing the underwater battlefield.
For example, the Navy needs a training program for theater antisubmarine
warfare commanders, and should bolster their staffs for crisis planning
at the operational level. Preliminary results of the experiment also indicate
that waterspace management remains a slow, tedious process, but that the
Navy's common undersea picture technology worked rather well.
Conducted in multiple locations between April 14 and May 5, 2003, FBE
Kilo is the 11th in a series of experiments developed by the Naval Warfare
Development Command in Newport R.I.
The experiments are designed to test and evaluate certain warfighting
initiatives in an operational environment and are part of the Navy's Sea
Trial process, which aims to use technology and innovative concepts in
war games, experiments, and exercises in an effort to develop the Navy
The exact war-game scenario of FBE Kilo was not made public, but the
Navy combined real world and artificial scenarios to explore a number
of its developing programs, including its Joint Fires Network family of
systems, Area Air-Defense Commander System and undersea warfare planning,
command and control procedures for anti-submarine warfare management.
FBE Kilo participants included the 7th Fleet command-and-control ship
USS Blue Ridge, elements of the USS Carl Vinson Carrier Strike Group,
portions of the USS Essex Amphibious Ready Group, the low-frequency acoustic-test
vessel Cory Chouest, several attack submarines, virtual vessels, and shore-based
commands, including the commander of Task Force 74 in Yokosuka Japan;
NWDC; Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren, Va.; and Royal Australian
In the area of undersea warfare and theater antisubmarine warfare, the
experiment aimed to test undersea warfare planning and command and communications
procedures involving local anti-submarine warfare commanders and the theater
anti-submarine warfare commander.
The experiment also utilized several new technologies, including the
experimental common undersea picture, low-frequency active sonar (LFAS),
and data networks.
"We were really looking at a broad picture, at the coordination
aspect between the theater commander and the local commander," said
Capt. Kevin Morrissey, director of the Maritime Battle Center at the Naval
Warfare Development Command, Newport, R.I.
Regarding theater antisubmarine warfare, the Naval Warfare Development
Command wanted to accomplish several objectives with FBE Kilo:
* Examine the theater commander's ability to manage all undersea combat
assets, including air, surface, subsurface, and integrated undersea surveillance
systems and coordinate with local antisubmarine warfare commanders;
* Explore the way information is passed and controlled through the theater
commander and local commanders;
* Investigate how to enhance undersea situational awareness by using
With the first objective, asset management, the development command and
7th Fleet found that the participants performed well, but the Navy needs
to develop a training program for theater antisubmarine warfare commanders.
According to a joint preliminary report issued by the two commands, the
Navy has an established doctrine for the battle group antisubmarine warfare
commander but none for the theater commander.
"While the current [commander, Task Force 74] staff provided outstanding
support to the [Joint Theater Forces] commander in his effort to take
the undersea fight to the enemy before the enemy subs could threaten the
expeditionary strike group and commander, submarine group, the level of
effort required clearly demonstrated the need for a defined [theater antisubmarine
warfare command] training program and an augmentation of personnel to
carry out sustained ... operations," the preliminary report stated.
The authors recommended that the Navy adapt the existing battle group
commander guidance for the theater commander and add 12 personnel--three
officers and nine enlisted billets--to the theater antisubmarine warfare
staff for operational-level crisis planning.
Another key element in the ant-submarine warfare portion of FBE Kilo
was the flow of information between the theater antisubmarine warfare
commander and the local ASW commanders.
Among the tools that eased coordination between the commanders was the
experimental common undersea picture, a network of systems that gave commanders
a view of the developing battlefield.
"Because both the theater commander and the local commander had
the same set of tools, they were able to see and execute a plan. It worked
very well," Morrissey said.
Much of what the commanders needed to share included data and information
about waterspace management, meaning the allocation of areas to assets
in order to allow for engagement of hostile submarines and the prevention
of inadvertent attacks on friendly submarines.
The analysts found that waterspace management "remains a slow, deliberate
and manually intense process." The 7th Fleet command and the development
command recommended that such planning eventually be automated.
Finally, the undersea portion aimed to use new technologies for antisubmarine
warfare command and control. The experiment mainly focused on experimental
common undersea picture technology and a variety of active and passive
sonar systems, including the controversial low frequency active sonar.
Common undersea picture technology is, to some extent, already in use
in the fleet, but FBE Kilo aimed to use experimental common undersea picture
technology to depict the underwater battlefield to the theater and local
commanders -- displays that show the location of ships, diesel-powered
submarines, mines, land-based antiship missiles and other threats.
When used to its fullest potential, the common undersea picture could
give undersea and maritime theater commanders situation awareness similar
to that of aircraft commanders, who use technology to know the locations
of nearby aircraft and pinpoint incoming threats.
In FBE Kilo, the analysts found that the experimental common undersea
picture "showed promise as a tool for optimizing sensor use and planning
search tracks." It was used for planning purposes aboard the Blue
Ridge and Carl Vinson, but was not used to its fullest extent for coordinating
between commanders "largely due to the lack of operator familiarity
with the collaboration tools," the report said.
The analysts recommended that standard operating procedures be established,
published, and practiced for the technology before it is used in future
FBEs or in the fleet. These procedures, the analysts said, must be standardized
across all operational warfighters.
During the experiment, the Navy planned and executed a series of tests
of its Surveillance Towed-Array Sensor System Low-Frequency Active (SURTASS
LFA) and Passive Acoustic Systems. The Navy considers the systems to be
vital for detecting the next generation of quiet diesel submarines.
But the systems, especially the low-frequency active sonar, are controversial
and have been the target of litigation from environmental groups and marine
scientists. Opponents argue that the sonar harms marine mammals and other
aquatic life by disrupting their environments. They allege that the sonar
causes hemorrhaging, hearing loss, and brain damage.
Morrissey said that numerous scientific observers joined the Navy for
the low frequency sonar portion of FBE Kilo and there was no evidence
of injury to marine mammals. The deployment of the sonar was deemed a
success by the 7th Fleet and development center analysts who wrote that
it "led to successful prosecutions of opposing-force submarines."
"LFA warrants ongoing fleet use and experimentation to continue
the LFA reintroduction program, build proficiency, and further develop
procedures to effectively integrate SURTASS LFA with other ASW capabilities
to optimize overall effectiveness," the report stated.
Honest assessments and thorough analysis are exactly what the Navy needs
from fleet battle experiments, says Morrissey. FBE Kilo provided valuable
lessons the service will use in future experiments and in the fleet.
"This was a very successful demonstration of technology and we have
some real good feedback in the area of theater undersea warfare,"
As a result of FBE Kilo, the Navy will continue refining experimental
common undersea picture technology and will work to resurrect low frequency
active sonar as an important tool of anti-submarine warfare.
The final report, Morrissey said, will offer more information on the
host of issues addressed by the experiment. The report was to be published
by early September. The experiment cost about $3.5 million to conduct.