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Enabling Multi-Domain Operations through Cutting Edge Army Dive Team Technology

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MARCOA Media
Story by John Higgins on 09/13/2019
By George Ohanian, Mark Huber and Matthew Staley Project Manager Terrestrial Sensors

The Port Improvement via Exigent Repair (PIER) Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) conducted the third Limited Operational User Assessment at Naval Weapons Station Earle, near Earle, New Jersey. Working collaboratively, Product Director Combat Terrain Information Systems (PD CTIS) under Program Executive Office Intelligence, Electronic Warfare & Sensors (PEO IEW&S), the Engineering and Research Development Center Coastal Hydraulics Lab (ERDC CHL) and the 569th Dive Team at Fort Eustis demonstrated JCTD emerging technologies in a real-world scenario. The PIER JCTD is a port rehabilitation capability developed in coordination with the Office of the Secretary of Defense, US Indo-Pacific Command (INDIOPACOM), Transportation Command (TRANSCOM), Naval Facilities Engineering and Expeditionary Warfare Center (NAVFAC EXWC), and the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC).

Army Engineer and Navy Seabee units employed the PIER technology, assessed its viability and further matured the training construct. PIER applies modern technologies to assessment and rehabilitation of waterfront assets for use during military vessel off-on/load of equipment, supplies and personnel. The Multifunctional Assessment Reconnaissance Vessel (MARV) is a cutting-edge, unmanned vessel designed for surface and subsurface port inspections, obstacle detection and precision data capture. It makes the ingress and egress phases of multi-domain operations more efficient and faster by exploiting highly detailed hydrographic in near real-time. The data supports selection of approach vectors, harbor and pier repairs, and remediation of obstacles as well as support to shore operations using co-dependent technologies in the PIER program.

The MARV is being developed by ERDC in partnership with PD CTIS, who fields the Instrument Set Reconnaissance System otherwise known as ENFIRE. ENFIRE is the computing platform for the MARV and many other Army Recon tools supporting a wide variety of mission profiles. ENFIRE is currently fielded to Army Dive Teams and is used in conjunction with the Dive Teams' above and below surface data collectors facilitating seamless integration of data and real time functionality. Army Dive Teams were selected to assess this advanced capability due to their knowledge and experience in hydrography and operationally relevant experience with ENFIRE and the Underwater Construction Sets (UCS) recently fielded by Program Manager Sets, Kits, Outfits and Tools (PM-SKOT). Army Dive Teams deploy globally, performing diverse engineering missions, and the MARV is designed to pack into "Pelican" cases for extreme portability and rapid response; right out of the box.

The remotely controlled MARV provides dive teams rapid hydro-reconnaissance survey capabilities, minimizing human exposure to hazardous conditions allowing operators full focus on their mission accomplishment. Modernization plans based on the current Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) configuration include artificial intelligence incorporation to automate obstacle avoidance integration of tethered or untethered drones and other sensing devices (e.g., sound, weather, etc.).

The technology onboard the MARV is highly configurable based on mission requirements, and future versions may allow sensor relocation to a manned vessel of opportunity. The MARV brings new capabilities and improves upon existing COTS capabilities for military reconnaissance like: Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) which is a remote sensing method that uses light in the form of a pulsed laser to measure variable distances, Multi-Beam Echo-Sounders, sub-Centimeter GPS accuracy for precise position location on the water and HD Video that gives any data consumer clear views with no special training, specialized software or additional equipment. With LiDAR and Multi-Beam working simultaneously, the MARV can detect objects above and below the water surface as well as identify sub-surface conditions that would have otherwise impeded or negated ingress/egress operations. These new tools exponentially expand the capabilities of cross-service reconnaissance, military engineering and Warfighting decisions makers within Multi-Domain Operations construct.

Final operational user assessment for the PIER JCTD and MARV systems were conducted at Naval Weapons Station Earle, NJ in August. Following all training and testing, ERDC in collaboration with PD CTIS and Army Dive teams, will field five MARV systems over the following year. Collaborating across multiple organizations to adopt COTS technology delivers enhanced capabilities to support multi-domain operations rapidly creating a paradigm for continuous modernization.

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