By Robbin Laird
I first became aware of George Galdorisi when were both working for Dr. Scott Truver at Anteon Corporation in support of the US Navy in the early 1990s.
And even though we have interacted through the years, and most recently, with regard to publishing some of his work on the evolution of maritime unmanned or remote systems, I had not actually met George in person.
That changed on July 10, 2020 when I flew in from Nevada after visiting the Naval Air Warfare Development Center at Fallon Naval Air Station, I was coming to San Diego for meetings to be held at US Navy Air Station North Island in San Diego.
George was my guide for an afternoon meeting pier side with the MANTAS USV team working a counter-mine maritime remote capability for the US Navy.
Currently, Galdorisi is the Director of Strategic Assessments and Technical Futures at the Navy’s Command and Control Center of Excellence in San Diego, California, Naval Information Warfare Center, Pacific. He has an extensive background serving in the Navy and working with the Navy after retirement from the Navy, and his biography can be found at the end of this article.
The day after the Friday afternoon visit with the MANTAS USV team, we sat down to discuss how he looked at the past and the future of maritime remote systems.
We started by looking at the past. He noted that the U.S. Navy has been interested for a long time in having maritime autonomous systems which could support the fleet. The challenge has been that the technology has not been mature enough to do the core missions the Navy has looked for from this class of air and sea vehicles,
He discussed the infamous DASH system which he noted “failed spectacularly because the technology wasn’t robust enough.”
Then as the XO of the USS New Orleans, he had experience with the Pioneer UAV which they launched from the ship.
“We actually put small arresting wires on the deck and our commanding officer, who was a Vietnam-era A7 pilot, had one goal that week. His goal was that we left the pier on Monday morning with three Pioneers and he wanted to come back Friday afternoon with three Pioneers.
“We came back with one.”
But after a decade-and-a-half of widespread use of unmanned systems by U.S. and allied forces in the land wars, this experience has clearly reshaped the U.S. Navy’s approach shaping a way ahead for the use of remote technologies in the fleet.
And for the U.S. Navy, the missions which they envisage for such vehicles are the dull, dirty, and dangerous work where you are putting Sailors or Marines in harm’s way and would wish to outsource these missions to autonomous systems.
The Navy and Marine Corps have been using such systems in a wide range of exercises to shape proof of concept efforts in order to sort through what will most effectively meet their needs.
For example, Galdorisi noted, with regard to the MANTAS system, it has been used by the Navy/Marine Corps team to do “intelligence preparation of the battlefield,” where they have gone into the surf zone to use sonars actually to see obstacles such as mines, as well as other obstacles that could thwart an amphibious landing.
“In Valiant Shield, they used the MANTAS to bring supplies to the beachhead because once the Marines were on the beach they had to fight their way inland.
“As tough as the landing is, the tougher part is resupplying Marines as they work to push off the beach because they use massive amounts of ammunition, fuel, and food.”
“They demonstrated that they could resupply a beachhead with autonomous vehicles and not put Sailors and Marines in harm’s way just to deliver materiel to the beach. What you saw yesterday when you rode on the larger MANTAS vehicle and saw other USVs and UUVs was the next step in having autonomous vehicles do the dull, dirty, and dangerous work that Sailors have had to do in the past to execute the mine countermeasures mission (MCM).
There is an urgency to provide the MCM capability to the Navy. Legacy capabilities now in use employ a 25-30-year-old fleet of Avenger class MCM vessels and equally old MH-53E Sea Dragon helicopters.
Littoral Combat Ship MCM Mission Modules currently under development are leaving an unacceptably narrow margin between obsolescence of legacy capability and transition to Full Operational Capability (FOC) of the new Mission Modules.
What industry is proposing is a mine countermeasure system built completely with commercial off the shelf technology. And in this case, they’ve used the 38-foot MANTAS USV. They have used the Kraken side scan sonar. And they’ve used the Pluto ROV mine neutralization system. And they have demonstrated these over the past several weeks in various exercises.
Galdorisi noted: “What industry is proposing is a parallel path solution. They are not saying that the Navy shouldn’t build another minesweeper. They are not saying the Navy shouldn’t have the H-60 helicopter do the AMCM mission. They are saying, ‘The COTS technology is available now. Why don’t we offer a parallel path solution to again take the Sailor out of the minefield and make it a single sortie to engage?’”
“What this means in practice is that one would send the MANTAS USV autonomous vehicle out in an area where mines are suspected. The MANTAS sonar coupled with the Kraken UUV searches for the mines. The Kraken comes back to the MANTAS once it surveys the area, then the Pluto goes out fine tunes exactly where the mine is and then drops an explosive charge next to it.
“The Pluto backs away, it comes back to the MANTAS and can either explode that mine right then, or put explosive charges on several mines and then detonate them at a predetermined time.
“Importantly, you don’t have to blow up every mine in the minefield; you just need a safe path for either the ships or the landing craft to go through.”
We then discussed how the U.S. Navy is looking at the various classes of unmanned surface ships to meet various needs for the fleet.
Galdorisi underscored that “At the high end are the large USVs, which basically are going to be, in my view, a truck. They will bring smaller USVs to the OPAREA.
“The medium USVs will do a lot of the work, whether it’s ISR, or mine countermeasures, or other missions.
“The smaller USVs could do tasks like counter-swarm
“My professional interest is currently on the medium ones, and there are several medium USVs out there that the Navy is experimenting with. One of the better-known ones in this class is the Sea Hunter, and of course MANTAS, which you saw yesterday.
“With these ships you can perform a variety of missions, you saw the counter-mine one yesterday.
“But another mission would be ISR. If you can’t see ahead of your ship and you want to know what’s going on out there, you can send a USV armed with radar, sonar, FLIR and other sensors out ahead of the task force to do scouting in much the same was as we used to do scouting back in World War II with aircraft.”
We then discussed the challenge of bringing together data streams generated by various platforms and their sensor networks and making that data useful to the operators and to the fleet.
Obviously, part of the challenge is working with wave forms that can communicate securely and effectively.
It is crucial to ensure that the data streams come back to a single screen allowing the operators to make correlations among those data streams, aided by autonomous systems, but really allowing the man-in-the-loop to make the intelligent judgments and decisions which allows the operator to not be in a stove-piped data stream situation.
He discussed an historical parallel that in his mind is suggestive of the way ahead,
“The LAMPS MK III was designed with an elegant concept. Think of it as disassembling a P-3, where you cut off the front end and put that up in the air, and took the back end and put it on the ship.
“And why did you do that?
“You put the front end up in the air because it has a radar and an EW system and sonobuoys. And you put the back end on the ship because the ship is more stable and has more computing power and more people and more power onboard the ship to work the data.
“In theory, it was great. And all the pilots were supposed to do in the aircraft was keep the helicopter out of the water. They were just driving the sensors around.
“All the pilots had between them was a small screen about as big as an iPad where they could look at tracks and other information.
“On the ship you had five people just like the back of a P-3 interested in what the helicopter was picking up in terms of data. And onboard the ship, one had the REMRO, the radar guy, the ESMO, the ESM guy, the ASMO, the ASW guy, and then you had the ATACO who was watching the whole picture, all the dots on the screen.
“And then you had the CIC watch officer.
“And they were the bosses. All the pilots were supposed to do in the air was keep the helicopter out of the water.
“But guess who had the best situational awareness?
“The aircrew had all the data displayed on their screen, the radar picture, the ESM picture and the tracks from the sonobuoys. All of those things were on the same screen where they could go, ‘Oh, that one is associated with that one. And that must be the Soviet ship that way, because we’re getting the radar, we’re getting the ESM spike.’
“In contrast, the guys on the ship were stove-piped in their individual roles.
“In many command centers today there many, many individual screens with lots of people doing individual things.
“To me, the art of it is bringing all those things together.
“And that art is what we need to take forward to make best use of the data streams which autonomous systems can provide.
“The data needs to go to a centralized location whether on a ship or in the air where it is correlated and made sense of.”
This is the area where clearly the discipline of human factors engineering and human system integration comes in and plays a key role in shaping how best to do the convergence or correlation effort and capability which is central to the way ahead.
Clearly, artificial intelligence will contribute to providing decision aids, but in Galdorisi’s view, to maximize fully unmanned platforms, we need to move from the current paradigm where many people manage a single unmanned platform, to a new concept of operations where a single operator can manage a force package of maritime USVs with different sensors on each.
This way, we can make the best use of what the sensors or capabilities deployed on tho e systems can do for the fleet.
This is a major challenge, but clearly a key way ahead.
GEORGE GALDORISI is a career naval aviator whose thirty years of active duty service included four command tours and five years as a carrier strike group chief of staff. He began his writing career in 1978 with an article in the U.S. Navy’s professional magazine, U.S. Naval Institute Proceedings.
In addition to his Rick Holden thrillers published by Braveship Books, he has written thirteen other books distributed by mainstream publishers, including several bestselling novels in the rebooted Tom Clancy’s Op-Center series, including Out of the Ashes, Into the Fire, Scorched Earth, and Dark Zone.
With his longtime collaborator, Dick Couch, he coauthored the New York Times best seller, Tom Clancy Presents: Act of Valor the novelization of the Bandito Brothers/Relativity Media film. He is also the author of The Kissing Sailor, which proved the identity of the two principals in Alfred Eisenstaedt’s famous photograph; as well as over three-hundred articles in professional journals and other media.
George has received a number of national and international writing awards, including: The Navy League of the United States Alfred Thayer Mahan Award for Literary Achievement, the Surface Navy Association Literary Award, the Navy League of Australia’s Annual Essay Competition, the Naval Helicopter Historical Association Mark Starr Pioneer Literary Award, and the Military Writers Society of America Silver Medal Award, among others. George speaks frequently at writing classes and seminars including: San Diego State University Writers Conference, La Jolla Writers Conference, San Diego Writer’s Ink, Southern California Writers Association, Coronado Writer’s Workshop, and other venues.
George is the Director of Strategic Assessments and Technical Futures at the Navy’s Command and Control Center of Excellence in San Diego, California. He and his wife Becky live in Coronado, California. Other than writing thrillers, he likes nothing more than connecting with readers. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter, and learn more about his books, blogs and other writing on his website: http://georgegaldorisi.com/ – especially his “Writing Tips,” – which offer useful advice for all writers from established authors to future best-selling writers.