The US Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the US Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division (NSWCCD) have developed and tested the Environmental and Ship Motion Forecasting (ESMF) system off the California coast.

A future naval capability effort supported by ONR’s Sea Warfare and Weapons Department, the ESMF system has been designed to provide sea condition information at high levels of accuracy for sea-based forces to predict ship motions in difficult operations like ship-to-ship transfer of personnel, vehicles or materiel.

During the two-week single-ship trials, the ESMF system used sensors, hardware and software installed on the ONR-sponsored research vessel USNS Melville (T-AGOR-14) while the team gathered data from surface ship-based radar, laser identification detection and ranging, buoys and others.

The new system will enable sailors and marines to predict ship and wave movements up to 30 seconds before they occur, giving them extra time to make adjustments to avoid collisions or other dangerous situations for the crew.

ONR programme manager Dr. Paul Hess said that the system could be a huge asset to joint force operations, to air-sea battlespace coordination and for naval needs in the Pacific Rim.

"Ultimately this improvement in environmental sensing will lead to a dramatic increase in decision support and operator guidance."

A five-minute prediction window will be provided by the system to assist military operators in deciding Go/No-Go for operations in a range of environmental conditions.

"Imagine the complexity of two ships making a simple transfer of material in a port, using, for instance, a crane. Variations in wave strength, different hulls reacting differently in terms of pitch and roll, and many more factors are at work," said Hess.

"Now picture that same process not in port but on the open sea, with exponentially bigger waves, and you get the idea of how knowing what’s going to happen can make or break a successful operation," he added.

Capable of forecasting ship movements on the water, including pitch, heave and roll, the ESMF is scheduled to undergo further trials onboard multiple ships in fiscal year 2015.

"Ultimately this improvement in environmental sensing will lead to a dramatic increase in decision support and operator guidance," said Hess.

The ONR and NSWCCD team also includes the University of Michigan, University of Washington, Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Ohio State University, General Dynamics Applied Physical Sciences and Aquaveo.

Defence Technology