An advanced prototype craft for riverine warfare, Joint Multi-mission Expeditionary Craft, JMEC-01, showed up on Long Island in the Oyster Bay Marina recently.
JMEC-01 contains 1,080 Horsepower generated by twin Cummins QSC 8.3-liter 540 HP turbocharged diesel engines that have been dropped into its aluminum hulled body. Propulsion and direction come in the form of water jets that pivot beneath the boat. The jets are designed to allow maneuverability into waters as shallow as 28 inches. Controlled by an aircraft-style joystick rather than the traditional captain’s wheel, the result is a 10-ton vehicle that behaves like a Jet Ski. Top cruise speed is officially listed as greater than 40kts (46mph), and it has been reported at speeds of up to 44kts (50 mph).
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Further belying the simple workboat exterior, advanced electronics at four workstations enable the super-agile craft to act as a command and control center, not just as a basic responding vehicle. This means it is designed to coordinate activity both on land and on the water.
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According to Northrop Grumman systems engineer Michael Moore, intelligence coordination on the JMEC boat docked here in Oyster Bay is accomplished through a variety of military and civilian systems that include UHF SatCom antennas for satellite relayed information; electro-optical/infrared and radar sensors with a 360-degree field of view; AIS, an Automatic Integration System that most big ships now have, to positively identify shipping traffic; and a specialized onboard Integrated Communication System by Gentex-Telephonics that allows crewmembers to receive information through their normal headsets up to a quarter of a mile away. Said Moore, “When we’re out on the water, we are connected through a network with, for example, Blue Force Tracking Software (an emerging standard that identifies troop locations and helps reduce friendly fire incidents) to know where we are and where other, ‘friendlies’ are.” Pointing to the mast at the stern of the craft, Moore continued, “Those two antennas are called Rover antennas. Rover is a data link that connects to data coming from unmanned air vehicles (UAVs) and their sensors, for example streaming video or still images, and these can be displayed on monitors. We are connected to the Internet and run the clients (onboard computers) in real time aboard the boat.”. . . advanced electronics at four workstations enable the super-agile craft to act as a command and control center, not just as a basic responding vehicle. This means it is designed to coordinate activity both on land and on the water. This has military, Homeland Security, and emergency/humanitarian implications.. . .JMEC-01 is a high technology demonstrator jointly funded in a partnership between Aluminum Chambered Boats of Bellingham, Washington, and Northrop Grumman. There is no government aid and there is no promise of any follow-on contract. Aluminum Chambered Boats provided the hull and structure, and Northrop Grumman provided the sophisticated electronic communications and warfare systems. It is a proposal intended to show that the two companies are serious about filling these emerging needs, and that they have the capabilities to do so.
Wilkers emphasized that the craft’s layout is a test bed and that the configuration is a suggestion. . . . Company literature lists at least five different potential variants.
Assuming this craft can do what it promises, reliably in challenging conditions, it should be a formidable piece of equipment. The intended use is obvious to anyone paying attention. The question is, how will it actually be used? And who will use it? The Bush administration has outsourced so much of defense and intelligence, they don’t know what is being sold to who. And so far as news reports indicate, they don’t care. The Niger militants and guerilla entrepreneurs, and the dealers in illegal bunkering and contraband have plenty of money to spend on weapons. Weapons are a major piece of the contraband business. Militarizing one side just results in militarizing the other side in a conflict. It would be nice if the US government, the Nigerian government and the other Gulf of Guinea governments would put a bit of effort into attempting some political solutions. Unfortunately, it seems like the Bush administration does not know how to talk to people, or to make deals. Their foreign policy is to threaten war or to attack, the only trick they know.
While the defense contractors are designing weapons, the Navy is training for its new riverine responsibilities.
The SH-60 Seahawk swoops low over the York River, banks right toward the crane ship Flickertail State, hovers 20 feet above and, within seconds, a series of sailors in flight suits and skateboarding helmets rapidly slide down a rope and onto the ship.
This type of vessel boarding — used when a ship refuses to allow a visit by small boat — is a specialty of special operators, and it’s dangerous enough that it’s been left to them, until now. The only kind of boarding more dangerous is when the suspect ship actively resists.
But the sailors now searching the cargo ship for contraband or so-called ‘bad actors’ are not SEALs. They are fleet sailors assigned to “Unexpected Company” — the new helicopter-borne Visit, Board, Search and Seizure team of Mobile Security Squadron 2.
Its 24 handpicked sailors have been training since February to learn the techniques usually left to special operators but now taken on by the ever-evolving Navy Expeditionary Combat Command.. . .Known as COMET — for Command and Control, Operational Maritime Training — the two-week exercise is another step toward certifying NECC’s coastal warfare, riverine, expeditionary logistics and other units to operate with a strike group. Its scenarios were based on the fictional nations of Sapphire and Mica, the same countries used for a recent deployment certification of the Harry S. Truman Carrier Strike Group.. . .A major element has been establishing command and control of the disparate units and testing new unmanned aerial vehicles such as the hand-held, 10-ounce Wasp, which is launched with a slingshot.