Story by MC2 Geneva Brier / Commander, Naval Special Warfare Command Public Affairs
Blue-green sunlight filters through chlorinated water and tints the faces of observers as they peer through a window into the Naval Special Warfare Combat Training Tank on Naval Amphibious Base Coronado. On the other side of the glass, several divers move silently through the pool, each pausing occasionally to adjust various pieces of gear. The divers are demonstrating the latest underwater innovations at an event called Technology Experimentation 2015 or TE 15 for short, a series of events designed to keep NSW ahead of the curve and introduce new and advanced maritime technology to the community.
The history of Naval Special Warfare and Special Operation Forces in the maritime environment dates back to 1942 when the first specialized naval demolition team was formed with two officers and 17 enlisted men. A year later on June 6, 1943, the Naval Combat Demolition Unit training school was established in Ft. Pierce, Florida. Fast forward to present day and the operators within NSW continue leading the way in combat swimmer/diver operations and its maritime requirements.
Among the gear presented at TE 15, were: advanced technology wetsuits, stealth rebreathers, underwater navigation aids, shark deterrents, diver to diver communication systems, and more.
One system presented at the demonstration that would potentially expand NSW diving capability was a system that provides an acoustic navigation capability to divers through handheld devices for locating objects of interest on the sea floor, and directing divers. Another device being demonstrated that caught diver interest was a tracking and navigation system. This technology makes it possible to track and communicate with multiple divers and the ability to direct divers to latitude and longitude locations as well as track a remotely operated vehicle.
TE 15 is sponsored by Special Operations Command Program Executive Office, Maritime and coordinated through SOCOM’s science and technology office. This effort establishes the TE 15 series as the cornerstone in support of NSW’s recently developed “capabilities based assessment” for NSW combat swimmers and divers.
“This series of events keeps NSW at the leading edge of SOF maritime capabilities,” said Chief Warrant Officer Troy Roat, Naval Special Warfare Command diving program manager, “Getting a first-hand look at developing technologies in the commercial industry is a part of our acquisitions process, which helps us to identify technology that has the potential to advance warfighter capability,” he added. “We look at systems in two ways: either the technology will enhance an existing system or the technology will give us an advantage that we have never had before.”
TE events range from narrowly focused specific technology to broad spectrums that encompass many different types of technologies that the military is seeking to enhance. Events like the one hosted by NSW are held throughout the year and are repeated as technology refreshes. “All the equipment we are interested in is assessed in a process we call ‘combat evaluation’. First we evaluate which technologies can possibly be brought into NSW inventories, then we create training, tactics, and procedures and apply a crawl-walk-run approach to implementation,” said Roat. “We assess current inventories, look at our training pipelines, analyze the impact to the forces and strive for a seamless integration.”
Benefits of the events are obvious Roat explained, “We are able to drive developers towards our warfighting requirements. Our maritime battlespace environment presents a number of physiological and technical challenges. We want to break those barriers down and reinvigorate developers toward overcoming those technological shortfalls. At TE events, operators and divers are able to provide honest feedback and sound, critical analysis about equipment, directly to industry leaders.”
According to Roat, staying ahead of, or on pace with developing technology has always been the role of NSW and continues to be one of the overarching goals. These types of initiatives make NSW and SOF safer and more efficient while dominating the maritime environment and contributing to good stewardship of combat diver/swimmer programs. “This is the arena where the community is able to find the best fit of equipment for the missions at hand.” He concluded, “On days like today we’ll identify a number of sustainable commodities that fulfill the warfighters’ requirements; systems that give them the ability to get on target safely and accomplish the mission successfully with no loss of life or equipment.”