APLIS POSTCARD #5
16 March 2007
Greetings from APLIS. It started out a little overcast today but, by afternoon, had turned into another beautiful day.
We’ve now been joined by our second playmate - HMS TIRELESS arrived this morning. TIRELESS is one of the Royal Navy’s TRAFALGAR class submarines. Although not as hardened as ALEX is to go smashing through the ice, TIRELESS has many features that give her an excellent Arctic capability, including:
- Bow planes that can be retracted to permit the bow to penetrate ice without damage;
- The 2077 Sonar that allows detection and clearance estimation of deep ice keels, detection of icebergs, and delineation of surfaceable features;
- FINTEL cameras that can observe the ice abov,e ahead of, and behind the submarine.
- Upward looking sonars that measure ice draft.
- An upward-looking sidescan sonar that provides a swath image of the sonar overhead an on both sides of the submarine.
- Specifically for this operation, an EM 3002 that measures the ice draft across a swath of ice above the submarine.
Because of sensors on her deck, TIRELESS can only surface through open water or slush. One of our challenges was to find a place for her to surface. This early in the spring, the ice is still pretty consolidated and there’s not much open water. We had sighted the beginnings of a lead yesterday afternoon. So, first thing this morning, Randy Ray hopped in the helicopter and again scouted out a good surfacing site. It turned out the lead was widest just about a mile south of camp.
Randy put a homing beacon in the water. Using her upward-looking sonars, TIRELESS mapped out the lead and, just after noon, popped up through the slush.
An APLIS View of TIRELESS
Like ALEX, TIRELESS has been preparing for this mission for several months. The Commanding Officer, CDR Iain Breckenridge is familiar to many of us ere at APLIS - a few years ago he was the Royal Navy exchange officer in Groton, CT and was heavily involved in the planning for our 203 camp. Today he showed tat he and his crew have the Arctic shiphadling skills needed to park a submarine in a narrow lead.
TIRELESS Breaks Through the Ice
Also like ALEX, TIRELESS has an Arctic Operations Specialist from the Arctic Submarine Laboratory aboard. Eddie Wills joined the boat about a month ago and has been sharing his Arctic expertise with the TIRELESS crew. As mentioned yesterday, LCDR Sean Szymanskiy - the US exchange officer at Maritime Warfare Centre - is aboard to to assist with the testing. We’re also embarking Tim James from QinetiQ supporting the British Defence Science & Technology Laboratory with some of the testing I’ll talk about later. And, finally, TIRELESS has aboard Dr. Peter Wadhams and Dr. Nick Hughes from Cambridge University. They have ridden with TIRELESS from the UK to conduct scientific studies in the Arctic in support of the International Polar Year (IPY) that began earlier this month. Their primary effort here at APLIS will be to survey the bottom side of the ice with the EM 3002 sonar. This data will be used in conjunction with the ice mechanics studies that will be conducted at APLIS after the Navy turns t over to National Science Foundation in 2 weeks.
While all of this was going on, ALEX was keeping busy. We spent about 12 hours overnight testing the ACOMMS system. This is a new system that will allow APLIS and the submarines to exchange short written messages by transmitting them underwater. Like almost everything else, underwater sound behaves differently in the Arctic than elsewhere. We’re testing how well this system works in the Arctic as well as interoperability with a similar UK system on the TIRELESS. Over the last two days, we’ve embarked riders on both submarines to operate their systems. The APLIS system is being operated by Mike Rutkowski from Naval Undersea Warfare Center and Lee Freitag from Wood’s Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Our first night’s testing was very successful with most of the transmissions being received out beyond 10 miles. We’ll do some more single-ship testing tomorrow with TIRELESS then start doing some 3-way tests.
Both boats are here ad our test program is off to a good start. But wait - there’s more. TIRELESS dropped off a 3-person documentary crew who rode her up from the UK. They’re going to stay here at APLIS for a couple days filming our activity before they head home.
Time to take a quick look at the Northern Lights then head to the bunkhouse.
Arctic Submarine Laboratory