Wednesday, February 25, 2009

USS Mahan First Destroyer with Integrated UAV

GULF OF ADEN (Feb. 20, 2009) The Danish flexible support ship HDMS Absalon (L 16), right, the guided-missile cruiser USS Vella Gulf (CG 72) and the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) transit the Gulf of Aden. Vella Gulf is the flagship for Combined Task Force 151, a multinational task force conducting counter-piracy operations to detect and deter piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean and Red Sea. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communications Specialist 2nd Class Jason R. Zalasky.)

Dispatches from the Front:

USS MAHAN At Sea, Feb. 25, 2009 -- The unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) capability aboard USS Mahan (DDG 72) provides the capability to pace emerging threats during its counter-piracy mission and perform missions in a more efficient and effective manner throughout its expected service life.

"Mahan is the first [guided missile] destroyer to deploy with a UAV system fully integrated into the ship's combat systems," said Intelligence Specialist 1st Class Danielle Fournet, one of Mahan's UAV imagery analysts.

"This is a significant step forward and is reflective of the increased use of UAVs across the spectrum of military operations."

The combat readiness enabled by the UAV system has proven itself extremely effective during Mahan's current involvement in Combined Task Force (CTF) 151's counter-piracy operations in and around the Gulf of Aden.

"The UAV's mission supports the ship's mission as part of CTF 151," said Fournet. "It supports the counter-piracy mission by providing maritime surveillance and cueing on suspicious activity."

The UAV operates daily to conduct surveillance which is monitored by the intelligence specialists on the ship who carefully watch for any suspicious activity which may be related to acts of piracy on the high seas.

"It can fly day or night in a covert or overt posture, making it much harder for pirates to hide," explained Fournet.

The combination of UAV capabilities and modernization of the Aegis destroyer bridge the gap to future surface combatants and facilitate a more rapid and affordable capability insertion process.

"Taken in context with other aircraft and ships operating in the area, the UAV is a true force multiplier," added Fournet. "Its ability to provide high quality imagery in real time speeds decision making and provides a significant tactical advantage in stopping piracy on the high seas."

Watchstanders in the operations center of the ship believe it is evident that equipping the ship with an integrated UAV system makes it a technologically advanced hub of modern warfare on the tip of the spear with significant surveillance and monitoring capabilities.

"The UAV provides invaluable cueing that is used by the operations personnel [and CTF 151 staff] to station associated surface assets," explained Fournet. "It is versatile and very responsive, able to change operating areas and change missions in mid-flight."

Piracy is an international problem that requires an international solution. For that reason, Mahan, as well as other assets of CTF 151, has been working very closely with naval ships from 14 different nations to coordinate efforts most effectively to combat piracy in the region.

"We are most certainly sharing data with other nations," said Fournet. "That is one of the biggest tactical advantages that the UAV brings to the fight. We are able to rapidly disseminate high quality imagery to our coalition partners, thereby improving overall mission effectiveness and strengthening key partnerships between navies."

The UAV system has a multitude of possible uses for the Navy while facing modern challenges, making it an invaluable asset to CTF 151 during counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden.

"The maritime applications of unmanned systems have been many and varied over the course of Mahan's deployment," added Fournet. "Our detachment is working hard to document lessons learned and is eager to contribute to the U.S. Navy's plans for the future of UAVs at sea.

"[The UAV system] has great significance as a developing effort to apply 21st century technology to the 21st century challenges that our Navy faces," said Fournet.

Mahan will continue to support Combined Task Force 151, a multinational task force conducting counter-piracy operations to detect and deter piracy in and around the Gulf of Aden, Arabian Sea, Indian Ocean and Red Sea, until the end of her current deployment. CTF 151 was established to create a lawful maritime order and develop security in the maritime environment.

(Report by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class (AW/SW) Monique K. Hilley.)

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