Operational Biogeochemistry for Submariners (OBS)

Department Name: Science and Technology


Discussions between NOC, dstl(Ministry of Defence), the Royal Navy and Chelsea Technologies Group (CTG) have highlighted what can be gained from hull-mounted underway instruments and where a lack of appropriate formal communication is failing to exploit UK research and development. Advances in the scientific understanding of the marine environment through real-time underway monitoring are not yet being integrated with traditional operational training. And the operational tools needed to exploit these advances need research and development, the outputs of which will benefit both UK operators and UK business exports. It is vital that operational requirements are efficiently fed back to industry, with the knowledge based interaction of research organisations, such that complex measured parameters are provided in a simple visual user interface. The OBS programme seeks to address these problems through a number of formal routes for knowledge exchange. Royal Navy vessels including submarines carry a wide range of underway environmental monitoring instruments. Many vessels are equipped with underway instrument packages which, in addition to temperature and salinity, also measure chlorophyll fluorescence, a biological degradation product known as Gelbstoff or 'yellow substance', trace hydrocarbons and luminescence. Some training is provided for mariners and submariners in physical oceanography to maintain a level of understanding of the impact of the sound velocity characteristics of a water column on the ability to detect and be detected acoustically. However, both the RN and DSTL have a keen interest in establishing and exploiting the use of non-acoustic indicators that provide information on the operating environment for UK strategic advantage. The data from biogeochemical environmental sensors are currently poorly understood by operators. There are no mechanisms currently in place to provide the sustained knowledge transfer necessary for the routine interpretation of these data streams for operational environmental advantage. Currently the numbers and units provided by the fluorimeters (chlorophyll, gelbstoff and hydrocarbons) and the luminescence sensors mean nothing to the operator without the incorporation of suitable training in the mariner and sub-mariner curriculum. And, the multi-variable interpretation of these data streams is where the real added value for environmental advantage could arise. This requires the development of tactical environmental prediction firmware for the real-time guidance of operations. For example a coincident increase in gelbstoff fluorescence with decreasing chlorophyll(a) fluorescence would suggest a possible change towards a dinoflagellate dominated phytoplankton population and the likelihood of significant vessel wake-driven luminescence at perhaps the 40% risk level. If we further combine this with a knowledge of oceanographic characteristics then perhaps this risk might be reduced to 20% or increased to 70%. The overall OBS programme has three parts, for which this exchange project OBS(1) will form the foundation first part. OBS(1) is a collaborative fact-finding mission to catalogue the current state of operational ability, technical procurement, mature research knowledge and operational requirements. The most important overall objectives of OBS(1) are firstly to set the details for the incorporation of long term biogeochemical operational training in the mariner and sub-mariner syllabus, to be provided by front line researchers supported by the Royal Navy under OBS(2). Secondly OBS(1) will set out the framework for the research and development of operational environmental prediction tools under OBS(3); involving close interaction with research organisations and industry. This component will develop the operator interface of the future and will be supported by dstl.


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