Oceanographic and military missions increasingly overlap

Posted: 12/07/2011 in all marine news

Robert Monroe –

The oceans between Japan and the Horn of Africa include disputed territorial waters, pirate-infested regions where insurers refuse to cover Scripps Institution of Oceanography research vessels, and coastlines experiencing the world’s most tangible effects of climate change.

These conditions put our nation’s security at risk. And in these troubled waters, Scripps and the U.S. Navy are finding an ever-growing number of reasons to help each other navigate through difficult passages.

An Oct. 24 meeting between Adm. Robert Willard, the Hawaii-based commander of the United States Pacific Command (a joint command overseeing efforts of all branches of the U.S. military), and scientists at the Scripps campus revealed several areas of common interest.

With its size and Pacific coast location, the Scripps research fleet operates in an area with boundaries that neatly overlap with the Pacific Command’s region.

The potential for Scripps to collect vital ocean data through Navy-directed projects is possibly greater than ever before, even though the two entities share a long history.

It dates back to before World War II, when Scripps research vessel E.W. Scripps was pressed into service for naval operations.

Scripps researchers helped the Navy make tide and wave predictions prior to amphibious assaults in World War II theaters spreading from Africa to Normandy. During the Cold War, Scripps marine acoustics experts helped develop technologies to enable detection of enemy submarines and ships.

Recently, Office of Naval Research funding led to the creation of portable meteorological stations designed at Scripps and deployed in Afghanistan. In total last year, Scripps performed $30 million worth of research for the Navy.

Much of the work was directly supported by the Department of Defense to meet future naval needs. Scripps Director Tony Haymet hopes the institution can contribute more to Navy research needs that are specific to the Pacific region.

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