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Coast Guard cutter and RDC join forces to complete annual Arctic Technology Evaluation


Coast Guard Cutter Campbell underway during an Arctic deployment off Greenland's western coast. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy.

Like almost everything in 2020, the Coast Guard Research and Development Center (RDC) had to make a few adjustments this year in planning for the annual Arctic Technology Evaluation.  When RDC researchers were restricted from traveling due to COVID-19 conditions, crewmembers onboard Coast Guard Cutter Campbell took on additional responsibilities this summer to evaluate five technologies. The Campbell crew conducted the evaluations during a two-month deployment supporting joint Arctic operations off Greenland’s western coast, returning to their Kittery, Maine, homeport Sept. 29, 2020.

The RDC has been involved in Arctic research since the center was established. Each year’s Arctic Technology Evaluation provides an invaluable opportunity to field test promising technologies under real world conditions in some of the most remote and challenging locations.

“This effort strengthens international partnerships and provides a foundation for standard operations in the rapidly developing Arctic maritime environment,” said Vice Adm. Steven Poulin, commander U.S. Coast Guard Atlantic Area. “As interest and maritime traffic in the area increase, the importance of the U.S. Coast Guard’s interoperability with allied partners becomes more critical to ensuring we protect national and shared security interests. Exercising our unique blend of polar operational capability, regulatory authority and international leadership across the full spectrum of maritime governance is vital to the future of the Arctic.”

“The 2020 Arctic package, conducted onboard Coast Guard Cutter Campbell, was another important step as we build the service's body of knowledge regarding this demanding area of responsibility. We are already working on elements for the 2021 event," said Capt. Dan Keane, RDC commanding officer.

“Testing various technologies by cutter crews for operation in cold and Arctic environments provides highlights on what works and what may need improvement, and can help influence tactics, techniques and procedures,” said Brian Dolph, who heads the RDC’s Surface Branch. “This work directly contributes to two lines of effort in the Coast Guard Arctic Strategic Outlook: ‘Enhance Capability to Operate Effectively in a Dynamic Arctic’ and ‘Innovate and Adapt to Promote Resilience and Prosperity.’”

With remote support from the RDC, Campbell crewmembers conducted the evaluations, armed with detailed user manuals and technical reports.

The technologies selected for evaluation:

  • Insight Mini Thermal Monocular (MTM) and AN/PSQ-20 Monoculars (enhanced night vision devices) for improved law enforcement and ice detection.

The AN/PSQ-20 fused monoculars were evaluated on their ability to determine ice edge and targets of interest during normal watch operations; the technology was successful, especially at night, and allowed crew members to sight and quickly provide accurate data on size and shape of an iceberg.

The MTM integration was via adapter cable to broadcast to the Campbell’s displays, supporting law enforcement and flight operations.

“These tools functioned well to identify land, shipping and icebergs at night, providing detailed images of objects. Highly recommend future use,” said Capt. Thomas Crane, Campbell commanding officer.

LEFT: Petty Officer 3rd Class Amber Boguslawski utilizes the AN/PSQ-20 Monoculars (enhanced night vision devices) during a look-out watch on the Campbell’s bridge. RIGHT: Ensign Jordan Solseth runs a test for the Long Range Acoustic Device. U.S. Coast Guard photos by Seaman Kate Kilroy.

  • Iridium Certus Terminal, which helped provide internet access for the crew to maintain communications with Atlantic Area.

One of the biggest challenges for polar operations is effective communication. The Iridium Certus Terminal was used in this evaluation to provide a communication method every day, allowing for the easy transmission of multimedia messages and the establishment of phone communications in the contiguous United States for the crew. “We tested this frequently throughout the patrol to analyze and document the operational suitability. Integrated into the shipboard telephone system, it provided clear communications for command and crew to make operational and emergency calls. It also proved to be highly effective as a back-up internet option when our high latitude operations challenged other technology,” Crane said.

  • Long Range Acoustic Device (LRAD) 500X-RE for enhanced communication with vessels at longer distances.

Underscoring the challenges faced during Arctic operations, weather conditions were generally not favorable for small boat operations, but the LRAD provided clear hailing and communication to small boats up to 500 yards away.

  • Handheld Glare Helios laser for stand-off hailing capabilities.

The Glare Helios laser was tested in both day and night operations using a manned over the horizon (OTH) boat. During daylight hours, crewmembers onboard the OTH small boat detected the laser up to 8,000 yards from Campbell. During night hours, the laser was even more effective and could be seen over the horizon (approximately nine nautical miles). The Arctic environment did not hinder the operational capability of the Glare Helios.

  • FiFish Remotely Operated Vehicle for underwater inspections in cold weather.

The Coast Guard recently authorized the use of low-cost ROVs to enhance the effectiveness of the fleet; this demonstration proved this technology is also viable in polar environments. The demonstration highlighted maintenance efficiencies by reducing the number of crew-hours and risk to personnel required to perform time-consuming dives and providing on-demand inspection of hulls and piers.

Final results from these five technology evaluations are due at the end of the year.

Campbell’s crew also contributed to joint search and rescue exercises with the French and Royal Danish navies, facilitated key diplomatic engagements and supported National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration and International Ice Patrol iceberg research during the 11,500-mile deployment. Campbell became the first 270-foot medium endurance cutter to earn the Arctic Service Medal.

LEFT: Lt. Stephen Hills lowers the FiFish remotely operated vehicle (ROV) into the water while Campbell is moored up at the port of Nuuk, Greenland. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Ensign Ross Kolko. RIGHT: Ensign Liam Middleton, Hills and Petty Officer 1st Class Douglas Locklear run the ROV to inspect under the waterline of Campbell. U.S. Coast Guard photo by Seaman Kate Kilroy.

For more information: Research and Development Center program page and Research, Development, Test and Evaluation program page