DISASTER MANAGEMENT

Military, Civilian Divers Complete Critical Sustainment At Undersea Range

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By Navair News

Members of the Naval Aviation Training Systems and Ranges programme office (PMA-205), Army and civilian divers at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF) recently completed a month-long inspection and sustainment operation on critical pieces of undersea infrastructure in Kauai, Hawaii.

The PMRF is world’s largest instrumented, multi-dimensional testing and training range, providing thousands of nautical miles for anti-submarine warfare aircrew training and evaluation of performance of anti-submarine warfare platforms and equipment. It is the only range in the world where subsurface, surface, air and space vehicles can operate and be tracked simultaneously. 

“Sustainment of the PMRF is critical because this range allows warfighters extraordinary flexibility in planning and conducting realistic multi-participant, multi-threat operations to train crews, evaluate tactics, and test weapon systems,” said PMA-205 programme manager, Capt. Kevin McGee whose team supported the effort.

At PMRF, cable conduits run offshore from the beach to various points on the range. The cables connect more than 1,000 square miles of sea floor, and are instrumented with hydrophones and underwater communication devices to an onshore range operations center, allowing range participants to be tracked in real time from the surface to the sea floor. 

Weather and swell induced damage to cables at PMRF can be severe, with swell heights reaching 25 feet or more during storm seasons. Damage to the cables can include abrasion, corrosion and sand scouring, requiring continual preventative maintenance and repair to keep the range operational. 

“In recent years, repairs to underwater cables in diver depths at ranges in southern California cost the Navy more than US$10 million. The Navy plans to prevent this from happening at PMRF through aggressive and continual preventive maintenance measures,” said  a civilian engineer diver from PMRF Underwater Tracking Systems, Mike Dick.

To complete this work, divers from PMA-205, PMRF Underwater Tracking Systems and military divers from the Army’s 7th Engineer Detachment inspected thousands of feet of cable, completed cable stabilization, and installed anodes in water depths reaching more than 100 feet. Lt. Cmdr. Paulstephen Chierico, who supports PMA-205, completed seven dives at PMRF this year.

“There is a common background between military trained divers, you can embed with a team, and with people who they have never met before and immediately trust them with your life. It was a great experience working with civilian and Army divers for this truly joint mission,” said PMA-205 ocean facilities team lead, Lt. Cmdr. Paulstephen Chierico.

Aggressive sustainment is vital to keeping the existing ranges at the PMRF operational until PMA-205’s Undersea Warfare Training Range Programme recapitalization is complete. The team recently completed installation of a new underwater junction box site that informed the critical design review for the planned ranges and helped in establishing the best routes for instrumented cables.

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