Navy Submarine Makes First Launch of Underwater Glider

Story Number: NNS051123-04Release Date: 11/23/2005 10:12:00 AM
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By Chief Journalist (SW/AW) David Rush, Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Public Affairs

PEARL HARBOR, Hawaii (NNS) -- In a first for the U.S. Navy, an underwater glider was launched with the aid of Navy divers from the Dry Deck Shelter aboard USS Buffalo (SSN 715) Nov. 14.

The glider is a uniquely mobile network component capable of moving to specific locations and depths and gathering various information, which is transmitted on a predetermined interval when it surfaces to computers via a built-in satellite phone.

"Our interest in the submarine force has been to use these to characterize the ocean," explained Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Cross, Pacific Submarine Force oceanographer. "They're equipped with sensors that can give us [readings on] salinity and temperature versus depth, and from that we can get sound speeds (the localized rate at which sound from a source travels through water). We can feed that data into our MODAS (Modular Ocean Data Assimilation System), run by the Naval Oceanographic Office, and that provides a picture that we provide to our submarines," said Cross.

The battery-powered device paints a picture for assets below and above the ocean that can be used to their advantage, according to Cross.

"It's basically a three dimensional depiction of ocean conditions that is used in tactical decision aids to determine sonar performance," said Cross. "The gliders are a great way to have a persistent sensor out there to continuously feed us data on what the ocean is doing," he said. "Then we can feed that to our shore-based computer models and get a better picture of the ocean and give that information to all tactical assets - not just submarines, but anyone involved in ASW (anti-submarine warfare)."

Cross added that the gliders have demonstrated their capability in various exercises.

"We have had incremental success since we began using them in exercises, including a glider in RIMPAC (exercise Rim of the Pacific) '04," he said. "It did a great job of demonstrating the technology."

Retrieving a glider via submarine is a logical next step.

"One of the future exercises we hope to do is recover a glider on board a submarine, demonstrating both deployment and recovery. We would locate the glider via GPS, and divers would retrieve it and bring it aboard," Cross said.

The gliders are relatively inexpensive, easy to reconfigure for various missions, and have a long life span with minimal maintenance required. When new batteries are required, they can simply be replaced and the glider can be put back in the water again.

For related news, visit the Commander, Submarine Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet Navy NewsStand page at

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