16 NAVY NEWS, SEPTEMBER 2010 ● HMS Somerset on patrol in the Gulf...
Somerset pictures: LA(Phot) Jenny Lodge
HE frigate sits on the surface of the water outwardly calm.
Within the ops room a screen comes alive, a torpedo on impact course.
Time to move, no time to think. Three-hundred and sixty degrees of options, and moments to n,
decide. Analysis is not an option, reaction is.
But that reaction is guided by the men and women of the Maritime Warfare Centre, based at HMS Collingwood – who provide the analysis long before the event can happen.
back on an exhaustive legacy of knowledge.
The MWC is an alliance of scientists,
purpose is to create battle-winning tactics for the Royal Navy, based on the tactics that have won, the tactics that analysis proves will win, the tactics that first-hand experience says will win. The mix of civilian and military pulls together front-line experience and scientific rigour – the sterile world of the computer meets the vivid world of the front-line. So although the MWC is based
d decisions in her Ops Room are aided by the tactics of the MWC
whose sole driving and
k. s o
the front line.
Analysis that is powered by carefully-constructed scenarios, running thousands of models of different reactions,
is g Phili Ce
ever every battle. th antage of direct e
“The difference between living and dying is getting the tactic right,” says Capt Philip Warwick of the Maritime Warfare Centre. And that is why the Maritime Warfare Centre exists – a think tank staffed by scientists, analysts and the military; its role is to make sure that the tactics are right to win any and
advantage of direct experience on the front line.
Capt Warwick said: “If you’ve got a good idea, or seen something that is good or bad, you should be looking to raise a Fleet Lesson. “Everyone serving at sea has the ability to submit Lessons to the MWC.
streamed back to the UK in just hours before sending straight back their analysis of the situation. Lt Cdr Paul Bell in Anti-Air
“If you’re out in the Fleet, see something good, bad or indifferent, tell them they can submit a Lesson and it will be noted.”
The Fleet Lessons cell is one of the smaller parts of the MWC organisation – just three people – but they can have a loud voice. Cdr Mark Allibon explained: “The Lessons feedback from the Gulf is having a real effect. There’s a high level of visibility.” A visibility that means that CinCFleet himself sits down to go through the Fleet Lessons feedback every six months. Cdr Allibon gave an example:
in Fareham, its outlook is global. Capt Philip Warwick, the man who heads up the MWC, said: “What we’re providing to the Fleet is battle-winning tactics. “So when they are sat there on their ship in the Gulf, whatever the threat might be, the tactics they are using are from the MWC.” And why are those tactics so
important? His response is blunt: “The difference between living and dying is getting the tactic right.”
He added: “It isn’t just us sitting here thinking ‘I wonder what would happen if...’ “There’s a significant amount
of rigour to what we do – both scientific and military expertise.” The unit is made up of some 120 people, split roughly equally between civilian and military, although at any given time a hefty chunk of these people will be out at sea, on board ships, running trials and experiments; and most importantly asking questions. Dr Martin Fowler,
● Training on the Tactical fl oor of the MWC Picture: Keith Woodland NEW NEW NEW NEW NEW
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scientific adviser to CinCFleet, praises the combination of civilian scientists working alongside Service personnel: “We keep ourselves up to date, our legacy knowledge is refreshed with the two-year military rotation. “My operational analysis team comprises an eclectic mix of scientists, mathematicians,
engineers and retired Service personnel who are all recognised specialists in their particular fields.”
“You’ll find our ships with upper deck weapons – GPMGs – are being fitted with gunshields for gunners.
that came out of the Lessons process. CinC himself said that it was fundamental to the safety of our sailors.”
“There was a body of evidence
deploying unit is given reams of relevant information based on lessons learned during previous operations.
Another example he offers is humanitarian aid – previous experience was sent out to people on board RFA Largs Bay for the Haiti relief effort.
He explained that every
Warfare and his team are similarly crunching through data at speed to feed back information to units out in theatre. He said: “The Gulf is the big
focus; the situation can develop very quickly. We have to react accordingly. “Clearly we don’t just do it on the back of an envelope. We’ve got to bring it back to people who know what they’re doing. “Out there they don’t have time to do this; or have the in-depth knowledge available. You simply don’t have scientists at sea, people with time to do the analysis.” It’s a similar story from Steve Phillips in the Sea King ASaC (Airborne Surveillance and Control) section: “We offer deep analysis of the data that the aircraft has been gathering in theatre.” So on a typical day the two
Herrick operational analysts will run through four sorties of data each (the equivalent of 24 hours of flying) to feedback to Afghanistan an analysis that can help to plan future operations, deployments,
inform troop understand the
pattern of life, and offer force protection.
The Sea Kings in Afghanistan
The feedback from the Fleet is an essential part of what they do; because it allows the MWC to take
bringing people back who were stranded by volcanic ash – we have good knowledge to share. Some strategic, some more practical. “So whatever anyone tells you, there’ll be a thousand more people on the jetty. “And don’t throw people’s bags all together into the corner of the hanger when they come on board, you can guarantee that the diabetic’s essential medication will be buried at the bottom.” Expertise at the MWC is focused in key divisions; Lt Cdr Bob Mannion of the underwater warfare section analyses surface ship and submarine exercises, trials and operations. He cheerfully describes the challenges as “a cat-and-mouse, game of chess, whatever intellectual level you want to work at,
all about action and reaction to what’s happening out there.” He’s justifiably proud that his team can turn around information
it’s “And for Op Cunningham –
are gathering a detailed picture of what is happening on the ground, that feeds into the decision-making process; and MWC have been honing their analysis methods to provide swifter and in-depth response for theatre. This is, by necessity, a brief canter through a few of the areas of MWC expertise – carrier strike, aviation, C4ISTAR and influence, logistics and amphibious warfare all come under the organisation’s watchful eye.
In addition to support to
operations and exercises – counter-piracy, drugs interdiction, or any of the countless other areas that demand the Navy’s attention – the MWC also has a remit for education and battlestaff training. There’s no point in keeping
all that expertise bottled up in Collingwood, but every point in making sure that people out in the Fleet are trained to best use and recognise those all-important battle-winning tactics. Sadly gone (see tactical floor picture left) are the days of Wrens pushing models around the tactical floor in the historic buildings of Southwick (apparently best done with the shaft of a golf- club adorned with a piece of Blu- Tack).
Instead the tactical floor now has a new home in Collingwood and is in regular use to bring scenarios and training to life for the men and women attending the MWC. Of course, the here and now is not the only focus of MWC attention.
“New and highly-capable ships are entering service and clearly we are not only doing battle-winning tactics, but also preparing for the future.”
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● One of the analysis tools in use at the MWC to model tactics in theatre for ships such as HMS Somerset
The analysis work of the men and women, both civilian and military, of the MWC is being fed on a daily basis into the operational decisions being made by CinCFleet’s staff at Navy Command HQ. Capt Warwick said: “My job is to ensure that MWC’s work is at the heart of generating a Royal Navy that can fight and win.”
Capt Warwick said:
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