Monday, December 14, 2009

Computer stabilised platform for replenishment at sea

A new option for underway replenishment (UNREP/RAS) of ships is the Ampelmann self stabilising platform. This has computer controlled jacks which compensate for the motion of the ship. This could be used to transfer crew and cargo from a ship to a Collins class submarine, as well as other vessels.

It may be possible to apply the same technology to the jack supported ramps fitted to the the Australian designed Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) being built for the US navy. This would allow the ships to transfer cargo, vehicles and personnel at sea while underway. For safety reasons it might be prudent to use remote controlled fork lift trucks for most cargo transfer.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Strategic and technical options for new Australian submarines

HMAS Rankin Collins class submarineIn his 2009 Annual Burgmann College Lecture, the Prime Minister proposed a National Security College be set up by the Australian Government and the Australian National University. This would train senior civilian and military officers in strategic matters, including collaborative culture. A practical exercise which the new students could undertake is the design of the new Collins class submarine replacement, combining strategic and technical options in the one process.

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) has proposed 12 submarines at a cost of $A25 billion (project SEA 1000). However, there is no proven design for such submarines. Even if they could be built, it is not clear the Australian Government could use such a powerful weapon system effectively. Therefore it would be useful for a mixed team of policy specialists, military and technical specialists to consider what capabilities are feasible and how they might be used.

The preferred ADF option is for a larger version of the current Collins class Australian-built diesel-electric submarines. Even if this is the best option, there are still many details to consider. As an example, one option is to use automation to reduce the crew of the submarine, allowing for more capability in a smaller space. That would require an analysis of what is possible with computer based systems to run a submarine. With effective use of automaton, it may be possible to provide all the desired capability in a submarine the same size as the current Collins class.

There are rapid advances being made in s (robot miniature submarines). It is likely these will be used for missions currently undertaken by manned submarines. It is likely the Collins class replacement will be equipped to launch and recover several types of AUVs, but what types and for what missions? This will require a knowledge of robotics and AI.

The primary mission of the submarines will be to collect information and to attack shipping. With the development of long range accurate cruse missiles, the submarines may also act as a strategic deterrent. However, Australia does not have a process for making the rapid political decision needed to use such a deterrent. This would require consideration of the political process to be used, as well as how consultations would be made with advisers and the technical communications infrastructure to do that. Even the USA, which has invested considerable resources on strategic decision making over decades, found its decision systems unable to cope with a relatively small scale attack on 11 September 2001.

The Australian Department of Defence issued a Request for Tender for a "Headquarters Joint Operations Command (HQJOC) Telepresence System". Government agencies are also investing in telepresence systems. However, this would require not only technical compatibility between the military and civilian systems, but also compatible meeting procedures. While the military have long practiced the use of such technology for decision making, this usually does not involve civilian decision makers. Also new systems such as instant messaging on mobile devices create new options and well as creating a risk of subverting established processes. Scenarios could be investigated using tools such as the Delphi Decision Maker.

New options are emerging, such as use of the National Broadband Network, which will be a high speed, relatively secure and reliable network. The "Defence Information and Communications Technology Strategy 2009" makes no mention 0f the NBN.

The ADF has envisioned the Collins class replacement as having a very long range. This is in part due to the long transit times from Australian submarine bases to likely patrol areas. An alternative would be to provide floating support facilities, which could undertake some replenishment at sea and major work at a friendly port.

Replenishment at sea (Underway replenishment UNREP) is not favoured by submariners, due to limited space in a submarine making loading slow and dangerous, with most supplies being loaded by hand down narrow hatches. However, with the design of a new submarine comes the opportunity to incorporate containerised, automated stores handling. This would allow rapid transfer using automated cranes and helicopters.

The RAN's new Canberra Class Landing Helicopter Dock ships will be equipped for rapid stores transfer, as will the Australian designed Joint High Speed Vessels (JHSV) being built for the US navy. On a smaller scale the Austal Multi-Role Vessel could be used with an unmanned helicopter, such as the Kaman Aerospace Corporation K-MAX, for Vertical Replenishment (VERTREP). However, studies of the technical feasibility, strategic and political implications of this would be needed.

Standard unit loads would prove challenging to accommodate in a submarine. MIL-STD-1660 specifies a 1,016 mm × 1,219 mm 1,814 kg unit load and the "Joint Modular Intermodal Container" (JMIC) is 51.75”L X 43.75”W X 43”H which would be difficult to load into and move about in a submarine. However, the benefits for solving this problem would be substantial. Containerisation of stores and equipment has begun to change the design, operation and strategic uses of surface warships, such as the Absalon class command ship. The same could be applied to submarines, making them quicker to load, replenish and reconfigure.

Proving access ways to accommodate standard unit loads would also allow equipment on the submarine to be palletised and easily replaced. This would allow equipment to be swapped out for maintenance and for different missions. One application of this would be for power. The Collins class vessels have experienced problems with the Hedemora diesel engines. These cannot be easily replaced due to their size. Smaller palletised power units could be removed for service.

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Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Australian National Security College

Last Thursday in the 2009 Annual Burgmann College Lecture, the Prime Minister proposed a National Security College be set up by the Australian Government and the Australian National University. This would train senior civilian and military officers in strategic matters, including collaborative culture.

It happens I attended a short course at the then Australian College of Defence and Strategic Studies. In this as a senior government officer I took part in a role playing exercise with senior military officers on how to deal with a security crisis in South East Asia. This was very different from the average public service course. Later I gave the college a seminar on Internet and web for command and control at a Joint US/Australian military exercise.

The mention of "collaborative culture" by the PM is significant. There may be a role for the use of technology in this training, as this is also being increasingly used for the actual collaboration at senior levels. Both the military and civilian government buildings are being equipped with computers and telecommunications to link them together for meetings. What is lacking is training of the staff in how to make use of these facilities, both the support staff who prepare briefing materials and the senior staff who need to lean new forms of literacy to be able to use the materials.

Recently I was considering how the techniques of mentoring and collaboration I have been using to teach Green ICT, may be applied further. One thought was to develop a course which not only used these techniques for delivery, but also as the topic of the course: teach how to do online collaboration, by using online collaborating. Apart from teaching an essential skill to senior decision makers, this would also have the advantage of reducing the resources required to deliver such courses.

A major problem with courses for senior staff is to get them in one place at the same time for long enough to teach them. One way around this is to give them online courses. This also has the advantage of better simulating the busy environment which the education is for. It also makes best use of very senior instructors.

... I spoke before about the new strategic relationship between the Australian Government and the ANU. To spearhead this new relationship, I want to explore the establishment of a National Security College.

National security is now a very complex policy environment and senior officials need new sets of knowledge and skills to operate effectively and strategically within this new environment. Last December in my National Security Statement I announced the establishment of a national Security Executive Development Program.

The development of this program is underway, however I envisage that this be developed into a suite of world-leading courses that will be undertaken by senior officials working in the national security community.

I want the Program to develop a generation of senior executive officials who will have a shared understanding of the national security strategic environment, architecture and collaborative culture - and a shared understanding of the capabilities, priorities and challenges that exist across the national security community. Such a college would help develop the next generation of national security leaders and more broadly enhance strategic leadership in our community.

To give this program a “home” and recognised brand of excellence, some preliminary discussions have commenced with the ANU about the establishment of a National Security College as a joint venture established under our strategic relationship with the ANU. These initiatives, incorporating national security and public service excellence, would not only help generate the future leaders of the Australian public service.

The strategic relationship would also build the capabilities for university-based experts to support the Government and contribute to policy making. Preliminary discussions will explore models for how such a venture could be progressed. ...

From: 2009 Annual Burgmann College Lecture, Kevin Rudd, Prime Minister of Australia at the Australian National University, 27 August 2009

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Friday, November 23, 2007

Blended meetings with ICT support

Greetings from the Australian Computer Society Council meeting in Sydney. This will be the last meeting of the ACS Council, due to a change in the decision make process. Over about ten years I have reported on the progress with adoption of IT by the ACS to improve its decision making. Here are some comments on the state, as at the last Council.

Physical arrangement of the ACS meeting room are much the same as for the November 2005 meeting. There are about 25 people in a meeting room in Sydney sitting around a U shaped table. At the open end of the U is an electronic projection screen with the agenda and papers on it. in front of them.

About 20 of the 25 people have their own laptop computer in front of the them, there are connected with a WiFi node which the ACS brings to meetings and through the hotel network to the Internet. The agenda and papers are provided electronically on a secure part of the ACS web site. The agenda is a HTML web page, with the agenda papers linked to this. The agenda papers are mostly PDF files, with some Microsoft Word documents and Powerpoint presentations. The full set of papers is also available from the web site as one zipped file.

Previously the ACS had a separate "internet" web site for the meetings. This has now been incorporated into the main site, with Council members authorized to the additional materials.

When someone wants to make a presentation at the meeting they can stay where they sit and be passed a wireless microphone and a video cable for their laptop. Most times prepared presentations are given. Sometimes after discussion proposals are modified live on the screen using a word processor. This was everyone can follow the details of what changes are being made.

One change for this council is the use of a conference audio system. This is a Phillips "Digital Congress System", similar to the one I used at the Beijing Olympics 2008 meeting in China. The chair and executive at the meeting each have their own microphone, other delegates share one microphone between two people. The microphone units also have a loudspeaker and a push to talk button. A light on the microphone helps indicate to the listeners who is talking. This system is controlled from a rack mount electronics box.

As I suggested after the Beijing meeting, this functionality could be incorporated into wireless laptops. This would be difficult to do with the delegates own units, but might work well with something like the ASUS Eee PC and a $10 desktop microphone. The software used for remote teleconferencing could be used in the room.

Much of the time the attendees are intent reading and typing at their laptops. This can be a bit disconcerting if you are giving a presentation and the audience doesn't appear to be paying attention. But often the audience is actively working on what you are talking about, reading ahead in the presentation, searching and preparing counter proposals.

One Council member was not able to attend in person and so was to join by teleconference. This is done using POTS equipment, not via the Internet. This brings up one of the strengths of this ad-hoc arrangement of technology: the system is relatively robust, due to the different systems used, at the price of complexity. If one fully integrated system was used, the meeting would not be able to continue if the system failed.

Cabaret style meeting room?

The meeting layout is not perfect the U shape allows everyone to see each other, but is an inefficient use of space and the size makes it hard to see the screen at one end of the room and the chair at the other. Perhaps MIT's TEAL flexible learning centre room design might be suitable for meetings, with deligates at round tables and screens around the walls.

See also:

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