Navy's Newest Oceanographic Survey Ship Completes First Operational Mission
By Brian Leshak, Office of the Oceanographer of the Navy
USNS Maury (T-AGS 66), the Navy’s seventh Pathfinder-class ship, successfully completed its first operational oceanographic survey Nov. 8.
Surveys by Maury and its sister ships are conducted to collect hydrographic, acoustic and bathymetric data, which are used to develop products and services for warfighter mission planning and surface and subsurface safety of navigation aids for the Fleet.
“USNS Maury is the world’s premier oceanographic survey ship,” said Oceanographer of the Navy and Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command Rear Adm. John Okon. “The completion of Maury’s first successful oceanographic survey could not have been possible without the strong partnership between our civilian and military team. Our oceanographic ships and platforms deploy around the world and give our Navy a warfighting advantage.”
While underway, T-AGS ships are operated jointly by members of the Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command’s Naval Oceanographic Office (NAVOCEANO) and the Military Sealift Command (MSC). Survey operations on Maury’s first, and most recent, operation were led by Senior NAVOCEANO Representative and Hydrographic Branch Head Lawrence Haselmaier.
“We used this deployment to significantly emphasize, expand, and improve our use of AUVs,” Haselmaier said. “We recognize that the world is increasing its use of unmanned systems, so it’s vital that we leverage opportunities such as this one to maintain the Navy’s superiority in that realm.”
Maury, the first in its class fitted with a 300-square foot moon pool, is able to launch and retrieve unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). UUVs allow Maury’s crewmembers to measure water columns for salinity, temperature, conductivity, depth and currents. Maury is also equipped with high-resolution, high-density multibeam sonars.
“These tools allow us to visualize the seafloor, position objects that could pose a hazard to safe navigation, and determine the topography and oceanographic environment of the area,” Haselmaier explained. “Once the data is collected, we can immediately begin to process the information required to generate products for the Fleet.”
That data collection begins with a team of Navy aerographer mates (AG) who are not only charged with the launch and recovery of AUVs, but also with collecting bathymetric data and processing it in addition to their traditional responsibilities.
“A typical watch for an AG on Maury begins at 4 a.m. when we prep weather briefs for the Senior NAVOCEANO Representative, ship’s crew and AUV personnel to highlight any potential hazards for that day,” said Aerographer’s Mate 1st Class Loren Springer. “In addition, I act as a liaison between the AUV personnel and the survey lab, so once the AUVs are launched or recovered, we begin to process the data collected by the vehicles.”
Springer, who was the senior AG onboard during Maury’s most recent survey, further explained the role of AGs while underway on oceanographic survey ships. “While our (AG’s) bread and butter is hydrography, we’re becoming more and more valued onboard these vessels due to the flexibility we bring to the table. Our training covers a broad spectrum of operations. We all have some experience in meteorology, oceanography, acoustic operations, mine warfare operations, bathymetry and hydrography.”
Maury is operated by MSC and is technically controlled by NAVOCEANO for Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command based at Stennis Space Center in southern Mississippi.