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Jerry Holland is a retired officer who is a regular contributor to THE SUBMARINE REVIEW He presently serves as Vice President of the Naval Historical Foundation.

OUTLAW SHARK was the first successful effort to use a combination of systems that working together had the ability to attack a target at sea that was beyond the range of the sensors carried by the individual shooters. OUTLAW SHARK created the setting in which development of Over-The-Horizon Targeting (OTH-T) at sea took shape. While some of the sensors and weapons that ultimately made up this ability were still in development at the time of the exercise, the concepts and methods were tested and proven. The results showed how to expand the attack opportunities by a single platform from its own limited horizon, (30 nautical miles for major surface warships, considerably less for submarines, 10 nm), to well beyond the limit of the sensors carried by surface ships or submarines.

Third party targeting was perfected in naval gunfire support for amphibious assaults during World War Two. Firing on targets that could not be sensed by the firing platform was executed through a naval gunfire liaison officer (NGLO) able to see a target requesting artillery fire on a specific grid coordinate or geographic location. The NGLO identified the target, its location and after ranging rounds would adjust the aim (calling the fall of shot) until satisfied the aim was correct when the order Fire for Effect would bring a barrage from the firing ship. In this mode, the firing ships never sensed the target. The operational technique was founded in visual sighting by an observer, two way radio and manual plotting on board the ship. These essential elements remain the basis for modem targeting beyond the range of sensors located on the firing platform.

In 1971 the deployments of surface elements of the Soviet Navy armed with long range tactical missiles in the Mediterranean Sea generated concerns about the vulnerability of aircraft carriers. Action to counter this new threat involved arming aircraft with air to surface missiles, and then creation of weapon systems that could counter enemy ships well beyond the range of existing guns and radar. By the late-seventies, technologies’ had advanced the ability to attack effectively well beyond visual and radar ranges. The technologies that had to be developed to conduct such attacks included the abilities to:

  • Determine the precise location of the firing ship.
  • Conduct wide area surveillance over large bodies of water.
  • Detect and classify potential targets in time and space and distinguish such from other objects in that area.
  • Transmit this target and background locating data to a firing platform.
  • Translate the received target location into weapon’s orders.

All five of these steps had to be accomplished within a time period that would allow a weapon to be aimed, fired and arrive in the vicinity of the target before the target could escape.

Additionally, weapon(s) were needed that had the range to reach the potential target location, the speed to arrive there without excessive delay and devices to compensate for errors in the locating information and for the target’s maneuvers during the period between sensing and weapon arrival. Central to meeting all of these specifications was computer equipment that was compact, reliable and fast. Fundamental to three of the five steps is a common time reference.

The first space-based navigation system, TRANSIT, went into operation in 1964 to support the Polaris Fleet Ballistic Missile deployment. This system relied on the Doppler shift of a radio signal from a known orbit. The Doppler was measurable because the receiver knew the position of the satellite and the timing of its signal. A single satellite pass was enough to provide a point fix but required long duration observation to obtain accurate measurement of the Doppler shift. Eventually TRANSIT had six satellites on orbit improving accuracy but still without the accuracy and timeliness necessary to support the Over-The-Horizon Targeting (OTH-T) mission.

In 1967 the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) launched the first of two satellites that transmitted a unique radio signal, timed by a high precision clock. Any receiver tuned to the signal and knowing the satellite’s position at a specific time would be positioned on a circle on the face of the earth. The center of this circle is under the position of the satellite and the circumference is calculated by the time interval between the transmission by the satellite and known to the receiver and reception of the signal. A second satellite was needed for a fix (intersection of two circles). As the number of satellites in orbit grew, so did the accuracy of the fix. Test satellites were launched in 1974 and 1977 with the first dedicated satellite, NA VST AR l, entering orbit in 1978. By May 1990 the Global Positioning System had 14 satellites on orbit and the daily anxiety of navigators from ages past on the probability of there being morning stars became history.

The second requirement, surveillance of large ocean areas, was met by a space-based sensor code-named Classic Wizard and the shore-based Ocean Surveillance Information System (OSIS). Since before World War II, the Navy had had an operational ELINT system, BULLSEYE, that could locate the source of high frequency radio/radar transmissions. That system depended upon triangulation using widely distributed ground stations. Calculations at first were done manually but by the 1960’s were derived by computer. Though sensitive, the system was too slow and lacked the precision to serve as a weapons direction system.

The first experimental Navy ocean surveillance satellites, designed and manufactured by the Naval Research Laboratory, were launched in 1962 after years of development by NRL and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). These satellites, code-named POPPY, operated until circa 1971. The follow-on program in 1975 was a joint effort of NRL and the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO). The design consisted of clusters of satellites flying in near-circular low earth orbits at an altitude of almost 700 miles. At this altitude their detection horizon at any moment encompassed an area of 3500 miles diameter. Detection required the emission of an electronic signal. The contacts (ships, and later air and ground) detected by the satellites were then processed on the ground to calculate location, speed, and direction of movement. All of this required careful orientation of the clustered satellites and precise time common to all components.

The information thus derived went to OSIS (Fleet Ocean Surveillance Intelligence Centers/Facilities (FOSIC/FOSIF)) where it was combined with information from other sources and the resulting contact locations and predicted movements distributed to fleet commanders in the Atlantic, Pacific, and Mediterranean. While the emphasis was on Soviet ships, information regarding other contacts in their vicinity (background) was important in order to discriminate targets. The correlated locating and identification data went to the Shore Targeting Terminals (STT) at the Submarine Operating Authorities (SUBOPAUTH) where the data was tailored to a particular submarine. A sophisticated radio-computer combination then passed the information on the potential target to those submarines able to bring weapons to bear.

Hull-to-emitter correlation, HUL TEC, associating specific radars to specific ships, began even before Classic Wizard was deployed. Maritime patrol aircraft with special collection equipment (EP-3) and detachments with similar equipment mounted in shelters on selected surface warships (Classic Outboard) or installed in submarines were deployed to measure the minute differences in radar characteristics associated with individual platforms. This information allowed OSIS to correlate the signals to specific platforms.

The communications paths connecting the satellites’ earth terminals along the edges of the Atlantic and Pacific to the OSIS centers, between OSIS and the STT and from the STT to the submarine had to be able to pass a relatively large amount of data in a relatively short period of time. Two developments in communications techniques and theory were required to make these links possible. First was deployment of computers with the ability to allow both transmitter and receiver to access a common operating program at very high rates. While land-lines with adequate capacity could connect the space system’s earth terminals to the FOSIC’s and from there to the STTs, the historic communication paths to the fleet, operating in the high frequency (HF) band had neither the speed nor capacity for fast data transfer. Adequate bandwidth was available in the Defense Satellite Communications System (DSCS) developed in the sixties using satellites operating in the SHF band. But DSCS requires very large aperture antennae (6 to 7 feet diameter)-impractical for warships smaller than carriers and large deck amphibious ships.

In the Tactical Satellite Program contracted in 1965, Lincoln Laboratory at MIT proved the concept of using a satellite-based radio operating in the UHF band. Though having a lower data rate than the SHF systems, a system in this frequency band was much less expensive, capitalized on the existing UHF infrastructure at sea, and most of all required a much smaller antenna that did not have to be aimed at the satellite. The first operational UHF satellites went into orbit in 1967 and 1968 allowing the Fleet Broadcast to shift from HF teletypewriter (75 bits/sec) to computer-to-computer links with consequent increase in capacity and timeliness (2400bits/sec). These initial units were followed by Gapfiller satellites and in 1977 by the Fleet Satellite (FLEETSA T) satellites.

For submarines, these UHF communications satellites were the basis for a system that allowed a new freedom of maneuver. They were half of the Submarine Satellite Information Exchange System (SSIXS). The other piece was the Integrated Submarine Automated Broadcast Processing System (ISABPS, Is a bips). This computer at the Submarine Broadcast Control Authority (BCA) cataloged messages for specific ships, arranged them in order of priority and transmitted them on the existing VLF broadcast at a regularly scheduled interval (usually every two hours). But more than that, the system allowed the submarine to query the ISABPS computer through the satellite with an abbreviated signal at which time the computer would trigger the transmitter to send all relevant traffic via satellite to that particular ship-at the same time recording the time of the query. Developments in data compression allowed the outgoing messages to be sent and received in seconds. The results were dramatic; cutting the time necessary to expose an antenna from hours to minutes and even seconds and providing the SUBOPAUTH an exact knowledge of the state of information on board any particular submarine.

The next step was to turn the intelligence into action: getting the surveillance information to the launching ship. When budget managers in the Office of the Secretary of Defense refused to authorize funds for research into over-the-horizon targeting, RADM Guy Shaffer, Director, Navy Command, Control and Communications Projects, Naval Electronics Systems Command, found money to fund an experiment, OUTLAW SHARK.3 For this experiment, a computer that eventually morphed into the Submarine Shore Targeting Terminal (STT) was set up at the Submarine Operational Authority Command Center in Naples, Italy and a companion computer was installed aboard a submarine. Similar terminals were installed on those surface ships planned to be equipped with Tomahawk anti-ship missiles.

The Naples headquarters copied operational intelligence data being collected for transmission to a Sixth Fleet aircraft carrier, condensed the data and relayed it to the submarine. The submarine’s computer correlated the intelligence data with its own location and contact data in order to prepare search patterns for an anti-ship attack. In the exercise, the submarine received intelligence data in as little as six minutes after the detection.

In the beginning the target data, location and direction of movement, had to be entered manually into the Fire Control System (FCS). Eventually upgrades to the FCS (MK 117 and CCS MK I) made it possible to feed targeting data directly into the ship’s fire control system.’1 The FCS then formulated the firing orders and sent them to the missile in the torpedo tube.

These sensors and the associated command and control arrangements provided the ability to use weapons with ranges beyond the range of the sensors carried aboard ship or submarine. The first, HARPOON, began in 1968 as an air-to-surface missile. By 1970 the HARPOON program had been extended to provide for launching from surface warfare ships. The first missile flew in 1972 and that year HARPOON replaced a proposed Submarine Tactical Attack Missile (ST AM), with an encapsulated version of HARPOON capable of torpedo tube launch.

Early HARPOON missiles had a range of about 60 miles and made a nearly straight-in approach to the target homing on an ELINT signal with an optional pop-up-and-dive maneuver to dodge target defenses. When launched, the missile flew to a position near the target’s reported location, turned on its seeker, located and attacked without further action from the firing platform. The concept relied on the short time of flight that permitted the missile to arrive in the target’s vicinity before the target had moved very far from the location at which it had been detected or located when the weapon was launched. Over time the weapon guidance became more sophisticated to include mid-course guidance with a radar seeker but firing orders remained bearings only for short ranges or bearing and range for distant targets.

In 1972, even before HARPOON was deployed, development of the TOMAHAWK Anti-Ship Missile (TASM) began. Originally planned to have a range of 140 miles, the Soviet anti-ship missiles range of 250 miles influenced Rear Admiral Walter Locke, the Cruise Missile Project Officer, to extend the missile’s range. Replacing the missile turbojet with the turbofan engine used in the land-attack TO MAHA WK increased TASM range to over 300 nautical miles. Doing so made it necessary to create an end of light search program that would account for the larger area of uncertainty that accompanied the extended range (i.e., longer time of flight allowing greater target movement). Admiral Locke used the actions of the scout bombers at the Battle of Midway as a model for this search program.6 In 1975 the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory developed search patterns so that the TOMAHAWK anti-ship missile was capable of long range autonomous scouting and strike missions.

Three days after meeting with Admirals Holloway and Long, then Chief of Naval Operations and Deputy CNO for Submarines, in January 1976 to discuss creating an anti-ship missile in the TOMAHAWK program, Locke directed $700K to help fund OUTLAW SHARK. In December the first TOMAHAWK anti-ship missile flew 175 nautical miles toward the target and then began searching. The missile then flew another 173 nautical miles in a search pattern before finding the target that was 240 miles from launch point. This was the first long-range anti-ship cruise missile flight with no link between the missile and a controller. In contrast to the procedure for early TOMAHAWK land-attack missiles, the ship controlled all targeting and planned the entire anti-ship mission.

The demise of the Soviet surface navy and the subsequent fame of the land attack version of TOMAHAWK (TLAM) has dimmed the memory and luster of the OUTLAW SHARK demonstration. But the lack of recognition has not diminished the significance of the event. This exercise was the ground work that lead to concepts for combining these systems and those of a similar nature for long range precision strike against targets ashore. OUTLAW SHARK was the model for Admiral Bill Owens’ System of Systems that magnified visibility on the battlefield. Modem drone executed strikes are founded in these concepts and the systems that support them.

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