For the last few weeks, in the Ionian Sea to the southeast of Sicily, three gliders participated for the first time in an anti-submarine warfare exercise. During operation Proud Manta 11, NURC – a NATO Research Centre in La Spezia – successfully used the gliders to collect three-dimensional environmental data to support improved operational planning and decision-making tools. As opposed to traditional propelled autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), gliders use shifts in mass to steer and changes in buoyancy to dive and surface, and can stay at-sea for very long periods of time.
Thanks to the Italian Navy, two shallow-water gliders (called by scientists Greta and Zoe) and one deep glider (named Noa) were deployed from the Italian Navy vessel Levanzo. For 18 days the gliders operated autonomously, sending data every three hours through an Iridium satellite link back to a command and control room at NURC.
The three gliders offered a complete and real-time synthesis of oceanographic data of the Proud Manta exercise area, which helped participants mitigate the impact of environmental uncertainties on operations. “We have developed sophisticated models and software to ensure effective glider mission planning and safe operations management during the exercise – according to Michel Rixen, NURC’s Proud Manta 11 scientist-in-charge – Glider data have been exploited continuously in ocean prediction systems and anti-submarine warfare tactical decision aids to support and optimize operational planning and asset management”. For example, temperature, salinity, and optical data help understanding environmental conditions that impact the operational effectiveness of submarines.