U.S. designing more-effective ship warning

Nov. 17, 2006 at 7:59 AM
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MIAMI, Nov. 17 (UPI) -- The U.S. Coast Guard has awarded a contract to develop a lighting system to warn mariners they're venturing too close to a ship protection zone.

The contract given to Northrop Grumman is for work on the Detection and Unambiguous Warning System (DUWS), which combines a laser rangefinder with red and green lights that can be easily seen by approaching vessels.

"Northrop Grumman's warning system will provide a scalable response to intrusion into ship protection zones," said explained Greg Williams of Northrop's Laser Systems unit in Florida. "The system could aid the Coast Guard and Navy in the protection of the nation's harbors."

Protection zones established around warships and many merchantmen are aimed at preventing a terrorist in a small boat or even a plane from getting too close as happened in Yemen with the USS Cole. An issue has been making pleasure boaters and other vessels aware that they are crossing into an area where they risk defense measures.

The DUWS aims to answer that dilemma with what Williams called "detection of a suspected intruder to visible warning and non-lethal discouragement."

The system based on the Venom rangefinder and a set of high-powered green and red lights mounted on the deck. When an inbound target starts getting close to the exclusion zone, the green light will begin flashing and then turn red if the vessel refuses to change course.

"The message is to stay clear," Northrop said in a news release. "If the intruder does not change course, the shipboard operators can then decide the next action."

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