A new sensor and software suite sponsored by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) recently returned from West Africa after helping partner nations track and identify target vessels of interest as part of an international maritime security operation. Researchers deployed the Rough Rhino system aboard U.S. aircraft, ships, and partner nation ships. Sailors and Coast Guardsmen could access and control the sensors both afloat and ashore, as well as share information in a real-time common operating picture.

The primary missions are aimed at assisting and building the host nation’s capability to interdict and counter narcotics, human trafficking and illegal fishing. On any given day, the distributed intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) system tracked more than 600 targets, identified vessels of interest, and culminated in 24 boardings by maritime security teams.

Testing the prototype Rough Rhino system in an operationally and tactically relevant environment allowed designers and developers to see firsthand where the system needs improvement. The system includes radar, optics, electronic surveillance, and integrated software modified and developed by ONR contractors and the Naval Research Laboratory. The system was installed on the Naval Research Laboratory’s VXS-1 P-3, USS Simpson, and Senegalese ships SNS Poponguine and SNS Djiffere.

To date, the system has participated in five major operations. Participants particularly liked the system’s ease of use, requiring little training, and clarity, as well as its information storage and retrieval abilities, which can be used to support after-action reviews and legal prosecutions.