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Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Spotlight: Laser light communication system CG-HALLTS

By Loretta Haring

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Coast Guard Law Enforcement personnel need an unambiguous tool to better attract boaters’ attention and communicate with them. The Coast Guard Research, Development, Test and Evaluation Program is currently testing a possible solution: a Hailing Acoustic Laser Light Tactical System appropriately called CG-HALLTS.

 

The system, developed by the Research and Development Center in New London, Connecticut, provides a brighter searchlight and louder speaker than are currently installed on Coast Guard vessels. In addition to the light and speaker, there is also a green dazzling laser to attract the target vessel’s attention.

 

The RDC began market research of commercial-off-the-shelf solutions in 2014. The project sponsor, the Office of Specialized Capabilities (CG-721), selected one of the identified options, the HALLTS prototype. Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division in Virginia demonstrated the Navy version of HALLTS in San Francisco Bay; both the green and white lights were observable at 1,000 yards.

 

Scot Tripp and Jason Story make final connections to a CG-HALLTS prototype onboard Coast Guard Cutter Flores, Feb. 14, 2018, in Miami. U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center photo.

Scot Tripp and Jason Story make final connections to a CG-HALLTS prototype onboard Coast Guard Cutter Flores, Feb. 14, 2018, in Miami. U.S. Coast Guard Research and Development Center photo.

 

However, the Navy’s HALLTS configuration did not address all of the Coast Guard’s mission challenges, so the RDC developed a Coast Guard version specifically designed to meet mission needs. It includes a Long Range Acoustic Device directional speaker that is capable of projecting a warning tone more than 3,500 yards, a Maxa Beam searchlight with a 12 million-candlepower peak beam, and an eye-safe Class 2 Glare Helios dazzling laser.

 

The RDC is currently conducting a limited user evaluation of CG-HALLTS for CG-721; three systems are deployed in Sector Miami. Initial feedback from the field has been positive.

 

Coast Guard personnel spend a significant amount of time identifying and screening boaters. Communication by radio can be difficult, and the situation is often exacerbated by boaters who lower the volume or do not carry marine radios. This tool could be used to define security zones and communicate with most types of surface vessels.

 

Coast Guard-to-vessel law enforcement encounters have a specific protocol when the on-scene commander decides to escalate the use of force. By definition, any vessel that does not stop when ordered to do so can be considered a non-compliant vessel. Each step in the escalation of force increases the risk to all boaters involved.

 

The objective behind the CG-HALLTS project is to improve communications between the Coast Guard and civilian boaters. A vessel that continues to ignore unambiguous warnings increases the possibility that this may be an imminent threat. A tool like CG-HALLTS that can more quickly gain compliance through lights and verbal communication will allow Coast Guard coxswains to be more effective.

 

This relatively simple system combines multiple technologies to attract and communicate with uninformed or distracted boaters. This can produce efficiency in operations. Instead of launching a small boat or dispatching a helicopter to determine intent, the Coast Guard may be able to de-escalate a high-alert scenario with CG-HALLTS.

 

“Designing a new product that can be used by the operational Coast Guard is a huge win for the entire RDC,” said D.J. Hastings, CG-HALLTS program manager at the RDC. “The center is pleased that CG-HALLTS can be another RDC product transitioned to the field.”