While the ocean may be a picture of calm for some, miles upon miles of water is not what you hope to see when your boat is broken and supplies are running low. In 2018, those aboard the Motor Vessel Alta found themselves in this exact situation. The souls aboard were stuck on their disabled ship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean between North Carolina and Morocco. With assistance at least a week out, the Coast Guard sprang into action. After stopping for fuel in Bermuda, crewmembers of Air Station Elizabeth City successfully delivered 225 meals ready-to-eat—enough to keep those aboard alive until additional assistance arrived.
Although this may sound just as dire as most search and rescue missions, the Coast Guard HC-130J was able to send real time photos of the conditions at sea while overtop the vessel—something that had never been done before.
This was made possible by Minotaur—a mission management system the Coast Guard has been exploring alongside DoD partners.
“The Minotaur Family of Services [MFos] is a mission management system that uses intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance data applicable to all 11 missions of the Coast Guard,” explained Lt. Cmdr. William Towers, domain awareness portfolio manager in the office of C5I capabilities (CG-761). Minotaur collects and processes data in real time from cameras, sensors, and radars onto one easy-to-use screen.
Minotaur is different from previous mission management systems in that it uses artificial intelligence and machine learning to automatically alert operators of potentially suspicious activity. This shaves off critical time in an environment where every second counts, whether it be drug interdiction or monitoring for suspect vessels.
The efficiency Minotaur provides its operators makes it an attractive asset to not just the Coast Guard, but to several agencies including the U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, and Customs and Border Protection.
Being able to access information from other partner agencies, as well as the updates they make to the software, is a key benefit of Minotaur, said Towers when explaining the perks of using Minotaur. Accessing this large pool of information means the Coast Guard has the most accurate picture possible at any time when underway, while cost sharing with partners for all the system’s required updates.
Several Coast Guard fixed-wing aircraft have Minotaur installed, as well as eight major units: Maritime Intelligence Fusion Center Atlantic, Maritime Intelligence Fusion Center Pacific, Air Station Elizabeth City, Sector San Diego Joint Harbor Operations Center, Coast Guard Cutter Harriett Lane, Aviation Training Center Mobile, the Mission System Sustainment Lab, and the Mission System Integration lab.
Minotaur allows operators to actively monitor or playback an ongoing mission. When the accompanying hardware is not available, individuals can access Minotaur via the web—but this only allows about 10% of the functionality. However, leadership is working to close the gap further by moving Minotaur to a virtual cloud.
“All three priorities in the Coast Guard Strategic Plan to support Homeland Defense and the National Security Strategy are reinforced by expanding Coast Guard Minotaur,” said Lt. Cmdr. Cynthia Channell, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities manager in the Office of C5I Capabilities. “Expanding our investment in Minotaur directly supports a ready, relevant, and responsive Coast Guard.”
“Minotaur has endless potential,” said Towers. “It can provide support at every level in every unit, district, and area.”
From search and rescue efforts, like with the Alta, to aiding drug interdiction, Minotaur’s ability to give operators the fullest view of the situation, while automizing many activities that previously ate up their time and attention, has the potential to expand the Coast Guard’s efficiency drastically.
Minotaur has grown into an agile mission management system deployed by partners in DHS and DOD intelligence communities. Minotaur can truly revolutionize the intelligence community’s operations. As the Assistant Commandant for Intelligence Rear Adm. Andrew Sugimoto once said when discussing the potential benefits of Minotaur, “Minotaur has the capability to provide essential real-time ISR to support all 11 Coast Guard missions.”