As the U.S. Navy builds and tests more small ships for coastal (littoral) operations, its also looking for equipment that will deal with the very different conditions encountered when close to land. One of those conditions is fog. While fog is encountered on the high seas, its more of a problem close to shore. Thats because there are often more small craft out there, small craft not equipped with radar. The solution for that problem has long been the fog horn. In American waters, ships are required, by law, to sound their ships horn every two minutes. Now along comes an inexpensive (about $130 each) device (FogMate) that enables you to press a button, and have the horn blast every two minutes, until you turn if off. Very timely, because the new navy ships will be highly automated, and have very small crews. So remembering to hit the horn every two minutes becomes a real chore when you have so few people on the bridge.
But if these new warships have radar, whats the need for the foghorn? Thats because, even though you can spot whats out there on your radar, a lot of those small boats wont have radar, and will only know you are headed their way if they hear your horn. Hitting a fishing boat in the coastal waters of a nation the U.S. navy is trying to assist, will not generate much good will.
Why hasnt something like FogMate been invented a long time ago? Actually, FogMate has been on the market for about two years, and, in the past, some ships have been known to rig up something similar. But FogMate is a cheap and simple solution for any ship. Just patch the device into the wire that controls the ships horn, and thats it. Simple devices like this have been proliferating within the commercial shipping industry for decades, and are only now coming over to warships in a big way.