By Don Aker, Deputy Technical Director, NUWC Newport
The Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation (RDT&E), engineering, analysis and assessment, as well as fleet support capabilities for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, and offensive and defensive undersea weapon systems and stewards existing and emerging technologies in support of undersea warfare (USW).
NUWC Newport traces its roots back to 1869 when the Secretary of the Navy authorized the establishment of an experimental torpedo station on Goat Island in Newport harbor. The station was responsible for developing torpedoes and conducting experimental work on other forms of naval ordnance.
When the Torpedo Station was permanently disestablished in 1951, the manufacture of torpedoes was awarded to private industry. In place of the Torpedo Station, a new research and development facility, the Naval Underwater Ordnance Station, was established. In February 1966, the Ordnance Station and the Naval Underwater Weapons Systems Engineering Center were combined to better coordinate all underwater programs conducted at the Naval Base in Newport. Several years later, the center was merged with the Underwater Sound Lab in New London, Conn. to become the Naval Underwater Systems Center. A merger in 1992 with additional naval facilities created what is now the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Newport.
Today, NUWC Newport’s 2,750 engineers, scientists, technicians, and administrative support personnel provide full-spectrum USW products, systems, solutions, and support. The command depicts its various mission areas using a metaphor of a bridge that spans a broad cross-section of the undersea warfare domain, from basic science and technology (S&T) to development and acquisition, and finally to direct fleet support.
At the S&T end of the continuum, scientists, mathematicians, and engineers conduct basic research and analysis in materials, systems, computer code, and other elemental aspects of the USW environment. This work contributes to new USW technologies and improvements to existing systems and materials. Whenever possible, NUWC Newport leverages common hardware and software solutions to provide the best value to its customers.
Under the center “development” portion of the bridge, NUWC Newport personnel seek new solutions to existing or future USW challenges while also working to improve existing concepts, sensors, weapons, delivery systems, and other products. This includes development of prototypes, system improvements, and the application of existing technologies to other USW requirements. Complex engineering and detailed analysis of USW activities, exercises, and experiments—all conducted with an eye toward maximizing commonality across platforms—contribute to the developmental process as well.
While NUWC Newport does not write acquisition requirements, it does inform and support the acquisition process. The work done in Newport helps program sponsors to define operational, material, and performance requirements for new or improved USW systems. In addition, NUWC Division Newport’s unique laboratory facilities can be harnessed to test and evaluate new USW equipment before it is installed onboard surface ships, submarines, or aircraft, saving program sponsors both money and time within the acquisition process.
Finally, NUWC Newport directly supports USW equipment and operations throughout its entire lifecycle within the fleet. With its many labs that replicate nearly all shipboard USW systems, personnel can work remotely with fleet units to help diagnose technical problems and propose solutions to those problems. In cases where technical experts cannot provide such solutions remotely, they can provide on-site expertise in solving equipment, software, and procedural problems. In addition, NUWC Newport’s Navy diver program supplies fully qualified divers for underwater support who are also systems-qualified engineers and scientists.
Photo above, left: Within the Maritime Undersea Sensors and Sonar Systems Complex the Surface Ship Undersea Warfare Lab (shown above) supports surface anti-submarine warfare combat system development, testing, training, performance evaluations, integration with external systems, and in-service support activities for a variety of currently deployed and planned future systems. Center photo: In the Division’s Torpedo Test Facility NUWC engineers execute a comprehensive systems test of a MK 54 Lightweight Torpedo on the MK 695 Torpedo System Test Set. Photo above, right: Two technicians are working on an array module in the Towed Systems Complex.
NUWC Newport is home to many unique facilities that comprise a networked “virtual submarine,” providing a capability that will be important to developing undersea technologies to support the Navy’s evolving vision for undersea dominance. Many of these one-of-a-kind laboratories provide state-of-the-art simulations and networking capabilities while reducing cost, risk, and development time. Each is highly specialized for USW and is applicable across the full lifecycle of Navy USW systems. They provide precisely controlled, instrumented environments that enable the most cost-effective method of bringing systems from conceptualization to in-service. By effectively using its unique facilities, the command embraces fiscal judiciousness while offering its customers unparalleled technical products and solutions.
NUWC Newport operates instrumented ranges for performance evaluation of sensors, weapons, and ships’ companies that complement other test ranges within the Warfare Centers. These include the Atlantic Undersea Technical Evaluation Center at Andros Island in the Bahamas and both deep and shallow water ranges in Rhode Island. The command also operates a portable instrumented range that can be delivered to the fleet almost anywhere in the world.
In addition, seven technical departments operate a series of complex, single-focus simulators and laboratories that enhance the Navy’s USW capabilities, including the following:
- Maritime Undersea Sensors and Sonar Systems Complex – provides over 154,000 square feet of laboratory capabilities supporting a full spectrum of sensor and sonar capabilities including developing critical acoustic sensors, sonar self-noise reduction and control, signal processing technologies, and operational support to fleet systems and testing of prototypes in specialized facilities.
- Towed Systems Complex – provides facilities and equipment that span the entire systems engineering lifecycle, from research and development to in-service engineering and depot-level support. Virtually all towed sonar arrays operating in the fleet today were fabricated, developed, and tested here.
- Electromagnetic Sensor facility – a 54,000 square foot facility that includes six laboratories and a five-story periscope tower designed to repair and certify periscopes, submarine communications systems, electronic warfare equipment, and imaging/optical systems and provide spaces for both personnel and equipment for prototyping, acquisition and production support, as well as in-service engineering and test functions.
- Virginia Payload Tube (VPT) Life Cycle Support Facility – houses a VPT as well as the ship’s systems that support the VPT in an actual ship’s configuration, thereby allowing NUWC Newport and contract personnel to replicate ship functionality while augmenting the capability to integrate future large payloads.
- USW Unmanned Payload Development and Integration Facility – serves as the home of USW unmanned payload development, command and control development, and mission module integration.
- Propulsion Test Facility – provides safe and environmentally compliant land-based propulsion system, sub-system, and component testing. Supported systems and technologies include: electric (batteries and fuel cells), open and closed-cycle thermal, and stored chemical energy.
- Common Submarine Radio Room – offers a land-based test facility to provide timely, secure, reliable, and covert communications testing and training for the Virginia, Seawolf, Ohio, and Los Angeles classes of submarines.
- Submarine Bridge Trainer/Integrated Submarine Piloting and Navigation Trainer (SBT/ISPAN) – provides a high-fidelity, state-of-the-art training system for surfaced submarine operations to instruct Submariners on handling various scenarios with a particular focus on operational safety, shiphandling, and mariner skills.
- Underwater Sound Reference Division – serves as the U.S. standardizing activity in the area of underwater acoustic calibration. It is the Navy’s primary activity for underwater acoustic calibration, test, and evaluation measurements and transducer standards.
- Underwater Transducer Materials Resource – established in support of the design and advancement of transducer materials and devices, it encompasses a broad program dedicated to materials research and transducer design. By providing the Navy, academia, and private industry with unbiased and independent underwater transducer materials evaluation and a materials database, it promotes cooperative research and the rapid transition of new materials into the fleet.
- The command also maintains three different anechoic chambers for precise measurement of source-generated noise: both acoustic and electromagnetic frequency anechoic chambers and an anechoic wind tunnel to evaluate flow turbulence noise. NUWC Newport counts a water tunnel, an over-water antenna arch, a reconfigurable combat control, weapons analysis facility, launcher lab, and unmanned underwater vehicle lab among its unique facilities.
Support to the Fleet
NUWC Newport provides direct cradle-to-grave fleet support for its products and systems but often gets called to respond to short-notice, emergent, or short-fused casualty reporting or operational requirements.
For example, when USS Hartford (SSN 768) required emergency mast repairs following a collision at sea with USS New Orleans (LPD 18) in the Strait of Hormuz in March 2009, a NUWC Newport team was dispatched and worked around the clock to restore the imaging, navigation, and communication capabilities that enabled the boat to safely travel back to the U.S.
One of the unique facilities at NUWC Newport specifically designed to provide direct fleet support is the Submarine Combat Support Center (SC)², a purpose-built, continuously manned fleet support facility that enables NUWC Newport to support submarine operations real-time and keep deployed units in the highest combat systems readiness state possible. When activated, the facility provides live chat, a “war room,” and real-time fleet problem tracking. The (SC)² publishes the “Total Combat System Information Newsletter (TOCSIN),” which provides maintenance and technical articles on all deployed combat systems and maintains a (SC)² website that provides access to TOCSIN, ready reference manuals, and interactive electronic technical manuals for ships, regional maintenance centers, and type commanders.
During Operation Odyssey Dawn (OOD) in March 2011, when American and British ships and submarines launched missiles on Libyan air defenses, NUWC Newport personnel supported the OOD Strike Force and the Tomahawk Weapon System (TWS) Program throughout the entire event. NUWC Newport engineers and scientists provided 24/7 live technical support to the submarine force and operational commands across the TWS, a contribution that was an essential part of the mission’s ultimate success.
NUWC Newport has also recently serviced periscope and electronic warfare systems in Pearl Harbor and Guam; conducted first use of the torpedo maintenance Advanced Process Control System at the Pearl Harbor Heavyweight Torpedo Intermediate Maintenance Activity; performed readiness-based sparing modeling and analysis of the ballistic missile defense system of systems to shift spares support from individual system approaches to a single, integrated, optimized approach; and supported the Fifth Fleet’s Urgent Operational Need to provide block upgrade software for the MK 54 torpedo.
The command’s interaction with fleet commands, customers, and partners is strengthened through a global network of approximately 75 field team members. These individuals are NUWC Newport’s forward presence who play an important role in the early identification and rapid response to critical fleet needs.
NUWC Division Newport worked closely with the Naval Research Laboratory and
Oceaneering International Inc. to develop the eXperimental Fuel Cell (XFC)
unmanned aerial system (UAS). In August 2013 the XFC UAS was deployed
from the submerged submarine USS Providence (SSN 719) and vertically launched
from a Sea Robin launch. (NUWC photo)
NUWC Newport and the Future of Undersea Domain Influence
A key element of NUWC Newport’s mission is to analyze the undersea domain and anticipate its evolution in order to provide the Navy with effective USW systems and solutions for tomorrow. This demand to meet the needs of the next generation of naval forces and those of the “Navy after next” drives a significant RTD&E effort throughout the NUWC Newport campus.
A variety of innovative systems has offered new USW capabilities and enabled bold operational warfighting concepts. NUWC Newport is a driving force behind the convergence of USW systems that offer opportunities for the Navy to maintain its undersea dominance while identifying and neutralizing potential threats. Recoginizing the need to be good stewards of limited resources, the engineers and scientists at NUWC Newport have adopted a comprehensive, system-wide perspective with a goal of delivering the most technologically advanced solutions within available resources.
The exploding potential for naval applications of unmanned systems is being investigated for underwater, surface, and air applications pertinent to USW. NUWC Newport is driving the transition of advanced unmanned undersea vehicle (UUV) technologies, including advanced autonomy, advanced underwater non-traditional navigation, collision avoidance and environmental awareness, mission situational awareness, advanced sensors, and others.
UUVs are being developed to expand naval capabilities across a wide range of missions. One major focus is in air-independent propulsion (AIP) systems that will extend mission times over those presently realized using batteries. NUWC Newport is actively investigating fuel cells under the sponsorship of the Office of Naval Research (ONR) and the Department of Energy. Early results indicate that fuel cells are a promising technology for enhancing UUV mission capability.
Several NUWC Newport departments are collaborating and focusing on electronic miniaturization with the goal of bringing new capabilities to different UUV platforms to meet present and future mission objectives. Engineers and scientists are working on UUV technology development and transition, including advanced simulations, command and control capabilities, new in-water test beds, future payload development, autonomy, modular and efficient vehicle hardware, software design, and operational simulations.
NUWC’s propulsion and advanced energy laboratory and test facilities provide a national resource for the development and fielding of new vehicle (weapon, target, and UUV) technologies. These include the fuel cell test facility (which is dedicated to testing oxygen-breathing fuel cells along with hydrogen), propulsion noise test facility, the high energy chamber for testing high energy density systems, the deep depth test facility, and modern acoustic, materials, and chemistry laboratories.
A team of engineers, including NUWC Division Newport, SPAWAR
Systems Center Pacific (SSC PAC), Boeing, Progeny Systems,
and SAIC, was formed to execute a project called Persistent
Autonomous Maritime Surveillance (PAMS) to demonstrate the feasibility
of using a LDUUV to transport and deploy a sensor payload. (NUWC photo)
UUVs have additional demanding requirements for sensing and navigation. The respective primary objectives of the coupled forward-looking sonar (FLS) and non-traditional navigation development projects are to provide a multi-purpose FLS for terrain mapping and avoidance, obstacle detection and avoidance, and high-resolution imaging for undersea survey missions and to develop and implement novel approaches to minimize positional uncertainty for UUVs operating in areas where global positioning system (GPS) fixing is unavailable or undesireable. Scientists and engineers initiated a complete re-design of the bathymetric map matching processing to better support input from arbitrary sonar systems and reference maps with differing resolution. As its name implies, bathymetric map matching identifies the translation that brings a snippet of bathymetry collected by a UUV into alignment with a previously collected geo-referenced bathymetric map, thus allowing a UUV to precisely determine its position on the world without using GPS fixing.
The weaponization of unmanned systems in support of USW is also underway. An example of NUWC Newport’s efforts in this area was an unmanned surface vehicle (USV)/Precision Engagement Module live-fire test wherein, for the first time, long-range surface-to-surface missiles were successfully launched from a moving USV. The test proved the concept while providing extensive data for integrating weapons systems with unmanned vehicles.
NUWC Newport is actively pursuing research designed to harness the enormous potential of unmanned aerial systems for USW. NUWC Newport engineers have worked with researchers, scientists, and engineers from the Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) on a unique unmanned aerial system (UAS). The results of their effort were demonstrated in August 2013 at AUTEC when they successfully launched an eXperimental Fuel Cell (XFC) UAS from USS Providence (SSN 719). This marked the first time a UAS has been successfully launched from the torpedo tube of a submarine—a significant milestone for both the submarine force and the UAS community. The XFC UAS is an expendable, fully autonomous, man-portable, fuel-cell-powered, long-endurance, small unmanned system with an endurance time of more than six hours that can be tube launched from land or sea. During flight, the submarine received real-time data from the XFC UAS and instantaneously relayed those data to other remote sites.
One of 10 projects approved as new Fiscal Year (FY) 2013 Joint Capability Technology Demonstration (JCTD) starts, the Advanced Weapons Enhanced by Submarine Unmanned Aerial System against Mobile targets (AWESUM) was identified as the Navy, U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM), and Office of Secretary of Defense for Acquisition Technology and Logistics (OSD-ATL) top priority for the rapid capability in an Anti-Access Area Denial (A2AD) environment. A continuation of submarine UAS efforts that have included at-sea demonstrations from submarines starting in 2009, the AWESUM JCTD will deliver an undersea-launched UAS, optimized for deployment through existing submarine three-inch countermeasure launchers, to perform targeting, intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance, and the potential for limited attack capabilities. The two-year effort will transition capabilities to existing programs of record at PEO Submarines PMS 425; PEO C4I, the Submarine Integration Program Office (PMW 770).
At the direction of the CNO’s Information Dominance Office (OPNAV N2/N6 F24), a project was developed to demonstrate the feasibility of using a large-displacement unmanned undersea vehicle (LDUUV) to transport and deploy a sensor payload. The project, known as Persistent Autonomous Maritime Surveillance (PAMS), was a partnership between the Unmanned Maritime Systems (PMS 406) and Maritime Surveillance Systems (PMS 485) program offices. A multi-disciplinary government-industry team of engineers from NUWC Newport, SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific (SSC PAC), and several defense contractors were brought together to execute this two-year demonstration project.
The final at-sea demonstration in 2012 affirmed that the LDUUV and payload performed as models predicted. The PAMS demonstration project has provided valuable insight into the complexities that will need to be accounted for and has paved the way to enable procurement of units for the Navy to perform autonomous deployment of sensors in waters anywhere in the world.
One operational challenge of underwater vehicles is that the ability to attain substantial underwater speeds is severely constrained by the power required to overcome the large drag forces on an underwater body. NUWC Newport is actively engaged in possible applications of supercavitation, which has been used by foreign nations to produce a high-speed threat to naval and civilian platforms. The goal of the Underwater Express/Supercavitation project was to facilitate new operational opportunities in the underwater battle space. During a final experimental test run, the vehicle successfully ran in a cavitation bubble faster than any propeller-driven U.S. electric or thermal underwater vehicle in history. Follow-on proposals seek to use this newly demonstrated technology for long-duration torpedo propulsion concepts.
USW Electronic Systems
NUWC Newport will open a new Electromagnetic Sensor facility in the spring of 2014 that will provide significant capabilities to keep submarines at the forefront of emerging electromagnetic sensor technologies well into the future. This unique facility serves as the foundation for electromagnetic systems design, prototyping, acquisition and production support, in-service engineering and test functions, and other emerging requirements. The laboratory is the Northeast regional maintenance facility for periscopes and the national repair facility for the Submarine High Data Rate (SubHDR) antenna system. To accomplish its mission, the facility will include periscope and photonics areas, the Integrated Submarine Imaging Systems (ISIS) clean and prep areas, imaging mast disassembly and assembly areas, a five-story tower to test and calibrate imaging masts and periscopes in a vertical orientation, a secure/electromagnetic shielded Extremely High Frequency (EHF) radio room, optics labs, fleet training rooms, and a six-axis motion table to replicate the movement of an antenna at sea on a submarine. Antenna work associated with periscope masts includes special ops systems, EHF communications systems, an advanced communications mast for USS Jimmy Carter (SSN 23), and SubHDR systems.
NUWC Newport has also worked closely with PMW 770 on the development of an Undersea Connectivity Roadmap, designed to better understand and coordinate current and future technology development aimed at improving undersea connectivity. NUWC Newport has a unique understanding of issues related to communications at or near the air-water interface based on its long history with submarine communications. In the past, the command has supported PMW 770 in the development of technologies and systems to support submarine communications at depth and has worked with PMW 770, SSC Pacific, and others in the areas of design and integration of submarine optical communications systems. Many of these same technologies can be adapted to meet future undersea needs, such as high data rate data exfiltration and robust, secure connectivity with undersea nodes.
A leader in the Navy’s development of acoustic communications systems for submarines, surface ships, and UUVs, NUWC Newport has also worked in other areas, including communications networking, UUV communications, and command and control for unmanned vehicles.
NUWC Newport is advancing in submarine mast design and functionality. During FY13, evaluators completed antenna pattern testing of the redesigned Very High Frequency/Radar Absorbing Structure (VHF/RAS) unit at NUWC’s Overwater Antenna Arch Test Facility and then tested it at sea on an SSN with follow-on testing at a contractor facility. Once completed, testing results will be used to produce an engineering change proposal later this year.
Recently, representatives from NUWC Newport, PMS 435, NRL, and ONR participated in a design review for the Affordable Modular Panoramic Photonics Mast. NUWC Newport and the Naval Submarine Medical Research Laboratory further defined changes to be made to the video and graphical user interface simulation used in panoramic photonics display testing to support the more complicated search routines and tactical display updates. Based on the results of tests and incorporating the displays developed by the Advanced Processor Build (APB) process for 360° stitching, follow-on tests will focus on the use of panoramic displays to improve continuous search performance.
Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC):
One of the Navy’s premier east coast in-water test facilities is the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), a detachment of NUWC Newport. AUTEC’s mission is to support the full spectrum of undersea warfare by providing accurate three-dimensional tracking, performance measurement, and data collection resources to satisfy research, development, test and evaluation requirements, as well as for assessing fleet training, tactical and material readiness.
A Navy asset since 1966, the AUTEC test facility on Andros Island covers approximately one square mile. The test range sea surface covers over 2,670 nautical miles. Chosen because of its ideal natural characteristics and its climate that permits year-round operations, the TOTO is a U-shaped, relatively flat-bottomed trench approximately 20 miles wide by 150 miles long with a depth that varies gradually from 3,600 feet to 6,600 feet. Its only exposure to the open ocean is at the northern end and, except for this ocean opening, the TOTO is surrounded by numerous islands, reefs, and shoals, which make a peripheral shelter isolating it from ocean disturbances, particularly high ambient noise, which degrades undersea tests and evaluations.