By Jeffrey M. Smith
In August 2016, the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport hosted the second Annual Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) at its Narragansett Bay Test Facility in Newport, RI. With the theme of "Cross Domain Communications and Command and
Control," more than 30 participants demonstrated complementary technologies that showed the benefits of managing and controlling operations across the air, sea, and sub-sea domains.
ANTX provided an opportunity for warfare centers, industry, and academia to demonstrate in-water technologies and collaboratively help them evolve before their introduction to the fleet. One of the many goals of the event was to accelerate the technology development cycle from concept to in-water testing through rapid prototyping and fleet insertion.
Known for its intellectual capital in the undersea warfare domain, NUWC Newport is an important hub for undersea activity. It is a key conduit across the development spectrum—from science and technology to fleet support. ANTX is the venue that helps NUWC Newport connect its research and development (R&D) partners to the needs of the acquisition and warfighting community.
Dr. John Burrow, Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, Testing and Evaluation, kicked off the event and in his keynote address said, “Rapid prototype experimentation and demonstration will change the way we do business.” Dr. Burrow also highlighted the presence of senior Navy leadership to drive the evaluation of products for the warfighter as an important aspect of ANTX. He noted the importance of improving the current acquisition process of getting technology to the fleet.
“The acquisition process must be fast in order to have the operational advantage and technological superiority. This would give the Navy the capability to marry mature technology with existing needs,” said Burrow. “From an acquisition perspective, the Navy wants affordable solutions from a competitive environment. Industry participation must not be dominated by one party.”
Congressional visit on final day of ANTX 2016
The promise of ANTX to provide a venue to demonstrate new technologies and new concepts was indeed realized. Following the 2016 event, both participants and attendees saw a variety of benefits.
Doug Prince, Lockheed Martin business development, unmanned underwater vehicles, said, “This is the first time that three autonomous vehicles in three different domains [air, surface, and underwater] have worked together to execute a mission. This was a significant milestone.”
Another large player, Northrop Grumman, demonstrated cross-domain collaboration of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs), unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), and unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to conduct an anti-submarine warfare (ASW) mission with autonomous detection, track, classification, and engagement. Northrop Grumman also successfully adapted commercial-off-the-shelf unmanned maritime systems to accomplish an ASW mission in a challenging shallow-water environment.
A smaller company, Digital Design and Imaging Service (DDIS), demonstrated a tethered surveillance aerostat balloon equipped with an ultra-high-resolution, nine-eye camera cluster. Through ANTX introductions, DDIS was able to find Navy programs and commercial partners to refine their maritime aerostat capabilities to support over-the-horizon communication relays to surfacing unmanned submarines.
Engineer David MacCulloch from L-3 displayed his underwater energy harvesting technology at ANTX in an effort to share his work with a targeted audience. “This was one of the most relevant shows we’ve been to,” said MacCulloch. “We have been able to talk to decision-makers as well as engineers who have been asking probing questions.”
After touring the displays and connecting with warfare center and industry personnel, Capt. William Guarini, Program Executive Office Littoral Combat Ship (PEO LCS), said, “ANTX provided an impressive forum for industry, warfare centers, and university participants to display and demonstrate leading-edge technologies relevant to autonomous systems. As a program manager, I was able to discuss and better understand broad R&D efforts with significant future potential throughout our Navy.”
The Marlin UUV in action during ANTX Media Day
Biggest takeaways from 2016
- Hosting an unclassified event allowed non-traditional participants—firms not typically involved in defense products—to demonstrate their technologies’ potential for meeting a defined Navy need. ANTX cast its net to a wider audience in an effort to bring innovation to the fleet faster.
- Collaboration was forged in an unclassified setting, with interested parties seeking each other out both before the selection to participate in the solicitation response process and while crafting their solution. After being selected for ANTX, participants were able to develop their technology solutions with other interested parties.
- Various stages of technology development were exercised—from hardware that was already in the acquisition process (MK18 Mod 2 Increment 2 UUV system, or cross-domain unmanned systems (UxVs) Command and Control with AN/BYG-1 Submarine Combat System) to technology that was being tested for the first time in-water (micro-UUVs launched from 21” UUV, or magneto-inductive communications with a UUV).
- The low-risk, inclusive, collaborative event allowed participants to take risks and stretch goals to exercise their technologies. Pushing new technologies and new concepts to their limits, or even to failure, is a learning experience for our participants to share across the R&D community supporting the CNO’s goals in high-velocity learning.
With all the successes of the ANTX 2016 event, it is worth reminding ourselves of all the hard work and resources necessary to pull off an event like this. The participants should be commended for commitment to demonstrating technical excellence. Hence, it becomes ever more important to build on a strong foundation for future events, and also to continue to build and strengthen relationships across the R&D community. The real success of the event will be realized years from now as ANTX and events like it facilitate a culture change in naval acquisition, leading to rapid fielding of developing technologies and increased collaboration among technology centers.
Riggers prepare a UUV for in-water testing
Industry partners continue to seek greater engagement in the acquisition process. For industry to work closely with the Navy, the current state is to bid on a proposal or form a partnership through a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement. Due to limited resources, these methods may exclude some potential partners. ANTX solves this by providing an open forum to get in front of stakeholders and demonstrate technology. This collaboration will lead to better products that meet the warfighters’ needs sooner.
Traditional engagement includes meetings, which can often be a one-way communication. At ANTX, engineers and scientists can gather to develop better insights that are shared—both sides benefit and evolve. The in-person experience helps developers of technology better understand the need to morph their products and socialize their products with decision makers.
One of the challenges industry and academia face when developing undersea technologies is that it can be difficult to navigate through all the bureaucracy involved in trying to work with the government. While most technologies take a long time to develop, a partnership can yield new capabilities and new designs faster with the greater potential for breakthroughs. This is a vital piece of the acquisition puzzle as the Navy remains heavily invested in pushing the envelope of its own capabilities and doing so at a rapid pace.
OceanAero's Submaran Wave Glider is prepared for an in-water exercise
In addition to the partnerships, the essential professional networking, and the vast workforce development opportunities provided by ANTX, an underlying message of the event is culture change. Persuading decision-makers within the warfare center enterprise, industry, and academia to view technology development as a multi-entity sandbox is the shift in culture needed for the rapid advancement of warfighter capabilities. The ability to collaborate and innovate must be made easier for people in all communities and at all levels.
Participating in events such as ANTX and experiencing positive results—both tangible and intangible—can facilitate a change in behavior by all involved on both sides of the acquisition process so collaboration and innovation are happening not just at ANTX but all the time. The desired future state is that collaboration and innovation is the norm across the Naval research and development establishment and defense industry.
Following the success of ANTX 2016, the Marine Corps will conduct a similar exercise in April 2017 at Camp Pendleton. ANTX 2017, August 14-18, will connect NUWC Newport to Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City and NUWC Keyport.
The ultimate goal from a warfare center perspective is for industry—including businesses both large and small—to partner with the Navy’s technical departments and test their technologies in the Navy’s unique labs and ranges. Improving the Navy’s undersea test and evaluation infrastructure and adding new capabilities are priorities that will yield two significant benefits. First, it accelerates the development and test cycle so that we are learning faster and more quickly fielding relevant products for the warfighters. Second, as it is expensive to test undersea technology, maintaining easily accessible test infrastructure lowers the barrier to entry, particularly for small business, into the undersea domain.
Government and industry should be leveraging their efforts. By sharing what they are doing, they can share costs and evolve faster. ANTX provides its participants with greater insights to the capabilities that the warfighter needs as well as breakthrough capabilities they did not know were possible.
The end result is that industry prospers and the warfighters get what they need…sooner!
I would like to thank the following organizations for their participation in ANTX 2016:
Northrop Grumman; University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science Horn Point Laboratory; Ultra Electronics; 3 Phoenix; Liquid Robotics; University of California Santa Barbara; Penn State Applied Research Laboratory; Lockheed Martin; Ocean Aero; MIKEL, Inc.; Ultra; Riptide Autonomous Solutions; Bluefin Robotics; General Dynamics Mission Systems; Digital Design and Imaging Service; University of Rhode Island; DBV Technology; PMS 108; SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific; etc-wireless; Areté Associates; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution; Kongsberg; NSWC Panama City; and Polatomic.