DAHLGREN, Va. - The Navy demonstrated its commitment to "game-changing" directed energy technological programs at the Naval Directed Energy Center (NDEC) ribbon cutting ceremony held at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Sept. 10.
"This ribbon-cutting celebrates NAVSEA'S (Naval Sea Systems Command) investment in the Navy's future," NSWC Dahlgren Division Commander Capt. Sheila Patterson told over 200 visitors at the event. "This new Naval Directed Energy Center will double the space available for developing our directed energy programs and provide laboratories, computing spaces and offices to help us get the latest technology to our warfighters as soon as possible and protect them from harm's way."
The focus of activity in the new building will be directed energy systems and applications that use electromagnetic energy to project military force and augment conventional capabilities. The 23,000 square foot facility officially opened for business when military and civilian leaders cut the ribbon.
"It is the first formal Navy MILCON (Military Construction Program) specifically dedicated for this new technology area called directed energy which is primarily high energy lasers and high power microwaves," said NAVSEA Distinguished Engineer for Directed Energy Dr. David Stoudt.
Military officials foresee NDEC as the Navy's center of excellence for directed energy where complex systems engineering and integration problems can be solved and cutting edge solutions made a reality for U.S. troops.
"Reaching back into the past and looking at our immediate and mid-term future - you and your new facility are uniquely positioned to provide critical game changing technical leadership," said U.S. Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, Commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command. "I would make no mistake about the enemies that have attacked us ... their will is not broken. Part of what you are doing here with directed energy is going to turn this around on the enemy."
Directed energy systems offer unique alternatives to traditional kinetic weapons such as guns and bombs because a myriad of targets can be engaged with more precision and variable effects.
"Directed Energy Weapons are a critical game-changing technology for the Navy-Marine Corps Team," said James Thomsen, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development and Acquisition. "It's a technology that we need to understand better. We need to develop it and use it wisely."
Visitors saw an example of game-changing technology - the Laser Weapon System (LaWS) - on display after the ceremony. The weapon shot down five unmanned aerial vehicles with high power fiber lasers at a series of tests held at Naval Air Warfare Center China Lake in June.
They also saw prototypes that NSWC Dahlgren's Directed Energy Warfare Office (DEWO) team developed and fielded to combat improvised explosive devices in Iraq.
Potential advantages provided by directed energy weapon system options include, "less collateral damage, more affordability, less sustainment costs, temporary and reversible affects on targets in addition to a limitless magazine compared to kinetic projectiles and very low cost-per-engagement," said Thomsen.
"The standing up of the Naval Directed Energy Center is a perfect example of how Dahlgren is leading the way in developing and fielding directed energy warfare solutions, technologies and systems for our Sailors and Marines," said Susan Hudson, NSWC Dahlgren Electromagnetic and Sensor Systems Department Head. "Our team of government employees, academia and contractors are harnessing various directed energy disciplines in order to develop systems that will enhance what's available to warfighters in order to achieve mission success in the changing operational environment."
The facility is the first in a series of planned construction projects designed to accommodate increasing directed energy activity at Dahlgren.
NDEC provides scientists and engineers with the right laboratory environment to develop the next generation of non-kinetic guns and weapon systems.
"These technologies have the capability to make a difference in the irregular or hybrid warfare mission areas and, of equal importance, to assist in shoring up our own systems against asymmetric threats being used against us," added Hudson.
Moreover, NSWCDD technologists have been making a difference in directed energy research and development throughout the decades. Their understanding - and discoveries - led to the methodologies behind the electromagnetic launch of projectiles using stored electrical energy. These methodologies are critical to the evolution of the Railgun Program.
"Our scientists well understand that the introduction of directed energy weapons into 21st century naval forces has the potential to change naval tactics as fundamentally as computers have changed the way we work and communicate," said Patterson.
The Office of Naval Research, Joint Non-Lethal Weapons Directorate, and Surface Navy Directed Energy and Electric Weapons Program Office (NAVSEA PMS 405) sponsor the variety of directed energy work that is performed at NDEC.
The LaWS program, for example, is sponsored by NAVSEA PMS 405. NSWC Dahlgren teams worked under the direction of DEWO to develop the Laser Weapon System.
As the global security environment becomes increasingly complex and challenging for U.S. defense, DEWO provides alternative and wide ranging deterrent options for U.S. Naval Forces and Combatant Commanders. DEWO options range from high energy lasers and high power microwaves to directed energy initiatives that counter improvised explosive devices.
This is indeed a great day," declared Patterson. "A day we commemorate almost 50 years of scientific ingenuity. And a day we celebrate the promise of a great future for Dahlgren as it continues in its legacy as a premier research and development center for directed energy."