DAHLGREN, Va. — U.S. Navy officials briefed the top British naval officer and his delegation on current and emerging U.S. Navy technological programs during a tour here Oct. 2.
U.K. Royal Navy First Sea Lord Adm. Sir Philip Jones toured Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) laboratories and test sites for overviews on programs ranging from human systems integration and ballistic missile fire control to directed energy weapons, including the electromagnetic railgun and high energy lasers.
Jones – as 1SL and chief of naval staff – is the Royal Navy's professional head and chairman of the Navy board. He is responsible to the British secretary of state for the fighting effectiveness, efficiency, and morale of the British naval service, and supports the secretary of state in the management and direction of the armed forces.
One briefing – among about a dozen presented to 1SL and his staff – involved the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX) held at Dahlgren in September to address integration challenges via a layered defense demonstration. ANTX focused on distributed lethality in the littorals and rapid prototyping of new Fleet capabilities. It featured USS Dahlgren, a cybernetic ship that simulated the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69) strike group, hitting targets virtually and with live fire via Littoral Combat Ship 30-millimeter guns and Aegis MK 46 gun system 5-inch guns on the Potomac River Test Range.
More than 18 NSWCDD subject matter experts briefed Jones and his delegation, which included Royal Navy Commodore Martin Connell, naval attaché to the United States.
Throughout the visit, NSWC Commander Rear Adm. Tom Druggan and NSWCDD Commanding Officer Godfrey 'Gus' Weekes gave 1SL and his delegation additional information, insight, and background on various technical programs, technologies, and initiatives.
“Establishing armaments cooperation early in a technical program can provide many benefits such as cost sharing and enhancements in coalition interoperability,” said Jed Ryan, NSWCDD International Partnering Office lead. "
Dahlgren’s HSI engineers cooperated by briefing the U.K. delegation on U.S. Navy shipboard space analysis as well as automated functional movement screening, data visualization, and augmented reality. The efforts to align, accelerate, apply, and transition scientific discoveries and technological advancements to naval capabilities will augment the warfighter with artificial intelligence, machine learning, manned-unmanned teaming, supervisory autonomy, and wearable sensors.
Moreover, NSWCDD directed energy experts demonstrated scientific discoveries and technological advancements in directed energy to the British military officials as they toured the Naval Directed Energy Center (NDEC). The facility – dedicated to directed energy systems and applications that use electromagnetic energy to project military force and augment conventional capabilities – is considered the Navy's center of excellence for directed energy where complex systems engineering and integration problems can be solved.
Cutting edge directed energy solutions under development at NDEC include the high power microwave for non-lethal, non-kinetic missions. The microwave systems are capable of engaging multiple targets, re-attacking, and dramatically reducing collateral damage and reconstruction costs. Potential mission sets for high power microwave include disruption of communications networks, infrastructure, sensors, and vehicle stopping.
Meanwhile, the development, testing, and transition of the Dahlgren-developed Laser Weapon System and other directed energy technologies transitioning to naval capabilities is offering more options to warfighters. In addition to kinetic weapons such as guns and bombs, directed energy and electric weapons enable warfighters to engage a myriad of targets with more precision and variable effects.
At the Electromagnetic Railgun facility, Jones and his delegation saw prototype launchers that engineers are testing. The railgun is a long-range naval weapon that fires projectiles using electricity instead of traditional gun propellants such as explosive chemicals. Magnetic fields created by high electrical currents accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at 4,500-5,600 mph.
During their tour of the Potomac River Test Range, the delegation also saw the MK 45 Mod 4 naval gun system, designed to engage surface and air targets and to provide naval surface fire support for expeditionary operations.
The 1SL's visit to NSWC Dahlgren Division – a premier research and development center that serves as a specialty site for weapon system integration – came on the heels of his speech to the British Defence and Security Equipment International (DSEI) Naval Technology Conference on Sept. 12.
"Today, we stand on the cusp of another great technological revolution," Jones told his DSEI audience. "It’s not because of a single ship, like the Queen Elizabeth-class carriers or even the new Dreadnought-class submarines, revolutionary as they will be. The real revolution comes from a combination of different technologies and trends that are moving forward at an astonishing pace. They are shaping the future of warfare before our eyes."
While at NSWCDD, 1SL and his delegation interacted with scientists and engineers who are engaged in shaping the future of surface warfare by expanding the U.S. Navy's ability to rapidly introduce new technology into complex warfighting systems. This capability evolved from the interplay of the command's longstanding competencies in science and technology, research and development, and test and evaluation.
“NSWCDD has a rich history of collaboration with the U.K. that includes many topics from short term tasks to a 54-year-old missile agreement that we continue to support here today,” said Ryan.
In fact, A U.K submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) civilian liaison is stationed at the command. SLBM collaboration between the U.K. and U.S. at Dahlgren has been ongoing since April 1963 when U.S. President John F. Kennedy and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan signed the Polaris Sales Agreement.
What’s more, Dahlgren has been hosting a U.K. Personnel Exchange Program (PEP) officer for more than 30 years. PEP – formalized in the 1970s to develop closer ties between the U.S. Navy and foreign services – enhances inter-service relationships, encouraging mutual confidence and understanding, and prepares officer and enlisted personnel for future assignments involving multinational operations.