DAHLGREN, Va. – Despite the overall challenges imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the scientists and engineers executing the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division’s (NSWCDD) Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) portfolio were able to continue their research and development projects and deliver the innovative work they’re known for over the course of 2020.
The year culminated in a poster session for all the NISE projects, recently held virtually at the division where presenters were able to discuss their projects and take questions from attendees. Although many presenters missed the hands-on aspects of demonstrating a piece of equipment, all agreed the presentations and virtual demonstrations were the best outcome given the circumstances. “Our NISE investments resulted in capabilities designed to maintain maritime superiority, including cutting edge discoveries in artificial intelligence and machine learning. We also successfully moved many of our capabilities to technology readiness level 6 or higher, providing opportunities to accelerate capability transition to the fleet,” said NSWCDD Technical Director John Fiore. “Most importantly, NISE enabled the training of our workforce in critical technology areas enhancing the Navy’s core warfighting advantages.”
“I am extremely proud of the outstanding work our scientists and engineers accomplished this year. Notwithstanding the challenges presented by COVID-19, many of our technologists exceeded their FY20 goals in areas such as collaboration, technology transition, workforce development, and invention disclosures,” said NSWCDD Chief Technology Officer Jennifer Clift.
The strategic value of the NISE program is proven through the accomplishments of principal investigators who lead efforts in four main areas: basic and applied research, workforce development, revitalization and recapitalization, and technology transition to directly support the warfighter, according to Clift. The NISE program was established in the Duncan-Hunter National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) in 2009 as a mechanism for defense laboratory technical directors to use 2 to 4 percent of reimbursable funding for the four main areas. The focus of this event was basic and applied research, said Clift. “These projects sustain and develop the Navy’s technical capabilities and prepare for future needs by enabling government researchers to develop solutions to complex problems while developing the skills necessary to maintain the cutting edge of technological advancement,” she said.
A measure of success for the NISE program is the technology transition to a program of record, where the Navy can utilize the technology to directly benefit the warfighter, according to Melanie Lunney, NSWCDD NISE lead. Lunney said this past year included many significant technology transitions, including the Advanced Doctrine Visualizations for Aegis Combat System (ADVACS) project led by Megan Kozub, software lead in the NSWCDD Integrated Combat Systems Department. This system supports the warfighter with better planning, coordination and execution through automated visualizations of advanced doctrine concepts for improved operational performance. Versions of the project were installed on the USS Monterey (CG-61) as part of the Virtualization Pilot Ship (VPS) during 2020 and are being incorporated as part of the Navy’s Aegis Training Readiness Center (ATRC) training capabilities and curriculum.
Clift added the collaboration with industry, academia or other government agencies is often key to elevating the level of success a NISE project achieves by uniting the best technology with the right people to develop a product useful to the warfighter. For example, Dahlgren’s Augmented Reality (AR) Bridge Navigation Seamanship Trainer developed what’s known as the Advanced Navigation Team Shipboard Simulation (ANTS2). The ANTS2 leveraged AR, virtual reality, and secure wireless capabilities to mature these capabilities to support surface ship unit-level training. The system provides the ship’s bridge and lookout teams a fully immersive visual training environment, onboard their actual ship, and integrates with the rest of the scenario-based simulation. Clift said this program was a true collaboration with the Navy Continuous Training Environment, the Office of Naval Research (ONR), Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS), as well as private industry partners Aurora Corp. of America (ACA), Huntington Ingalls Industries, Stereolabs, Alion, Varjo, and HPi Federal LLC. This technology is currently planned to transition for use by the Navy Continuous Training Environment, PEO IWS, and the Navy’s Naval Education and Training Command, according to Clift.
NSWCDD also made several internal investments to modify existing systems to provide additional capabilities to the fleet, said Clift, such as improving existing surface weapon systems which allow for improvements at minimal cost. Specifically, efforts to assess hypervelocity projectile lethality and effectiveness against new surface and air threats brings potential new capabilities to the existing surface gun systems. Options to improve fire control solutions and investigate seeker options for improved performance were also analyzed in fiscal 2020. Finally, the need to provide in-flight updates greatly improves weapon system performance against dynamic targets. NSWCDD developed a fire control architecture concept to explore increased projectile capability without significant modification to existing hypervelocity projectiles. Plans for a demonstration will continue into fiscal 2021. NSWCDD also has demonstrations planned for surface engagements with current gun systems against new targets to provide additional offensive and defensive capabilities to the fleet.
The Data Link Assisted Navigation (DLAN) Maturation NISE project led by John Fraysse, Jr., an aerospace engineer with the division, provides an example of a successful demonstration event aimed at satisfying Distributed Maritime Operations (DMO) objectives. This multi-year project sought to demonstrate a miniature, low-cost technology for semi-active Radio Frequency guidance, fuzing and communications; with its initial focus on guided projectiles. The near-term need for DLAN was developed to support gun system enhancements, which increased gun system effectiveness. NISE investments enabled the development of a low-cost DLAN sensor capable of providing this performance to a guided projectile without a projectile redesign, saving the Navy’s eight-year investment in this robust multi-mission guided projectile.
Lunney added other major accomplishments showcased at the End of Year NISE Poster Session also included five patent disclosure applications including the quantum gyroscope project, led by Garrett Josemans, quantum physicist in the NSWCDD Electromagnetic and Sensor Systems Department, which resulted in an application for a patent based on advancements in weak value amplification. In the category of Technology Transition, Gunendran Sivapragasam, technology system safety lead in the NSWCDDD Readiness and Training Systems Department, and Andrew Simpson, electrical engineer in the NSWCDD Electromagnetic and Sensor Systems Department, submitted a patent application for a common firing circuit for laser weapons, and Timothy Peng, senior mechanical engineer in the NSWCDD Gun and Electric Weapon Systems Department, developed an improved mounting method for gun rotors, which resulted in an application for a patent in July 2020. Dr. David Hubble, mechanical engineer in the NSWCDD Gun and Electric Weapon Systems Department, submitted a patent application for discoveries in high energy laser test instrumentation and Dr. Terry Foreman, principal engineer in the NSWCDD Electromagnetic and Sensor Systems Department, submitted a patent application in the area of sensor systems. Clift said these technical achievements are milestones for Dahlgren, and demonstrate the innovation of the Dahlgren workforce.
The NISE program also supported 10 employees pursuing advanced degrees in fiscal 2020, according to Lunney. Two employees received their doctorate degrees through the NISE fellowship program, a workforce development effort which funds full-time doctoral research in areas of study and topics critical to Dahlgren technical capabilities. Dr. Eric Stacy, physicist at NSWCDD, focused his work on achieving an understanding of ion transport mechanisms in polymer electrolytes, which has a significant technological impact within the field leading to improved battery technology for weapons systems. Dr. Jose Diaz-Santos, electrical engineer in the NSWCDD Electromagnetic and Sensor Systems Department, received his doctoral degree in engineering for his work in source enumeration using large arrays in colored noise when environmental conditions change.
In addition, Lunney said a total of 13 projects, supported revitalization and recapitalization projects to ensure Dahlgren has the laboratories and state-of-the-art equipment necessary to respond to current and future challenges in directed energy, quantum computing, rapid prototyping, sensor systems, and autonomous systems.
“It was an outstanding year for NSWCDD’s NISE program,” added Clift. “We are looking forward to 2021.”