Indian Head, Maryland –
Last fall, Naval Surface Warfare Center Indian Head Division (NSWC IHD) personnel got a glimpse of the Chief of Naval Operation’s Guidance for 2022 during a Product Accelerated Concept Engine (PACE) event held by the command’s Velocity Lab. That chilly October morning, attendees learned about the Great Power Competition (GPC) and the joint forces focus on the South China Sea.
Fast forward to April 8 and another PACE event, only this time the focus would be a bit farther north and slightly colder: the Department of Defense’s (DoD) role in the Arctic area of operations (AOR).
Led by the command’s Chief Innovation Officer Dan Pines, Deputy Innovation Officer Samantha Gray and Customer Advocate Office’s Dr. Sam Emery, presentations detailed the need for a renewed focus on the Arctic AOR, still in the vein of the GPC, and how the command fits into the big picture.
“The Arctic pivot is in our lane as a command and is a critical focus of the Navy,” said Pines. “It is an incredibly large and challenging area so collaboration with other countries and with our own groups is vital. There is a significant need for energetics; explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) operations; and chemical, biological and radiological defense (CBRD) in this area to project power, deter and defend the homeland so it is something we really need to start thinking about.”
The basic logistical challenges of operating in such an austere environment set the table for further discussions relating to energetics, EOD and CBRD. Temperatures can reach -65 degrees Fahrenheit during the winter and some areas may not see sunlight for months. Operators in this environment need to focus on clothing to combat the extreme temperature and weather, as frostbite can occur moments after skin is exposed to the frigid Arctic air.
Cold weather is not the only challenge as factors like electrostatic discharge in the arid climate, changes in ocean water salinity due to ice melt, and electromagnetic interferences will force us to change the way we think about our operations. The lack of sustainable GPS and degraded communications in this area makes navigation difficult and the vast swaths of frozen ground also make the EOD-centric mission incredibly challenging.
All of these factors and more can take a considerable toll on supply lines to and from the area, Pines believes.
“If we can make our systems fly farther while bringing enhanced explosive capabilities, we can help keep these supply lines from becoming overburdened,” he said. “There are many logistical challenges we are faced operating in the Arctic and we play a role in solving them.”
Following several briefs detailing what the Navy faces in the Arctic, a robust question and answer period allowed attendees to identify areas where cross-departmental collaboration can help in filling in these gaps and where the workforce can go to leverage these opportunities.
According to Pines, this is the reason that PACE exists: to facilitate cross-department collaboration to address mission-specific issues.
“These PACE events are an opportunity for the workforce from all departments to come together to discuss and solve our toughest challenges. It is also a way to build a network on innovators, learn about all the great work happening at Indian Head, and understand how we can partner internally and externally to achieve our mission” he said. “The PACE concept was created by our Technical Director Mr. Ashley Johnson as a vehicle for strategic intent and product acceleration.”
The mission of the Velocity Lab is to support NSWC IHD’s workforce in becoming the leading source of innovation for energetic and EOD solutions to the Navy and DoD. The Velocity Lab offers collaborative spaces to bring both of those groups together, coordinate educational events, and provide tools for innovative thinking. Through brainstorming, concept development and business development, the Velocity Lab will gain access to new funding opportunities and participate in external high visibility innovation events. The Velocity Lab is agile and responsive to workforce and warfighter needs, challenges the status quo, and connects our community.