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NEWS | April 6, 2022

NSWC Crane engineer recognized in Navy for rapid hypersonics battery development

By Sarah K. Miller, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

A Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) engineer was awarded the Department of the Navy (DoN) Meritorious Civilian Service Award (MCSA), which is the third highest award a Navy civilian can receive.

Benjamin Roth, an Engineer at NSWC Crane, received the MCSA for his “outstanding performance as the Navy Hypersonic Program Project Engineer and Power and Energy Systems Division Project Representative” from September of 2016 to June of 2021.

His award citation reads “Roth successfully led a team to redesign, prototype, build, test, and deliver the battery that flew in the first Flight Experiment for the Navy Hypersonic program in an unprecedented five months…As a Subject Matter Expert in missile batteries, [his] dedication, expert leadership, calm focus, and ability to unite the key players was essential to achieving this seemingly impossible goal.”

Roth says accomplishing this delivery of battery technology for the first hypersonic test, which successfully launched a few years ago, was challenging.

“This award is a culmination of the team’s efforts,” says Roth. “As the lead engineer, I managed the design efforts and worked with our industry and Navy partners. I also identified resources, potential pitfalls, and managed risks as we progressed. We were asked to create the primary design; I’ve been fortunate to find expertise and support at NSWC Crane. It was certainly a challenge to meet these emergent needs as the project continued through COVID-19 restrictions—but they reworked the designs, had really solid work ethic, and were very accommodating and helpful. It took a lot of hard work but we got the job done.”

Roth started his career in the manufacturing industry in Indiana, and didn’t know about Crane until a friend shared more information.

“I applied and started at NSWC Crane 18 years ago and have specialized in power systems technology ever since. I have worked many years in a similar role in standard missile technology with five different missile variants that helped me prepare for this hypersonics initiative.”

Roth says that he didn’t anticipate building a battery that would be used for hypersonic technology.

“Initially, the battery experts at NSWC Crane had more of an assisting role in development, but our expertise was called on to redesign, prototype, and test the battery,” says Roth. “We didn’t start that process from ground zero, and it was a challenge to identify the root cause of the issue and develop a design change on schedule. I didn’t think I’d do that in my career—design and build something that had been to space and traveled at hypersonic speeds.”

Roth and the rest of the NSWC Crane team conducted testing for several years to produce batteries for the missiles. The brief timeline of five months prior to the successful hypersonic test, Roth says, required many hours, weekends, and holidays.

The award citation reads “[He] worked with the Strategic Systems Programs Office to develop an acquisition strategy for a primary reserve battery that met requirements for tactical deployment at less than 1/7th the cost of the battery used for the first and second Flight Experiments.”

He says developing the acquisition strategy was also challenging.

“To meet the needs of mission required a rapid prototyping effort; we had to move quickly,” says Roth. “A traditional approach would be if the government leveraged the industrial base to design and deliver, but due to the uncertainty in the requirements, we had to be flexible. The new approach meant we found the resources at Crane. We had to develop a brand-new design and be adaptive to changes as we went. Crane became a design agent and identified which requirements to transition to industry.”

Hypersonic technology has the capability of flying at speeds greater than five times the speed of sound, or Mach 5, are highly maneuverable, and operate at varying altitudes. Hypersonics are included in the National Defense Strategy as a rapidly advancing and crucial technology that is changing the character of war.

“Hypersonics has been an important investment to the Department of Defense and has several strategic advantages that previous technology didn’t,” says Roth. “Other countries are competing to develop these same technologies. The success of the Flight Experiments have given the United States a viable path forward in hypersonics.”

About NSWC Crane

NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.

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