DAHLGREN, Va. – U.S. Naval Academy (USNA) midshipmen
learned first-hand during a visit here that what happens in Dahlgren, does not
stay at Dahlgren.
What is happening through research, development, testing
and evaluation has left – or will be leaving – the labs and test ranges in
support of the warfighter and the Fleet.
The Midshipmen, bound for the Fleet upon graduation from
the Naval Academy as newly commissioned officers, are destined to work with
technologies developed at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division
(NSWCDD) and other NSWC divisions.
“Our recent trip to NSWC Dahlgren depicted not only the
vast array of projects currently being explored and their applicability to our
fundamental studies as electrical engineers, but also the enthusiasm of
Dahlgren's investigators,” said USNA midshipman Chris Panuski, a double-major
in electrical engineering and physics. “At each of the various sites that we
visited, the engineers and technicians enthusiastically shared their work with
us at a level well suited to our undergraduate background.”
The NSWCDD civilian scientists and engineers answered
questions about their work on current and emerging technologies that the
midshipmen will see throughout their careers aboard warships.
The midshipmen’s tour and briefings included counter-improvised
explosive device (IED) directed energy technology; electromagnetic railgun;
radio frequency anechoic chamber and antenna characterization techniques; and
future naval radar technology test-bed prototypes.
The electromagnetic railgun - one of many highlights for
midshipmen - is being developed for use on a wide range of ships. The railgun
launcher is a long-range weapon that fires projectiles using electricity
instead of chemical propellants. Magnetic fields created by high electrical
currents accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails
to launch projectiles at 4,500 mph to 5,600 miles per hour.
The USNA Electrical and Computer Engineering Program
provides students with the fundamental tools to sense, measure, communicate,
interface, and process energy (power, light, or wireless) and information (data,
signal processing, and embedded systems).
The program provides a thorough technical background that applies to all
branches of naval service as well as civilian life.
"It has always been my firm belief that the
greatest depth of learning happens when students observe and understand how the
theories and concepts taught in the classroom are applied to real-world
engineering problems,” said Dr. Chris Anderson, a USNA associate professor of electrical
engineering who accompanied the midshipmen. “Electrical and computer engineering
is a profession with an extraordinary amount of breadth. NSWC Dahlgren showcased
numerous aspects of electrical and computer engineering from the engineering
perspective, including systems that these midshipmen would be interacting with
as future Navy and Marine Corps Officers.”
The academy students also toured the Potomac River Test Range
where naval guns have been tested since 1918. They saw how Dahlgren continues
to provide the military with the technical capability and leadership to solve
complex warfighting needs.
Panuski’s midshipmen colleagues also shared their
perspective about what happens at Dahlgren with the following comments:
The USNA Institute of Electrical and
Electronics Engineers Chapter's trip to Dahlgren offered me an indispensable
look at the research and development that is advancing the capabilities of our
armed forces today.
It was a great experience because I was able
to see the next generation of weapons that will be affecting me in the fleet.
These are the weapons and technology that will affect the future battle space
and how the Navy conducts operations.
At the Naval Academy we tend to focus our
studies on the traditional educational aspects of electrical engineering, but
we also have the opportunity to learn about its applications to our future as naval
officers. Traveling to Dahlgren gave us the chance to combine the best of both
worlds. From the high powered railgun – a concept we reproduced on a small
scale in class – to futuristic IED detection and elimination: we saw what
impacts an electrical engineer can have. I hope that someday I will have the
awesome opportunity to study and use technology like we saw in our recent trip
The Dahlgren trip let me see how the things
we get to explore as electrical engineering undergrads scale up in the world of
research and development. For example, the small anechoic chamber we have in
one of our classrooms at the academy was completely dwarfed by the one at
Dahlgren, but the technology behind it and the things it's used for are
fundamentally the same.
The experience was beneficial because it
gave us a clearer view of the world of professional electrical engineering,
whereas at school our view is often limited to the academic side of the field.
The trip to Dahlgren was awesome. It gave us
a chance to see the theories behind electricity and magnetism applied
practically. The scale of their projects was amazing and the engineers working
at Dahlgren gave us all a view of a potential future career. Seeing the railgun
up close was very interesting – it is an opportunity that few people ever get,
and I consider myself very lucky. The antenna chamber, radar equipment, and
18-inch guns were also very interesting to learn about.
NSWCDD, a NAVSEA warfare center division, is a premier
research and development center that serves as a specialty site for weapon
system integration. The command's unique ability to rapidly introduce new
technology into complex warfighting systems is based on its longstanding
competencies in science and technology, research and development, and test and