Email this Article Email   

CHIPS Articles: NSWC Dam Neck — Face to the Fleet

NSWC Dam Neck — Face to the Fleet
By Sharon Anderson - July-September 2008
Bridging gaps, building relationships and engineering C5I systems for a net-centric force with an experienced, dedicated staff.

The crown jewels of the Navy science and technology domain are the Naval Sea Systems Command's warfare centers. They have the fleet perspective, a unique perspective that doesn't exist in industry or even the universities that partner with the Navy in developing technologies.

There are 11 warfare centers, two undersea and nine surface, including NSWC Dam Neck on the Virginia coast. There are also another dozen subordinate sites. These commands employ nearly 18,000 people, most of which are scientists and engineers.

Closely aligned with warfighter needs and an eye toward inserting technological advances into combat systems, NSWC Dam Neck is a leader in engineering solutions that are affordable and agile.

On a sunny, crisp day in April, the CHIPS staff toured several NSWC Dam Neck labs beginning with a call on NSWC Dam Neck Commanding Officer Capt. Jon A. Greene and NSWC Dam Neck's Technical Operations Manager Mark J. Lucas.

"We are relatively small and we are organized into small teams working on projects with limited budgets, but they are having a big impact across the spectrum of command and control," Greene said.

Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO IWS) is NSWC Dam Neck's largest customer, followed by NAVSEA, U.S. Joint Forces Command and 2nd Fleet, according to Greene.

NSWC Dam Neck's location for fleet support is ideal: it is within 30 minutes of 50 percent of the Navy's largest fleet concentration area, JFCOM headquarters and three of four JFCOM component commands, as well as the only NATO command on U.S. soil.

"We have 11 commands within NAVSEA's naval surface warfare centers and naval undersea warfare centers and only one of them is in a fleet concentration area — and that's us. Oddly, we are the smallest of the sites but that gives us number one, a unique opportunity to engage with the fleet, and number two, a unique responsibility to take that opportunity and to provide that fleet feedback to the other warfare centers. We are working hard to try to do that," Greene said.

In addition to working with the other warfare centers, Greene said that Dam Neck is eager to bridge the gap from NAVSEA to the FORCEnet enterprise to help add the fifth "C" in C5I (for combat systems) by working with the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, who has traditionally been the C4I (command, control, communications, computers and intelligence) engineer.

"We have the traditional combat system focus that is consistent with what has been done with NAVSEA and PEO IWS, real-time, fire control-type focus. On the other hand, SPAWAR is focused on the C4I world; we want to work with them to bridge that gap," he said.

NSWC Dam Neck is also aggressively pursuing the linkage from NAVSEA to the joint force. While Greene acknowledged building relationships takes time he is committed to the task and he credits CHIPS for being a reliable communications forum for project leaders and commands.

"The biggest challenge, and CHIPS does a tremendous service, is that there are a lot of people working very hard on their individual projects, and there is inadequate collaboration and communication across families, across organizations, across warfighting enterprises. If we can break down those stovepipes, the potential for what we can do is incredible," Greene said.

Capt. Greene attributes much of the success in partnership building to Mark Lucas.

"My hat is off to Mark, he has worked very hard in the last year to develop relationships. Port Hueneme Det. Virginia Beach is down the street, and we have developed a close relationship with them. We are working with Carderock [Division] Combatant Craft Department, and we are working with the SPAWAR Systems Center Charleston group in Norfolk on a number of issues.

"Think of the potential when we start saying, 'I am working on this and you are working on something very similar, what's the best of breed? Where can we do better for the warfighter and the taxpayer?' We are starting to make inroads there," Greene said.

Historically, NSWC Dam has delivered combat direction systems life cycle support and software support activities to the fleet, but Lucas said the center is undergoing a transformation that integrates its product line across a network for a net-centric force. An important part of the transformation is a capable workforce.

"You have to think about what skills you need in your workforce in advance of those requirements. That is probably one of our biggest challenges, but it is one of the things that I am fiercely proud of: we have a fleet-minded organization that is driven to support the needs of the warfighter above and beyond just the day-to-day.

"We have a diverse mix despite our size. We are about a 350-person organization, from a government standpoint, about 10 percent military and the rest civilian. That itself is an anomaly. If you look at an acquisition warfare center activity, it is rare to see 10 percent of the workforce be military because a lot of the emphasis is on the up-front research and development. It's critical to us to be able to align our investments to the needs of the fleet," Lucas said.

While NSWC Dam Neck employs scientists and engineers, it also has technicians that understand how the systems will be used in their intended environment and who are able to provide the feedback through the requirements process, Lucas said.

Greene agreed, but said the fleet operators, the operations specialists, bring recent fleet experience and create a synergistic alliance with Dam Neck's scientists, engineers and technicians.

"They are the folks with recent 'wounds' from the fleet, but you also have the added benefit when those folks roll back to sea. Those folks have a better understanding of the technology and they have a ready 'Rolodex' of folks that are working on these problems, and they continue that dialogue when they return to the fleet," Greene said.

Next to the NSWC Dam Neck workforce, Greene and Lucas are most proud of the products they produce.

"Things we are proud of … It's going to be a long list. I'll start with the Integrated Tactical Mobility System. The ITMS was designed for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group for one of their platforms that operates in a very harsh environment," Greene said.

"It was originally built by a contractor and Dam Neck was asked to do the IV&V (Independent Verification and Validation), and it did not go well. The folks asked if our team of engineers could help them get it operational. In a period of about six months, Dam Neck took the initial design and got it so it would operate in the environment that we're talking about," Greene added.

ITMS is a small craft situational awareness system that provides both tactical and navigational capability. It is Microsoft Windows-based and incorporates both commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) and government off-the shelf (GOTS) software.

"Today, they are on their third generation of equipment and a number of other platforms. They have developed some superb components and a superb integrated system that provides situational awareness for these folks.

"They developed, a 2.2 gig Pentium with a 200-megabyte hard drive, dual core. It's about the size of a cigar box, weighs less than 3 pounds, requires no external cooling, goes from minus 40 to plus 135 degrees Fahrenheit, and will take a 30 G-shock. You can submerge it under a meter of water for up to an hour, it will keep running, and it costs about $5,000," Greene said.

The system design is so compact, durable and robust that Greene said it could serve a variety of uses.

"When you start thinking about space and weight considerations that we are dealing with on all platforms, including surface ships, aircraft, and things like that, this starts to make a lot of sense. The question that I ask everybody is why don't all tactical computers look like this? I think they should [this capability] in the not too distant future," Greene said.

Another system developed by Dam Neck engineers, in a collaborative effort with NSWC Panama City and SPAWAR Systems Center San Diego, is the Multi-Vehicle Control System (MVCS) designed for the Littoral Combat Ship platform. The LCS has five unmanned surface and subsurface vehicles that will need to be controlled depending on three different mission packages. The MVCS Dam Neck team completed software Build 2.0.0 in March followed by qualification training which continued through April. The target release date is early May.

"The team said it makes no sense to have different controllers and five different radios on the ship. How are we going to handle this? Multi-vehicle control systems are the answer, and they came up with the idea in conjunction with the Mission Package Development Lab at NSWC Panama City and SPAWAR San Diego.

"This is an Internet service provider for unmanned vehicles. You bring the vehicle that is compliant with the MVCS architecture, you plug it into that architecture, and you don't need to bring your own radio and your own control system. All you need is a little bit of software. You can control that system and send signals back to the mission module and into the core combat system. We are excited about that, and we think that it has applicability beyond LCS and beyond the Navy," Greene said.

As Greene continued to enumerate a seemingly inexhaustible list of NSWC Dam Neck accomplishments, too many to state here, he continued to point to the Dam Neck workforce as his source of greatest pride.

"We are active across the life cycle, so we do everything from the developmental work, the testing and evaluation, and into the life cycle management."

For more information, contact NSWC Dam Neck public affairs at nswcdnpao@navy.mil or (757) 492-6155, or go to the NSWC Web site at www.navseadn.navy.mil.

ITMS
The Integrated Tactical Mobility System provides the small craft operator with a single system capable of interfacing systems, processing the data into a single data source, and displaying information in real-time.

The system architecture and design scales from a single station to hundreds of stations. Each station includes standard processors specially packaged for harsh environments. ITMS addresses the operator's needs for a common design and installation approach to situational awareness, navigation, communications, sensors and other craft systems.

ITMS provides built-in fault isolation, sensor monitoring, multiple source video display and capture, electronic nautical charts, integrated radar, electronic maneuvering board and radio control. Each station maintains full functionality with data and file synchronization. ITMS is a Microsoft Windows-based system that incorporates commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) and government off-the shelf (GOTS) software.

The ITMS software was designed for all weather operation using bezel button input. All screens contain large, easy to read text with day and night color configurations on enhanced sunlight and night vision compatible displays. ITMS can be easily installed on a standard laptop, and connected to the ITMS LAN to provide all the functionality of an ITMS station.

NSWC Dam Neck Commanding Officer Capt. Jon A. Greene and NSWC Dam Neck’s Technical Operations Manager Mark J. Lucas on the steps of Hopper Hall, home to the NSWC Dam Neck workforce. NSWC Dam Neck personnel engineer C51 system capabilities across the life cycle. NSWC Dam Neck’s mission is to arm warfighters with innovative capabilities by delivering force-level integrated and interoperable engineering solutions, mission critical control systems, and associated testing and training technologies which meet the requirements of the maritime, joint, special warfare and information operations domains. The CHIPS staff toured NSWC Dam Neck’s labs April 16.
NSWC Dam Neck Commanding Officer Capt. Jon A. Greene and NSWC Dam Neck’s Technical Operations Manager Mark J. Lucas on the steps of Hopper Hall, home to the NSWC Dam Neck workforce. NSWC Dam Neck personnel engineer C51 system capabilities across the life cycle. NSWC Dam Neck’s mission is to arm warfighters with innovative capabilities by delivering force-level integrated and interoperable engineering solutions, mission critical control systems, and associated testing and training technologies which meet the requirements of the maritime, joint, special warfare and information operations domains. The CHIPS staff toured NSWC Dam Neck’s labs April 16.
Related CHIPS Articles
Related DON CIO News
Related DON CIO Policy

CHIPS is an official U.S. Navy website sponsored by the Department of the Navy (DON) Chief Information Officer, the Department of Defense Enterprise Software Initiative (ESI) and the DON's ESI Software Product Manager Team at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific.

Online ISSN 2154-1779; Print ISSN 1047-9988
Hyperlink Disclaimer