DAHLGREN, Va. – U.S. Navy officials briefed U.K. Royal Navy Rear Admiral Hugh Beard and his delegation on current and emerging technological programs during a tour of Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Dec. 3.
The timing of Beard’s NSWCDD visit – in the wake of a trilateral cooperation agreement signed by top leaders of the U.S., U.K. and Japanese navies aboard Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth (R08) – was perfect according to U.K. Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rich Bowen, the NSWCDD U.K. Personnel Exchange Program (PEP) officer.
“The strategic narrative for closer collaboration was reaffirmed on Nov. 20, 2019, aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth anchored off the coast of Annapolis, Maryland, with the CNO (chief of naval operations) and the first sea lord signing a trilateral cooperation agreement, committing to increased collaboration and cooperation,” said Bowen. “As part of these collaboration efforts Rear Admiral Hugh Beard, the United Kingdom Assistant Chief of the Naval Staff (Capability) visited NSWC Dahlgren Division.”
The strategy for closer collaboration began in 2013 when the CNO and U.K. First Sea Lord signed a combined strategic narrative articulating a shared vision for deeper cooperation between the U.S. and Royal Navies.
The narrative, built on past collaborative efforts, included five initiatives that characterize the Royal Navy and U.S. Navy partnership moving forward – interoperability and mutual technology investment; combined aircraft carrier operations; force and capability planning; officer exchanges; and collaborative force management.
“Royal Navy and U.S. Navy collaboration was evident as NSWC Dahlgren engineers focused their briefs on electric weapons and integration, hypervelocity projectile, directed energy weapons and the weaponization of unmanned surface vessels,” Bowen said. “It directly supported our shared strategic narrative and Admiral Beard is uniquely placed in the U.K. to heavily influence U.K. investment in maritime technology and information sharing.”
High-energy laser weapons systems and the electromagnetic railgun were among the directed energy programs that NSWCDD subject matter experts briefed Beard and his delegation of Royal Navy officers.
The development, testing, and transition of the Dahlgren-developed Laser Weapon System, and other directed energy technologies transitioning to naval capabilities, is offering more options for warfighters. In addition to kinetic weapons, such as guns and bombs, directed energy and electric weapons enable warfighters to engage myriad targets with more precision and variable effects.
At the Electromagnetic Railgun facility, the U.K. Naval delegation saw prototype launchers that NSWCDD engineers are testing. The railgun is a long-range naval weapon that fires projectiles using electricity instead of traditional gun propellants such as explosive chemicals. Magnetic fields created by high electrical currents accelerate a sliding metal conductor, or armature, between two rails to launch projectiles at 4,500 to 5,600 miles per hour.
As assistant chief of the Naval Staff (Capability), Beard is responsible and accountable for planning and delivering the larger part of the U.K.’s future maritime effectiveness. “In many ways Admiral Beard is equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s chief of naval research,” said Bowen.
While at NSWCDD, Beard and his delegation interacted with scientists and engineers who are engaged in shaping the future of surface warfare by expanding the U.S. Navy's ability to rapidly introduce new technology into complex warfighting systems. This capability evolved from the interplay of the command's longstanding competencies in science and technology, research and development, and test and evaluation.
Throughout the visit, NSWCDD Commanding Officer Capt. Casey Plew and the command’s leading technical experts gave Beard and his delegation additional information, insight, and background on various technical programs, technologies, and initiatives.
“In an increasingly interconnected world, partnerships and alliances such as this are vital for protecting the freedoms of the international community," said First Sea Lord, U.K. Royal Navy Adm. Tony Radakin upon signing the Trilateral Head of Navy Joint Statement. "I look forward to continuing to learn from one another, sharing our experiences and exploring where we can pursue our common aims together.”
CNO Adm. Mike Gilday expressed his gratitude to his counterparts aboard HMS Queen Elizabeth and said he looks forward to expanding cooperation at sea, which remains a foundation for security, stability, and prosperity.
NSWCDD has a rich history of cooperation and collaboration with the U.K. that includes many topics from short-term tasks to a 54-year-old missile agreement the command continues to support.
In fact, A U.K submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) civilian liaison is stationed at the command. SLBM collaboration between the U.K. and U.S. at Dahlgren has been ongoing since April 1963 when U.S. President John F. Kennedy and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan signed the Polaris Sales Agreement.
As a U.K. PEP officer, Bowen is involved with hundreds of different technical capabilities at NSWCDD – a premier research and development center that serves as a specialty site for weapon system integration.
Dahlgren has been hosting a U.K. Personnel Exchange Program officer for more than 30 years. PEP, formalized in the 1970s to develop closer ties between the U.S. Navy and foreign services, enhances inter-service relationships, encouraging mutual confidence and understanding, and prepares officer and enlisted personnel for future assignments involving multinational operations.
“The United States Navy and the Royal Navy have shared a common naval heritage and legacy of collaboration since the first half of the 19th century,” said Bowen. “The U.S. and the U.K. rely on our navies to project power in critical regions and to protect the freedom of navigation that underpins the global economy.”