WASHINGTON - It was a day of epic proportions for the Navy civilian scientists and engineers who are developing a new "EPIC" engine technology.
Naval Sea System Command (NAVSEA) leadership — NAVSEA Commander Vice Adm. William Hilarides and NAVSEA Executive Director Bill Deligne — believe in its potential to transform the Navy surface and undersea vehicle operations.
That's why they presented the 2016 NAVSEA Commander's Innovation Award to the team of engineers for their work on the breakthrough technology at a Washington Navy Yard ceremony held April 26.
Hilarides and his predecessors annually honor NAVSEA innovators with the Commanders Award for Innovation that challenges assumptions and requirements while eliminating the bureaucratic processes preventing great ideas from being implemented.
The team developing the Extreme Power Internal Combustion (EPIC) engine overcame the assumptions, obstacles and bureaucracy to turn an idea into a patented engine technology designed to transform vehicle and equipment operations throughout the U.S. Navy in the not so distant future.
"Our team has the initiative, drive, creativity, ingenuity, and experience to bring this game-changing, mission transformational technology to reality," said Greg Buchanan, the inventor of EPIC. "Combined with the rapid prototyping, additive manufacturing, and innovation design capabilities of the collaborating warfare centers, we will bring this engine's decisive advantage to the warfighter."
Buchanan and one of the EPIC developers, Vince Vendetti — both Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) engineers — were also recognized for the innovation at the NSWCDD annual honor awards ceremony, May 18.
"We were shocked and excited to learn of the award," said Buchanan, who collaborates on EPIC with his team of engineers and scientists from NSWC Panama City; NSWC Philadelphia; Office of Naval Research Expeditionary Maneuver Warfare and Combating Terrorism Department; and NSWCDD in Dahlgren Virginia, which includes Combat Direction Systems Activity, Dam Neck in Virginia Beach.
"To us, innovation is our way of doing business for the Navy," said Buchanan. "If we are to stay ahead of the designs of our enemies, we can't worry about what can't be done and collaborate to figure out ways to get it done. Our enemies are nimble and unconventional - we must be also."
EPIC began when Buchanan pondered a pressing question: How does the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps outmaneuver future rivals in amphibious operations and assault missions?
There are points that must be considered before answering the question.
For starters, modern assault missions are increasingly complex. An armored vehicle must be effective in combat under increasing enemy fire power, while maintaining maneuverability and range.
Secondly, the next generation amphibious assault vehicle — faced with the need to float and traverse miles of rough seas — must overcome difficult challenges at sea. The expeditionary fighting vehicle attempted to meet these challenges using a heavy diesel engine, with limited success.
Buchanan's solution: Develop a high-power, low-weight, compact, stealthy, and fuel efficient power plant that enables a transformation of the amphibious assault mission.
"An amphibious combat vehicle featuring the efficient, high-power EPIC engine would meet all challenges and outmaneuver future rivals to truly transform amphibious assault missions," Vendetti explained in a Naval Innovative Science and Engineering White Paper.
EPIC enables the outmaneuvering by increasing agility with acceleration, speed, payload, climb, and muscle, expanding operations with range, endurance, and logistics to provide a mission transformation for amphibious combat vehicle amphibious operations.
"The EPIC engine will power heavily armored amphibious combat vehicles to shore at high speed in minimal time from the increased standoff distances of U.S. Navy's amphibious ships," Vendetti projected. "Once ashore, the engine drives the amphibious combat vehicle far inland, conserving fuel by using only the cylinders necessary to optimize combat effectiveness. The engine's reduced weight, size, and fuel requirements afford the amphibious craft increased maneuverability and payload to battle through the complexities of future assault missions."
Moreover, the EPIC engine would fill the current power gap by producing high power and torque in a small, lightweight, and fuel efficient package. Preliminary calculations indicate the EPIC cycle engine could produce a power-to-weight ratio exceeding that of conventional diesel engines by a factor of 10 and turbo-shaft engines by a factor of two.
"The EPIC engine will accomplish its high power density with low emission temperatures and volume of emissions to improve stealth," Buchanan stated. "The engine will provide excellent power variation, along with cylinder selection and low fuel consumption. With the ability to stack rotors, its scalable-cylindrical shape, and built-in hybrid electric power or fluid pumping capability, the EPIC engine can be tailored for a variety of applications within the amphibious combat vehicle system."
This early development work is aligned with NSWCDD's core thrust to design, develop, test, and evaluate technology for integration into Navy and expeditionary warfighting platforms. EPIC also aligns with the command's electric weapons thrust to provide high electrical power generation in a greatly reduced form factor to power electric weapons.
"Building on NSWC Dahlgren's history of successful U.S. Marine Corps vehicle integration work, Dahlgren could enable the amphibious combat vehicle program to achieve its challenging power goals, highlight its development skills, and promote its expertise in additive manufacturing," said Vendetti.