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An Assessment of Undersea Weapons Science and Technology Executive Summary From a broad perspective, undersea weapons science and technology (S&T) is the result of fundamental and applied research and provides the basis for producing any of the Navy's weapons that spend some time undersea. This arsenal includes, for example, mine-like torpedoes, submarine-launched mobile mines, submarine-launched missiles, and, most important for this study, torpedoes and torpedo countermeasures. APPROACH AND CONTENT The Committee for Undersea Weapons Science and Technology developed its study in response to the terms of reference outlined in the Preface. Chapter 1 discusses the Office of Naval Research's (ONR's) role in and responsibility for naval S&T. Chapter 2 presents the committee's assessment of the ONR undersea weapons S&T program and the uniqueness of the program's responsibility vis-à-vis the Navy. Since the ONR undersea weapons S&T program is predominantly torpedo-related, the assessment follows the torpedo program categories: warheads, propulsion, guidance and control, torpedo stealth, torpedo defense, countermeasures, supercavitating weapons, and weapons design optimization. In the “Summary of Assessment ” in Chapter 2, the committee also addresses the two key questions posed in the terms of reference. In Chapter 3, the committee presents its perspectives on major issues surrounding the future of Navy undersea weapons construed broadly (i.e., including but not limited to torpedoes), on ways to approach these issues, and on the implications for Navy S&T. Findings, conclusions, and recommendations are presented in Chapter 4. ASSESSMENT OF ONR UNDERSEA WEAPONS S&T PROGRAM The committee offers the following assessments of the ONR undersea weapons S&T program: Torpedo upgrades are mature. Interactions with related technology areas need strengthening.
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An Assessment of Undersea Weapons Science and Technology Program funding is not sufficient to offset the evolving S&T available to potential enemies. In particular, basic research funding (Department of Defense budget category 6.1) is much too small. Because they must function in a challenging undersea environment, undersea weapons involve special technologies, adaptations of other technologies, and unique integration of all these technologies. There is in the United States no sustained non-Navy support for this type of effort. The U.S. Navy must make a greater effort to provide leadership in undersea weapons research and development if it wishes to match the activity and capability of other nations. The knowledge-base pipeline is adequate to support the current program, although undersea weapons research is not viewed as a particularly attractive career path. However, this pipeline would be hard pressed to support the level of activity required for the development of next-generation weapon systems, which will be increasingly sophisticated in virtually all the critical technology areas. Facilities and equipment are not in short supply, although distributed simulation facilities in greater numbers and capability will be needed. The integration of the ONR undersea weapons S&T program with torpedo programs in higher-order budget categories is too tight. Basic and applied research that could lead to revolutionary weapons efforts is being neglected. In answer to the first key question in the terms of reference, which asked what technologies are needed but are not being developed by the ONR undersea weapons S&T program, the committee offers the following judgments: The current approach to effectively confronting submarines in the littoral environment is not founded on a complete analysis and a good understanding of the physics of the problem, and it needs attention at the most basic level. Within the ONR undersea weapons S&T program, support for the underlying S&T is minimal. Deployable, distributed sensor arrays are a promising technology that needs to be built upon, as does related work in data fusion and undersea communications. Undersea weapons signal processing applications of fiber-optic bandwidth need to be exploited. Unmanned underwater vehicles and small manned underwater vehicles could be employed by naval forces as semiautonomous, long-endurance hunter/killers and reconnaissance vehicles. Alternative prime power concepts (e.g., hybrid advanced electric and internal combustion systems) that might be applicable to weapon-carrying and reconnaissance undersea vehicles need to be part of the exploratory program. Within the ONR undersea weapons S&T program, the committee received no indication of program activity in short-action-time, rocket-propelled, air- or surface-delivered undersea weapons. The committee did not note any programs based on other than traditional torpedo concepts. There is a need for the disciplined use of operations and systems analysis as a means to evaluate, quantify, and guide program decisions. In answer to the second key question in the terms of reference, namely, the extent to which undersea weapons S&T depends on Navy-sponsored research and development (R&D), the committee believes that the U.S. Navy bears the main responsibility for such S&T because undersea weapons must function in a challenging undersea environment and they involve special technologies, adaptations of other technologies, and unique integration of all these technologies. There is in the United States no sustained support for this type of effort outside the Navy.
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An Assessment of Undersea Weapons Science and Technology FINDINGS, CONCLUSIONS, AND RECOMMENDATIONS Based on its assessment of the ONR undersea weapons S&T program, the committee offers the following findings, conclusions, and recommendations. Finding 1. Undersea weapons involve special technologies, adaptations of other technologies, and unique integration of all these technologies for which there is in the United States little non-Navy-sponsored research and development. The committee found some good examples of ongoing healthy and productive S&T, including the following: The program on propulsion at the Applied Research Laboratory, Pennsylvania State University (ARL/PSU) is exemplary and offers technologies for both weapons and vehicles that could be used in future systems. Closed-cycle engines are among the increasingly attractive options as the importance of stealth and endurance increases. The programs on warheads at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Indian Head are good examples of R&D in a mature area that has consistently delivered fresh results in S&T and new generations of explosive compounds tailored to the Navy's needs. Current research on the penetration of hardened hulls is important. Research on the problems of sensitivity of high-energy materials should be supported. The program at ARL/PSU and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) to develop a high-speed, supercavitating vehicle is challenging and sufficiently promising to warrant research in (1) the physics of supercavitating flow, (2) vehicle control and guidance methodology, and (3) the design and building of a testbed. There should be careful analysis of the operational utility of the concepts this technology could include. On the other hand, the committee believes that a truly healthy undersea weapons S&T program should include industry participation, but industry is not now a significant participant or investor in undersea weapons S&T. Conclusion 1. The Navy has a unique responsibility for the support and health of S&T related to undersea weapons construed broadly. Although the information presented to the committee pertained only to torpedo-related matters, the committee believes that its recommendation on this responsibility should apply to all weapons spending some time undersea. The undersea weapons S&T effort should include industrial participation, at least in relevant concept definition studies, and related operations and systems analysis. Recommendation 1. The Navy should designate S&T for undersea weapons—construed broadly—as a National Naval Need.1Because of the key enabling characteristics of undersea weapons for the fleet and the need for industry involvement, the Navy should also consider designating undersea weapons as one of the Future Naval Capabilities (FNCs),2 a step that would allow it to begin preparation for a new weapons acquisition program. 1 As stated by Fred E. Saalfeld to the Office of Naval Research (ONR), National Naval Programs (now called National Naval Needs) are those science and technology areas that are uniquely important to the naval forces and whose health depends on ONR investment. 2 Future Naval Capabilities are chosen by a top-level Navy and Marine Corps board, and the corresponding S&T is defined in detail by integrated product teams. See further explanation under “Strategy of the Office of Naval Research” in Chapter 1.
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An Assessment of Undersea Weapons Science and Technology Finding 2. There is no broadly based, future-oriented program of operations and systems analysis in place to support ONR S&T planning in undersea weapons. With regard to the individual ONR undersea weapons program areas, the committee found the following: It is not obvious that the programs on guidance and control at ARL/PSU and NUWC are succeeding at coping with progressively quieter targets and evolving countermeasures. The careful operations and systems analysis needed to critically assess operational performance in matters of target detection, identification, and homing seems to be missing. Upgrades intended to quiet the MK-48 and MK-54 torpedoes (mainly by NUWC) were not persuasively presented to the committee. The open-cycle engine, buoyancy disadvantages, hydroacoustic noise, and other characteristics make the upgrades questionable in light of the evolving stealth and countermeasure capabilities of potential enemy targets. No systems analyses of predicted program success or time scales for acquisition were presented to the committee. A number of plausible approaches to defending against torpedoes were broadly outlined to the committee, including noisemakers, decoys, supercavitating pellets, and antitorpedo torpedoes. Individually these might be of value, but maximum benefit will be achieved only if they are integrated properly into a plausible, coherent defense architecture system. Weapons design optimization, which appears to be a relatively recently identified effort, while useful still does not satisfy the need for operations and systems analysis called for at several points in this report. Conclusion 2. Concept definitions, and systems and operational analysis, are needed in a number of program areas and as a part of a healthy and productive S&T process generally. Recommendation 2. ONR should rigorously implement a process of operations and systems analysis of undersea weapons systems. Operational performance in both littoral and blue water environments should be covered. Emphasis should be placed on enabling science and technology and weapons systems of advanced mission and design. Finding 3. The health of the existing Navy program on undersea weapons S&T is strongly affected by the present emphasis on upgrades of existing torpedo systems. Less than 10 percent of the ONR undersea weapons S&T budget was for basic research (6.1) in 1999. The health of the program could be improved by much greater attention to S&T issues that will affect future weapons systems. Conclusion 3. To be more forward-looking, greater S&T emphasis at a fundamental (6.1/6.2) level is needed within the ONR undersea weapons effort. Recommendation 3. ONR should increase undersea weapons S&T funding sufficiently to satisfy Future Naval Capability goals while ensuring that longer-range, higher-risk/higher-payoff alternative S&T is also enabled. This investment in future systems must be protected against raids to bail out near-term projects. Finding 4. While some of the items covered in the present program, which is focused on upgrades of existing torpedoes, may also be useful in future weapons systems (e.g., propulsion units and war-
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An Assessment of Undersea Weapons Science and Technology heads),long-range exploration for fundamentally new undersea weapons concepts and missions is needed. Conclusion 4. Innovation beyond current undersea weapons concepts and missions is needed for a healthy S&T program. S&T should be pursued toward torpedoes operating with sensor arrays, unmanned and manned undersea vehicles (attack, reconnaissance, and so forth), and sophisticated mines, and toward achievement of short-action-time air-delivered undersea weapons systems. In the future, undersea weapons systems will be driven increasingly by overall architecture that will demand much more interdisciplinary coordination than was seen by the committee in the course of its study. Recommendation 4. ONR should take a broader and longer-range view of undersea weapons systems, specifically those not limited to torpedoes and beyond the 5-year horizon. Some such concepts are being explored in other ONR undersea technology activities and in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and should be considered.
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