For nearly 250 years, Rhode Island has driven naval innovation in the United States.
On Aug. 26, 1775, Rhode Island helped engineer the foundation for the U.S. Navy when the then-colony passed a resolution stating that there would be a single continental fleet fronted by the Continental Congress.
Ninety-five years later, the Naval Torpedo Station was born in Newport to provide research and technology to the Navy. Fast forward to the present day and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport’s Advanced Naval Technical Exercise (ANTX) 2019, held Aug. 29, demonstrates that Rhode Island remains on the cutting edge.
“Two-hundred, forty-four years ago, Rhode Island set the path for the Navy that we have today and Rhode Island, quite frankly, continues to do so,” R.I. Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor said. “NUWC Division Newport is at the forefront of that, and our undersea work is par excellence.”
Pryor was one of the dignitaries who spoke during a ceremony Thursday afternoon during ANTX 2019, the fifth iteration of the event designed to promote innovation and collaboration across government, industry and academia in an effort to evolve the state of the art for emerging fleet technologies. U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse; Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (CNMOC) Technical Director Dr. William Burnett; Don Hoffer, Executive Director, Submarine Forces; Division Newport Technical Director Ronald Vien; and Division Newport Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Coughlin also joined Pryor on the dais.
“I am super proud of ANTX. I love this show, and I can’t wait for it to get bigger and bigger,” Whitehouse said. “We’ve been growing pretty steadily, but we have nowhere to go but up. I really hope that this continues to grow.”
Whitehouse, speaking for both himself and his contemporaries U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and U.S. Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, also noted that the state’s representatives are committed to building ANTX.
“All I can say is that I want you to tell me what I can do to help make this bigger and better because I think the future is calling us here,” Whitehouse said. “This is amazing technology and I think this particular ANTX event can be a seriously big deal. I love the trajectory we’re on and I will do everything to be helpful.”
A Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) signing between NUWC Division Newport and the Mississippi Enterprise for Technology (MSET) later that day exemplified some of the growth ANTX has enjoyed since its inception, particularly in strengthening the relationship between government, industry and academia. Division Newport already has a PIA in place with the University of Rhode Island, the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance (SENEDIA) and the City of Newport.
“There are already several links between the state of Mississippi and Rhode Island, and this is now another one,” MSET CEO Robert Ingram said before signing the ceremonial document along with Coughlin. “This will help to rapidly bring innovations we have to the warfighter.”
Pryor, Burnett and Hoffer also addressed the topic of strengthening bonds between government, industry and academia in their speeches. Burnett thanked Whitehouse in particular for helping pass the Commercial Engagement through Ocean Technology Act, which directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to coordinate with the private and academic sectors and the Navy on evaluating the at-sea data collection capabilities of unmanned maritime system technology and to integrate such technology into NOAA’s observation suite.
“How better to secure commercial technology to understand, explore, navigate and — for the Navy — militarily exploit the ocean environment?” Burnett said. “The Navy and NOAA are already following the legislation that was signed by sharing ocean buoyancy gliders that are able to measure the real-time ocean temperature and salinity at the location that they’re at so we can get those into our models.
“Right now, we’re sharing these ocean buoyancy gliders to place them in front of Hurricane Dorian to get a real-time heat context of the ocean to understand how strong this hurricane will be.”
In his address, Hoffer expanded on the importance of innovating with speed — particularly with respect to succeeding in this current era of a great power competition.
“Simply put, the navy that implements their capabilities first, wins,” Hoffer said. “Since 2015, ANTX has brought together academia, industry and the warfighter to demonstrate high-end technologies and experiment with contexts of employment to meet future Navy needs.
“The collaboration between the providers and users is critical to rapidly understanding the latest technology and how to implement it in the fleet. The discussions and demonstrations from this event help shape our fleet. I’m happy to report, our efforts are paying off.”
One did not need to look far on the waterfront to see just how much ANTX will pay off in the future, too.
Representatives from businesses that could design, develop and present inimitable technology set up displays that ranged from high-resolution drone bathymetry to multi-domain remote monitoring, theater management, synthetic aperture sonar and artificial intelligence.
“We’re the only ones in the world who can do this kind of bathymetry to this level of precision with such a small vehicle,” Colorado-based AstraLite President Gerald Thompson said. “We look for objects and detail in the water that are important to measure, like a bridge piling, pipeline, jetty or unexploded ordnance. First responders after a flood or the U.S. Navy would want to know those objects are there.”
He said ANTX 2019 is an important exercise in showcasing the latest designs to the people who will make them effective in the fleet.
Division Newport employees also took full advantage of a preview day held Aug. 27, exploring the bayside tents with savvy curiosity.
“This is great. A couple of projects like ‘Pods’ would not have been started without this event,” Daniel Luchetti, a system engineer, said. “And they already have interested parties who want to use their technology.”
“They’re doing some fantastic stuff,” David Mello, also a system engineer, added. “We’re seeing what tools they’re using to collaborate with other groups. They’re developing data technology to visualize our scenarios, and we’ll model with these tools.”
Coworkers Chris Ferreira and Troy Beauparlant, a computer engineer, each said they learned something cool about Division Newport at ANTX.
“We got to see the payloads that get integrated on the work we perform,” Beauparlant said. “That was really great to see firsthand.”
Division Newport’s Rapid Engineering Experimentation Facility was one such display that enlightened passersby, with a childlike, “Hey, we’re here, look what we can do” tactic.
“The cool thing about REEF is the collaboration among different stakeholders,” Waterfront Operations Branch Head Kip Rainey said. “REEF provides a version of ANTX every day. It’s what leadership has been saying all along. Departments can come down here and work together to develop their new technology. This is where good ideas meet reality.”
Small groups of colleagues clustered around the vendors, peppering them with questions about their technology and its fleet applications. Strolling the piers discussing their new ideas, they seemed energized by the tactical relevance of their own work and real-time assistance they’re providing the fleet.
“It’s difficult to see the big picture up on the hill,” Division Newport security officer Kathryn Johnson said. “But now I have a new appreciation. Now I’ve seen what they do and how they help the fleet. I hadn’t realized the effect of the work here.”
Employees also learned more about Division Newport’s 150 years of service to the Navy in two historic exhibits set up to mark the Command’s anniversary on July 29.
To see videos and images from the day, visit NUWC Division Newport’s Facebook page.
NUWC Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.
Currently celebrating its 150th anniversary, NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Captain Michael Coughlin, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher’s Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.