Here, inside of ONR, in the portfolio of research,
we must be pretty selective because, if somebody else
is working on a problem in an area of technology or
scientific research and they, in fact, are a leader in
that area, then we don’t have to be. We put ourselves
in the position to be a fast follower with our network
of scientists and researchers so that when something
is discovered or something becomes combinatory or
additive, and that allows for a breakthrough, then
we’re in a position to take advantage of that.
There are areas where it is no advantage to a commercial company to invest in research, for example, areas like
sea-based aviation, of unique area of interest for the Navy
and the Marine Corps as we take off and land aircraft on
moving platforms at sea all the time. Not a lot of other
outfits do that, so we need to be particularly sensitive to
those things that allow airplanes — high-performance
aircraft — to operate in those environments. You want
somebody who understands the unique challenges associated with this environment.
Is there now more emphasis on
rapid innovative prototyping?
HAHN: That really goes across the continuum when you
look at the space from an idea all the way to the product in the hands of our Sailors and Marines. There are
different levels of technology maturation and different
levels of integration into larger systems, be they at the
ship level or platform level all the way to a system-of-systems level.
One of the challenges we have is that we cannot
necessarily clean-sheet our Navy. Our Navy is capital-intensive in that we have large-dollar platforms and
systems in use today. When you build a new submarine,
we expect that hull to last for 30, 40, even 50 years, yet,
clearly, the technology that you can bake into the war-fighting capability of that submarine is not going to last
50 years because of the speed at which technology is
moving, especially software-driven products.
Just look at your cell phone and what you do with
that today that you wouldn’t have imagined even three
or four years ago, certainly not 10 years ago. We have
to keep up with those rates of technology advancement and yet put them into existing platforms that are
operated by Sailors and Marines who are trained on a
set of systems. And, now, we’ve got to match the rate
of technology creation that exists in the world because
our adversaries are moving at that same rate of creation. We have to absorb it all the way across a system
and, eventually, get to the Sailor and Marine so they
can understand and use that system, and it has the
technology that is relevant to today’s fight.
Prototyping is a great way for us to take pieces of
technology that have matured to a certain state and
then combine them into an operating concept, if it’s a
clean-sheet opportunity, or bake them into a platform
or a subsystem or a component that we’ve got without
taking a ship off-line to do it. That is a very expensive
proposition that we can’t afford to do because of the
operating tempo of those ships.
We need to find a way to put into evidence these new
technologies and see how they fit with today’s operating
concepts — will it provide value? What is the integration
challenge of bringing a piece of technology into a force
that is already very complex and already high-tech?
What is the load we’re going to put on our Sailor and
Marine from a training perspective to be able to absorb
that, work it into the operating concept? Will it add value
in the fight? Is the juice worth the squeeze?
WWW.SEAPOWERMAGAZINE.ORG 14 SEAPOWER APRIL 2017