Posted: February 14, 2017 5:18 PM

Navy Research Chief: ‘We’re Living in an Age of Acceleration’

By RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor

ARLINGTON, Va. — Technology’s rapid change is a challenge for fielding the weapons and sensors the Navy needs to counter peer competitors, the Navy’s research chief said.

“We are living in what has been termed an age of acceleration,” Rear Adm. David Hahn, chief of naval research, told a Feb. 14 gathering of the American Society of Naval Engineers, noting that technology is changing at an ever more rapid pace, but that “the entire world is moving at the same speed,” with other nations on their way to catching up with the United states in military capabilities.

“Our navy is technologically based,” Hahn said. “We have to create it, get it to our ships and into the hands of our Sailors and Marines.”

Hahn said “we don’t necessarily have an effective system today” of getting technology into the hands of the warfighter, compared with the performance of the defense industry in World War II.

Today the Office of Naval Research relies on a network of government laboratories, warfare centers, industry and academia, a collaboration that had its origins in World War II.

“Data has become a commodity,” Hahn said. “We’ve figured out how to take it to the individual.”
Hahn used the illustration of the digitalization of acoustic sensors as an example of an improvement, with putting digitalization as close as possible to the sensor made more room on a submarine for processing the data.

“if you are not digitalized, you are missing the boat,” he said.

Hahn also listed such technology as the shipboard laser weapon, the electromagnetic rail gun, swarming of small, unmanned vehicles, the Sea Hunter unmanned surface vehicle and the large diameter unmanned underwater vehicle as examples of technology that are progressing toward the fleet.  

Hahn said the future fleet concept will include more integration, including more man-machine teaming; more distributed sensors and weapons; and more maneuver within the electromagnetic spectrum.
Hahn stressed the importance of affordability, advocating “learning once, applying it many times.”

He also warned against a decline in basic research, pointing to the benefits in new technology developed from that research.

“We do have the resources,” he said in response to a question about the defense budget. “We have the dollars. We have to settle on a commitment. Once we commit, we’ve got to go. If we don’t have a sense of urgency, we’re going to be in a tail chase. We cannot rob basic research accounts.”

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