Science Advisors Play Key Role in Advancing Naval Technology
ARLINGTON, Va. — An engineer steps into the cockpit of an FA-18 Super Hornet in Norfolk, Va. Meanwhile, another launches a huge parasail from the back of a patrol craft off the coast of Florida, complete with an intelligence package that gives the ship’s commanding officer beyond-line-of-sight information.
And yet another works with her peers in Scotland on the latest unmanned autonomous platforms.
These are the science advisors (SAs) from the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Global. And they play a key role in today’s naval technology — connecting the warfighter to cutting-edge capabilities in the air, at sea, on land and in the information/cyber domain.
“These men and women augment the eyes and ears of the fleet and force,” said Rear Adm. David Hahn, chief of naval research, “connecting new technology to the warfighters, across the country and around the world.”
All of the above examples are real. And the work doesn’t stop — two more examples include pivotal experiments during the recent Bold Alligator exercise; and assisting with an upcoming demonstration of AACUS, the Unmanned Aerial Cargo Utility System, designed to provide autonomous flight capabilities to helicopters.
“There’s an urgent need for the work of the science advisors,” said Tom Gallagher, director of the SA program at ONR Global. “Being embedded with commands, with Sailors and Marines and at command levels, is essential for both sides of the tech equation.
“It not only helps us understand warfighter needs — which leads to new research and new capabilities — but it also helps us inform naval leadership of technology they might not have known about that is already out there.”
The men and women who comprise the SA component usually come from technical or engineering backgrounds, and often have prior experience at naval warfare centers, working on research and development across a wide range of naval warfighting disciplines.
In other words, they’re familiar with technology, and not afraid to get their hands dirty — a key factor for someone who will be working daily with different operational forces. Some work with Marine Corps units in the field, others on surface ships or submarines, while others focus on cyber warfare or naval aviation.
Science advisors typically serve a maximum of two tours, each tour up to three years long, before going on to other jobs. The experience, they say, stays with you — and they grow professionally and personally from the role.
“Being a science advisor is an incredible experience,” said Dr. Marcus Tepaske, science advisor to Fleet Forces Command. “It puts you out there as a central voice of technology within the fleet — you work on everything from artillery to aircraft carriers, cognition to cyber, and lasers to landing craft, improving capabilities for our naval forces.”