Ocean Acoustics: A National Naval Responsibility

The Ocean Acoustics program supports basic research that addresses fundamental understandings of the physics relating to underwater sound. Areas of interest include the generation, propagation, and scattering of narrow- and broadband acoustic (and elastic) waves in the temporally and spatially varying ocean environment. Research that uses acoustics solely as a tool to study other environmental processes or that addresses an applied problem should be proposed to the appropriate directed programs (e.g., Physical Oceanography, Arctic and Global Prediction, Littoral Geosciences and Optics, and Ocean Engineering and Marine Systems). ONR may jointly support such efforts when a better understanding of the relevant acoustical propagation and scattering mechanisms are central to the research. In this case, the investigator could also seek coordination of support from the other program.

Planning Letter/Preproposal and Proposal Process

Planning letters (also referred to as preproposals, white papers, or letters of intent) are encouraged in advance of formal proposals for greater efficiency. Planning letters save time and provide a starting point for a dialogue with the appropriate program officer. A planning letter should be a short description (not to exceed two typed pages including figures.) The planning letter should contain the following information: telephone number and email address of the originator, the goals and technical approach, relevant references, and an estimate of the funding requested. While our calls for planning letters for the upcoming fiscal year have specific deadlines, unsolicited proposals and planning letters are accepted at any time throughout the year.

Special Ocean Acoustics Awards

ONR awards graduate traineeships, postdoctoral fellowships, and entry-level faculty awards in ocean acoustics. Requests should use the preproposal format with any additional guidance found in the Special Research Awards overview page.

Research Concentration Areas

The Ocean Acoustics program contains three thrust areas:

  • Shallow-Water Acoustics: This thrust's aim is to understand propagation and scattering of acoustic energy in shallow-water ocean environments.
  • Deep-Water Acoustics: This thrust addresses issues associated with low-frequency acoustic propagation, scattering, and communication over distances from tens to thousands of kilometers in the deep ocean where the sound channel may or may not be bottom limited.
  • Arctic Acoustics: The primary goal here is to understand the effects of changing Arctic conditions on acoustic propagation and ambient noise, particularly in under-ice environments. The thinning ice in the Arctic may result in reduced transmission loss compared to that observed during earlier investigations.

In addition to the investments under these thrusts, we continue to maintain more modest investments in research related to acoustic communications, particularly focusing on understanding and exploiting channel capacity.

Research Challenges and Opportunities

  • Shallow-water scattering mechanisms related to reverberation and clutter; seabed acoustic measurements supporting geoacoustic inversion; acoustic propagation through internal waves and coastal ocean processes and the development of unified ocean/seabed/acoustic models, including scattering from rough surfaces, biologics, and bubbles; and penetration/propagation within the porous seafloor.
  • The effects of environmental variability induced by ocean internal waves, internal tides, and mesoscale processes, as well as by bathymetric features including seamounts and ridges, on the stability, statistics, spatial distribution, and predictability of broadband acoustic signals remain areas of high interest. Also of interest is the coherence and depth dependence of deep-water ambient noise.

Type of Funding Available

  • Basic Research

For More Information

Links to online annual reports for many ongoing and recently completed studies are provided at the left side of this page. These annual reports can provide a detailed view of the types of research sponsored by the program in recent years.

Program Contact Information

Name: Dr. Robert Headrick

Title: Program Officer

Department: Code 322

Email for Questions: bob.headrick@navy.mil


How to Submit

Submit white papers, QUAD charts and full proposals for contracts to this email address: ONR Code 32 Research Submissions

Follow instructions within BAA for submission of grant proposals to grants.gov website.

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