For Immediate Release: May 13, 2021
By Bobby Cummings, Office of Naval Research
ARLINGTON, Va.—As the sun sets on the California shoreline, an autonomous amphibious assault vehicle emerges from the waves crashing onto the beach. It creeps along the sand slowly, navigating a strategically placed set of obstacles. Once a safe path is cleared, U.S. Marines and additional vehicles flood the beach in an amphibious exercise.
Working alongside the uniformed personnel during the exercise is a specialized collection of scientists and technicians. Leading the team is the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Global Experimentation and Analysis (ONRG E&A).
“The ONR Global E&A team is the driving force for establishing ONR as a “hub for experimentation” across the Naval Research Enterprise (NRE),” said Rear Adm. Lorin Selby, chief of naval research. “They are setting the example for how the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps should be designing and supporting experiments to incorporate emerging capabilities into operationally relevant environments.”
Equally important, its members say, the E&A process connects scientists, engineers, and industry partners with Sailors and Marines in the field, to better understand and develop technologies that will help operators achieve their objectives.
“ONRG E&A maintains a constant focus on advanced technology development experimentation, both domestically and internationally, in support of ONR and ONR Global missions,” said Dr. Marcus Tepaske, director of ONRG E&A. “The experimentation and analysis team actively works to take late-stage technology development programs from the Naval Research Enterprise, and conduct militarily relevant experimentation with Sailors and Marines.”
The majority of experimentation exercises occur stateside, but many large-scale events frequently occur with international partners.
Some of the larger international naval exercises—such as Rim of the Pacific, Baltic Operations, or Talisman Saber—provided great opportunities for international experimentation. In 2021, ONR Global will take advantage of opportunities in the Baltic region to experiment with emerging mine countermeasures capabilities from deep water to the littorals.
Most recently, ONRG E&A sponsored experimentation with multiple assets in the U.S. Pacific Fleet-led Integrated Battle Problem 21 (IBP21) exercise in April, 2021. The exercise, which put into operation varying unmanned vehicles above the sea, on the sea and below the sea, demonstrated America’s growing focus on autonomous capabilities.
According to Tepaske, large-scale exercises are essential to ensure what works in theory will work in the fleet.
“Developmental technologies tested inside laboratory environments frequently fail in real operational environments,” said Dr. Steven Bond, a principal investigator and support contractor in ONR’s Ocean Battlespace and Expeditionary Access Department. “Field operations are hot, dirty, extreme environments. It rains, dust goes everywhere, and assembly requires special tools and careful execution. There is no office, no internet, and minimal resources.”
“Experiencing real-world environments is essential for scientists and technical experts.”
The warriors participating in E&A-led exercises provide critical “boots in dirt” input to scientists and technicians developing autonomous and remote unmanned platforms (air, surface, sub-surface, and ground). They also give user-feedback on sensor technologies like remote targeting and weapons systems.
“Regardless of the amount of planning that goes into experimentation, the biggest challenges always come when experiencing the real-world environment,” said Capt. Pete Severson, ONR Code 34 Warfighter Performance department. “Adapting the technology and coming up with creative solutions because of those challenges is essential for scientists and technical experts.”
Delivering cutting-edge technology to Sailors and Marines at a rapid pace is at the top of the to-do list for ONR and the Naval Research Enterprise. ONRG E&A address problem spaces and capability gaps for future conflicts by combining the power and potential of technology with the wisdom and experience of Sailors and Marines.
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Bobby Cummings is a contractor for ONR Corporate Strategic Communications.
About the Office of Naval Research Global
ONR Global sponsors scientific efforts outside of the U.S., working with scientists and partners worldwide to discover and advance naval capabilities.