The marvels of submarine high technology do not spring full-blown from corporate production lines or from the Navy’s internal long, slow process of research and development. On the other band, operational familiarity with “high tech” systems is usually limited to contact with the equipment and the tech reps who keep it going. Thus, though many of us have some contact with the ROTE world, few become directly involved in the R&D process by which new equipment gets initiated and developed.
Probably only a few submariners are actually aware of what it takes to get a new system concept generated so that the development process can begin.
It sounds easy — just get some bright scientific people together, give them the right tools along with adequate guidance from R&D managers, and the job will get done. But how difficult is this process?
Bright people find management restrictions hardly conducive to creativity. Managers, at the same time, don’t like “unfettered” research projects — particularly in research applied to specific warfare areas. There is too much difficulty defending such projects at budget time. And unfortunately, sponsors of major or “fenced” programs — those protected from budget cuts -consider “early research” programs as a resource to help solve financial problems by sacrificing them to budget cuts. So getting “bright people” and the “right tools” to work on Navy applied research problems is not easy.
One such project illustrates a process which should be preserved — in order to generate the ideas and concepts on which “high tech” depends. It resulted in the sonar signal processing system known as DIMUS.
DIMUS (Digital Nultibeam Steering) is a sonar technology which has grown steadily in recognition since it was conceived in the ’50s. It is a key element of both submarine BQQ-5 sonars and of surface ship SQS-26/53 sonars. Invented and developed by Dr. Victor c. Anderson of the Marine Physical Laboratory, San Diego, it earned for him the Navy’s Distinguished Public Service Award in 1976 and the NSIA 1s Martell Award for Technical Excellence in 1986. When the latter award was received, it turned out that Dr. Anderson had never seen a production model of his system — DIMUS. Consequently, a tour and briefing of a BQQ-5 sonar trainer was arranged following the award. Dr. Anderson was apparently impressed as much by the officer instructor’s enthusiasm and knowledge of the equipment, as he was by the capability that DIMUS was now providing to sonar operators. The visit, while generating feelings of pride and satisfaction in all Marine Laboratory personnel, still caused some concern for the difficulty if not the impossibility of repeating the story of the DIMUS development under today’s RDT&E rules!
Dr. Anderson invented the DELTIC (delay line time compressor), which is the fore-runner of the DIMUS, at MPL, and the first analog DIMUS while at Harvard’s Acoustics Research Lab for one year. This was done in 1951 with support from ONR’s basic research program. The following year, be came back to the Marine Physical Laboratory in San Diego and pursued the DIMUS work as part of the Labs ONR-supported Exploratory Development Program. It took a long time to solve all the DIMUS development problems. Moreover, Dr. Anderson was a young PhD with only a brief track record and was working in a small laboratory without major organizational support. The DIMUS program thus needed a lot of faith and support from ONR to make it happen. Fortunately, submariners in ONR’s Undersea Warfare Branch saw its possibilities and helped it along by defending the budget and by spreading the news of its value to the Navy.
The first reaction from BUSHIPS’ Sonar Office was only lukewarm since it didn’t match up with systems already planned and since available technology made it difficult to build. However, ONR 1 s commitment to projects of “high payo·ff’ even though risky, kept the work going through tests aboard the USS BROWN and the submarines BAYA and BLACKFIN. These tests finally led to a 3-D array installation in t he bow of the USS ALBACORE. After these projects proved successful, industry participation was developed in the early ‘6os. A DIMUS modification to the BQR-2 submarine sonar was the first practical application. Later it was used in the BQQ-2 and the SQS-26. And finally it became an integral part of most of the new sonar systems now installed in ships and submarines.
So what’s different today?
The key thing about the DIMUS development is that it did not commence in response to a requirement carefully worked out in Washington. Nor did it fit into a 5-year development plan. It was supported as true exploratory development must be — with sufficient funds and flexibility to aa1ow such a new concept to be tried, have mistakes noted and lessons learned, which were then used to move the project forward. ONR’s job was to give the project the support it needed and to convince OPNAV and BUSHIPS of its value, where the Laboratory was responsible for initiating the development, advancing the technology, and publishing the results for the Navy’s benefit.·
In today’s world, exploratory development is designated as the 6.2 part of the ROTE program and must be planned years in advance. Milestones and transition points are specified and must be justified in terms of a value to the Navy. Naturally, projects with low risk, near-term payoffs, and with close-coupling with stated Navy requirements, tend to be favored for funding support. Such projects, along with those which are aimed at solving problems found in 6.3 and 6.4 system developments are usually considered to be “fenced” projects .free of budget cuts. Unfortunately high payoff, but also high risk, exploratory development projects rarely share the same protection.
Why is this a cause for concern?
When every new CNO states his belief that people are the most important part or the Navy, his words are not just limited to people or the operating forces. They also include the shore establishment, and particularly the RDTE part or the Navy. Research and test facilities and the engineers to use them are important, but without a flow or good new ideas, all that they can do is work on marginal improvements to existing systems. Good new ideas of value to the Navy come from innovative people with considerable technical knowledge, with interest in Navy problems and with freedom to develop new concepts. People with such talents are not satisfied with working on programmed, scheduled tests — with constraints on technical approaches, and for which, opportunities for innovation and exploring new ideas are severely limited. The Navy’s 6.2 RDTE program must be committed to support innovative people and must be designed to insure such a commitment — else the pattern of DIMUS development will be difficult to repeat, for bringing to fruition other new technologies.
Submariners have good reason to share in such concerns. Their capabilities to perform independent missions depend heavily on keeping ahead of competitors. Standardization, redundancy and reliability may be the keystones or success for power plants, but technical and tactical innovation will determine success or failure in mission accomplishment.
A continuing interaction or scientists, engineers and naval personnel is needed to stimulate advances in technology applicable to naval problems — while ensuring an understanding of environmental limits on system performance. In order to protect and encourage these linkages, we need to maintain a capability in the RDTE program to attract and support creative technical talent upon which it depends. Submariners can help by encouraging Navy decision makers to support a 6.2 RDTE budget which will foster innovation in research, responsive to the tactical needs of the Submarine Force.
Charles B. Bishop[Editors Note: The Naval Submarine League membership is open to all u.s. citizens. VADM c. R. Bryan, USN(Ret.) was recently elected to be an NSL Director. Hopefully his presence and advice will encourage more members of the shore establishment and RDTE community to join. VADM Bryan has an EDO background and previously headed the Naval Ship Systems Command.]