Top Tech: The Navy’s Indoor Ocean

Top Technology is an Armed with Science series that highlights the latest and greatest federal laboratory inventions, technology and innovation in the military.  Want to suggest an invention? Email us at science@dma.mil

(Photo provided by NSWC Carderock Division/Released)

(Photo provided by NSWC Carderock Division/Released)

Technology: The Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin (MASK) facility

Agency: NAVSEA Warfare Center, Carderock Division

Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division has thrown the switch on newly renovated “Indoor Ocean”.  It’s called the Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin (MASK) facility, and the recent face-lift will help change the way the Navy understands extremes maritime circumstances.

WHAT IS IT?

It’s the Navy’s biggest wave pool.  It’s 360-foot long, 240 foot-wide, and holds approximately 12 million gallons of water.  It’s used to evaluate the maneuverability, stability and control of scale models.  NSWC Carderock, a field activity of the Naval Sea Systems Command, leads the Navy in hull, mechanical and electrical engineering. Headquartered in West Bethesda, Md., NSWC Carderock employs approximately 3,600 scientists, engineers, technicians and support personnel.  They’ve got a lot of people on hand, all of whom are dedicated to making the world an easier and more effective place for sailors to complete their many maritime missions.  The overhaul of the indoor ocean is going to make that job easier, and more effective, too.

WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?

When you work in the ocean, wouldn’t it be nice to have it under a controlled environment?  Unless you’re Poseidon, this is the next best thing to controlling the water.  Carderock built the MASK in 1962 to test the scale model performance of ships, platforms and moored systems in realistic sea conditions.

(Photo provided by NSWC Carderock Division/Released)

(Photo provided by NSWC Carderock Division/Released)

During the recent six‐year upgrade, NSWC Carderock replaced the original pneumatic wave‐making system with 216 individually‐controlled electro‐mechanical wave‐boards that significantly enhance the capability to create a precise wave environment and simulate the ocean’s most extreme conditions.

WHAT DOES IT DO?

“This new finger-style technology provides the Navy with an unprecedented capability to create a realistic ocean environment inside of the facility, which enables us to collect more precise test data,” said Jon Etxegoien, NSWC Carderock Naval architecture and engineering department head.

“This upgrade, along with the size of the facility, makes the MASK the most advanced test facility of its kind in the world.”

HOW CAN THIS HELP?

Knowing what could happen can help sailors across the seven seas to prepare for the best and the worst.  Testing environments and scenarios, from tepid waters to torrent tempests, could make all the difference.  It could even save lives.  This upgrade will allow the NSWC Carderock hydromechanics facilities engineering and operations division to simulate the ocean’s most extreme conditions. 

MY TAKE?

Who doesn’t love to control an ocean?  Especially an indoor one.  The new finger‐style technology provides the Navy with an unprecedented capability to collect more precise test data in order to build and sustain the Navy’s fleet.  This upgrade, along with the size of the facility, makes the MASK the most advanced test facility of its kind in the world.  Seeing what this so-named indoor ocean can now do to help improve equipment, ship technology, and even save service member lives, is going to be really cool.  It’s also going to be worth the YouTube views I think.

This looks like a level in Portal, which makes it all the more cool. (Photo provided by NSWC Carderock Division/Released)

This looks like a level in Portal, which makes it all the more cool. (Photo provided by NSWC Carderock Division/Released)

The truth is the ocean is quite a daunting environment for anyone to try and tame.  Granted I’m not saying they will be able to control the tides of the actual oceans, but at least the Navy will have a controlled environment with which to conduct tests and experiments, like any science-based institution.

The Navy has had this for a few decades, but like any society, the technology needs to evolve with the people using it if it’s going to stay relevant.  It’s great to see all the hard work and dedication coming together in waves.  Congratulations, Navy!

Now go put that twelve-million-gallon  behemoth to work.

Want to learn more?  Click here for more information on this technology!

Are you interested more federal inventions? The Naval Research Laboratory has a broad portfolio of technologies that are available for commercialization. Visit their official website to learn more!

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Jessica L. Tozer is a blogger for DoDLive and Armed With Science.  She is an Army veteran and an avid science fiction fan, both of which contribute to her enthusiasm for technology in the military.

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