Chief of Naval Research Helps Steer New Tech for the Fleet

Rear Adm. Mat Winter, chief of naval research, discusses game-changing technology for the warfighter during a keynote address at the 28th Annual Surface Navy Association National Symposium. The Department of the Navy's Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps' technological advantage. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

Rear Adm. Mat Winter, chief of naval research, discusses game-changing technology for the warfighter during a keynote address at the 28th Annual Surface Navy Association National Symposium. The Department of the Navy’s Office of Naval Research provides the science and technology necessary to maintain the Navy and Marine Corps’ technological advantage. (U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams)

By Warren Duffie, Office of Naval Research

When discussing the Navy’s top science and technology (S&T) priorities with military, government and industry leaders, Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Mat Winter reflected on his college days at the University of Notre Dame.

“When I graduated from Notre Dame 30 years ago, many of the things that the Navy had in the ‘petri dish’ back then, so to speak, are being used today throughout the fleet,” said Winter. “The big questions we ask daily at the Office of Naval Research [ONR] are ‘What’s in the petri dish now?’ and ‘How can we be better about developing tomorrow’s technology for our Sailors and Marines?’ ”

On Jan. 13, Winter gave the keynote address at the Surface Navy Association’s 28th Annual Symposium, held in Crystal City, Virginia. The symposium featured defense companies, suppliers and military commands exhibiting surface warfare technology and future research and development initiatives.

The theme of this year’s symposium was “Surface Warfare Strategy: A View Beyond the Horizon.” Keeping with that theme, Winter outlined ONR’s mission, organizational structure and goals—and its investment portfolio, which ranges from quick-reaction projects that take as little as a year to implement within the fleet, to long-term research that could pay off big in 20 years.

“As the chief of naval research, I’m the chief mad scientist of the Navy,” said Winter. “At ONR, we discover new and exciting knowledge every day. What keeps me up at night is how to get technology to the warfighter—and how to make the business and execution of science more effective and efficient.”

Winter highlighted several ONR-sponsored technologies that are navigating the transition pipeline successfully, including:

  • Ground-Based Air Defense Directed Energy On-the-Move program, commonly referred to as GBAD: GBAD is a laser weapon system powerful enough to shoot down enemy unmanned aerial vehicles and small enough to fit in the back of a Humvee or Joint Light Tactical Vehicle.
  • LaWS: A shipboard laser weapon system currently aboard USS Ponce (AFSB[I] 15).
  • Electromagnetic Railgun: This weapon generates high-powered electrical currents to launch projectiles at distances over 100 nautical miles—at speeds that exceed Mach 6, or six times the speed of sound.

“We’ve also been able to develop and get out various quick-reaction technologies our Sailors can use right away on ships,” said Winter. “These include systems that fight corrosion as well as autonomous, robotic tools for cleaning and repairing pipes. They’re not sexy technologies, but they help our Sailors perform their missions better and provide the Navy with significant savings.”

Winter also discussed ONR’s investment priorities for development of future technology. Among these were directed-energy and electric weaponry; cyber dominance; electronic warfare; unmanned autonomous vehicles that can “swarm” adversaries; and synthetic biology, which creates new organisms with specific functions, such as threat monitoring.

Winter closed his remarks by inviting symposium attendees to check out ONR’s website to learn about partnership opportunities.

“Within the S&T community, the triad composed of government, industry and academia is vital to success,” he said. “With your help, we can develop and mature tomorrow’s technology.”

The Surface Navy Association was incorporated in 1985 to promote greater coordination and communication among those in the military, business and academic communities who share a common interest in naval surface warfare and to support the activities of Surface Naval Forces.

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