For nearly 250 years, Rhode Island has driven naval innovation in the United States. On Aug. 26, 1775, Rhode Island helped engineer the foundation for the U.S. Navy when the then-colony passed a resolution stating that there would be a single continental fleet fronted by the Continental Congress.
Ninety-five years later, the Naval Torpedo Station was born in Newport to provide research and technology to the Navy. Fast forward to the present day and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport's Advanced Naval Technical Exercise (ANTX) 2019, held Aug. 29, demonstrates that Rhode Island remains on the cutting edge.
"Two-hundred, forty-four years ago, Rhode Island set the path for
the Navy that we have today and Rhode Island, quite frankly,
continues to do so," R.I. Secretary of Commerce Stefan Pryor
said. "NUWC Division Newport is at the forefront of that, and our
undersea work is par excellence."
Pryor was one of the dignitaries who spoke during a ceremony Thursday afternoon during ANTX 2019, the fifth iteration of the event designed to promote innovation and collaboration across government, industry and academia in an effort to evolve the state of the art for emerging fleet technologies. U.S. Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse; Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (CNMOC) Technical Director Dr. William Burnett; Don Hoffer, Executive Director, Submarine Forces; Division Newport Technical Director Ronald Vien; and Division Newport Commanding Officer Capt. Michael Coughlin also joined Pryor on the dais.
"I am super proud of ANTX. I love this show, and I can't wait for it to get bigger and bigger," Whitehouse said. "We've been growing pretty steadily, but we have nowhere to go but up. I really hope that this continues to grow."
Whitehouse, speaking for both himself and his contemporaries U.S. Sen. Jack Reed and U.S. Reps. Jim Langevin and David Cicilline, also noted that the state's representatives are committed to building ANTX.
"All I can say is that I want you to tell me what I can do to help make this bigger and better because I think the future is calling us here," Whitehouse said. "This is amazing technology and I think this particular ANTX event can be a seriously big deal. I love the trajectory we're on and I will do everything to be helpful."
A Partnership Intermediary Agreement (PIA) signing between NUWC Division Newport and the Mississippi Enterprise for Technology (MSET) later that day exemplified some of the growth ANTX has enjoyed since its inception, particularly in strengthening the relationship between government, industry and academia. Division Newport already has a PIA in place with the University of Rhode Island, the Southeastern New England Defense Industry Alliance (SENEDIA) and the City of Newport.
"There are already several links between the state of Mississippi and Rhode Island, and this is now another one," MSET CEO Robert Ingram said before signing the ceremonial document along with Coughlin. "This will help to rapidly bring innovations we have to the warfighter."
Pryor, Burnett and Hoffer also addressed the topic of strengthening bonds between government, industry and academia in their speeches. Burnett thanked Whitehouse in particular for helping pass the Commercial Engagement through Ocean Technology Act, which directs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to coordinate with the private and academic sectors and the Navy on evaluating the at-sea data collection capabilities of unmanned maritime system technology and to integrate such technology into NOAA's observation suite.
"How better to secure commercial technology to understand, explore, navigate and - for the Navy - militarily exploit the ocean environment?" Burnett said. "The Navy and NOAA are already following the legislation that was signed by sharing ocean buoyancy gliders that are able to measure the real-time ocean temperature and salinity at the location that they're at so we can get those into our models.
"Right now, we're sharing these ocean buoyancy gliders to place them in front of Hurricane Dorian to get a real-time heat context of the ocean to understand how strong this hurricane will be."
In his address, Hoffer expanded on the importance of innovating with speed - particularly with respect to succeeding in this current era of a great power competition.
"Simply put, the navy that implements their capabilities first, wins," Hoffer said. "Since 2015, ANTX has brought together academia, industry and the warfighter to demonstrate high-end technologies and experiment with contexts of employment to meet future Navy needs.
"The collaboration between the providers and users is critical to rapidly understanding the latest technology and how to implement it in the fleet. The discussions and demonstrations from this event help shape our fleet. I'm happy to report, our efforts are paying off."
One did not need to look far on the waterfront to see just how much ANTX will pay off in the future, too.