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2001 Assessment of the Office of Naval Research’s Aircraft Technology Program 2 General Observations Within the ATP as presented, the committee identified several excellent S&T projects that fully satisfied all of the criteria established. These projects—helmet-mounted displays, real-time image indexing, DARPA/Navy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle-Navy (UCAV-N) ATD, reconfigurable rotor blade, and flight controls and dynamics—were of high technical quality, appeared to be led by very competent personnel, had the potential for a major positive impact on future Navy and Marine Corps needs, and were adequately balanced and funded. The committee recommends that these excellent projects be continued and that sufficient funding, acknowledgment, and ongoing support be provided to ensure their successful transition into major programs. The committee had some general observations on the future of naval aviation that overarch the specific findings and recommendations to follow. The ATP will be undergoing extensive change beginning in FY02, when all of the 6.3 funding and half of the 6.2 funding at the ONR will be dedicated to the 12 major program areas referred to as Future Naval Capabilities (FNCs). The purpose of the FNCs is to focus advanced technology development at ONR on naval force capabilities that have been identified by a cross-functional group of naval operators, naval development, and support organizations and ONR personnel as having high priority for the future. The idea is for the FNC process to enhance and accelerate the transfer of new technology capabilities to the fleet by engaging all of the interested parties in the advanced technology development phases. Each of the FNCs will be managed by an integrated product team consisting of representatives from the interested parties, including operators, product developers, support organizations, and ONR. The FNCs will be funded at approximately $750 million, which is about one-half of the total ONR S&T budget in 2001. The remaining half of the ONR 2001 budget will be allocated to D&I programs that encompass the former 6.1 basic research efforts and the reduced 6.2 exploratory development efforts. Since the ATP is composed primarily (92 percent) of 6.2 and 6.3 programs, a significant shift in emphasis and management of the programs will take place in 2002 and beyond. The three FNCs that are the logical heirs of the technologies developed in the current ATP program are (1) Time Critical Strike,1 1 The objectives of the Time Critical Strike FNC are as follows: (1) to defeat expeditionary/urban warfare targets with naval
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2001 Assessment of the Office of Naval Research’s Aircraft Technology Program (2) Autonomous Operations,2 and (3) Total Ownership Cost Reduction.3 It is planned that some current technology programs and areas will be deemphasized or eliminated entirely while others will receive increased emphasis and funding because they are perceived to be important to future naval needs and capabilities. For example, the committee observed that the integrated avionics area will be essentially dropped from funding in 2002 and beyond, with the exception of an ongoing modest effort in integrated helmet display systems. There will also be a major shift in emphasis from traditional naval aircraft technologies in 2002 to the new UAV autonomy activity that will be part of the Autonomous Operations FNC and the UCAV activity that will be part of the Time Critical Strike FNC. Current activities in turbine engine improvement, condition-based maintenance, and power handling will be shifted to the Total Ownership Cost Reduction FNC. In this time of major change, the committee recommends that ONR ATP management reevaluate the entire S&T program from a strategic perspective that looks at the long-term vision and goals of naval aviation. The committee was concerned that it could not identify any influence on the ATP of a long-range vision or any strategic planning for the future of naval aircraft technology that involved the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations (OPNAV), Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR), ONR, or other Navy Department elements. As a result, the ATP appeared to be focused on the near term and to be tactical and opportunistic. The lack of any significant basic research (6.1) in the ATP aimed at D&I is additional evidence of this near-term focus. The ATP at ONR is closely coupled to the primary customer in NAVAIR, with many of the ATP S&T programs being led by NAVAIR personnel. While this closeness is desirable from a technology transfer standpoint, the time horizon of system developers such as NAVAIR is much shorter than deemed healthy for a vigorous, innovative S&T program, and this jeopardizes the future supremacy of U.S. naval airpower. In at least a few cases, the presented programs were inappropriate for S&T funding; they resembled instead engineering solutions to current aircraft problems, which should have been funded by program funds associated with specific platforms. In order to avoid duplication of effort, and to proceed efficiently toward optimum technical solutions, it is good practice to search the technical literature for previous work contributing to solution of a problem. However, the committee’s impression was that efforts in the ATP were often undertaken without such a search having been made. Aided by new information technology that makes the procedure much easier and more productive, literature searches should be done whenever a new effort is started toward solving a technical problem. There seems to be little or no systems analysis capability at ONR or NAVAIR. The committee was presented with no evidence that top-level system requirements for future needs had been established or that trade-off analyses had been conducted to select the best approach for naval aviation. Such systems analyses would have identified technology needs and led to a technology development plan that contained requirements and milestone performance and delivery schedules. A systems analysis and fire support; (2) to defeat relocatable targets at range; (3) to defeat short dwell mobile intermittently emitting targets at range; (4) to defeat moving targets at range; and (5) to defeat active hard and deeply buried targets at range. See ONR’s description online at <http://www.onr.navy.mil>. 2 The objectives of the Autonomous Operations FNC are as follows: (1) to provide all-condition access to the area of responsibility through organic unmanned systems to perform multiple missions; (2) to enable automated surveillance and reconnaissance in all environmental conditions; (3) to enable automated surveillance and reconnaissance data processing; (4) to enable secure, jam-resistant sensor to shooter to weapon connectivity; and (5) to minimize human intervention and enable manned/unmanned platform operations and interoperability. See ONR's description online at . 3 The objectives of the Total Ownership Cost Reduction FNC are as follows: (1) to reduce maintenance; (2) to enhance materials, designs, and processes for cost reduction; and (3) to enhance cost estimating tools for total ownership costs. See ONR's description online at .
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2001 Assessment of the Office of Naval Research’s Aircraft Technology Program engineering approach has been used successfully for each generation of the Fleet Ballistic Missile program for more than 40 years and is currently being followed in the DD-21 program. The failure to follow this proven disciplined approach seriously limits the identification and development of potentially high-payoff, long-term S&T opportunities and leads to the short-term, reactive, opportunistic approach witnessed by the committee. The committee recommends that OPNAV, in cooperation with NAVAIR and ONR and the appropriate offices in the Marine Corps, develop a long-range naval aircraft strategic plan that includes a NAVAIR-led technology development plan. Such planning would provide (1) a framework for future ONR S&T investments, including significant emphasis on D&I, and (2) a vision for new capabilities, including advanced air vehicle concepts at affordable costs.4 It is particularly important now, with the advent of FNC thrusts and as ONR funding shifts emphasis from manned aircraft to UAVs and UCAVs. The committee believes that failure to establish such a balanced strategy will lead to a more near-term focus, with unacceptable consequences for naval aviation. ONR should develop or contract for a strong systems analysis capability to support long-range planning. In developing a long-range technology plan, different approaches to satisfying systems requirements need to be analyzed and traded-off until an optimum technology approach is developed, given the constraints of time, schedule, budget, technology maturity, and other parameters. This well-proven approach requires personnel trained and experienced in the systems analysis discipline. The committee saw no evidence that this approach was being followed or that the presenters had any experience with it. Finally, as part of this strategic plan, the committee recommends that all projects relevant to an S&T aviation capability throughout ONR (and the Department of the Navy) be collectively reviewed, even though the area and projects may exist in several functional organizations. The committee observed that many of the shortcomings noted above were consistent with the findings of previous committees that reviewed programs in the Naval Expeditionary Warfare S&T Department, Code 35. In the 1999 Assessment of the Office of Naval Research’s Air and Surface Weapons Technology Program,5 there was concern that project selection was methodological rather than strategic, that the S&T work was evolutionary in nature and focused on short-term needs, and that trade-off studies needed to be conducted to determine how to fit the 6.2 and 6.3 program components into the overall weapons system architecture. That assessment, in turn, cited similar findings of an earlier Board of Visitors review in 1996. The committee believes that to remedy these shortcomings, the Naval Expeditionary Warfare S&T Department should take advantage of the new FNC focus to develop strategic long-range technology plans for each FNC using the systems analysis approach. This approach will identify technology gaps or needs that can be filled with a balanced S&T investment portfolio that includes a vibrant D&I element. 4 The committee recognizes that this recommendation is broader than the charter of ONR, but ONR can serve as a catalyst in drawing together the various parts of the naval aviation community. 5 Naval Studies Board, National Research Council. 1999. Assessment of the Office of Naval Research’s Air and Surface Weapons Technology Program, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.
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