U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine visited Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) on June 30 for briefs on High Energy Laser (HEL) capabilities and submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBM) as well as facility tours and demonstrations.
Kaine last visited NSWCDD in 2016 for the groundbreaking of the SLBM facility, NSWCDD’s missile support facility. Wednesday’s visit concluded with a walking tour through the halls of the building Kaine originally broke ground on.
Upon arrival, Kaine and his staffers joined command leadership for an overview of the warfare center’s role in supporting the fleet as well as an introduction to the NSWCDD Digital Proving Grounds – the ecosystem that affords the ability to digitally construct, test and integrate capabilities.
Commanding Officer Captain Stephen “Casey” Plew and Acting Technical Director Darren Barnes briefed the senator on NSWCDD’s strategic plan - including the focus on workforce development, establishing partnerships with academia and efforts to support small business contracts.
Laser capabilities have developed rapidly since Kaine’s last brief on HEL, which focused on the Navy’s Laser Weapon System program. Engineer Benjamin Tritt gave a presentation outlining the current state of HEL capabilities and the future of laser weapon technology systems that NSWCDD is developing.
Tritt’s presentation was the perfect primer ahead of the next leg of the visit which included a tour of the Laser Lethality Lab. Here, Kaine and his staffers were able to see one of the Navy’s most exciting developing capabilities – Optical Dazzling Interdictor, Navy (ODIN).
Melissa Olson, ODIN project lead, gave Kaine an overview of the capability and showed footage of ODIN in action. Following the demonstration of the successful, nonlethal laser capability, the tour moved to a testing area to see a lethal laser in action.
Dr. Chris Lloyd ushered the group toward a monitor in the building’s high bay. The monitor showed a steel plate with a red dot in its center. After Lloyd counted down to the group, the monitor suddenly flashed white before revealing the steel plate with a newly christened hole.
After the all clear, Kaine and his staffers moved into the room where the actual demonstration took place.
The next leg of the tour was the SLBM facility. The senator and his staffers entered a room filled with the nearly floor-to-ceiling computer systems that enable the deployment of the SLBMs. The Navy’s SLBM program, supported tremendously by NSWCDD, provides 70% of the nation’s nuclear deterrent capability.
After a brief history lesson on Dahlgren’s role in the SLBM program since its inception, NSWCDD engineer Paul Quinn guided Kaine through a mock SLBM launch simulation. Quinn then used a 3-D printed projectile model to walk the group through the stages of the missile flight to delivery of the warhead on target.
As the tour came to a close and Kaine walked the halls of the SLBM facility, he introduced himself to as many employees as he could, telling them that it is the people who are the most important piece of the nation’s capabilities.