Submarine Technology:

Transition Plans Needed to Realize Gains From DOD Advanced Research

IMTEC-90-21: Published: Feb 14, 1990. Publicly Released: Mar 21, 1990.

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Samuel W. Bowlin
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency's (DARPA) Advanced Submarine Technology Program (ASTP), focusing on: (1) the types of submarine technologies researched under ASTP; (2) the status of plans for transferring technology research to the Navy for further development on submarines; and (3) whether the Navy was planning flexibility into attack submarine design to allow for technological changes arising from the research.

GAO found that: (1) DARPA was developing submarine technologies that could significantly improve U.S. submarine capabilities; (2) platform system research could shorten a submarine commander's response time by processing data on the operating environment, submarine and weapons system status, enemy location, and ship maneuverability; (3) hydrodynamics research used computer models for determining the effects of water flow on submarine maneuverability; (4) materials research included comparing different hull materials to improve submarine stealth, reduce weight, and eliminate corrosion; (5) mechanical and electrical research concerned the development of technologies to streamline propulsion machinery, increase weapons launch efficiency, and improve submarine stealth by reducing electromagnetic emissions; (6) structural acoustics research focused on methods to control noise through development of overall submarine design and engineering options; (7) the Navy did not have a strategy for transitioning DARPA submarine technologies to its ship development programs; and (8) the Navy had not developed a program for incorporating recent DARPA technologies into the attack submarine currently under construction.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: DARPA and the Navy have formalized procedures for project management transition. The procedures were published in the ASTP Fiscal Year 1990 Annual Report provided to Congress.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to develop criteria, plans, and procedures to ensure that ASTP technologies are adequately considered for transition to the Navy, and that those most promising are transferred.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: House Report 101-331 on the 1990 Authorization Conference tasked the Director, DARPA, to report on a plan to transition some advanced technology projects to the Navy. The effort is underway for several technologies, including the advanced propulsor and the non-penetrating periscope.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Navy to analyze the ASTP technologies being researched to determine which ones could be cost-effectively provided for in the Seawolf design to facilitate their later incorporation.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense


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