This story was written by the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport Public Affairs. It originally appeared here on February 14th.
For nearly 80 years, Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport and its predecessor organizations have been known for their expertise in the area of underwater sound.
Now, that degree of knowledge has been made official.
Division Newport’s Underwater Sound Reference Division (USRD) recently was named an official Designated Institute (DI) for “Acoustics: Sound in Water” by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The designation became official Nov. 12, 2019.
“This will formally designate NUWC Division Newport’s Underwater Sound Reference Division as the NIST measurement facility for underwater metrology,” Technical Director Ron Vien said. “The team has been working on this for years, overcoming a number of technical hurdles in order to complete this initiative. This is a huge accomplishment. When we participate at international metrology standards meetings we represent the United States. This is great news!”
USRD Branch Head Dr. Victor Évora echoed many of the same sentiments and was effusive in his praise of all those who over the years helped to realize this goal.
“I’m just so proud of the USRD team for all its efforts. It’s quite an accomplishment and, for sure, it was a team effort,” Évora said. “This recognition is very significant. USRD has been a national asset in the area of underwater sound for many decades.”
According to Évora, USRD has supported NIST at International Bureau of Weights and Measures (BIPM) meetings since the early 1990s, but never had the “proverbial stamp of approval” by NIST.
The process of becoming officially accredited ramped up in January 2017 when USRD formally launched its quality management system. In July 2018, it received ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation through the NIST National Voluntary Laboratory Accreditation Program (NVLAP) in July 2018. One of the requirements for becoming a DI, ISO/IEC 17025 accreditation governs the general requirements for competence of testing and calibration laboratories.
Division Newport’s USRD is the first DI to be recognized by NIST and the effects of such accreditation are wide reaching.
“The end result of this effort is that for the first time the United States has national measurement standards for sound in water. We haven’t had that before,” Dr. Steven Crocker, USRD chief metrologist, said. “We’ve made these kinds of measurements in water at USRD for 40 or 50 years, but the metrological foundation and the traceability that goes along with that for every other measurement in the country — voltage, mass, length — has never existed for sound in water. Now, it does.”
This designation brings a host of benefits, according to Crocker. Among them is having a single understanding of what the acoustic Pascal, a fundamental measurement of sound pressure, is in water.
“This has raised the bar for us,” Crocker said. “We can now say with well-understood uncertainties how good the transducer standards that we send out to other Navy laboratories, universities and contractors are, and how well and accurately they perform.”
In turn, the NIST designation will provide more opportunities for collaboration between Division Newport, academia and industry. One of the responsibilities as a DI is that Division Newport provide opportunities for other U.S. entities to demonstrate proficiency against the standard.
“Every single measurement in water is traceable to the lab in Building 1320 and to the equipment that is in there,” Crocker said. “There’s one other place where you can say that, and that’s at NIST. It’s this room or NIST for the whole country.”
This new designation also will help Division Newport achieve its goal of equipping our warfighters with the tools they need to succeed.
“This directly has a positive impact on fleet sensors and sonar systems, next generation capabilities and everything that we do here for the Navy,” Tony Paolero, head of Division Newport’s Undersea Sensors and Arrays Division, said. “Submarines and surface ship sensors and arrays that we acoustically characterize rely on testing that needs to be both accurate and precise to keep us competitive. This outstanding efforts by this team has gotten us to a level at which we need to be to expand the advantage.”
The NIST accreditation is the latest example of Division Newport’s commitment to excellence in the field of underwater acoustics, one that dates back to World War II.
In the early 1940s, the United States recognized the need for establishing systematic methods for calibrating and evaluating sonar transducers. Subsequently, the Underwater Sound Reference Laboratory (USRL) — what would later become the USRD — was established with headquarters in New York and field stations in Mountain Lakes, New Jersey, and Orlando, Florida.
Among the early achievements of the lab was a generalized theory of electroacoustic transducers, which led to the development of the first standard hydrophones, wide-band underwater sounds sources and practical calibration procedures for underwater sound transducers.
After World War II, all activities were consolidated in Orlando under the direction of Owen Owsley and the auspices of the Office of Naval Research (ONR).
In the decades that followed, the USRL — renamed the Underwater Sound Reference Detachment in 1966 — helped shape the field of underwater acoustics. Some of those achievements were detailed in the book “Underwater Electroacoustic Measurements.” Written by Robert J. Bobber, the USRD’s second superintendent, the comprehensive book was the first to be published on the subject of underwater acoustic calibration.
The USRD remained in Orlando until 1997, when it closed because of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) and its operations moved to Division Newport. The Bugg Spring deep-water facility in Leesburg, Florida, which was established in 1965, stayed open.
After moving to Newport, the USRD remained the supplier of primary and secondary transducer standards for the Navy and U.S., maintaining more than 800 standards. Some of its services include the leasing of hydrophones, as well as maintaining and operating facilities used to design, analyze, fabricate and maintain transducer standards.
NUWC Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.
NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Michael Coughlin, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher’s Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.