The Navy’s exclusive Directed Energy Systems Integration Laboratory (DESIL) is officially open for business at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu as Navy senior leaders, and local officials, including Camarillo Mayor Charlotte Craven and representatives from Harper Construction Co. Inc. attended a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the new facility on Dec. 3.
DESIL is an 18,500-square-foot, three-story facility that will allow the Navy to test and evaluate laser weapons systems in a maritime environment while taking advantage of the Point Mugu Sea Range, including 36,000 miles of controlled air and sea space that can stretch to more than 220,000 miles.
The laboratory also allows for installation of Directed Energy (DE) systems on its roof and inside the building for test and evaluation.
Capt. Robert “Barr” Kimnach, III, commanding officer of Naval Base Ventura County, stated “first and only” is an important distinction that demonstrates the diverse capability of NBVC.
“A tremendous amount of teamwork was applied to this project; which delivers additional growth while providing technology-driven systems to the fleet,” Kimnach said. “We have an outstanding relationship with Naval Sea Systems Command and Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command, and we look forward to supporting this, as well as other emerging technology projects, here at NBVC.”
Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Southwest Commanding Officer Capt. Mike Oestereicher also spoke about the dedication behind the team during construction of DESIL when facing obstacles and successfully overcoming them to meet mission requirements. One of those obstacles included the discovery of a 2,000-plus cubic yard concrete slab used as a gun mount that was buried beneath the surface.
“We rallied and overcame those (challenges) and essentially very little, if any actual construction schedule increased because of those very complex, unexpected items that we found during the construction,” Oestereicher said. “That was because everyone swarmed the problem, worked together, didn’t point fingers at each other, and overcame those, as most of you know, about 18 months worth of construction.”
Thomas Dowd, director, Ranges/Targets Operations, Instrumentation and Labs for Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, was also present and spoke at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for DESIL. During his speech, he reflected fondly about the satisfaction of seeing DESIL completed and the capabilities and future projects it will bring to the warfighter and the fleet.
“It conveys a sense of complexity, a kind of enticing vagueness and what we’re talking about here is lasers and that sense of wonderment that I have …[being] born into a world where lasers were purely science fiction,” Dowd said. “Now we’re talking about integrating laser systems as a deployed fleet capability, ensuring we have a decisive edge to execute the mission.”
With the facility located at Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu, the environment will expand testing capabilities and allow for realistic challenges, according to Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD) Commanding Officer Capt. Andrew Hoffman.
“We’ve been looking forward to getting this out here because, as Mr. Dowd mentioned, this is a different environment, and this is a stressing environment, not just for the building but also for the lasers and their systems,” Hoffman said. “So as the In-Service Engineering Agent, it gives us the ability to test in the environment that we’re going to deploy in, making sure these weapons are going to be out there and sustainable for the future.”
Michael Ladner, NSWC PHD acting technical director, also emphasized what DESIL means for the future of the Navy and the accomplishment of completing the construction of the building—from start to finish.
“The importance of the capability that this is going to bring to the fleet can’t be understated,” Ladner said. “Our ability to go test, support and understand how to do maintenance and operations on these systems, and the fact that it was built in (less than) two years, is just amazing; and it’s very timely for us to get systems in here and start being able to do the missions as we start delivering more capability to the fleet.”
As the Navy is facing constant opposition from adversaries, tools like DESIL will help the Navy stay ahead with the latest in technological advancements to support the warfighter and build a better and stronger Navy.
“The near-peer and actual peer adversarial threats faced by the Navy today are so stressing that if we don’t have facilities like this, we are simply not going to be able to keep pace,” said Vance Brahosky, NSWC PHD deputy technical director. “The directed energy and high-power microwave technology testing that can now be done in this facility will allow us to evaluate and field warfighting capabilities so that the Sailors and Marines on our ships can fight and win.”
Brahosky also added, “The speed of warfare has increased so dramatically and exponentially over the last several years that one of the best ways that our fleet is going to be able to fight and win is with speed-of-light laser technology-types of weapons.”
As a result of the collaboration between NSWC PHD, Naval Base Ventura County, Point Mugu and industry partners, DESIL will serve multiple purposes.
“This building also allows us to do that experimentation and practice and innovation, not just with ourselves, but with our partners in industry and academia as well as enterprise partners, such as Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division (Virginia),” Ladner said. “As Capt. Hoffman said, Dahlgren has had some capability, but this is going to be a unique facility to practice in a more realistic environment that our ships are going to be in, and having a place to do that with these other folks is going to be very powerful for us.”
The project broke ground on May 5, 2020, with Harper Construction of San Diego constructing DESIL through a Military Construction contract with an estimated cost of around $23 million.