Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division engineers played a crucial role during Atlantic Thunder 2022 (AT22), a sinking exercise (SINKEX) conducted using the decommissioned ex-USS Boone (FFG 28), that took place in the North Atlantic Ocean on Sept. 7.

The SINKEX was a collaborative event between United States and United Kingdom forces conducted to gain proficiency in tactics, targeting and live firing against a surface target at sea.

Carderock, together with Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Pacific (PAC), took a central role in planning and conducting AT22. The team’s efforts focused on Battle Damage Assessment (BDA), 3D reality capture using Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) and providing crucial subject-matter expertise to 6th Fleet, Commander, Task Force (CTF) 65 and other AT22 planners and participants.

Carderock’s participation was led by Dr. Ken Nahshon of the Hull Response and Protection Branch, with the participation of four separate branches across the Platform Integrity Department and the Naval Architecture and Engineering Department: Michael Kipp of the Weights and Stability Branch led hull stability, ballasting for tow and maintenance community BDA engagement; Sadie Johnson and Gretta Ouimette of the Vulnerability Assessment Branch and Eric Walzer of the Hull Response and Protection Branch conducted ship weapons effects analysis efforts; Douglas Griggs of the Resistance and Powering Branch and Steven Intolubbe of the Seakeeping and Maneuvering Branch designed and deployed a novel sensor system, Satellite Telemetry Event Recording System (STERS), that provided an unprecedented level of real-time hulk information to AT22 fleet participants.

“Carderock supported the four major phases for the event; preparing the ship in Philadelphia, conducting an at-sea precursor static detonation training exercise, final pre-SINKEX ship preps in Campbeltown, Scotland, including a pier side BDA event, and the SINKEX itself,” Kipp said.

Carderock became involved in the SINKEX due to their long history conducting full ship weapons effects testing and tow support on decommissioned Navy vessels, as well as their collective expertise supporting major fleet exercises, such as Rim of the Pacific, Valiant Shield and Navy’s Tactical Demonstrations.

“Our experience as a Warfare Center and our historical knowledge became crucial in completing the SINKEX,” Nahshon said. “Military officers rotate every few years, so they don’t have the longevity of personnel that Carderock does. Much of our role was to be a knowledge library of past historical events of things that went both right and wrong. This was an unprecedented level of involvement that Carderock has had in a fleet SINKEX.”

For the event, Griggs and Intollube developed STERS, a solar-powered vessel tracking system that monitored the ship’s orientation and flooding and fire sensors and transmitted data real time via satellite. The new system was developed and installed on the ship while in Philadelphia and immediately began sending periodic messages to an Excel file stored on U.S. Navy Flank Speed that anyone with approved access could watch in real-time. This data provided an unprecedented level of information regarding target hulk details during the transatlantic tow, as well as during the SINKEX itself.

Kipp developed ballast for tow plans including surveying, led Carderock’s involvement during the BDAR exercise portion in Campbeltown, and developed a detailed backup scuttle plan for Combined Task Force 68 Explosive Ordinance Disposal personnel. In parallel with this effort, Kipp developed and updated a Flooding Casualty Control Software (FCCS) stability model of the ship for use during the SINKEX. FCCS is a powerful stability tool used aboard all USN surface ships, in NAVSEA Incident Response, as well as for various vessel analytics.

During the Campbeltown BDAR exercise, Kipp walked maintenance and salvage community personnel from Forward Deployed Regional Maintenance Center Rota, including the Commander of Supervisor of Salvage, and the United Kingdom’s Salvage and Marine Operations group through post damage assessment of the area damaged by the static detonation and assisted with action plans for real-life situations if a ship were to arrive with damage from a weapons event. Following the BDAR event, ex-Boone was towed to open ocean to conduct the SINKEX and Kipp headed to the test range control facility located in the Isle of Uist in the Outer Hebrides.

Carderock would take a central role at range control during the SINKEX.

“Four of us were in range control and directly supported SINKEX execution,” Nahshon said. “We were tasked with providing live updates from our instrumentation system and live updates of battle damage assessment based on modeling and simulation results to the mission director to inform follow-on weapons events. The STERS system was a crucial aspect and worked flawlessly.”

Weapons effects modeling and simulation results capturing internal damage, prepared by Johnson and Ouimette, were put on the range’s main display.

“We used the Advanced Survivability Assessment Program (ASAP) software that is developed by Carderock’s Vulnerability Assessment Branch to allow us to predict internal damage from a variety of weapon effects, and how that damage would affect mission capability,” Johnson said. “In collaboration with best available information from the exercise and the intel, we assessed multiple likely threat impact scenarios. We prepared visual representations of these assessments to be able to pull up and discuss/display in real time based on the reports of where the ship was hit during the actual event.”

The results of ASAP calculations were provided to Kipp who was able to rapidly update the FCCS model.

By putting the modeling and simulation and exercise data sources together, the Carderock team was able to inform stakeholders of what would happen below deck after the ship took damage to determine the order and speed of planned weapons events in real-time. Real-time FCCS model updates during the final sinking proved crucial to operational decisions.

The Carderock team worked seamlessly with NIWC PAC in leveraging and developing their 3D reality capture capabilities.

“NIWC PAC’s focus was reality capture and 3D model generation,” Kipp said. “Using video footage from a Marine Corps UAS, V-BAT, as well as surface-based imagery, they were able to prepare a 3D model of the target hulk just prior to it sinking. The 3D data directly supports post-event survivability and stability assessments and facilitates using data for the SINKEX to validate Carderock-developed modeling and simulation tools used to support the fleet.”

The Carderock team took great pride in enabling the success of AT22.

“Carderock provided a bridge between recent and historical SINKEX events, and it was an honor to be central to the planning and execution of an exercise that directly contributes to our Navy’s capabilities,” Nahshon said.

Kipp echoed those sentiments, and expressed the importance of passing down experience to generations to come.

“We are standing on the shoulders of those who came before us, and the next generation will do the same because of events like Atlantic Thunder and the opportunities they provide us to train our shipmates,” Kipp said.

For their efforts, Carderock’s BDA team was awarded the FY 2022 4th Quarter Program Executive Office Integrated Warfare Systems Excellence Award. A virtual award presentation was held on Dec. 15.

UK MOD photo