Navy selects Scripps Institution of Oceanography to operate state-of-the-art research vessel
The Navy is providing more than $88 million to fund the design and construction of a new scientific research ship to be operated by Scripps Institution of Oceanography to advance science and education in the decades ahead and to further scientific knowledge necessary to the Navy and national security.
The new ship — a new class of research vessel — is to be constructed and commence operations by 2015. It will be more than 200 feet long and able to operate continuously for up to 40 days at sea, a duration that will enable the ship to range across any ocean on Earth.
Scripps was selected as the operator by the U.S. Office of Naval Research. The Naval Sea Systems Command is to provide program management during the design and construction process.
“Scripps is enormously pleased that we’ve been selected, and we are grateful to the United States Navy and its Office of Naval Research, which recognized the need for this new class of research vessel,” said Tony Haymet, director of Scripps Institution of Oceanography. “The competition was talented, very professional and very tough, and we feel lucky to be successful. We were pushed to assemble the best proposal I have seen in my professional life.”
Scripps began scientific ship operations in 1904 and has operated more than 23 ships. It currently operates a fleet of four oceanographic research vessels that act as seagoing laboratories for scientists. That’s more than any other research institution in the country. Scripps officials said the new vessel will benefit researchers across America through Scripps’ participation in the University-National Oceanographic Laboratory System (UNOLS), an organization of 61 U.S. academic institutions and national laboratories that collaborate to maximize oceanographic research resources.
“Scripps science is significant to society as a whole for its role in helping understand the ocean environment, but it also has important implications for the Navy because the processes we are studying will ultimately advance the design of specific applications that benefit our naval forces,” said Haymet.
Ocean Class vessels, such as the one to be built, are intended to be reliable, cost effective and flexible ships that have many of the capabilities of larger and more expensive Global Class vessels. The new ship will support interdisciplinary research, educational missions and engineering operations with over-the-side equipment handling, station keeping and scientific system performance considered superior to previous research vessels of similar size.
Research that will be conducted on the new vessel will include ocean acoustics, in which scientists seek to understand the physics of sound in water, including how it is generated, propagated and scattered. That knowledge is vital to submarine and antisubmarine warfare, which the Navy considers important. Processes associated with global climate change, including the melting of the Arctic ice cap, changes in the pH of the ocean due to the absorption of greenhouse gases and weather-related natural disasters are key areas for seagoing scientists as well as naval operations and strategies.
The new vessel will be equipped with powerful ocean exploration equipment and instrumentation, including multibeam seafloor mapping systems for deep and shallow water, a sub-bottom profiler that will map sediments below the seafloor, acoustic doppler current profilers for mapping currents throughout the water column and precise navigation tools for tracking instruments in the water beneath the ship. An array of networked sensors will measure atmospheric and ocean properties.
The new vessel’s home port, as with Scripps’ current four vessels and research platform FLIP, will be the Scripps Nimitz Marine Facility in Point Loma. The facility employs more than 150 mariners, technicians, engineers and administrators devoted to scientific ship operations. Scripps spends more than $20 million annually in support of its research vessels. The economic impact of the new vessel is anticipated to be $10 million annually.