SSC San Diego Historical Overview
by Tom LaPuzza, Public Affairs Officer

Massie Wireless 5 kw transmitter The history of electronic technology began on Pt. Loma a long time before the establishment of the laboratory here in 1940. On May 12, 1906, a chief petty officer and two sailors drove a horse-drawn wagon to the downtown pier and loaded up a Massie 5-kw. transmitter/receiver, the state-of-the-art in communications. This was the new age of "wireless radiotelegraphy," which the Navy would eventually shorten simply to "radio." Many hours later, in the little station house they’d set up on top of the hill, in a spot now occupied by our technical library, just off a rutted dirt road that would someday become Catalina Boulevard and Cabrillo Memorial Drive, the equipment had been installed. The chief sat down and tapped out a hopeful message to the Mare Island Naval Radio Station. He was hopeful, because the distance record for Navy wireless communication at the time was about 125 miles, and Mare Island was 500 miles away. He was stunned by an immediate reply, and in celebration commissioned the facility as Navy Radio Station Pt. Loma.

Navy Radio Station in Point Loma, 1906 This presentation will discuss what happened a little later on Pt. Loma as shown in the organizational history chart. Two separate organizations formed and re-formed, organized and re-organized, to become what today is Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center San Diego. Along the way, they traded employees back and forth several times. They finally merged in 1977, and through BRAC in the early 1990s, lost a major product line and 350 jobs, gained a new major product line and 250 jobs, changed names a couple of more times, and moved from a "lab" to a full-spectrum organization with installation and life-cycle maintenance responsibilities.



SPAWAR Systems Center San Diego Organizational History flowchart


Navy Radio and Sound Laboratory On June 1, 1940, thirty-four years and 19 days after the Radio Station was commissioned, the Navy established its first West Coast laboratory, the Navy Radio and Sound Laboratory (NRSL). It was a couple hundred yards from the radio station. Tasking for this organization was to improve communications for sailors on ships at sea. Secondary responsibilities for the Officer-in-Charge, CDR J.B. Dow, his nine sailors and three civilian scientists, involved the study of two emerging technologies--radar and sonar--to determine if they held any value for the Navy.

Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS) annex, Pasadena Farther to the north and three years later, the Navy established its second West Coast lab, the Naval Ordnance Test Station (NOTS), in the Mojave Desert at what would come to be known as China Lake. NOTS established an "annex" in Pasadena, staffed by professors from the California Institute of Technology who had initially left their classrooms in 1941 to volunteer for the war effort, designing, as Navy contractors, the Mousetrap anti-submarine rocket launcher. The CalTech scientists eventually set up the facility, located between Foothill Boulevard and Colorado Boulevard in Pasadena, and a number of them became Navy civilian engineers.

NRSL testing at Sweetwater Lake, NOTS Testing Complex at San Clemente Island, Model Range Antenna, and Variable Angle Launcher The two labs, at the time having absolutely no connection other than being Navy labs, operated in surprisingly similar fashions. First, they located bodies of water where they could test hardware: NRSL used Sweetwater Lake in East San Diego County to test and calibrate transducers when San Diego Bay proved too shallow and too noisy for the tests. NOTS took advantage of a Los Angeles household water supply reservoir in the San Gabriel Mountains, and a larger body of water, the Pacific Ocean, establishing a large weapons testing complex at San Clemente Island, 75 miles northwest of San Diego.

For both labs, the second procedure was to build large test structures. To test communications aboard Navy Ships, NRSL, renamed the U.S. Navy Electronics Laboratory (NEL), built an arch at their Antenna Model Range. To continue their weapons research and development, CalTech/NOTS engineers, after using a fixed-angle launcher to solve a critical problem with the Navy’s Mark 13 torpedo during the war, then built a massive, football-field-length launch bridge--the Variable Angle Launcher--at Morris Dam in the San Gabriel Mountains, 25 miles northeast of Pasadena.


Topside Building 33, circa 1950 The end of World War II signaled a drastic reduction in the number of troops, and brought a realization of the importance of new technology. Rather than being cut back, organizations such as NEL grew in the post-war era, starting with a new headquarters building. Ground was broken for Bldg. 33 in June 1949, and the original building, which consisted of Wings 1 and 2, was first occupied in 1950.

Navy Tactical Data System The growth was accompanied by new thinking on how to keep track of potential enemy platforms at sea. In 1955 the Chief of Naval Research established the Lamplight Committee to propose alternatives to shipboard glass displays, grease pencils, intercoms and sound-powered phones. The committee recommended a system based on a digital computer including a cathode-ray tube situation display, radio data links, and peripheral equipment. The Navy awarded contracts to three prime contractors to develop the system, called the Navy Tactical Data System. NEL was tasked with assembling the hardware and performing test and evaluation on the entire system, and eventually developed the advanced development and engineering development models, plus the communications that made NTDS data available to other ships and aircraft. NTDS allowed establishment and updating of tracks, determination of their bearing and speed, and appropriate data distribution. NTDS was approved by the CNO for service use in April 1963. Among other things, the development exemplified the changing roles of the laboratories, as NEL found itself performing systems engineering for a large project involving major contractors and many subcontractors. This arrangement would become the norm for NEL projects of the future.


Dr. Waldo Lyon with Admiral Rickover on Nautilus deck, and the USS Skate surfaces at the North Pole There are very few areas of human endeavor that have been so dominated by one individual as the study of the Arctic by Dr. Waldo Lyon. Dr. Lyon was a physicist from UCLA who came to the Center as Professional Employee #13 in 1941. He worked for the Navy for the next 55 years, and, in that time, he established an unparalleled record of exploration and achievement. He directed efforts to establish an Arctic field station at Cape Prince of Wales, Alaska; to construct an Arctic Submarine Lab in Battery Whistler which included a sea ice cryostat for testing scale-model submarine sails punching up through the ice; to develop an under-ice sonar by inverting a fathometer and putting it on top of the submarine; and to set up the only Betatron on the West Coast for examination into the structures of heavy objects and metals up to 18 inches in diameter. Dr. Lyon is shown with the father of the submarine force, Admiral Hyman Rickover, on the deck of USS Nautilus. As the chief scientist and ice pilot, Dr. Lyon directed the navigation of Nautilus under the Arctic ice from the Pacific to the Atlantic, steaming submerged under the North Pole on August 3, 1958.

The following year, Dr. Lyon took the USS Skate to the North Pole, and this time punched through to daylight for the first surfacing at the pole.


Brass model ship, and a torpedo firing from a Variable Angle Launcher And finally, the labs’ engineers built things to test. In San Diego, it was 1/48th scale model ships, made of wood plated with brass. The reason? Shipboard communication problems initially believed caused by the weather and jamming were found in tests by NRSL in 1943 to actually stem from a closer, more controllable source--the ship itself. At HF frequencies, the engineers found, the entire platform was the receiver, and the increasingly large array of radiators on the topsides of ships, plus weapons launchers, smoke stacks, masts, and the like, were often responsible for communications problems. To generate the data required to ensure appropriate shipboard communications, the Center began building scale models and working them on the Model Range to generate antenna patterns. An important milestone at the range occurred in 1951, when NEL engineers reduced the number of antennas on the recommissioned USS Mount McKinley to one third of the original requirement, with no loss in performance. At the same time, NOTS engineers built more lethal torpedos that could be launched from airplanes flying higher and faster, and used the Variable Angle Launcher at Morris Dam to test their designs.


1960: A Red-Letter Year

The NRSL evolves to become the NELC An interesting coincidence is the fact that, as we celebrated our 60th anniversary in June, 2000, the year 1960 was probably the most headline-grabbing, as the bathyscaph Trieste descended 35,800 feet to the bottom of the oceans; a couple of months later, the Navy announced the world’s first all-digital system, the Navy Tactical Data System, had gone to sea to assist sailors in tracking targets; the Navy’s Marine Mammal Program began with acquisition of a Pacific white-sided dolphin for hydrodynamic testing; NEL radio physicists conducted their first experiments with satellite communications; and the Center conducted the world’s first live firing of a ballistic missile from underwater.

The NRSL to NELC organization, over a period of 37 years, developed a sizeable amount of the Navy's electronic technology.

Satellite communications on the USS Providence, and the bathyscaph Trieste On January 23, 1960, during Project Nekton managed by NEL, the bathyscaph Trieste descended 35,800 feet to the bottom of the "Challenger Deep" in the Marianas Trench, the deepest known spot of the ocean.

NEL radio physicists conducted their first experiments with communications in space in 1960, using the Echo 1 satellite. Their experiments in super high frequency led to development of antennas and terminals that by 1965 allowed the Navy to operate a satellite system for over-the-horizon communications. In 1968, NELC installed this shipboard satellite terminal aboard the cruiser USS Providence, and successfully demonstrated the feasibility of satellite relay of fleet multi-channel broadcasts.


La Posta Geophysical Observatory, and an oceanographic tower off Mission Beach The Center has had a number of unique facilities over the years, including an oceanographic tower. It was built in 1959 a mile off Mission Beach in 60 feet of water, where it provided an excellent environment for continuous oceanographic and meteorological measurements. The tower could be used for equipment evaluation and studies of the atmosphere, waves, and the sea floor. In May 1964, NEL began construction of the La Posta Astro-Geophysical Observatory on a 3,900-foot site in the Laguna Mountains 65 miles east of San Diego. The observatory played a major role in solar radio mapping, studies of environmental disturbances, and development of a solar optical videometer for microwave research. Its 60-foot dish, which could both transmit and receive, was used for important Center research programs in propagation and ionospheric forecasting.


C3 Systems Integration Test and Evaluation (SITE), Building 600 Closer to home, NEL took over a World War II coastal defense battery called Ashburn and established a Microelectronics Laboratory. The battery’s thick concrete walls and ceilings naturally shielded it from electromagnetic interference. They also provided a vibration-free environment and a naturally-stable ambient-temperature environment. Work performed here includes state-of-the-art research, specifically on silicon-on-sapphire devices for radiation hardening, and production of chips not economically feasible for commercial production. The facility earned the Center a Trident flag for developing useable chips for the missile’s star navigation system and then replicating the process at a contractor’s facility to get a production line up and running.

Micro-Electronics Laboratory Increasing requirements for NELC to develop and integrate tactical C3I systems resulted in identification of the need for a major new facility. The result was Building 600, a secure and electromagnetically shielded facility. The facility was initially called the Electronics Development And Test Laboratory (EDATL), but was later changed to the C3 Systems Integration Test and Evaluation (C3 SITE) facility. Completed in 1976, it provided huge laboratory spaces for assembling and testing full-scale shipboard C3 systems.


Verdin transmitter / Integrated Submarine Automated Broadcast Processing System In addition to shipboard communications, historically, the Center also has a major stake in submarine communications. In the early 1970s the effort included a plan to marry two systems in a somewhat unorthodox fashion to provide fixed-transmitter, submarine broadcast communications. Paper tapes from the Submarine Satellite Information Exchange System receiver would be torn off and fed manually into Verdin transmitters. It was recognized, however, that this interface method would preclude realizing the full potential for the system. So NELC initiated the Integrated Submarine Automated Broadcast Processing System (ISABPS) to serve as a redundant, computerized handler of multi-channel and multiple-rate broadcasts as well as encrypted and special intelligence traffic. Verdin/ISABPS was installed at seven shore VLF/LF broadcast transmitter sites to provide global submarine broadcast coverage. A unique characteristic of this program was that it was the first for which NELC/NOSC was assigned the role of life-cycle support activity.

Integrated Refractive Effects Prediction System (IREPS) The Integrated Refractive Effects Prediction System (IREPS) allowed operational commanders, for the first time, to assess properly and exploit the serious effects atmospheric refractivity have on sensor and weapon systems performance. IREPS acquired and interpreted refractivity data from the lower atmosphere and displayed their effects on specific sensor and weapon systems in near real-time. The initial testing of IREPS aboard USS Enterprise in 1976 was so successful that it led to an immediate Fleet request for an interim operational capability, and ultimate fielding of IREPS on all deployed aircraft carriers.

The NOTS to NUC organization To the north is the other principle organization forming SSC San Diego, the NOTS/NUWC/NURDC/NUC organization.


Mark 46 torpedo drop The NOTS/CalTech group made a name for itself with improvement of the Navy’s Mark 13 torpedo, an anti-ship torpedo dropped from an aircraft. The group’s work with a fixed-angle launcher at Morris Dam led to a re-designed torpedo that played a substantial role in the one-sided U.S. victory in the Battle of Leyte Gulf in October 1944, as the Japanese lost three battleships, four carriers, ten cruisers, nine destroyers and 34 auxiliary ships, all at a cost of six U.S. ships. Many of the enemy ships were victims of the vastly improved Mark 13 torpedo. Following that success, the lab was charged with the responsibility for developing every new air-dropped torpedo, the Mark 32, Mark 43, Mark 44, Mark 46 and the Mark 50.

On the Mark 46, Pasadena engineers not only designed and developed it, but supervised production, helped introduce it to the Fleet, and maintained and upgraded it in service. Mark 46 was the Navy’s first ASW torpedo to utilize a solid-rocket-fueled, hot-gas propulsion system. At four horsepower per pound of engine weight, the Mark 46 torpedo was capable of overtaking the most elusive submarine targets known at the time. It was the first ASW torpedo capable of launch by fixed wing aircraft at speeds up to 400 knots. Perhaps almost as significant as the weapon development itself was the development process. Official press releases announcing the completion of the Mark 46 program cited as the key element of its success the Navy’s concept of industrial partnership. Combined NOTS and contractor teams were instrumental in this program, showing the way for the future SSC San Diego-industry partnerships.

Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC) The very first CalTech program for the Navy was the Mousetrap anti-submarine rocket launcher. Building from that, the NOTS organization developed the Rocket-Assisted Torpedo (RAT) and finally the Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC). NOTS proposed the weapon as an alternative to a Bureau of Ordnance (BuOrd) request to its labs in 1955 to consider the potential for launching a nuclear depth charge from ASW ships. NOTS engineers, concerned with the inflexibility of a weapon that would turn conflict suddenly nuclear, proposed a rocket-propelled weapon with a payload either of a nuclear depth charge or a conventional acoustic homing torpedo, specifically the Mark 44. BuOrd agreed with the concept of weapons flexibility, and in 1956 began funding NOTS development of ASROC.


Polaris missile live firing The Center played a major role in the testing of the Navy’s three submarine-launched fleet ballistic missiles--Polaris, Poseidon and Trident. The Navy portion of the nation’s strategic deterrence program was a fleet of submarines equipped with long-range ballistic missiles, hidden in millions of cubic miles of ocean. The strategy was excellent, but execution seemed impossible--how to get a missile from a submerged submarine to the surface before its ignition engine was fired.

Skyhook Testing Facility NOTS engineers set up the Skyhook Testing facility, a "pop-up" range at San Clemente Island, to determine exactly how to do that. Test after test was conducted with redwood logs and steel cylinders filled with concrete to determine the best mechanism to get a missile out of a submarine tube, through the water column, and far enough into the air to allow engine ignition. Their testing led to substantial re-design of the missile’s shape. Success came with the first live launch of a Polaris, conducted by the Center April 4, 1960, just a few months before the first Polaris submarine, USS George Washington, was commissioned.


A recovered H-bomb, and the crew of the Cable-Controlled Underwater Recovery Vehicle (CURV) I The weapons testing program conducted by NOTS and its predecessors relied on an obvious requirement--recovering the weapon after the test for analysis of the run-data stored on-board. Historically, for torpedoes that sank during or following testing, this meant teams of Navy divers, recompression vans, and medical personnel. In the mid-1960s, the Center developed an underwater device to perform the difficult but essential weapons recovery role. It was called the Cable-controlled Underwater Recovery Vehicle (CURV), and at the time, it was the world’s first and only remotely operated vehicle. Thus, it was obvious that it should be called upon to assist in a tense operation--recovery of a lost hydrogen bomb from the floor of the Mediterranean Sea in 1966. The bomb was one of five dropped from the sky when an Air Force B-52 bomber collided with its KC-135 refueling plane. The four that dropped on the Spanish countryside were quickly recovered, but the bomb that dropped underwater used a vast array of fleet resources that, after three months, had only succeeded in dislodging it to a substantially deeper and much-less-accessible depth. CURV was called in. Operational to about 1,000 feet by its design, it was called upon to descend more than twice that distance to attach recovery lines to the bomb. It performed wonderfully, attaching three recovery lines in three dives and allowing successful recovery of the bomb.

The CURV III, and the PISCES III manned submersible Despite its number, CURV III was about the fourth in the development line. Its history was replete with noteworthy achievements, including a 1970 recovery of a NASA payload launched during a total eclipse of the sun and lost at sea off the coast of Virginia with irreplaceable data films, and the 1976 recovery of an F-14 that rolled off the deck of the USS John F. Kennedy with a sophisticated Phoenix missile system on board. Most noteworthy was the recovery of the PISCES III manned submersible, stranded with two men aboard on the bottom of the Irish Sea at a depth of 1,375 feet. CURV III was flown to Ireland and deployed from a ship of opportunity that provided unique challenges to the launching of the vehicle. Despite significantly heavy seas, CURV III went over the side and attached a recovery line using a unique device, a toggle bolt made on board during the last few hours before the dive. The submersible and its two-man crew were recovered with only minutes of air left.


USNS Stalwart with the Surveillance Towed Array Sensor Sytem (SURTASS) SSC San Diego has played a major role in development of undersea surveillance technology. Early Navy capabilities consisted of arrays of hydrophones of the Sound Surveillance Underwater System (SOSUS), which collected data which were transmitted to shore processing stations. NUC provided substantial improvements on SOSUS to deal with the problems of increasing ambient noise in the oceans and quieter Soviet submarines. In the early 1970s a NAVMAT and shortly thereafter NUC engineer proposed a mobile array that could temporarily replace a disabled SOSUS array or provide coverage in areas far from fixed arrays. USNS Stalwart was the first ship equipped with this capability, the Surveillance Towed Array Sensor System (SURTASS). SURTASS was deployed in the early 1980s aboard a class of specially designed ships and provided long-range passive surveillance. The ships not only towed the array but also housed data-processing equipment to process signals. The ships also could relay their data to shore processing facilities via satellite communications links developed by NOSC.

Stable semi-submerged platform with helicopter The Center has done a lot of work for NAVSEA over the years, but shipbuilding was not included in the tasking. Nevertheless, a Center hydrodynamics engineer back in the early 1970s took a 1905 concept of reducing waterplane area to reduce ship motion and designed the Stable Semi-submerged Platform (SSP). To avoid the obvious problems NUC faced with no charter for ship design, Center money was used to pay for SSP and NUC got the Coast Guard shipyard in Curtis Bay, Md., to build it. Shipped to Hawaii, SSP was christened Kaimalino, a Hawaiian word meaning "calm waters," and used as a test platform. It was so stable that, at only 88 feet long with a displacement of about 200 tons, Navy and Coast Guard helicopters could land on it in relatively high seas.


Hawaii Laboratory at Kaneohe Bay NUC Technical Director Dr. Bill McLean was convinced of the value of a facility in Hawaii to provide warm water for two Center programs--manned submersibles and marine biosystems. Shortly after NOTS Pasadena and its undersea weapons work was merged with NEL’s undersea technology group in 1967 to form the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC), Center personnel traveled to Hawaii and found an unused hangar at the Marine Corps Air Station at Kaneohe Bay and put in a bid on it. Along with a couple of acres of waterfront property, that became the Hawaii Lab.

Building 1 at Bayside NUWC lasted only a short time. The obvious name "warfare center" in the era of substantial Viet Nam war protests made recruiting about as difficult as it is today. Center headquarters moved to San Diego in 1968 and in 1969 the lab became the Naval Undersea Research and Development Center (NURDC). The Center needed a fair-sized laboratory, resulting in the construction of Bldg. 1, which was eventually named in honor of Dr. McLean.

There’s an interesting story about Building 1. This building was built on a site that had some buildings that were scheduled for demolition. That work was not completed in time for the scheduled groundbreaking, which surely the facilities people visualized as the calm, traditional, time-honored, gold-shovel routine. Dr. McLean wanted something more exciting-- he wanted to knock down one of the buildings with a bulldozer. Nobody could talk him out of it, so he and Captain Bishop, the Center Commander, donned hard hats and sat on the bulldozer while the operator proceeded to deal with the building. Once he got up there, however, Dr. McLean insisted that he was going to drive the bulldozer. The operator demurred, but it didn’t matter. Dr. McLean sat down in the operator’s seat and began pulling various handles. The operator frantically pointed to the correct ones, while Charlie Bishop held on for dear life. The bulldozer shovel went high overhead and Dr. McLean took a big chunk out of the roof of one of the buildings. Some time during his vigorous attack on the building, metal scraping on metal spewed sparks onto some dry wood, and a fire started. The groundbreaking ceremony ended with the bulldozer shrouded in smoke and fire engine sirens wailing in the distance.


MAKAKAI manned submersible As noted, Dr. McLean was very much interested in manned submersibles. The Center had about half a dozen years of history of unmanned vehicles with CURV, but he wanted something people could ride in. MAKAKAI was one of those, a manned submersible whose Hawaiian name meant "Eye in the Sea." It was a 600-foot-depth vehicle with a six-foot-diameter acrylic plastic observation sphere with room for two operators and a unique propulsion system--cycloidal thrusters--which allowed the vehicle to maneuver simultaneously in all three dimensions.

Mark 7 dolphin The Marine Mammal Program, which actually originated in Pt. Mugu, moved to Hawaii to provide warmer water, not for the animals, but for the people working with them who had to spend a lot of time in the water. Begun in 1960 as the Advanced Marine Biological Systems program, its first operational systems were a sea lion recovery system called Quick Find, used for recovering ASROC quality assurance rounds, and a very secret dolphin system called Short Time. That was the amount of time provided for the Center to put together a system to provide swimmer defense protection for the Army ammunition pier at Cam Ranh Bay, a favorite target of North Vietnamese swimmer sappers. A young Navy EOD lieutenant named Les Bivens took a system developed in about a year to Vietnam, and shut down the pier attacks. Les eventually was the third manager of the program, after Bill Powell and Hop Porter. Quick Find and Short Time are now, respectively, the Mark 5 and Mark 6 Marine Mammal Systems. The Mark 7 system employs bottlenose dolphins to mark bottom mines.


NELC and NUC merge to become Naval Ocean Systems Center (NOSC) In the late 1970s, pre-BRAC days, the fact that NUC and NELC headquarters were about five minutes apart did not escape Navy officials, and a decision was made to merge them. On March 1, 1977, they were joined into the Naval Ocean Systems Center (NOSC).

Tactical Flag Command Center NELC had been very interested in the shipboard spaces where command and control went on. NOSC continued to pursue that, proposing and then designing a dedicated shipboard space for the embarked battle group commander called the Tactical Flag Command Center (TFCC). TFCC took the battle group commander out of the various places he was distributed around various carriers, and provided a specific space for him and his staff to receive data, communicate and make decisions at the level above the ship’s captain. Shown is a full-scale mock-up in Building 600 of the first TFCC, which was installed on USS America.

Research, Evaluation, and Systems Analysis (RESA) Facility For some years in the late 1980s NOSC pursued a program to communicate with submarines via lasers deployed on aircraft. Dr. Tom Kaye was the program manager of that effort. One of his concerns was affordability of the system versus its positive effect on naval operations. The Research, Evaluation and Systems Analysis (RESA) facility was developed in 1989 to answer those questions. At the same time, coincidentally, the long-awaited Naval War College’s Enhanced Navy War-Gaming System was some months behind delivery schedule. NOSC jumped into the breech and employed RESA to provide war-gaming opportunities for battle group staffs prior to deployment while ENWGS was being completed.


Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) Control System, Mark 116 Critical to the success of Center-developed torpedoes was the ability to accurately direct them to a target. Around 1960, the Navy put the first NOTS Mark 111 systems to sea to provide targeting data for ASROC-launched payloads. At the same time the station was modifying the Mark 111 capabilities to include other ASW weapons, resulting in the more versatile Mark 114 ASW Fire Control System. During the 1970s and 1980s the Naval Undersea Center/NOSC organization was the technical direction agent for the Mark 116 ASW Control System. The Mark 116 was the first surface ship ASW digital fire control system to communicate directly to a digital launcher.

Vertical Launch Anti-Submarine Rocket (ASROC) One of the few shortcomings of ASROC was its launch mode. Fired from canisters at a fixed ballistic angle, ASROC could provide only limited coverage without turning the ship. With the advent of Vertical Launch Systems (VLS) on the Navy’s Spruance, Ticonderoga and Arleigh Burke classes of ships, NOSC re-designed ASROC for vertical launch mode, enabling the weapon to provide 360-degree ASW standoff capabilities for those ships, plus the high rate of fire characterizing VLS weapons. VLA continues as the only weapons program in which the Center is still engaged. Of particular significance: The ASROC capability developed by Center engineers has now been in the fleet since 1960, and it is currently planned to continue as a viable anti-submarine weapon until the year 2025.


Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), 1992 -- Naval Command, Control and Ocean Surveillance Center (NCCOSC) Research, Development, Test and Evaluation (RDT&E) Division (NRaD) It’s 1990 and rumors are rampant about massive consolidations/mergers/disestablishments. The Navy announces its plan to consolidate its seven R&D centers, including NOSC, and 29 engineering centers, including the NAVELEXs on both coasts, into four warfare centers, with alignment along platform lines. So in January 1992, along with the easily understood Naval Surface/Undersea and Air Warfare Centers, there’s a fourth—the Naval Command, Control and Ocean Surveillance Center (NCCOSC). NCCOSC gets about ten of the 36 organizations consolidated, and after some planning, forms three divisions—an RDT&E Division, and two in-service engineering divisions, one for each coast. The RDT&E Division, NRaD, is mostly NOSC, into which is merged within a few months the Fleet Combat Direction Systems Support Activity, the Navy Space Systems Activity and the Navigation and Air C3 Department of the Naval Air Development Center. NRaD, by the way, loses its major product lines of ASW weapons development and Arctic Submarine Warfare and, along with them, 350 positions to the Undersea Warfare Center (and some surface ship ASW Control System work to the Surface Warfare Center), under something called “mission purification.” Newport’s reasoning: We’re the Warfare Center for submarines, and Anti-submarine warfare and Arctic submarine warfare both have the word “submarine” in them, so the work must be ours. NOSC/NRaD couldn’t argue with that, but countered with the statement: We’re the C3 guys, and NADC is doing Air C3 and navigation, so that work must be ours. We prevailed, bringing in a major new product line and 250 positions to replace what we’d lost.

Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), 1992 -- Naval Command, Control and Ocean Surveillance Center (NCCOSC) In-Service Engineering West Coast Division (NISE West) The West Coast engineering division, NISE West, included the NAVELEXs in San Diego and Vallejo, and the Pacific engineering activities in Pearl Harbor, Guam and Japan. These are the folks who do much of the installation of electronic equipment on the ships, and who ensure that the equipment continues performing as designed.


Ocean Survey Program, HMS Scott, and the Global Positioning System (GPS) The new product line at NRaD was navigation. It was new to us, but not to the folks who had been doing it for decades in Warminster, Pennsylvania. They were a welcome addition to the organization, with their many years of experience as the Navy’s representative for the joint Global Positioning System. Additionally, their work included efforts on the Ocean Survey Program, which provided a seafloor terrain following capability to allow Fleet Ballistic Missile submarines to navigate in the operational areas without the requirement to surface for GPS fixes.


B-24 Bomber assembly line, and the Old Town Campus aerial view Going back to the World War II era, the local Vultee Aircraft Company, which eventually would become General Dynamics, produced B-24 Liberator bombers, one per hour, in three huge buildings on Pacific Highway. When completed, the bombers were taxied over a bridge to Lindbergh Field, where women pilots flew them to Air Force bases around the world for the men pilots to fly into combat. In 1994, through some skilled negotiations with the Air Force, NCCOSC took over ownership of those manufacturing buildings, which already housed substantial portions of NISE West. The buildings provided capabilities for NISE West to fabricate radar antennas, communications vans, and other hardware essential to NCCOSC’s C4ISR functions. In the final chapter of this installment of the Center’s history, NISE West was merged into NRaD in 1996, resulting in today’s SSC San Diego tasking of RDT&E, engineering and fleet support in C4ISR.


Former and present Commanding Officers and Technical Directors, and SSC San Diego employees One last thing: The key to our success, which was the theme of our 60th anniversary ceremony in mid-June, 2000, is our people. The first photo, taken at that ceremony, is of our former Commanders/Commanding Officers/Technical Directors/Executive Directors.

And the second is a photo showing some of our technical and administrative people. These folks, representing all Center employees, are the principal ingredient that has made this organization great. Missing from the photos, but certainly not forgotten, are the third essential element of our people—our industry partners.

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SSC San Diego
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SSC San Diego: Historical Overview