TECHNOLOGY EVOLUTION

In the West, the impetus for advanced research and development in undersea technologies has come from a mixture of the military, industry, and science sectors. The military sector has most often been the initiating source, with industry and academia adopting and refining the resulting advances for lower-cost applications in commerce and research. This is very much the same in Western Europe, although the strength of the North Sea oil and gas industry has resulted in the commercial sector being a stronger initiator of new technologies than is the case in the United States. In the FSU, however, the federal funding process was slanted heavily toward military needs; only recently has the process of conversion to the civil and research sectors begun in earnest. This process has been made extremely difficult by the breakup of the Soviet Union and by the numerous and often competitive institutes that are in place. The Soviet Academy of Science no longer exists; smaller academies of science and independent research institutes within each country of the FSU are now forced to compete for funding and direction from other sources. It should be noted that numerous and very capable test facilities developed under the Soviet government are still available in many of the institutes for use by entities outside the FSU. Table 7.1 lists and summarizes the primary activities of the basic and applied research institutes that the team visited in Western Europe, Russia, and Ukraine. (For detailed descriptions, see the site reports in Appendices B through F.)

The European Programs

As mentioned earlier, Europe employs the same basic approach and tools as does the United States for advanced research and development. Work stations and high capacity computational systems allow a heavy emphasis on analysis and simulation, and a concerted effort to develop autonomous systems and smart sensors (see LIFIA)

Table 7.1
Summary of R&D Sites Visited in Western Europe, Russia, and Ukraine

and Heriot-Watt University site reports in Appendices D and E, respectively). One strong point in the European programs is their ability to focus advanced research across a number of countries. This has been accomplished through the Marine Science and Technology (MAST) programs, which have established European joint research objectives and funded cooperative activities at institutes and organizations in each country. MAST II, a ten-year program in oceanographic research and development, funds and/or links together such programs as AMADEUS and Autosub in the U.K. and others across Europe. These programs will develop technologies, sensors, and underwater vehicles to do work and research in the deep ocean as well as in shallow, near-shore areas (see Heriot-Watt University, INRIA, IFREMER, and Deacon Laboratory site reports in Appendices D and E). The U.S. programs, by comparison, are more independent, with each research and development entity setting its own objectives and seeking separate funding. In this time of limited funding in the United States, an approach like that of MAST may be helpful in achieving national objectives for ocean research and development.

Russian and Ukrainian Programs

Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, each state in the Confederation of Independent States (CIS) independently conducts its own programs in undersea technology. The WTEC team visited only Russia and Ukraine, but found many similarities in how their scientists conduct research and development for advanced marine and undersea technology. Research and development in Russia and Ukraine are characterized by strong theoretical work. The fundamental processes and mathematical models are well understood and emphasized. On the other hand, the lack of high capacity computational platforms limits the analytical work necessary to validate the theory. Hence simulation and analysis are performed at a level that can be supported on IBM or equivalent PCs (see Andreev Institute and Dubna site reports in Appendix B). IBM 386 and, very recently, a few 486 machines were the only computers observed or mentioned at the various institutes; in fact, the need for better computers and software was frequently mentioned. The result seems to be that research and development is taken to the laboratory and the field much sooner than is generally the case in the West. Thus, much of the scientific verification is done empirically.

Under the previous Soviet system, the relatively low cost of labor and materials compared to the West led to a proliferation of very capable and often similar test facilities throughout the Academy of Science organizations. The low labor costs also resulted in large staffs of qualified scientists at many of the institutions. Populations ranging from 5,000 to 25,000 people have not been uncommon in the past. Presently, however, large reductions in the numbers of scientists and support personnel are occurring at most of the institutions due to lack of funding. Unless funding is acquired soon, the extensive science capabilities in both facilities and people will be lost. It has been said that major reductions in the CIS military R&D sector are inevitable, and the amount of collaborative use or direct aid the West can provide to prevent this from occurring is insignificant. All institutes will reduce in size and scope, and only the best will survive.

One other general observation is that much of the R&D that the WTEC team observed was of an applied nature. This is most likely due to the fact that it was largely intended for military and defense purposes. Since funding and direction were entirely from the Soviet government, it is not surprising that the research activities observed had an applied flavor rather than one of pure science. This applied emphasis has a beneficial effect in that many of the institutes seem to be involved not only in science but also in the engineering, manufacturing, and testing of the resulting systems. This close coupling allows underwater vehicle systems and research requirements to be well focused and integrated, in contrast to situations in the United States, where there is sometimes a conscious effort to decouple the research and engineering disciplines.

Technology Developments of Interest

A few of the sites visited by the panel had ongoing technology activities that were unique and worthy of special comment.




Figure 7.1. High Velocity Test Chamber (top), Projectiles (middle), Projectiles in Water Cavities (bottom)


Published: June 1994; WTEC Hyper-Librarian