The Navy Starts Here

The upgraded maneuvering and seakeeping test facility in West Bethesda, Md., can produce waves up to 4 feet tall, holds about 12 million gallons of water and can simulate most sea conditions from open ocean to shallow water. (Mike Morones/Staff)
A revamped Navy facility is making waves to see how ships fare in the unpredictable conditions out on the ocean.

Officials unveiled the new maneuvering and seakeeping, or MASK, facility at Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock, Md., on Dec. 19, which simulates the kinds of waves sailors might encounter underway and tests how ships would handle them.

“The engineers in this facility for the past 50 years have evaluated the maneuverability, stability and control of virtually all of our surface ships and submarines in the fleet today,” NSWC Carderock division commander Capt. Rich Blank said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony.

Six years ago, the facility embarked on a project to update the MASK basin wavemaker, which tests scale-model components of ships, platforms and onboard systems in realistically re-created sea conditions.

The remodel upgraded the basin from a pneumatic system that used air pressure to create waves to a set of 216 individually controlled, electro-mechanical boards that act like fingers in the water, adjusting to create multiple wave types from multiple angles.

“In this facility, we can test scale models up to 30 feet in length in order to predict the full-scale performance of ships in the open ocean,” said Joseph Mueller said in a news release. Mueller is the head of NWSC Carderock’s hydromechanics facilities engineering and operations division.

The pool measures 360 feet long by 240 feet wide by 20 feet deep, holds approximately 12 million gallons of water and can produce waves up to 4 feet. The 10-by-2-foot wave boards can also mimic the conditions in shallow water for testing littoral combat ships.

Underneath the water, a tow carriage can pull ship models through the basin in head or following seas at any angle, at a speed of up to 15 knots.

“This upgrade, along with the size of the facility, makes the MASK the most advanced test facility of its kind in the world,” Jon Etxegoien, NSWC Carderock naval architecture and engineering department head, said in a news release.

Rear Adm. Lawrence Creevy, commander of Naval Surface Warfare Center, took the floor at the ceremony to provide a little context for the giant pool of water in the 5-acre testing facility.

“Just in the past year, our Navy and Marine Corps team have conducted a full range of military operations, including combat in Afghanistan, security cooperation management in the Pacific, disaster recovery operations in the Philippines and ensuring safe lines of communication around the world, just to name a few,” Creevy said.

The many kinds of ships used in these operations get their start at Carderock, he said, years and sometimes decades before they hit the open water.

Creevy mentioned the dry cargo ship Charles Drew and littoral combat ship Freedom, which were both tested at Carderock in recent years and deployed to the Philippines in November to join Operation Damayan, the military’s joint typhoon-relief effort.

It’s also these facilities, Creevy said, that “enable our Navy to operate at such an unrelenting pace around the world.”

“In short, the United States Navy starts here.”

By Meghann Myers

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