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Around The Fleet

The Navy's Indoor Ocean

Indoor Wave Pool Helps Navy Researchers Design Cutting-Edge Warships

Roaring waves from all corners of the map come together under one roof with the promise to reveal age-old seagoing secrets in the Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin (MASK) at Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) Carderock, Maryland.


"As long as we've been building ships and boats, we really have only started understanding how they really work in about the last hundred years," said Jon Etxegoien, Naval Architecture and Engineering Department head. "This facility gives us that understanding."

Built in 1962 and renovated in 2013, MASK is a massive 360-foot-long, 240-foot-wide indoor ocean with depths ranging from 20 to 35 feet. The 12 million gallons of water it contains are pushed around by 216 individually controlled electromechanical wave boards that line the pool's edge, recreating ocean conditions found around in the world.

"There are many different kinds of waves," said Calvin Krishen, NSWC engineer. "Waves are different in different parts of the world, and they are different depending if you are close to shore, or away from shore or whether you're in a storm or not. We actually have the capability of programming all those different types of waves to test."
Three photo collage of the Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin.


Using this tool, researchers at MASK can dial in the exact conditions under which the Navy's current and future vessels and equipment will operate.

"We can nail, at scale, the conditions all over the world," said Etxegoien. "So it's not just that we can do some kind of rogue sea states, we can actually do the kind of seas they can expect in the North Atlantic, the South Pacific, littoral areas, that sort of thing. So that's what gives us a real leg up. It's not just some generic sea condition, but the specifics of where they're going to be operating."

Scale models up to 30-feet in length are dropped into MASK's gyrating waters and put to the test in simulations of their intended operating environments.

"We'll put a scale model of a Navy vessel [in the water], whether it's been built already, or it's something they're planning to build, and actually test it before they build the actual ship," said Krishen. "That way the Navy can then get some feedback on the design they're using and make any adjustments that they might need."

This capability provides MASK researchers insight to a new vessel's strengths and weaknesses, ensures future platforms meet their required performance goals and informs decisions on ship system configurations.

"The ability to recreate accurately and repeatedly the seaways that you're going to see out in the real world allow us to evaluate a lot of variables and understand the system," said Dr. Christopher Kent, NSWC engineer.
Three photo collage of the Maneuvering and Seakeeping Basin.


Beyond ship design, the lessons learned from these scale model tests help establish ship operation guidelines for the crew. If the ship hits high seas, or has to operate in unusual circumstances, knowing the behavior of the ship allows a crew to make the best possible decision.

"Though this seems a little disconnected from the warfighter," said Kent. "This is an integral part of making a fully functional ship that gets us to the theaters and to the places that we need to be in this world to keep the American public safe."

According to Krishen, the value of the MASK facility is two-fold: It allows us to explore the cutting-edge of naval technology, while benefiting our Sailors by making the ships they call home safer and better-equipped to succeed in the Navy's mission.

For more information on MASK visit http://www.navsea.navy.mil/Home/Warfare-Centers/NSWC-Carderock/.