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Around The Fleet

Surface Combat Systems Center Wallops Island

The Navy's battle group in the sand

Atlantic, Va. is a zero-stoplight town. There are a few stop signs, but not much else to interrupt the bucolic setting. Small farms and even smaller businesses line the main drag, Route 679.

Wolff's Sandwich Shop has been a staple of the community for 30 years, serving hamburgers for $1.69. Want cheese? It's only 10 cents more. Tiny roads with names like Wisharts Point Road and Taylor Farm Road branch off the main thoroughfare. Most of them are no more than gravel-covered lanes that end at the backwaters of Watts Bay or Powells Bay. This seems to be a small town stuck in the past. Except that it's not. Just across the water is Wallops Island, home to the most advanced testing and training sites for the U.S. Navy's combat systems community - Surface Combat Systems Center (SCSC) Wallops Island.

Location. Location. Location.

Situated on Virginia's Eastern Shore, SCSC Wallops is the go-to site for operational engineering, testing and training in a maritime and littoral environment. SCSC Wallops began as just a test site for Navy radar. It was a perfect location to test over water with ships and aircraft in the Virginia Capes Operational Area. It has grown to include much more.

"It's evolved since then to include not just radar, but the combat systems computers and the various elements that make up those combat systems to become an integrated warfare system," said Capt. John Robinson, SCSC Wallops commanding officer. "Not just for a single ship, but also for a battle group. So we have the cruisers and destroyers - the AEGIS combat systems - as well as the ship self-defense systems that make up our cruisers and amphibs."

It's this depth and variety, as well as the proximity to the fleet concentration area of Norfolk, military installations like Naval Air Station Patuxent River and program offices in Washington D.C. and northern Virginia, that draws so many customers to SCSC Wallops.

Test. Break. Fix. Repeat.

Three main facilities make up SCSC Wallops. The AEGIS Engineering and Training Complex houses destroyer/cruiser AEGIS and ballistic missile defense (BMD) baseline testing. The Ships Self Defense Facility houses live and simulated operations for ships self-defense systems as well as large-platform (aircraft carriers and amphibious ships) baseline testing. The Wallops Island Engineering Test Center houses the CVN 78 and DDG 1000 radar development and testing.

When ships in the fleet are getting outfitted with the latest technology, SCSC Wallops is the place they can rely upon to put their hands on the exact equipment they'll be operating on the ship. The bonus is that they can throw everything they have at the system, break it, and have the support they need to get the system back online and do it all again in a controlled environment. This helps build the confidence and muscle memory the crew will need when operating these systems in a real-world scenario.

"They come here and this is where they do the majority of the testing," said Fire Controlman 1st Class Derek Bonadio, SCSC Wallops leading petty officer. "As a workforce, we're the ones that are maintaining the equipment to make sure the equipment's working properly when they get here. And also we're the operators that are on the consoles pushing the buttons, going through the check sheets and helping the customers out."

Lt. Cmdr. Kurt Davis and the combat information center team from USS Wasp (LHD 1), a multipurpose amphibious assault ship based out of Norfolk, talked about the level of expertise and personalized training that SCSC Wallops has to offer.

"You have the ability to really sit down and get into the weeds of what it is we're expected to know, and ask these subject matter experts how to do our jobs better," said Davis. "Bring your 'a' game, ask a lot of questions and be ready to learn."

The Future

Robinson has high hopes for a long and bright future for Wallops.

"The future of Wallops Island is limitless," said Robinson. "The ability to bring in all the current and future combat systems and new radars is something that's going to be needed for a long time. Our job here is to make sure that we have the right capability, the Sailors and the infrastructure to support those program needs. I'm proud to be a part of Wallops and its future."

Bonadio had a message to any fleet Sailors out there considering taking orders to SCSC Wallops.
"For anybody that really wants to get into the combat systems nitty-gritty world, this is a great place to be," Bonadio added.

Back at Wolff's, the usual crowd fills the four-top tables, making quick work of cheeseburgers and fries. A closer inspection of the customers reveals access badges and lanyards with words like Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and NASA. The walls are covered with pictures. Most of them are of locals holding up large fish, but peppered throughout are aerial shots of Wallops Island, the technological and scientific mecca that lies just across the bay.

For more news about Surface Combat Systems Center Wallops Island, visit their website,