NRL Scientist Commemorated in Launch of Namesake USNS Howard O. Lorenzen

Story Number: NNS100626-05Release Date: 6/26/2010 8:07:00 PM
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By Daniel Parry, Naval Research Laboratory

WASHINGTON (NNS) -- USNS Howard O. Lorenzen (T-AGM 25), christened June 26, is the second ship in U.S. Navy history to honor a Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) scientist for contributions made to naval and civilian scientific research.

Developing devices to detect, deceive and otherwise jam enemy radar, Howard Lorenzen earned the distinction as the 'Father of Electronic Warfare.'

Operated by Military Sealift Command, the missile range instrumentation ship will replace the USNS Observation Island launched in 1953. Lorenzen is equipped with a new dual band phased array radar system and other advanced mission technology.

In a career that spanned 33 years at the Washington-based NRL, Howard Otto Lorenzen developed radio countermeasures that could exploit detected or interrupted electromagnetic transmissions for military purposes, intelligence gathering and electronic countermeasures - a pioneering concept that was the genesis of modern day electronic warfare.

"Lorenzen understood and the Navy realized the value and relevance of not only detecting enemy radio and electronic transmissions, but that recording, analyzing and deciphering these transmissions and developing intuitive countermeasures would prove to be an integral and vital function to the future of national security," said Pete Wilhelm, director, NRL Naval Center for Space Technology.

Beginning his NRL career in 1940 as a radio engineer under the leadership of radar pioneer, Albert Hoyt Taylor, Lorenzen got his first taste of electronic countermeasures when he unintentionally jammed the signal of radar being tested at the lab's Radar Division. As the U.S. entered World War II, Lorenzen's research focused on developing electronic means to detect, locate, jam and deceive enemy radar and other electronic locating equipment, ushering in a new era of warfare to benefit U.S. military countermeasures.

As the war progressed, Lorenzen, assigned to the lab's Special Developments Section, continued to expand on the idea of electronic countermeasures, or ECMs, developing radio detection and recording devices to defeat guided German missiles by analyzing the control signals sent to Henschel 293 flying bombs and using the information to disrupt or distort radio command signals.

NRL's experience during the war made it evident the importance of electronic countermeasures in naval operations. After the war, Lorenzen continued to develop new, and tweak existing, ECM technologies organizing NRL's Countermeasures Branch and toiling with recovered German and Japanese wartime electronic devices. Lorenzen developed the first U.S. magnetic tape-recorder for intercept work and tunable microwave intercept receivers equipped in Navy ships, shore stations and aircraft.

During the 1950s and throughout the Korean and Vietnam military conflicts, ECM technology advanced by Lorenzen and his team of engineers provided new techniques and systems of electronic signal interception, signal source location including high-frequency direction finding, recording, analysis, jamming and deception.

In June 1960, after a U.S. U-2 spy aircraft was shot down over the Soviet Union, Lorenzen's most notable achievement became the Galactic Radiation and Background payload, GRAB, the earliest space-based reconnaissance satellite and the first U.S. Navy electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellite used to obtain information on Soviet air defense radars that otherwise could not be observed from U.S. military aircraft.

Situated 500 miles above the Earth, safe from surface-to-air missiles, the GRAB satellite's circular orbit passed it through energy beams from Soviet radar whose pulses traveled straight and far beyond the horizon into space. GRAB received each pulse of a radar signal in a certain bandwidth, as sensed by its tiny antennas, and transponded a corresponding signal to collection huts at ground sites within its field of view. Operators recorded transponded information on magnetic tape and couriered it to NRL for evaluation. NRL evaluated, duplicated, and forwarded the tapes to the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Md., and the Strategic Air Command at Offutt Air Force Base, Omaha, Neb., for analysis and processing.

Christened in formal ceremonies at VT Halter Marine, Pascagoula, Miss., the 12,575 ton, 534 foot ship will be home to a crew of 88 and will host embarked military and civilian technicians and mariners from other U.S. government agencies. Missile range instrumentation ships provide a platform for monitoring missile launches and collecting data that can be used to improve missile efficiency and accuracy.

The USNS Hayes, named after NRL scientist Harvey C. Hayes, launched in 1970 and is the only other U.S Navy ship commemorating an NRL scientist. Hayes, a distinguished scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory from 1923 until 1952, pioneered the world of ocean acoustics.

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