Pulse news magazine

Volume 31, December 2020

Good, better, best: Undersea never rests

Paco Santana working with a Riptide vehicle.

BAE Systems’ employees know how to get the job done. Their steadfast dedication to protect our service men and women and innovate for the future can be seen every day in how they solve complex problems and deliver thoughtful solutions for our customers.

While many at the company share a strong commitment to our mission of protecting those who protect us, it takes on a more personal meaning for those once in uniform. In our undersea portfolio, we are learning from our team members’ decades of military experience to help inform and transform future capabilities.

Scott Minium during his service in the U.S. Navy. For Scott Minium, business development manager and former U.S. Navy Submariner, transitioning to BAE Systems following his military career was a natural fit.

“The company was looking for someone with undersea operational experience who could help identify the direction the Navy may be trying to go,” he said. Minium’s end user experience has served as his north star ever since, allowing him to pinpoint and advise on opportunities where BAE Systems’ capabilities and skillsets converge with customers’ needs and values.

Under BAE Systems’ C4ISR Systems business area, which Minium is part of, the Adaptive Sensors product line leads the company’s Subsurface and Surface Sensors, or S3, portfolio. Collaborating extensively with FAST Labs, our research and development organization, the S3 team designs, develops, manufactures, and supports a broad range of critical maritime capabilities. From franchise acoustic transducer programs, to longstanding subsurface communications intelligence apertures, to future missionized unmanned underwater vehicles that leverage the company’s expertise in electronic and acoustic payloads, the team works tirelessly to ensure mission readiness of our warfighters.

Minium contributes to this by connecting teams within the company and encouraging collaboration where there is potential technology or capability overlap. “We’re looking at things like, can we take some of our established, trusted technology and adapt it for use undersea, or pair it with some of our existing platforms?” he said.

This kind of forward thinking, and desire to push the bleeding edge of technology, led BAE Systems to acquire Riptide Autonomous Solutions in 2019.

Mike Rottman at his U.S. Air Force retirement ceremony. Mike Rottman, program manager and former U.S. Air Force Officer, notes the expansive possibilities in the maritime domain given the company’s expertise and demonstrated capability in a number of existing and emerging markets. He too draws on his service and uses it to inspire him and his team. “It’s not just a job or a grind, we’re doing work that’s meaningful,” Rottman said. “At BAE Systems I have the opportunity to continue to serve, but actually be closer to the mission.”

That mission includes “actively working to mature our products and capabilities” for the benefit of our customers, he said, adding that the company is positioned to accelerate innovation by leveraging legacy expertise and expanded know-how, customer intimacy, and market knowledge brought by the Riptide team.

Paco Santana at his U.S. Navy retirement ceremony. Paco Santana, business development manager and former U.S. Navy Commander, is part of that team. He got into the “underwater robot world” while serving in the Gulf War. Ground robots and unmanned aerial vehicles were already being used to detect threats and keep warfighters out of harm’s way on land and in the air. Exploring how to apply a similar approach undersea was a logical next step, and the government began to increase its investment and interest in UUVs.

“All diving can be dangerous, even in peace time, because you normally don’t know what’s underwater before you go in,” said Santana. “By sending a UUV to take a look first, you eliminate some of the risk and help keep people safe.”

Nearly 12 years later, now a civilian working at BAE Systems, Santana understands better than most the importance of the work we do each day to advance undersea capabilities. “If we can design and build something that can save people who are defending our country, we’re going to do that to the best extent possible,” he said. “There continues to be a need for our customers to do these missions more efficiently and effectively, and BAE Systems is in a position to deliver unique solutions.”

UUVs were operationally utilized by the U.S. Navy for explosive ordnance disposal, but there is interest in expanding UUV use for things like intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance and other types of missions. This can allow operators to collect and connect essential pieces of data to make informed and timely decisions.

Beyond opportunities for growth, Santana believes BAE Systems can make a real difference by offering affordable and accessible solutions not only for military, but for research and educational purposes as well. “We know less about the underwater world than we do about space,” he said, noting the harsh environments in which UUVs must operate. “Whether it’s a researcher, student, or sailor, people need to train with the UUVs regularly to explore the undersea and be comfortable and ready to use them when a need arises.” Santana says it is this cycle of learning and knowledge sharing that allows operators, and designers and builders like BAE Systems, to continually improve.

In the darkest depths of the ocean, the compassion and care of our veterans bring light and innovation. Putting themselves in the end users’ shoes – a place they’ve found themselves many times before – ensures our customers’ needs are at the forefront of every advancement in our undersea solutions.

By Ali Flewelling, Communications, Hudson, New Hampshire