Top Tier Defense Projects in Indiana

Top Tier Defense Projects in Indiana

Dane Speer, Business Director, NSWC Crane.

Dr. Kyle Werner, Deputy Technical Director, NSWC Crane.

Editor’s Note: Indiana’s defense industry is at the forefront of advanced technological development with many unique projects happening right now. Experts from the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) provided Building Indiana Business with an overview of some of the most interesting defense activities that have been taking place lately. Dr. Kyle Werner, Deputy Technical Director, and Dane Speer, Business Director shared their insights.

 

Hypersonics

Hypersonic weapons are one of the Department of Defense’s (DoD) highest priorities. Hypersonics systems can travel at speeds of Mach 5 or faster and are highly maneuverable, making them potentially very effective against heavily defended areas. Indiana was chosen for key hypersonics research and development. A growing suite of government, industry, and academic partners associated with Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane), Indiana’s only federal laboratory, are involved in advancing hypersonics technology and essentially creating a “new industrial base” and ecosystem in Indiana to develop and improve offensive and defensive hypersonic capabilities.

In 2020, the DoD established its Joint Hypersonics Transition Office (JHTO) Systems Engineering Field Activity (SEFA) at NSWC Crane, further cementing Indiana’s vital role in the development of this technology. The JHTO SEFA was established at NSWC Crane to leverage the growing capabilities in hypersonics technologies with industry and academic partners, including Purdue University, University of Notre Dame, Indiana University (IU), and IUPUI.

Purdue has one of the most comprehensive hypersonics research capabilities in the country, including a new research building offering the world’s only Mach 8 quiet wind tunnel.  Notre Dame completed development of the largest Mach 6 quiet hypersonic test facility in the US in 2018, and is currently developing a Mach 10 quiet wind tunnel, funded by the Office of the Secretary of Defense via a contract through NSWC Crane. The Notre Dame Hypersonic Systems Initiative is an effort within the university to develop expertise in hypersonics technology, engaging expertise across the university in engineering and science. IU is also cultivating hypersonics talent through its School of Informatics, Computing and Engineering and its IU Pervasive Technology Institute, which will partner directly with the new hypersonic facility in Crane, Indiana.

 

Microelectronics

Within the United States military and private industry, the need for trusted microelectronics is immense and growing exponentially. The COVID-19 pandemic provoked an onslaught of chip shortages that affected a variety of industries. NSWC Crane plays a national leadership role in this key technology area, advising DoD on the establishment of microelectronics priorities, policy, and investments. Crane experts are also leading microelectronics discussions with the Department of Commerce and the National Security Council.

At the state level, several of the winning proposals in the recent Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiatives (READI) grant program focused on efforts related to Indiana’s equities in microelectronics. Additionally, the Indiana Innovation Institute (IN3) manages and facilitates an effort in which Purdue, IU, Notre Dame, and NSWC Crane collaborate on microelectronics research and development focused on next generation microelectronics.

 

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

IU, Notre Dame, Purdue, and NSWC Crane teamed up in 2021 to provide Trusted AI workforce development and research. The Embedded Systems Security/Trusted AI initiative is part of the Scalable Asymmetric Lifecycle Engagement (SCALE) workforce development program funded by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Research and Engineering OUSD(R&E)’s Trusted & Assured Microelectronics (T&AM) program. The team is working on solving challenging problems in many facets of Trusted AI.

Another AI workforce development initiative in Indiana targets rural middle school students and is aptly entitled “AI Goes Rural”. This collaboration between IU and NSWC Crane was announced in 2021 and includes pilot AI educational programming earmarked for regional middle schools.

 

Tech Expo and Pitch Competition

In April, NSWC Crane kicked off the PROPELS (Promising Opportunities for Engaging the Local Ecosystem) Accelerator in conjunction with The Mill and under the auspices of the Office of the Secretary of Defense, Research and Engineering (OSD (R&E)). The effort brings innovative technologies developed at Crane to the commercial and defense industry, pairs interested entrepreneurs directly with scientists and engineers, and guides them through a six-week accelerator program that provides resources and opportunities to immerse themselves in the Indiana Uplands network of support.

At the end of the program, participants are encouraged to enter the Crane IP Defense Innovation Pitch Competition hosted by Radius Indiana. The virtual pitch competition is an opportunity for interested businesses, start-ups, and entrepreneurs to develop early-stage products based on NSWC Crane’s Intellectual Property (IP) portfolio and to pitch those ideas to a panel of judges for the opportunity to earn cash prizes and other incentives from local and regional partners. In the past, the competition has taken advantage of NSWC Crane’s Rapid Response Licensing Program where the participants could apply to license the technologies royalty-free for a limited time.

The Rapid Response Licensing Program was created to assist economic recovery from the impact of COVID-19. The Technology Transfer (T2) Office at NSWC Crane implemented this licensing program by offering short-term, royalty-free licenses for any technology in their IP portfolio. The T2 Office used its network of partners to share information about the program leading directly to Radius Indiana establishing the pitch competition with partners including Elevate Ventures, the Indiana Small Business Development Center, IN3, and The Mill.