Some very fortunate Navy League members and guests had the unique opportunity to tour NUWC – Keyport on October 6, 2016. NUWC – Keyport is an important part of the Naval Sea Systems Command Warfare Centers. There is one other undersea warfare center, in Newport, RI and there are 8 surface warfare centers around the country. Keyport originally opened just over 100 years ago in 1914 as the Pacific Coast Torpedo Station. Although torpedo maintenance and repair are still important components of the work at Keyport (25-30%) there are many additional operations that have evolved over the years. In the interest of brevity this report will necessarily be limited to the areas we toured. It is highly recommended that anyone looking to know more about Keyport and warfare centers look at some of the informative web sites that can be found on line. Official NUWC Keyport website, History of NUWC Keyport Tracking Ranges, Torpedo Town USA,
Following a welcome and command review we went to the Electronic and Mechanical Depot Repair Shop where we observed some of the aspects of torpedo repair and maintenance. Keyport is our nation’s only torpedo depot, is the only Intermediate Maintenance Activity (IMA) for light weight MK 46 torpedoes, and is a fully certified IMA for heavyweight MK 48 torpedoes. Orange torpedoes are for practice and testing and are recovered, green torpedoes are for warshots and are returned for upgrades and maintenance.
We also toured the Gyros and Circuit Boards Shop and learned about some of the amazing things done there. The philosophy here is always to repair if possible, and work is done for the USAF as well as the Navy (and Marines). As the years pass by getting needed replacement parts becomes a challenge, even to the extent that the original manufacturer is no longer in business or blueprints no longer exist. And there are times when a current item clearly has deficiencies that need improvement. Through reverse engineering, analysis, reinvention and redesign Keyport has saved virtually millions of our dollars. Lasers and robotics come into play, but even old curved screen testing equipment still serves well. There are military aircraft, vehicles and ships (surface and subsurface) still serving today thanks to the good work of Keyport.
Next stop on the tour was the Dive Locker where we were shown the oldest hyperbaric chamber in the Navy (built in 1930 from an old boiler shell!). When needed for decompression it is a lifesaver and the Navy personnel assigned to this unit perform a valuable and necessary service doing underwater ship inspections as well as rescue work.
Last on our tour was a visit to see the Gettysburg Oak, a tree planted in the early 1900’s from an acorn taken from the battlefield by a Civil War veteran and planted on his farm…which was made part of Keyport during WW II. There were once more of them according to verbal history, but this is the only one still standing.
This concluded our tour, but readers should check out the previously mentioned web sites to learn more about this special place where incredible things are being done every day. Our sincere thanks to Keyport for our very welcoming visit, and certainly thanks to Byron Faber for the hard work necessary to arrange and coordinate the tour.
Next up is SAFEBOATS on November 7.