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News | Feb. 5, 2019

Indianapolis milestone buoys anti-submarine warfare

By Thomas Perrry DCMA Public Affairs

Sonobuoys play a key global role in anti-submarine warfare, marine mammal research, oceanography, and search and rescue operations.

Defense Contract Management Agency Indianapolis recently joined Ultra Electronics Undersea Sensor Systems, Inc., at a celebratory event for its 7 millionth sonobuoy produced.

“A functional sonobuoy is critical to our national security,” said Army Lt. Col. Michelle Lewis, DCMA Indianapolis commander. “Sonobuoys are a force multiplier that enable Navy forces in two very critical ways: one, to detect, track and pinpoint potentially hostile submarines operating in the open ocean and coastal areas that could be threats to Navy carrier battle groups; two, the information that is produced from the sonobuoy helps enable precision attacks.”

While its tech has moved substantially forward since the mid-1950s, the basic sonobuoy concept of early detection and data-gathering has drifted little from the program’s 1954 origin.

“DCMA and USSI have had a long-standing working relationship,” said Lewis, who was asked to speak at the milestone event. “It has allowed the sonobuoy program to advance acoustic solutions that have filled capability gaps in autonomous underwater vehicle sensors and coastal waters. Additionally, it allows for innovation as new technology emerges.”

The Department of Defense’s focus on innovation is documented in its strategic framework with an effort to lead innovation and leverage technology.

“Both the customer and contractor are always striving to improve upon past successes,” said Bill Williams, the DCMA Indianapolis deputy commander. “Most recently, our engineers teamed with the program office and contractor personnel to improve manufacturing work instructions. These efforts resulted in a 30-percent improvement in sonobuoy reliability directly supporting the agency’s primary capability of contractor effectiveness and the National Defense Strategy's goal to ‘build a more lethal force.’”

The agency’s sonobuoy support force includes nine team members across contracting, quality assurance, and engineering and manufacturing, said Williams, who also serves as Indianapolis’ Engineering and Manufacturing Group leader. The nine acquisition professionals dedicate a portion of their work hours to the program, which incorporates a robust communication effort.

“Our recipe for success revolves around robust stakeholder engagement with the contractor and our (Naval Air Systems Command) customer and unfettered communication across DCMA functional lines,” he said.

During her comments at the event, Lewis reminded her team and its industry counterparts on the importance of the work they do.

“We should never lose sight of our true customers — the young officers and enlisted personnel around the world who rely on us every day to accomplish their mission,” she said. “When they reach for those various types of sonobuoys, military personnel need to know that it will be there and work properly.”