From the halls of the Naval Postgraduate School to shipyards across the country, NPS electrical engineering alumnus Capt. Robert Crowe, Supervisor of Shipbuilding (SUPSHIP), Conversion and Repair, Bath, now has the opportunity to help the Navy build the most capable fleet in the world. A 2003 graduate, Crowe focused much of his NPS work on power systems and semi-conducting technology, looking for more efficient ways to power ships, ultimately doing his thesis on integrated power systems.
Today, Crowe is responsible for overseeing private shipbuilding contracts in Bath, Maine, San Diego, Calif. and Marinette, Wis. The integrated power systems concept has gained traction as the Navy moves towards a more efficient and sustainable fleet. While his education gave him a technical advantage in understanding the day-to-day challenges of shipbuilding, Crowe’s experience as a leader has taught him the value of listening and communicating with the men and women he oversees.
“For me, the value of my experience is evident when my people come up and brief me on things and I understand what they are talking about,” explained Crowe. “I understand their challenges. Now I am directing my people to think ahead to not just what tomorrow brings, but where we’re going to be in a year’s time, and how we can be ready for those challenges.”
One successful build being overseen by SUPSHIP Bath is the addition of the new Freedom variant of the Littoral Combat Ship Class ships out of Marinette Marine Corp. After successful test runs in Lake Michigan, the ships are expected to be delivered to the Navy in June, ready to enter the fleet as a highly agile and networked asset. They are designed to give the Navy the advantage over littoral threats, with watercraft launch and recovery capabilities and reconfigurable weapons systems.
Crowe is also responsible for overseeing the new DDG-1000 Zumwalt Class destroyer, named for former Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Elmo Zumwalt. The first ship in its class is 60 percent complete, and is designed to provide surface fire support in near-shore operations, with automated technology to allow for a much smaller crew than an average ship of its size and function. According to the Navy, the ship is larger than any Navy destroyer or cruiser since the nuclear-powered USS Long Beach, and a contract for three DDG-1000s was granted to General Dynamics’ Bath Iron Works shipyard.
“Traditionally, U.S. Navy ships have been powered with the engines driving the shafts that went through a reduction gear and then out to the propeller to move the ship through the water,” explained Crowe. “And then the Navy recognized that the power used to move the ship through the water takes up a lot of room on the ship.
“That power can be applied to other things on the ship, like the radar or gun systems,” he continued. “So the plan was to make everything electric, and run power through a motor that runs power to the shaft and then that same generator can provide power not just for the propeller but for other parts of the ship. And that’s what is being done here Bath, Maine, with the DDG 1000.”
One component of the DDG-1000 is the integrated propulsion system (IPS), one that Crowe sees as having great potential for the Navy. His 2003 thesis, titled “Design, Construction and Testing of a Reduced-Scale Cascaded Multi-Level Converter,” helped establish the basis for what would be a multi-dimensional, scale IPS model, developed by a series of thesis student projects.
“By using an integrated power system, the ship will be inherently more efficient because the power we produce onboard can be distributed through the different parts of the ship in an effective and optimal manner,” explained Crowe. “So for instance, if I’m running at a low speed, I don’t have to provide a lot of power to my propulsion motor. And if I really need to run radar, I can focus all of my attention on the radar and not focus on my speed. So that really makes us more efficient and effective … and ultimately it makes us more powerful. “