NORCO, Calif. - On Aug. 30, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Corona Division, celebrated the 15th anniversary of the Navy's unique Measurement Science and Technology Laboratory, a cornerstone facility the warfare center uses to provide precise measurements and calibrations to accurately guide missiles and weapons systems to their targets.
"Everything we do is for the warfighters," said Mike Wheeler, laboratory manager. "We're the only lab I know of that can do what we do," said the 30-year Navy engineer and Lab Manager who oversees numerous projects at the Southern California science and engineering base. Capt. Steve Murray, NSWC Corona commanding officer, said his superiors and the Navy family are well aware of the outstanding work Wheeler describes. He says the Navy and Marine Corps rely on abilities of Corona's skilled technicians and engineers. But Murray also noted that work isn't well known in the neighboring community.
"When I take people here to tour the lab, they are truly amazed," he said. "They had no idea what we do."
Joe Urlaub, one of three remaining original people when the lab was dedicated Aug. 26, 2002, said he finds great personal satisfaction inspecting gages for Marines to calibrate the accuracy of their small arms. The positive feedback he hears about his work "keeps me going," said Urlaub
who came to NSWC Corona when the lab was based in an inadequate facility in Pomona.
The laboratory was the culmination of decades of work by the Measurement Science Department that started at NSWC Corona on June 22, 1988, after it moved from Pomona. The facility was the key to keeping the base from moving to Ventura County during the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure round.
Richard Schumacher, Measurement Science Department head, said few military buildings have been designed so precisely from the bottom up to handle the highly technical workload that continues to increase in sophistication each year. "I look forward to the next 15 years," he said.
The science of measurement is foundational to how the Navy operates as a 21st-century force, ensuring its weapons, ships, aircraft and equipment all operate as designed. The research and daily work conducted inside the 39,000-square-foot building provides a key technical capability of the warfare center that employs more than 3,200 Navy scientists, engineers, staff, and support contractors across the country as the Navy's premiere independent assessment center and a designated federal lab.
Among the numerous projects are certification of gages used to calibrate Marine Corps small weapons to ensure accuracy and determine if gun barrels are warped or damaged. During the past 15 years, the Gage and Standards Lab at Corona certified over 325,000 gages for defense contractors, ground-based
Marines, air Marines, and other fleet activities. And, the lab and its technicians have calibrated and inspected many gages for foreign allies.
The machine shop, which expanded last year to meet new fleet needs, fabricates precision prototypes of the Griffin Weapons System launcher assemblies as well as critical parts for most of the Navy's missiles,
weapons and support equipment. The work is so unique and the machinery so sophisticated that Wheeler works with a local high school to mentor promising machinist students who are then recruited for on-the-job training in the highly skilled and technical work. No school teaches exactly how to perform the assignments, he said.
The department and its one-of-a-kind lab has brought much pride and honors to NSWC Corona over the years, first with its Navy Metrology and Calibration Program Technical Agent founded by Jerry L. Hayes, the "father of Navy metrology" whose name is evoked when the award bearing his name is given for significant scientific, technical, or organizational contributions to NSWC Corona. The department also is responsible for the research resulting in an award-winning, cost-saving patent for Metrology Bench Top Calibration Management System - MCMS - that provides automated calibration procedures used on Navy ships since introduced in 2007. By Navy estimates, MCMS has saved the service more than $50 million already and was licensed to commercial industry in the Navy's first cross-licensing agreement that allows industry innovation with the system to be incorporated into the Navy's system with no additional fees. One of its inventors is Schumacher, department head.
Another measurement scientist Dan King holds two patents for his work in fiber optics and lasers that is integral in today's advanced weapons systems that can accurately send a missile to a target by following a laser beam.
The department highlights its technology at the annual Science and Technology Education Partnership Conference, which will occur again Oct. 4-5 in Riverside, with scientific displays to inspire and motivate youngsters from kindergarten through high school seniors about science and engineering careers. They also will be a highlight for the warfare center's open house Nov. 4 that will continue to commemorate the Navy 75th anniversary in the Inland Empire. The lab is a must-see for many warfare center visitors and mentors many college and high school interns during the summer months. The lab's measuring capabilities are world-renown: one device can measure items down to 3 millionths of an inch, far smaller than the width of a human hair and probably smaller than a gnat's eyelash.