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NEWS | June 29, 2017

Acoustics Expert Retires After 42 Years at NRL

By Michael Hart

Dr. Edward R. Franchi, the Associate Director of Research for the Ocean and Atmospheric Science and Technology Directorate at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, will retire June 30, 2017, after more than 40 years of of cutting-edge research and executive management at NRL.

A ceremony celebrating Dr. Franchi’s career was held Tuesday, June 20, highlighted by a presentation of the Department of the Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award. This award is the highest honorary award the commanding officer can confer on a civilian employee and recognizes meritorious civilian service or a contribution that has resulted in high values and/or benefits to the Department of the Navy.

A renowned authority on underwater acoustic scattering and reverberation, Dr. Franchi began his career at the research laboratory in March 1975 as a research mathematician in the Large Aperture Systems Branch of NRL’s Acoustics Division, conducting research on low-frequency, long-range reverberation.

Dr. Franchi’s contributions and his place in NRL’s Acoustics Division history are significantly documented in the book, “A History of the Acoustics Division of the Naval Research Laboratory, The First Eight Decades (1923-2008),” written by retired Dr. Fred T. Erskine III, who worked with Dr. Franchi from 1981-2008.

“Dr. Franchi was a pleasure to work with for nearly three decades,” said Erskine. An accomplished researcher in biophysics and radio astronomy before joining NRL, Erskine actually had no experience in the acoustics field prior to working with Franchi.

“When I was hired to work under Dr. Franchi at NRL I knew very little about sonar,” he remembered. “However, Dr. Franchi guided me through the literature and Robert Urick’s book, “Principles of Underwater Sound.”

“The transition from radio astronomy to sonar research was quite natural because the mathematics of beamforming in radio astronomy and sonar systems was very similar,” he said. “Within six months of being hired at NRL I was doing productive research under Dr. Franchi’s tutelage and we were soon participating together in at-sea experiments in the deep Pacific Ocean.”

In the mid-70’s, Dr. Franchi, a Huntington, New York, native, was one of only three NRL scientists researching long-range active acoustic reverberation and scattering phenomena, because at the time, the Navy was using passive acoustic surveillance arrays to track submarines.

Dr. Franchi’s leading-edge contributions continued to increase throughout his illustrious career at NRL. During the late 70’s, in the midst of the Cold War, new Soviet submarines were being constructed to be much quieter, which increased the importance of active acoustics research. Dr. Franchi was named head of the Reverberation Effects Section at that time and led efforts to conduct extensive research in low frequency acoustic reverberation and scattering, including conducting field experiments, developing signal processing techniques, data analysis and interpretation, computer predicting models and active sonar performance studies.

His career continued to progress rapidly as he moved on to lead the Acoustics Systems Branch between 1986 and 1988, before his selection as the Associate Technical Director and Director of Ocean Acoustics and Technology at the Naval Ocean Research and Development Activity (NORDA), Stennis Space Center, Mississippi.

At NORDA, Dr. Franchi managed basic, exploratory and advanced research and developments in acoustic measurements and ocean engineering in supporting the Navy’s undersea warfare missions.

Franchi became NRL’s fifth Acoustics Division superintendent in 1993, leading that division until 2008, when he assumed duties as head of the Ocean and Atmospheric Science and Technology Directorate.

According to Dr. Erskine, Dr. Franchi will be fondly remembered for his “advances in understanding ocean reverberation and methods to deal with it in actual sonar environments,” he said. “He was exceptional at leading diverse teams of researchers towards achievement of well-defined common research goals.”

A recognized leader and expert in underwater acoustics research, Dr. Franchi has authored and co-authored more than 35 publications. He was the U.S. National representative to the NATO Maritime Science and Technology Experts Committee and served as its chairman for four years. He was chair of the Technical Cooperation Program (TTCP) Maritime Systems Group ASW Systems and Technology Panel for seven years.

Dr. Franchi received the Presidential Rank Award of Meritorious Executive in 2003. He received the TTCP Personal Achievement Award in 2011 in recognition of his significant contributions and strategic vision in leading the TTCP ASW Panel. He received the National Partnership for Reinventing Government Award in 1998 for contributions to the development of the NRL Personnel Management Demonstration Project. He has received numerous Letters of Appreciation from Flag Officers for his research contributions over the years.

Dr. Franchi was elected to Pi Mu Epsilon, the Honorary National Mathematics Society, while an undergraduate at Clarkson University. He is a member of the Acoustical Society of America and past member of the Mathematical Association of America.

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