An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Home : News & Media : News

    NRL News & Press Releases

NEWS | June 25, 2010

NRL Scientist Commemorated in Launch of Namesake USNS Howard O. Lorenzen

By Daniel Parry, Corporate Communications, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Complete with the ceremonious champagne christening, the USNS Howard O. Lorenzen (T-AGM 25) is the second ship in U.S. Navy history to honor an NRL scientist for contributions made to Naval and civilian scientific research. Operated by the Military Sealift Command the missile range instrumentation ship, equipped with a new dual band phased array radar system and other advanced mission technology, will replace the USNS Observation Island launched in 1953.

In a career that spanned 33 years at the Washington, D.C., based Naval Research Laboratory, Howard Otto Lorenzen developed the distinction as the Father of Electronic Warfare for his development of radio countermeasures that could exploit detected or interrupted electromagnetic transmissions for military purposes, intelligence gathering and electronic countermeasures — a pioneering concept that was the genesis of modern day electronic warfare.

Lorenzen understood and the Navy realized the value and relevance of not only detecting enemy radio and electronic transmissions, but that recording, analyzing and deciphering these transmissions and developing intuitive countermeasures would prove to be an integral and vital function to the future of national security, said Pete Wilhelm, Director, NRL Naval Center for Space Technology.

Beginning his NRL career in 1940 as a radio engineer under the leadership of radar pioneer, Albert Hoyt Taylor, Lorenzen got his first taste of electronic countermeasures when he unintentionally jammed the signal of radar being tested at the lab's Radar Division. As the U.S. entered World War II with the attack on Pearl Harbor, Lorenzen's research focused on developing electronic means to detect, locate, jam and otherwise deceive enemy radar and other electronic locating equipment, ushering in a new era of warfare to benefit U.S. military countermeasures.

As the war progressed, Lorenzen, assigned to the lab's Special Developments Section, continued to expand on the idea of electronic countermeasures, or ECMs, developing radio detection and recording devices to defeat guided German missiles by analyzing the control signals sent to Henschel 293 flying bombs and using the information to disrupt or distort radio command signals.

NRL's experience during the war made it evident the importance of electronic countermeasures in Naval operations. After the war, Lorenzen continued to develop new, and tweak existing, ECM technologies organizing NRL's Countermeasures Branch and toiling with recovered German and Japanese wartime electronic devices. Lorenzen developed the first U.S. magnetic tape-recorder for intercept work and tunable microwave intercept receivers equipped in Navy ships, shore stations and aircraft.

During the 1950s and throughout the Korean and Vietnam military conflicts, ECM technology advanced by Lorenzen and his team of engineers provided new techniques and systems of electronic signal interception, signal source location including high-frequency direction finding, recording, analysis, jamming and deception. It was Lorenzen's project engineer and prodigy, Jim Trexler, who first started calling Lorenzen Father. Trexler was the first to reveal that terrestrial radio signals reflected from the moon could be intercepted back on Earth using a giant parabolic antenna. An immediate outgrowth was the Navy's Communication Moon Relay (CMR) system, moon bounce, that provided our Navy with satellite communication a decade before artificial space satellites were operational.

In June 1960, after a U.S. U-2 spy aircraft was shot down over the Soviet Union, Lorenzen's most notable achievement became the Galactic Radiation and Background payload, GRAB, the earliest space-based reconnaissance satellite and the first U.S. Navy electronic intelligence (ELINT) satellite used to obtain information on Soviet air defense radars that otherwise could not be observed from U.S. military aircraft.

Situated 500 miles above the Earth, safe from surface-to-air missiles, the GRAB satellite's circular orbit passed it through energy beams from Soviet radar whose pulses traveled straight and far beyond the horizon into space. GRAB received each pulse of a radar signal in a certain bandwidth, as sensed by its tiny antennas, and transponded a corresponding signal to collection huts at ground sites within its field of view. Operators recorded transponded information on magnetic tape and couriered it to NRL for evaluation. NRL evaluated, duplicated, and forwarded the tapes to the National Security Agency at Fort Meade, Md., and the Strategic Air Command at Offut Air Force Base, Omaha, Neb., for analysis and processing.

In the mid-1960s as Cold War tensions were ramping up, Lorenzen inspired his team to again think of new, innovative means to thwart enemy attacks on U.S. military targets. In September 1966, his branch was upgraded to division status and Lorenzen was named superintendent of NRL's new Electronic Warfare Division with the chief role to develop advanced guided missile defenses for Navy aircraft and state-of-the-art electronic warfare (EW) components for the USS New Jersey.

In 1970, Deputy of Defense Secretary David Packard aligned space system acquisition responsibilities with those for weapon systems acquisitions and authorized the military departments to pursue departmental need for space systems. NRL turned to Lorenzen to repeat in space what he had accomplished in EW - design total systems for military operational support — and in 1971 named Lorenzen superintendent of NRL Space Systems. Lorenzen served as superintendent of NRL space systems until his retirement from NRL in June 1973.

Christened in formal ceremonies at VT Halter Marine, Pascagoula, Miss., the 12,575 ton, 534 foot ship will be home to a crew of 88 and will host embarked military and civilian technicians and mariners from other U.S. government agencies. Missile range instrumentation ships provide a platform for monitoring missile launches and collecting data that can be used to improve missile efficiency and accuracy.

The USNS Hayes, named after NRL scientist Harvey C. Hayes, launched in 1970 and is the only other U.S Navy ship commemorating an NRL scientist. Hayes, a distinguished scientist at the Naval Research Laboratory from 1923 until 1952, pioneered the world of ocean acoustics and is recognized as the first person to accumulate any substantial amount of data at sea and was later responsible for one of two operational sonar equipments used by the Navy at the outbreak of World War II.

News Search