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maritime DC & PPE Information Center

research and development

Ex-USS Shadwell
Naval Research Laboratory/Office of Naval Research



Science and Technology Success Stories

Fire Prevention · Firefighting · Damage Control


The Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), the Navy’s corporate laboratory, has maintained a strong leadership in interdisciplinary research and development program for new concepts, materials, and doctrine in fire protection and damage control. Many of these tests and research are conducted onboard the Navy's fire test ship, ex-USS Shadwell. The Navy has special concern for fires in semiconfined spaces (below deck in surface ships) and in totally enclosed spaces (submarines) where fires behave differently from most civilian situations. Such Navy spaces contain highly sophisticated equipment that must continue to operate under adverse conditions, are densely inhabited, cannot be evacuated, and must rely on crew cross-training for firefighting. NRL’s advances have continually revolutionized Navy firefighting to provide effective damage control at minimized manpower. While directed toward the Navy’s problems, the NRL advances have also made significant impact in the civilian world.


EX-USS Shadwell
  Navy Technology Center for Safety & Survivability  
  • Dedicated to studies on active & passive fire protection, flooding, and chemical defense
  • Realistic, time-critical scientific measurement, modeling, and performance analysis
  • Application of basic and theoretical research and development
  • Evaluation of hardware/software concepts and experiments with users
  Transitioned Technologies  
  • Protein foaming agent developed for countering fuel fires
  • Potassium Superoxide as oxygen source for Navy firefighter rebreathers Purple K
  • (Potassium Carbonate) powder firefighting agent 1
  •  Aqueous Film Forming Foam (AFFF) - “firefighting foam” - deployed in the Fleet
  •  Twin Agent Unit (TAU) deployed Conversion of all carrier washdown systems to firefighting foam
  •  NRL’s FIRE I test bed dedicated Navy Infra-red Thermal Imager deployed to see through smoke Ex-USS Shadwell commissioned as full scale fire-test bed Materials technology to optimize shipboard passive fire features
  • NRL data revises 90% of Navy firefighting doctrine
  • Halon alternative, HFC-227ea with NRL patented water spray cooling system
  • Water Mist and Smoke Ejection Systems selected for LPD-17
  • Damage Control - Automation for Reduced Manning for future ships
  • Sensor technology and data analysis for improved fire detection
  • Network Model for real-time prediction of fire, smoke for ship design
  • Smart Valve for autonomous fluid system isolation
  • Multi-sensory system (machine vision)
  • 1990 - Harry Bigglestone Award from the National Fire Protection Research Foundation
  • 1995 - 1997 - EPA Stratospheric Ozone Protection Award
  • 2003 - Royal Institution of Naval Architects (RINA) - Lloyd’s Register Safer Ship Award
  • 2004 - Fire Protection Research Foundation - Harry C. Bigglestone Award Ex-USS Shadwell Chesapeake Beach Detachment Explosion Suppression Studies Development of DC-ARM Technologies (Supervisory Control, Early Warning Fire Detection System, Distributed water mist, Smart Valves)
  ONR/NRL/NAVSEA Advanced Shipboard Fire Suppression/Mitigation R&D
  ONR/NRL Base Program Technology
  • Fire suppression technology – AFFF, PKP, Halon alternatives; Water Mist & Propelled Extinguishing Agent technology (PEAT)
  • Sensor technology for improved fire detection
  • Materials technology to optimize shipboard passive fire features
  • Modeling/simulation technology for real-time prediction of fire, smoke, CB agent spread
  NRL/NAVSEA Full-scale R&D aboard ex-USS Shadwell  
  • Completed validation testing for LPD-17, LHD-8 and DD(X) AFSS fire protection designs
  • Awarded contracts to ‘productionize’ shipboard detail designs with NGSS and BIW
  • Transitioned technology and doctrine for its use to PMS 500, PMS 400, PMS 317, PMS 378, PMS 450, SEA 05P5
  Navy Payoff  
  • Damage tolerant fire protection designs
  • Improved “fight through” capability
  • Improved recoverability analysis