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70 Years of the Navy Turning Science Fiction to Fact

An Office of Naval Research program officer shows Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work a LOCUST prototype.

An Office of Naval Research program officer shows Deputy Secretary of Defense Robert Work a LOCUST prototype. // John F. Williams/U.S. Navy

Though federal agencies—and the Defense Department in particular—are searching for innovative technology through outside partnerships with Silicon Valley, 70 years ago the Navy looked inward.

After the second World War, Congress mandated a science and technology-focused command to ensure American troops technological superiority. From its inception, the Office of Naval Research has worked across government, academia and industry to create new concepts and mature technology. The mission? Technological superiority always.

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ONR’s projects range from tech that goes below the sea to satellites in space. Back in the 1950s, ONR developed SPURV, its first autonomous underwater vehicle, and Shakey the Robot, the first mobile robot that could break down simple tasks on its own.

“To achieve the level of technological advances our sailors and Marines enjoy today took the talents of countless scientists, engineers and others who have dedicated themselves to ONR’s creed: America’s future force should never be in a fair fight,” Dr. Lawrence Schuette, ONR’s director of research, said.

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