When the NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC) was decommissioned and the new STO Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation was established on 1 July 2012, it wasn't just a name change. The NATO Secretary General marks the one year anniversary of the STO in a video, as the culmination of the S&T Reform component of NATO’s Agency Reform begun in 2011.

Check out how CMRE Director, Dr Dirk Tielbuerger, describes the new Centre's mission.

The Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) is the 'in-house' research centre of NATO's new Science and Technology Organization. In line with our mission we will organize and conduct scientific research and technology development and deliver innovative and field-tested science and technology solutions to address the defence and security needs of the Alliance, i.e. the needs of NATO and the NATO nations. The CMRE and its predecessors the SACLANT ASW/Undersea Research Centre and the NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC) look back on more than 50 years' experience of sea going research in support of NATO's needs for maritime science and technology . The Programme of Work has always been defined predominately in close cooperation with NATO nations, often with in-kind contributions to specific projects.

The sea has always been the focus of the North Atlantic Alliance in order to ensure the freedom of the sea lines of communication in the huge area of the ocean for which NATO is responsible. Energy security and the protection of critical infrastructure at sea is of crucial importance more than ever to our global societies. Littoral environments and the ever-present and indispensable assets therein need to be protected in a changing world with diverse insurgents and asymmetric threats like terrorists or pirates. Only naval forces will address these security challenges in the open sea and so are the guarantors for defence against all kinds of maritime challenges. Our mission, therefore, is centred on the maritime domain where we sustain core capabilities particularly for the undersea environment. Conformant with the policy guidance we get from our governance body, the Science and Technology Board, we may extrapolate in other directions in order to meet the demands of our stakeholders and customers.

In addition, we have to realize that the maritime environment is very challenging, in particular for sensors and systems; this is most pronounced in the underwater domain. Sensors like radar and communication via radio waves cannot work adequately because of the underlying physics of electromagnetism. The salt water in the sea behaves like a short, making these well-known means, used in all the other environments, useless in the sea water. Instead, acoustics has to be applied; sonar and underwater acoustics are the substitute for radar and electromagnetic waves. However, the physics of underwater acoustics adds considerable complexity; sensing and communication is a major and ongoing challenge in this environment.

Systems and sensors need to be tested; new concepts and models will only work if they are validated against the peculiarities of their environment. The final test must be the exposure to naval exercises with the inherent procedures and the overall scenarios of threats and own assets. A sea going capability is indispensable for this kind of work. The CMRE has at hand access to two vessels with excellent capabilities, the Research Vessel Alliance and the Coastal Research Vessel Leonardo. Their capabilities are complementary; Alliance being a global seagoing platform while the focus of Leonardo is on inshore and confined waters. The excellent engineering capability of the CMRE is the required and well established link between the sea going capability and the research that is conducted by the world class scientists coming from the different NATO nations.

NATO's Science and Technology Strategy sets the focus on three distinct areas. Capability Development is the predominant area to which the CMRE contributes; new capabilities will serve the NATO nations or NATO directly. The second area is our contribution to NATO's knowledge base; NATO decision makers and the nations have access to the outstanding knowledge the Centre collected over the years. Finally, partnering is the third pillar of the S&T strategy and well in line with NATO's Strategic Concept; partnering is indispensable for maritime security and integral part of the networking character of the CMRE as a science and technology centre.

The CMRE works a business model of customer funding. That way it is ensured that we address the prioritized requirements of NATO and NATO nations. The Customer Base also comprises other clients on a case by case basis. A major customer for the services of the CMRE currently is NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Transformation (SACT). He leads NATO in the area of military transformation and is developing new capabilities with the expectation to be at the forefront of optimization, interoperability, and rationalization. These are challenges for NATO and NATO nations in general and are addressed by the CMRE with their capabilities, portfolio and Programme of Work.

It has been identified that autonomous reconnaissance and intervention, robotic characterisation of the battlespace, and the management of abundant information will underpin the transformation of maritime defence and security capabilities and deliver more assured results at lower sustained costs. The associated technologies required to achieve this vision form the basis of the CMRE Programme of Work. The warfare disciplines that they support represent applications of the concept of "Data to Decision," the supply chain of information at the heart of CMRE's programme, with systems such as autonomous (robotic) vehicles that sense their physical environments, search for and classify targets, interpret their signal environment, and take actions following autonomous interpretation. Advances in system science, acoustic signal processing, control theory, and algorithm development that make these accomplishments possible are all constrained by attempting them in the enduringly difficult ocean environment where success is only possible with knowledge of the physics of the sea, including acoustic propagation and scattering, and the support of a world class ocean engineering capability.

Much of this involves the preparation and use of synthetic environments in which authoritative, accredited databases, algorithms, models, and simulations are the building blocks from which such environments can be created. Tactical decision aids, training systems, simulators and, increasingly, serious games are all potential delivery mechanisms. As these synthetic environments become increasingly sophisticated they begin to offer a legitimate cost-saving alternative to fleet deployments for training or mission preparation, and so are an opportunity for the nations to lower operating costs including fuel and personnel.

ACT's planning activities as part of NATO's Defence Planning Process (NDPP) highlight the need for new and additional capabilities in the areas of Joint Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; Command and Control; and Deployment and Sustainment in particular. In the maritime domain with the pronounced peculiarities of this environment the CMRE contributes to all these areas of military requirements with our expertise and our science and technology work at the forefront of new ideas, concepts and opportunities leading NATO's advances and cutting edge technology in this area.

The CMRE is well prepared to address these challenges and to respond to requirements from NATO and NATO nations, in particular in the NDPP and with tasks coming from the Connected Forces Initiative or Smart Defence with its multinational approaches.

The article opens the special issue devoted to CMRE by the magazine NAVAL FORCES, to be published soon.