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The Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) is the United States Navy's full-spectrum research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support center for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, and offensive and defensive weapons systems associated with undersea warfare. One of the corporate laboratories of the Naval Sea Systems Command, NUWC is headquartered in Newport, Rhode Island, and has two major subordinate activities — Division Newport and Division Keyport (in Keyport, Washington). NUWC also controls the Fox Island Facility and Gould Island.
In 1869 the U.S. Naval Torpedo Station was founded in Newport on Goat Island, the site of a military fort since 1703. During the 1890s Charles Munroe and John Bernadou worked at Newport patenting a formulation of nitrocellulose colloided with ether and alcohol used as smokeless powder for United States naval artillery through the World Wars. The United States Army adopted the Navy formulation in 1908 and began manufacture at Picatinny Arsenal.
A factory was built in 1907 to manufacture steam torpedoes for the United States Navy. The torpedo factory became a major employer in the Newport area as Rhode Island congressmen protected the factory from competition. The Torpedo Station designed the Mark VI magnetic influence fuze for torpedoes during the 1920s. Fuze design and production was undertaken in great secrecy for the newly designed Mark 14 torpedo. Economies of the Great Depression limited torpedo production and prevented adequate testing of either the Mark 14 torpedo or the new Mark VI fuze. Skilled craftsmen at the torpedo factory unknowingly produced a nonfunctional design. Newport's torpedo factory was unable to produce enough torpedoes to match combat use through the first year of World War II, and was reluctant to use scarce torpedoes in tests. Newport Torpedo Station's unjustified confidence in their precision-crafted torpedoes delayed recognition of problems being reported by submarines using the torpedoes in combat. Testing which might have been efficiently completed at the Torpedo Station was less effectively undertaken by operational submarines. Acknowledgement of inaccurate depth settings was delayed until August 1942, and recognition of Mark VI fuze malfunctions was delayed until June 1943.
The Naval Torpedo Station researched and tested underwater weaponry through World War I and World War II creating additional facilities on Rose Island, Fox Island and Gould Island. In 1951 the station on Goat Island was reorganized:
For the next 15 years, it was the Underwater Ordnance Station, and then the Underwater Weapons Research and Engineering Station until 1970. That year, the Underwater Sound Lab from New London, Conn., was combined with the Newport facility to form the Naval Underwater Systems Center or NUSC. In 1992, the command was reorganized as the Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division Newport.