Peru, Innovator of Naval Technology
By Gonzalo Silva Infante/Diálogo March 22, 2018In late January 2018, the Peruvian Navy consolidated its position among Latin American leaders in naval innovation with the opening of the Center for Scientific Research and Technological Development. The brand new center, which debuted on January 25th, is located at the facilities of the Directorate of Navy Enlistment, at Callao Naval Base.
“We have SIMA [Peruvian Navy Industrial Services] workshops and other workshops run by the Peruvian Navy itself, where we manage some projects,” Rear Admiral Giancarlo Polar Figari, director of Navy Enlistment, told Diálogo. “But in the last few years, the number of projects increased, and we lacked the sufficient infrastructure to carry out projects within the same space, as the personnel involved needs to work on two or three projects at the same time.”
Admiral Gonzalo Ríos Polastri, general commander of the Peruvian Navy, authorized the establishment of the center in 2017 to bring researchers and engineers together under the same roof. The center earned certification from the National Council on Science, Technology, and Innovation (CONCYTEC, in Spanish), the Peruvian government agency responsible for creating and promoting private and public sector initiatives for scientific and technological development.
To earn CONCYTEC certification, research centers must show that they have infrastructure, equipment, and information systems in place, among others. They also must have experienced researchers and specialists to carry out scientific projects.
Systems of their own
The center aims to conduct research and development, and to modernize weapons systems and engineering equipment to install them on naval, air-naval, and land units. Its team of more than 100 people, including service members and civilians, work on prototype development and the application of tests, among other duties, to enhance the Navy’s capabilities.
“We work on projects that allow us to modernize navy elements that have old systems,” Ernesto Guevara, the engineer in charge of software development for the Navy research facility, told Diálogo. “We modernize technologies from the 1980s so they meet international military standards, which offers great savings compared to buying commercial products—especially in terms of maintenance—as it allows us to make changes ourselves, instead of buying services from outside companies.”
Autonomy and savings
Among the many projects underway at the research facility, two stand out: Varayoc and Kallpa. Both are command and control software systems that can be installed on various naval platforms, such as frigates and submarines.
“Both of these are projects of the highest order,” Rear Adm. Polar said. “They grew out of need, due to not having the funds to acquire a new system. Today, both are operational and not only are they approved by the Navy, but they’re also installed on some of the weapons systems we’ve purchased. The manufacturers accredited the functionality of our command and control system.”
The Varayoc system is installed on two guided missile frigates, the BAP Bolognesi and the BAP Aguirre. In 2018, engineers are set to install the system on the BAP Mariátegui and the BAP Almirante Grau. Over the next few years, the system—which enables missile launch, among other functions—should be set up on all the other frigates of the Navy. The system is also installed on the training ship Unión to train cadets, and will be built in on the multipurpose vessel BAP Pisco.
“[The Varayoc systems] are integrated with radars and sensors, which meant an important savings for us, in terms of resources,” Rear Adm. Polar said. “And now we have a permanent group of engineers working on the Varayoc project.”
The group works in collaboration with the University of Piura, which lends support with doctors and engineers for ongoing system development. “The thing is, ships usually keep acquiring or upgrading different systems over time,” Guevara said. “So when a type of radar is upgraded, we have to modify the command and control systems so that they can connect with the new equipment installed on the ship.”
The Kallpa system for submarines allows radars and sensors to be connected to control the weapons system (the torpedoes). “Its design and development allowed us to supplement the major maintenance and modernization of our submarines,” Rear Adm. Polar said.
Currently, the Kallpa system is installed on the submarine BAP Angamos. The system will also be set up on the other Navy submarines that are being upgraded.
In addition to its agreement with the University of Piura, the Navy gets support from several other Peruvian universities to promote technological development, and relies on students’ knowledge and abilities to keep moving forward. “The idea is to work with students so that they can develop technology for the Navy,” said Jaime Pezo, an engineer at the research center. “Also, keeping up to date on technological innovations allows us to learn from them, and they from us. As such, we achieve a common goal.”
Although the center is already open, it is still in its initial settling phase. Navy engineers and researchers continue to focus on their development projects and also keep an eye out for future opportunities.
“Our intent is to keep our own systems in production,” Rear Adm. Polar concluded. “But down the road, we intend to be able to start exporting and consolidate our industry.”