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Acoustic Research Detachment in Bayview has new chief

Alan R. Griffitts is the director of the Bayview Acoustic Research Detachment.
 (Photo courtesy Bayview Acoustic Research Detachment / The Spokesman-Review)
Alan R. Griffitts is the director of the Bayview Acoustic Research Detachment. (Photo courtesy Bayview Acoustic Research Detachment / The Spokesman-Review)

Looking for the perfect job? Alan Griffitts has found his.

Director of the Bayview Acoustic Research Detachment on Lake Pend Oreille since July 2007, he has worked as an engineer for the last 15 years. He supervises 40 Navy civilians and 32 full-time contractors, plus coordinates with the University of Idaho on various research. The research that made Seawolf, and the newest Submarine class, Virginia, possible, was all done at Bayview.

Griffitts, 43, is married to wife, Sandy, and is the father of Brad, 23, Meagan, 22, Tawni, 20, and Tyler, 17. He also has two grandchildren, Cowen and Atlas. Griffitts grew up in Hayden Lake, graduated from Coeur d’Alene High School and from the University of Idaho with a degree in electrical engineering.

Hired directly out of UI, he went to work for the Navy in 1988. He spent two years at Bangor, the submarine base on Hood Canal in Washington state. From there he was transferred to Washington, D.C., where he worked with IBM in sonar development.

Wanting to get back home, he called the Bayview facility in 1991, where he talked to George Guedel, then the civilian director of the base. They had an opening, and he took it.

“This is a world-class research facility. Deep water, consistent water temperatures and quiet nights make for great sonar work,” Griffitts said.

This base is the only naval presence from what was Farragut Naval Training Base during World War II. The Navy divested most of the properties, but kept the property now used as a research facility. From the outset, at least one Naval officer was nominally in charge of the base. The last of the commissioned officers was Cmdr. Dave Kohnke, who was reassigned to Bangor the summer of 2006.

Civilian director Henry Metzer assumed command at that time and retired in July 2007. Once staffed with about 170 people, there are 40 naval civilians and 32 civilian contractors and it is still the largest and only industry in Bayview.

Some of the cutting-edge research projects now being tested are autonomous underwater vehicles. These are information/locator packages, not weapons platforms, and they search for underwater objects such as items at a depth that submarines cannot reach.

Perhaps most exciting, according to Griffitts, is the Advanced Electric Ship Demonstrator, AESD, Sea Jet. Built low in the water, so stealth, that a half-mile away, when it turns it disappears. It operates with diesel/electric propulsion, much like a World War II fleet sub. It can run on diesel engines, and switch to ultra-quiet battery operation in seconds. A new, larger engine is being installed, which will see the craft out on the lake next summer. This test vehicle is the forerunner of an entirely new stealth class of destroyer still on the Navy’s drawing boards.

Asked to confirm the long standing rumor of a monster fish in Lake Pend Oreille, he replied that “no evidence of ‘Pondy’ exists at this time, although as part of the Columbia River drainage, it’s theoretically possible for sturgeon to be present, but that’s more properly a question for Fish and Game.”