Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation

Short Name: NATO CMRE
Country: Belgium


NATO Science and Technology Organisation – Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (CMRE) is a world-renowned NATO scientific research and experimentation facility located in La Spezia, Italy.
CMRE was established by the North Atlantic Council on 1 July 2012 as part of the NATO Science & Technology Organisation. The CMRE and its predecessors have served NATO for over 50 years as the SACLANT Anti- Submarine Warfare Centre, SACLANT Undersea Research Centre, NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC) and now as part of NATO’s Science & Technology Organisation. CMRE conducts cutting-edge maritime scientific research and experimentation, ranging from concept development to prototype demonstration at sea. Over the preceding decades, CMRE has produced global leaders in acoustics, oceanography and other disciplines in addition to pioneering key technologies and approaches that are now employed worldwide. The Centre’s output has also been applied to build a number of operational concepts and capabilities for NATO and the nations. CMRE has an experienced Engineering Department (ED), providing the capability to rapidly develop concepts into prototypes that can be demonstrated at sea, in trials and military experiments. The ED has a range of leading- edge maritime test facilities, coupled with talented engineers with decades of experience working in offshore environments. A particular strength lies in measuring and assessing, to stringent standards, underwater noise. CMRE operates two research vessels, the Global- Class (and ice strengthened) NATO Research Vessel ALLIANCE and the Coastal Research Vessel LEONARDO, each with extensive laboratory facilities and fitted with a wide range of advanced sensing and equipment handling systems capable of precise maneuvering for scientific research tasks. ALLIANCE is the world’s quietest and most capable underwater acoustic research vessel. In addition to its laboratories, the Centre is equipped with a diverse fleet of Autonomous underwater and surface Vehicles (AxV) and a world-class inventory of seagoing sensors. Recent projects that CMRE team has been involved in include FP7 SECTRONIC, FP7 NAVTRONIC, FP7 GALA, FP7 MORPH, FP7-SECURITY ICARUS, FP7-INFRASTRUCTURE GROOM, FP7-TRANSPORT ARGOMARINE, FP7 PERSEUS, FP7 SUNRISE, FP7 NEREIDS, FP7 EURATHLON, H2020 DataCRON, RANGER, RockEU2, STRONGMAR, MARISA, ROBORDER, CAMELOT, SciROC and EUMarineRobots projects.

Research Services

At CMRE, fundamental knowledge is created through multidisciplinary theoretical, numerical and experimental research in the fields of acoustic signal processing, physical and dynamic oceanography, control theory, data mining, fusion and algorithm development. Moving beyond information, CMRE develops in-depth knowledge through the recognition of patterns in experience. Some of the most advanced maritime S&T solutions currently being developed include autonomous surveillance and reconnaissance, and robotic, intelligent preparation of the battle space. CMRE’s technologies, once they have reached sufficient maturity, may be adopted by Nations and integrated into their own capability packages. Additionally, validated datasets gathered from CMRE instruments are a major product of its ships, robots, gliders, moorings and other sensor systems, used by NATO scientists in many nations to augment (or replace) their own seagoing efforts. As an inherently multi-national not-for-profit ‘honest broker’ the CMRE can make this body of knowledge available to NATO and partnering nations as part of a package, providing impartial advisory support in maritime defence and security matters.

Engineering Services

CMRE has an experienced Ocean Engineering capability in the Engineering Department (ED) that enables the rapid development of concepts into prototypes for scientific trials and military experiments. With two decades of AxV experience, including Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV), Gliders (underwater and surface) and Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV), the Centre has developed and successfully sea tested a large number of maritime prototypes in the fields of anti-submarine warfare, mine countermeasures, maritime and harbor security and environmental monitoring. Most of the engineering expertise is in the underwater domain although above water related research and engineering is also conducted. The ED has considerable experience in working with external customers (including industry) and has recently delivered prototype designs and sea testing capabilities for a variety of underwater sonar arrays and unmanned systems. Also, in recent years, CMRE’s ED has developed and maintained unique test and calibration facilities that have enabled the acquisition of curated calibrated data during experimentation at sea. CMRE’s ED expertise covers mechanical, electrical, software and ocean engineering in the fields of maritime equipment and unmanned systems.

Ship Services

The CMRE operates two research vessels on behalf of NATO. The ships are used to support the scientific programme of work but some spare capacity is available for charter by eligible organisations.

CMRE disposes NATO Research Vessel (NRV) Alliance an open-ocean research vessel, designed especially for underwater acoustic research. NRV Alliance is equipped with extensive and sophisticated navigation, communications and computer equipment, winches, cranes, loading frames and other deck machinery for the deployment of sensors arrays and oceanographic instrumentation in all sea conditions.
Fitted with a high-precision underwater tracking system and position-keeping capability, ALLIANCE provides a versatile and highly capable seagoing platform for scientists and engineers. With support from its experienced engineering staff, the Centre offers access to the sea on ALLIANCE for:

  • –  Systems testing and evaluation, verification and validation

  • –  Prototype testing and scientific research experimentation

  • –  Systems integration and compatibility Testing Military exercise support, including hosting as command vessel

  • –  Access to operational areas for performance evaluation and testing.

To provide a modern, acoustically quiet platform for scientists and engineers from all NATO nations to conduct research and test new technologies at sea in the Mediterranean, the Atlantic and elsewhere throughout the year.

Alliance Overview: The quietest ship in its class, the NATO Research Vessel (NRV) ALLIANCE was designed to minimize noise radiating from the ship into the water, making it an excellent platform for sonar, acoustic devices testing and other types of research where a quiet undersea environment is essential. With a length of 93 metres and a 3,180-ton displacement, the global research vessel offers 400 square metres of laboratory space, modern scientific ship fitted instrumentation and large winches and cranes. It should be noted that the ship is fitted with 2 x VHF IMM band, part of GMDSS, suitable only for voice and DSC communications. Furthermore, ship has fitted 2 x UHF ELMER SRT 619, actually suitable only for voice in clear. The ship has been constantly updated and in recent years has been employed for the full spectrum of underwater research ranging from inshore AUV work, to oceanographic surveys, to deep ocean multi array anti-submarine projects in support of NATO’s military research requirements.

Due to the unique and specialized capabilities and characteristics of NRV ALLIANCE, the Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation in La Spezia, Italy is one of the premiere maritime research and technology centres in the world. With year-round access to the ocean onboard the ship, scientists, engineers and researchers have frequent opportunities for at-sea experimentation and field testing, enabling cooperation and collaboration among top research and development personnel from NATO’s 29-member nations. With up to 25 scientific berths available in comfortable single and double berth cabins the vessel provides all of the support requirements necessary to conduct round the clock scientific operations in all weather conditions.

The ALLIANCE is owned by NATO and has participated in joint NATO naval exercises, such as the Proud Manta, Trident Juncture and Dynamic Mongoose series in both mine countermeasure and antisubmarine warfare domains. Under a collaborative agreement, ALLIANCE is flagged and manned by the Italian Navy.

Exploitation Services: CMRE offers a combination of being inherently multi-national (spanning a wide range of cultures and ways of thinking) while also being not-for profit, decoupling it from all individual national or commercial interests that allows the Centre to act as an impartial and unbiased authority. The Centre is therefore uniquely placed within NATO to offer a range of informed ‘honest-broker’ services to facilitate collaboration and exploitation of the Research and Engineering output of the Centre and participating nations.

Multinational Initiatives: The Centre has invested considerable effort into designing a value proposition attractive to the nations. This has taken the form of three proposed multinational projects:

  • Interoperability Architecture and Standards to ensure the interoperability of maritime systems and forces

  • Maritime Situational Awareness (MSA): Information sharing and Maritime ‘Big Data’ analytics toimprove and enhance MSA

  • A Maritime Autonomy Test Range Offering a common verification and validation capability across the Alliance and providing subject-matter-expertise in the different phases of the development of new capabilities.

Exercise support, Verification & Validation Services: Through a strategic partnership with MARCOM, CMRE is well placed to offer exercise support, verification and validation services. These extend to exercise design and data collection during exercises and post exercise evaluation.

Training Services: As the sole NATO maritime research centre, CMRE is uniquely positioned to play a crucial role in preparing people for new maritime system capabilities both through awareness training and by offering specific courses. CMRE is able to test experimental capabilities in an operational context, identifying interoperability shortfalls to improve them, contributing to the effectiveness of the Alliance. The Centre can provide complex and challenging warfare training to enhance interoperability and proficiency in a range of defence and security skills.

Modelling and Simulation: Modelling and Simulation (M&S) is a powerful scientific tool of CMRE that offers the capability to conduct a-priori scientific, quantitative experimentation as well as operational exercises on models that reproduce real world behaviours. This allows realistic experimental investigation of future challenges, new solutions and systems. CMRE provides reliable and cost-effective support through M&S in a benign environment that covers the life cycle of a system or capability. This includes engineering and virtual prototyping, human machine interfaces, procurement processes, support to Operations, capability development (Defence Planning, Concept Development and Experimentation), augmented reality applications (e.g. for remote maintenance), mission rehearsal and education and training.


NATO STO CMRE are involved in WP2 Transnational Access as well as WP1 and WP5.
Access to Research Vessels and related infrastructure: RV Alliance [Global/Regional].
In Eurofleets+, CMRE role is centered on the participation of NRV Alliance, to carry out ship-based research activities within any field of marine science.
NRV Alliance has a key role in this project due to its available throughout the Med and Atlantic and ability to host ROV and Large AUV’s.

Modality of access: Successful proposals will be integrated into the vessels’ annual planning process. The first step in the process is for users to initiate contact with the Ship Management Office at CMRE to discuss the requirement and the timeline by which the activity requires execution. A proposal by CMRE staff can then be developed and further discussed with the users for assessment and decision making. Planning for charter operations normally takes place in the year prior to implementation of the cruise.

Relevant Publications

  • Onken, Reiner. “Validation of an ocean shelf model for the prediction of mixed-layer properties in the Mediterranean Sea west of Sardinia.” Ocean Science 13.2 (2017): 235.
  • Borrione, Ines, Silvia Falchetti, and Alberto Alvarez. “Physical and dynamical characteristics of a 300m- deep anticyclonic eddy in the Ligurian Sea (Northwest Mediterranean Sea): Evidence from a multi- platform sampling strategy.” Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers 116 (2016): 145-164.

  • LePage, Kevin D., et al. “Autonomous networked anti-submarine warfare research and development at CMRE.” OCEANS 2015-Genova. IEEE, 2015.

  • Crocker, S. E., Nielsen, P. L., Miller, J. H., & Siderius, M. (2014). Geoacoustic inversion of ship radiated noise in shallow water using data from a single hydrophone. The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America, 136(5), EL362-EL368.


Science and Technology Organisation - Centre for Maritime Research and Experimentation (STO CMRE), Viale San Bartolomeo, La Spezia, SP, Italy
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