NEWTON — The Office of Naval Research is singing the praises of technology developed by a New Hampshire firm to protect ships and other maritime assets in port from attack by terrorists, pirates or any hostile vessels.
The Navy's research division, in a Jan. 15 news release, called the Halo Barrier, developed by Halo Maritime Defense Systems of Newton, "a leap ahead that address a critical fleet need to balance security and cost."
The Navy is calling for further testing in March and April leading to a multimillion-dollar contract in 2015.
The immediate impact of the contract would be to double the workforce at Halo from 13 to 26, with additional work for many of the component manufacturers in the area that serve as Halo subcontractors.
Company CEO Paul C. Jensen said the contract, when added to a deal already struck with Israel, should lead to rapid expansion at the company that only recently moved from Andover, Mass., to a two-story building off Route 108.
The company has been in operation since 2008, and conducted a lot of its research and development at the Judd Gregg Marine Research Complex on New Castle island, operated by the UNH Marine Program.
The company's flexible barrier can stop a 3-ton speedboat going 54 miles per hour in four-tenths of a second with the barrier remaining intact.
"This is a combination of great ideas, emergent technology and meeting a critical need," said Craig Hughes, deputy director of research at ONR. "The effort to create an advanced port security barrier has been positively heroic, from folks well aware of the dangers posed by small attack craft in ports."
The made-in-New Hampshire Halo Barrier is not only a superior solution when compared to the existing barriers, it will save millions in Navy expenditures, Hughes said.
"The cost avoidance from using the Halo Barrier comes from reduced man-hours needed and lower maintenance costs," he said. "It can be operated by only one or two people, versus the current systems that require large teams, long hours and armed protection to open and close barriers for incoming vessels."
Jensen said the Navy will likely seek bids for a multi-year contract to replace all of its barriers over time.
"I would think we will be in the best position," he said. "Someone could come out of the blue and have something better, but it's hard to foresee that, given all the work that's been put into this by Halo, the Office of Navy Research and all of the partners in the project."
The Navy's interest in the technology also bodes well for other sales, Jensen said.
"The world looks to the U.S. Navy for new technology," he said. "So for us, it really becomes a validation of our invention."