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The Afloat Lab

The Afloat Lab is a test platform for new shipboard technologies. It was built in 1985 and served as one of several Yard Patrol (YP) craft used by the US Naval Academy for seamanship and navigation training until it was found to be in excess in 1999. The Office of Naval Research (ONR) took custody of YP 679 as a scaled down “surface combatant” for dedicated duty as a Science and Technology demonstrator. The Afloat Lab has the same machinery, electronics and navigation systems as the Navy's large fleet ships, making it an ideal test platform. The home port for the Afloat Lab is the Annapolis Naval Station Small Craft Facility in Annapolis, MD.

As owner and sole custodian of the vessel, ONR is able to fully control its use and operation. Anteon Corporation is contracted to operate the Afloat Lab, and Anteon is also responsible for automation, design, system integration, manufacturing, and installation. 

The vessel provides a realistic shipboard environment for an innovative self-healing communications network, called Network Fragment Healing. This autonomous (no human intervention) system reconfigures a digital data network following battle damage or equipment malfunction, and allows critical shipboard systems to keep functioning. Detection of network damage and autonomous “healing” of fragmentation is accomplished by intelligent agents that exist on eight network rings. Healing is typically accomplished in under five seconds.

The Afloat Lab takes its nickname, the "Starfish," from the self-healing technology, which mimics a real starfish. The creatures rely on radial nerves running the length of each arm and connecting to other radial nerves via a nerve that rings the body. In addition to this namesake technology, the Afloat Lab features other working demonstrations and exhibits to give visitors a sample of the latest Naval science and technology.

In addition to its test and evaluation mission, the Afloat Lab has introduced thousands of visitors to Navy and Marine Corps Science and Technology during recent visits to Washington, New York, Norfolk, Newport, Groton, Boston, Baltimore and other east coast locations.


  • Overall Length – 108 ft           
  • Cruising Range – 1,800 nautical miles
  • Beam – 22 ft, 9 in                               
  • Maximum Speed – 13 knots
  • Draft – 8 ft                                           
  • Construction – Wood/Aluminum
  • Displacement – 172 tons                     
  • Propulsion – Twin shaft, fixed pitch propellers
  • Fuel Capacity – 6,550 gallons  Builder – Peterson Brothers


  • Twin 12v71N 437 Shaft Horsepower Propulsion Engines        
  • Twin Detroit 3-71 50 KW Diesel Generators
  • Electrical Distribution System
  • Auxiliary Sytems:
    Seawater, Potable, Stern Tube
    Fuel Service, Storage, Transfer
  • Firefighting Systems: Firemain, AFFF, Halon, Extinguishers
  • Mechanical & Electric Backup Bilge Pumps
  • Navigation (GPS, Radar, Chartplotter, Autopilot)