California naval school prepares for the next generation of warfare

In the 1920s and 1930s, film stars Charlie Chaplin and Jean Harlow threw lavish parties and skinny-dipped in the Roman plunge of the Hotel Del Monte near the Pacific’s sandy shores.

The hotel swimming pool has since been filled with sand, and Marine sentries guard the gates of what is now the Naval Postgraduate School—an institution that since Sept. 11, 2001, has expanded rapidly as a think tank, laboratory and testing ground in the war against global terrorism.

“Ten years ago, people thought of us as the school that gives master’s degrees to naval officers. We’re so much more than that,” said Provost Leonard Ferrari. “Even our own Navy doesn’t understand all the things that we do.”

The school has become a major research facility with laboratories embedding artificial intelligence in aerial drones, building electromagnetic rail-guns that allow warships to fire projectiles farther and faster than any ship in today’s fleet, testing robots that dock in space to help refuel satellites, and developing space-based lasers that are reminiscent of “Star Wars” gunships.

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