Training with the Big Toys

Bill Sandke is approaching retirement age, but he has no thoughts of quitting just yet. “Why, when I can still play with the big toys?” he says. Big toys like U.S. Navy ships, jets and submarines.

He gets to play with them because he helped perfect a little toy they like to chase. Sandke’s toy is the Mk-39 EMATT—an Expendable Mobile Anti-Submarine Warfare Training Target. That’s military speak for a 25-pound, three and a half-foot long tube that looks like a torpedo but simulates a submarine by emanating pings and tonal sounds.

It’s so realistic that radar operators in real submarines and ships can practice their tracking skills. The target is just as effective as using a real submarine, but far less dangerous and, at $3,000 each, a lot less expensive.

“You throw it in the water, it runs for six hours and then it goes to the bottom and disintegrates,” he says.

Sandke, a 1957 physics graduate, owns Information Processing Inc., an engineering firm in Coronado, Calif., that provides on-site services to the Navy’s offshore tactical training ranges. That means he gets to put his firm’s strategies to the test in the waters around San Diego and Kauai, Hawaii—areas reserved for military training.

For Sandke, whose house resonates with background radio chatter from the test ranges, it’s a way to keep alive his 24 years as a Naval aviator—and play at the same time.

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