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Dr. Vanessa Gentzen (ST)

Dr. Vanessa Gentzen is the Navy’s Distinguished Engineer for Hypersonic Weapon Systems, a senior professional in the Executive Service. She was appointed in 2023 and serves as the Technical Director and Chief Engineer for the Conventional Prompt Strike (CPS) program at Strategic Systems Programs (SSP) in Washington, DC. She serves as the authoritative expert and senior technical adviser to the Director of SSP on the design, development, manufacturing, and test and evaluation of the Army Long Range Hypersonic Weapon (LRHW) and Navy CPS weapon system. As the CPS Chief Engineer, Dr. Gentzen defines and enforces scientific and engineering disciplines, and establishes processes and standards to ensure the safety, performance, and quality of two of the nation’s highest priority weapon systems.

Dr. Gentzen has 20 years of experience in the research, development, acquisition, and sustainment of conventional hypersonic and nuclear weapon systems. She began her Navy career in 2004 at Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Dahlgren, VA in the Advanced Munitions branch. She served in detail positions at Integrated Warfare Systems (IWS) 3.0 Office of the Technical Director and at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) Code 35, where she helped manage a large portfolio of Navy Science and Technology (S&T) programs, including surface-to-air guided missiles, electromagnetic railgun, hypervelocity projectile, and guidance integrated fuzes. She joined SSP in 2015 where she served as an inertial navigation engineer responsible for the design and development of a modernized SSBN navigation subsystem for the United Kingdom DREADNOUGHT Programme.

She later served as the lead avionics and flight test instrumentation engineer for the TRIDENT (D5) and TRIDENT Life Extension (D5LE) Fleet Ballistic Missile (FBM) Programs. While in this position, she was responsible for the in-tube conversion of twenty-eight D5 & D5LE missiles, which successfully launched in fulfillment of USSTRATCOM requirements. Prior to her current position in CPS, she served as SSP’s head of Research, Development, Test, and Evaluation (RDT&E) and was responsible for establishing research and development priorities and directing investment to support the evolution and maintenance of the Strategic Weapon System and all supporting subsystems both afloat and ashore.

Dr. Gentzen is a native of Sterling, VA. She earned a Bachelor of Science degree in aerospace engineering from Virginia Polytechnic Institute & State University, a Master of Science degree in aerospace engineering from the University of Maryland, and a Doctor of Philosophy in systems engineering from Old Dominion University. She was awarded the 2011 Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers of the Year Award for her significant advancement of the US Navy’s Electromagnetic Railgun and Hypervelocity Projectile programs. She is a member of the Acquisition Professional Community and is Level III certified in Systems Planning, Research, Development & Engineering – Science & Technology Management (SPRDE-S&TM) career field.


Last Updated: 16 April 2024


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