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NIWC Atlantic Advances New Technologies during Joint Civilian-military Exercise

19 April 2021

From Paul Steven Ghiringhelli

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. – Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic wrapped up a joint civilian-military exercise on April 14 at Camp Lejeune, N.C., where over 60 emerging technologies were evaluated by the Navy and Marine Corps for future warfighter application.

NIWC Atlantic partnered with Naval Surface Warfare Center Crane Division, Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC) and Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) to spearhead the planning and execution of the 10-day Naval Integration in Contested Environments (NICE) Advanced Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX), one of the Navy’s largest participations in an ANTX to date.

“It was awesome to see the great collaboration occurring between our Marines and Sailors, large and small businesses, and our government warfare centers as they experimented together with new technologies and operating concepts to serve the warfighter in contested environments,” said the Honorable James Geurts, currently performing the duties of Under Secretary of the Navy. “Enabling our operators to provide candid and immediate feedback on these technologies ensures we leverage their valuable perspective and experiences as we together shape the equipment needed to compete and win in future contested environments.”

ANTXs demonstrate emerging technologies in operationally relevant settings. With the focus of NICE ANTX on naval integration, technology owners knew their products would be judged through the lens of naval warfare concepts like expeditionary advanced base operations (EABO) and distributed maritime operations (DMO).

Each prototype technology was grouped into one of six capability areas: command and control, communications, domain maneuver, fires and effects, fleet support, and operations in an information environment.

Naval leaders selected roughly 65 technologies, the majority of them from private industry. Assessors gauged each capability while observers envisioned relevant EABO/DMO scenarios in which each product could be used.

Technologies focused on radio frequency waveforms, autonomous air and sea vehicles, advanced sensors, optical communications, cybersecurity applications, and a variety of software capabilities.

“The assessments helped us understand exactly how those technologies could work in an operational environment,” said Matt Largent, a NIWC Atlantic engineer and NICE ANTX assessment lead. “That information is also extremely useful to the technology owners, since some products can be improved upon to help us with capability gaps we are looking to fill.”

NIWC Atlantic brought along eight of its own technologies to demonstrate at NICE ANTX, including an airborne surrogate satellite capability designed to provide warfighters fallback communications.

ANTX exercises are one of several aggressive steps the Navy and Marine Corps are taking to establish cultures of experimentation, adaptation and risk-taking that will help increase speed and agility in technology development and procurement, according to Greg Hays, NIWC Atlantic’s senior scientific technology manager for Rapid Prototyping and Fleet Exercises.

“We take pride in addressing these issues and in understanding the future impact that science and technology will have on warfare,” said Hays, also a participant in the exercise. “Integrating new technologies into the fleet faster than our adversaries will be a key to achieving tech overmatch and winning the information war. We get there by offering these very low-barrier-of-entry opportunities that come with accelerated contractual options, including the Commercial Solutions Opening.”

The nation’s most recent National Defense Strategy calls for “no complacency” in an increasingly complex global security environment that is marked by rapid technological change and challenges from adversaries in every operating domain. The document also states that new commercial technologies are changing society, which, ultimately, will change the character of war.

“It will take the entire team working together to maintain our competitive edge,” Geurts emphasized.

On April 9, Geurts toured the technology areas aboard Camp Lejeune, along with Lt. Gen. Eric Smith, U.S. Marine Corps deputy commandant for Combat Development and Integration, and Vice Adm. James Kilby, deputy Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) for Warfighting Requirements and Capabilities (OPNAV N9).

For the exercise, members of 2nd Marine Expeditionary Force (II MEF) based at Camp Lejeune hosted the ANTX footprint and supported onsite logistics. Marines from II MEF, MCWL and other organizations comprised the contingent of 160 technology assessors, along with a record two dozen Sailors and roughly 60 DOD civilians.

Uniformed assessors had backgrounds ranging from infantry and artillery to communications and navigation. An enlisted Marine from MCWL who participated in the exercise said ANTX is a win-win scenario for both the military and the private sector.

“It brings these technologies in front of us to not only see the realm of what’s possible,” said Staff Sgt. Joshua Crabb, “but also to offer our operational and technical expertise, to help make the products better, which serves both our needs as well as the company’s.”

Brig. Gen. Benjamin Watson, MCWL commanding general and NICE ANTX officer in charge, called the exercise a great opportunity to solve hard tactical and operational problems.

“A unique thing about ANTX is the warfighter integration,” Watson said during a visit to Camp Lejeune on April 14. “Rather than it just being a technology fair for innovators to show off their wares, ANTX enables our industry partners to insert their technologies into specific mission threads. It demonstrates not just capability, but relevance of that technology.”

Dana Rushing, NIWC Atlantic execution lead for NICE ANTX, said the complex exercise with many moving parts and multiple major stakeholders and industries saw as many as 800 participants cycle through.

“From inception to endpoint, this year’s ANTX was a major success,” Rushing said. “It was particularly rewarding to see NIWC Atlantic engineers and private tech companies collaborating throughout the process. That, coupled with direct feedback from the Navy and Marine Corps, makes events like this invaluable to the future of the warfighter.”

NICE ANTX took place in open fields and followed strict protocols to minimize COVID-19 exposure. Capt. Wesley Sanders, NIWC Atlantic commanding officer, said it felt good to get outdoors and see the fruits of his team’s labors.

“NICE ANTX was a huge lift, with many months of preparation, and monumental implications for the warfighter,” Sanders said. “I am just so proud of everyone on the team who helped make this year’s exercise a success.”

NIWC Atlantic Executive Director Peter C. Reddy echoed the commander’s remarks.

“I’m not just so proud of the NIWC Atlantic team,” Reddy said, “but excited for our engineers and scientists who are receiving this infusion of real-time feedback from uniformed Marines and Sailors. Incorporating the warfighter’s thoughts and perspectives on these technologies when they are back in the lab will make our work that much more purposeful and meaningful. It also means these capabilities could one day end up in the hands of our warfighters.”

About NWDC
NWDC works for the generation and development of innovations in concepts and doctrine for enhanced operational-level maritime capability and integration in joint and coalition activities.

About MCWL
MCWL generates and examines threat-informed, operating concepts and capabilities, and provides analytically supported recommendations to inform subsequent force design and development activities.

About NIWC Atlantic
As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information technology capabilities.

About NSWC Crane
NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.


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