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CHARLESTON, S.C. — The largest experimental exercise in years at Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic wrapped up on March 25 at a remote range on base where engineers tested prototypes and explored ways of better integrating some of the Marine Corps’ most sophisticated technologies.
Spearheaded by the Expeditionary Intelligence Solutions (EIS) Division of the command’s Expeditionary Warfare (ExW) Department, the weeklong System of Systems Naval Integration Experiment (SoSNIE) brought together Marines, stakeholders and more than 100 NIWC Atlantic engineers and scientists to collaborate on dozens of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems.
“Marines on the ground need integrated systems — from command and control to intelligence to fires — so that the right information is delivered at the right place, at the right time and to the right person,” said Carel Peacock, EIS Division chief engineer and SoSNIE lead. “This experiment helped enhance integration by providing our people with the bandwidth to better understand system limitations and where improvements to system automation and collaboration exist.”
The ExW Department organized the large cross-service event to advance its mission of delivering lethal, better-connected C4ISR capabilities to the Navy, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command.
Exercises like SoSNIE enable the closing of kill chains and give warfighters effective, integrated equipment, according to ExW Department Head Ashlee Landreth. “The goal is connecting any sensor to any shooter,” she said. “We need operationally relevant experiments like these to ensure we are achieving that goal.”
Ahead of the experiment, EIS Division Head Toby Straight explained how SoSNIE mission threads were developed to closely align to U.S. national defense and joint maritime strategies, including Expeditionary Advanced Base Operations (EABO).
“In an EABO scenario, naval expeditionary forces will be conducting low-signature operations in either a contested or potentially contested maritime environment,” Straight said. “Inject austere conditions in that future fight and you can understand why we want to spend so much time now ensuring these systems are not only talking to one another but also spinning at optimal levels.”
SoSNIE used the installation’s Small Autonomous Unmanned Systems Research (SAUSR) Range to offer a flexible, low-risk environment where teams could analyze every data exchange and evaluate the proficiency of all end-to-end fires and communications.
Marines from 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), II Marine Expeditionary Force, travelled from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to support the integration event.
Some Marines piloted unmanned aircraft systems to provide participants on the ground with real-time aerial views from drones swarming high above the SAUSR Range. Data also streamed to analysts sitting at terminals inside tents via capabilities related to biometrics, tactical ground sensors, signature management, state-of-the-art optics, augmented-reality sustainment and networking-on-the-move.
The majority of the systems belonged to already established Marine Corps programs of record.
New and experimental technologies, however, inspired participants to think of the art of the possible, exploring innovative ideas for integrating newer capabilities with older ones, according to Peter C. Reddy, NIWC Atlantic executive director.
“The old way of doing things is taking my one piece of information and pushing it out to one specific hierarchy or network,” Reddy said. “The new way is how it is happening here. These teams are looking at their one piece of information and wondering where else it can be shared. That is how we innovate and think differently and how we open up whole other realms of mission possibilities.”
NIWC Atlantic is the lead C4ISR systems integrator for U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC), the organization responsible for overseeing every technology and system placed into the hands of Marines.
John Maurer, deputy portfolio manager for MCSC’s Command Element Systems (CES), toured the area on March 24 and received briefings from project leads.
Following the event, Maurer said he was pleased to see NIWC Atlantic tangibly pursuing the goal of an “integrated viewpoint,” which he described as a strong CES core value.
“An integrated viewpoint reduces duplicative work while ensuring interoperability, lifecycle sustainment and data flow across all programs,” he explained. “Achieving this goal takes all of us … and the experimentation done at SoSNIE was a critical element toward meeting this goal.”
Closing out the week, Reddy looked at every moving part of the experiment and expressed gratitude for the participants as well as the ones who planned, developed and oversaw the unique simulation.
“This is the value of a warfare center,” he said. “There is tremendous potential in the ‘collision’ that occurs in an operational setting when you combine mission competency and these multiple disciplines of technology. I am very proud of the work these teams accomplished here this week.”
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.
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