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DON Innovation in Action - Adaptive Force Packages
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Innovation in Action - Adaptive Force Packages

 

By Nicholas Malay, NSWC Carderock Division Public Affairs
Published: 4 Jun 2015

 

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The Stiletto Maritime Demonstration Program conducted a Capability Demonstration April 13-24, in support of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) to assess new concepts for command and control and multi-sensor fusion technologies for small vessels. The demonstration was executed through a partnership with the CNO’s Rapid Innovation Cell (CRIC) off the Virginia coast near Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story, in Virginia Beach, Virginia.

During the two-week demonstration, system developers from private industry assembled their components into rapidly reconfigurable mission packages to perform maritime command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) missions aboard the Stiletto in a realistic maritime environment. The Stiletto program is a maritime demonstration platform that serves as a prototype demonstration tool for industry, government laboratories and academic institutions.

The Stiletto Maritime Demonstration Program is sponsored by the Rapid Reaction Technology Office in the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Emerging Capability & Prototyping to rapidly evaluate and mature emerging technologies in a realistic maritime environment. Engineers and technicians with specialized expertise in maritime technology from Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division's (NSWCCD) Norfolk detachment maintain the craft and operate the program.

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Stiletto personnel partnered with the CRIC and coordinated with Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) to create the Adaptive Force Package Littoral Operations Center (AFP LOC), a configuration of maritime rapidly reconfigurable C4ISR mission packages to perform joint and coalition maritime operations.

AFP LOC provides command and control and multi-source sensor fusion for small vessels and auxiliary maritime platforms that typically do not have these organic capabilities on board. Adaptive force packages are essentially the personnel and their associated analytical equipment, which can be tailored to meet the specific needs of a given mission.

AFP LOC has three primary components: infrastructure (e.g., antenna cabling, patch panels and power); backbone (e.g., computer systems, navigation, radar and weapon systems); and sensor packages – which are mission specific and may be hardware or software based. All systems are modular and able to be carried on and set up on the AFP LOC infrastructure in less than 24 hours.

However, vessels typically do not have AFP LOC organic capabilities on board. According to Rob Tutton, NSWCCD engineer and manager of the Stiletto Maritime Demonstration Program, “The electrical and security infrastructure must be built into the vessel in advance, which requires time and funding, but once the infrastructure is installed and approved, then the AFP LOC allows for easy installation and removal with minimal impact to the vessel’s normal operations,” said Tutton. “I believe this is the true genius behind the AFP LOC that will provide savings and increased capability for the Navy that aligns with the CNO’s ‘Payloads Over Platforms’ concept.”

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The CRIC’s AFP LOC Capability Demonstration coincides with the Secretary of the Navy’s establishment of Task Force Innovation (TFI) priorities to ensure emerging operational capabilities, such as adaptive force packages, have a clear and expedient path to the fleet. The task force includes subject matter experts who have been charged with developing a comprehensive innovation agenda for the Navy and Marine Corps.

The objectives were to demonstrate the ability to set up a rapidly reconfigurable operations center on a large surface craft capable of relaying information from other surface and air platforms and demonstrate the ability to communicate and transfer data with a land-based tactical operations center via line of sight radio and satellite networks.

“The C4ISR systems the Navy currently fields onboard ships are expensive, slow to upgrade and install, and nearly impossible to reconfigure for a change in mission,” CRIC Project Lead Lt. Jason Knudson said. “As a result, we only field full C4ISR systems on our carriers, destroyers, amphibious ships and cruisers. We asked the question, ‘How might we make C4ISR mission packages rapidly reconfigurable?’ We are determined to break out of the old model and take advantage of new technologies and platforms of opportunity.”

The program also provided the 25 participating industry partners an opportunity to receive immediate end-user feedback toward increasing technology readiness levels and access to direct operator input.

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The Capability Demonstration was unique in that each vendor signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Carderock Division specifically developed for the Stiletto Maritime Demonstration Program. The Capability Demonstration's requirements led Dr. Joseph Teter, NSWCCD director of technology transfer and Deputy Director Alyssa Littlestone, to develop and execute a new type of limited-purpose CRADA allowing private industry to bring their technology and expertise onto the at-sea demonstration platform. Each agreement facilitates the exchange of the data collected between the Navy and the company. Since this is not a traditional acquisition process, these official agreements were necessary to allow the government and private companies to work together on research and design.

“The vendors were encouraged to work with other vendors to rapidly integrate their individual technologies into a system of systems to overcome capability gaps,” said Tutton.

“At this time, we are forced to take our assets with capability and push them to where we need access. Often, this involves taking a multi-billion dollar investment off station when other platforms are available, but may not have the capability,” Knudson said. “We are saying push out the capability, not the platform. Make it man-portable. Make your platforms plug-and-play ready. By doing this, we can make the CNO’s concept of ‘Payloads Over Platforms’ a reality.”

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With Navy Expeditionary Combatant Command and Navy Expeditionary Intelligence Command’s expertise in expeditionary operations, Knudson said he hopes to see NECC and NEIC, among others, operating AFP LOC missions in theater by the end of the year.

Two scenarios were conducted daily to demonstrate how the AFP LOC will help optimize command and control capabilities: a high-value target interdiction scenario and a humanitarian assistance disaster relief scenario. To test rapid reconfigurability, the AFP LOC shifted between these drastically different mission sets within an hour.

In addition to the Stiletto vessel, there was an 11-meter rigid-hulled inflatable boat and other Carderock-owned assets, such as jet skis, that were used as needed depending on the requirements of the demonstration.

“For this demonstration, the CRIC was assessing adaptive force packages while our smaller craft simulated small boat threats, CRIC and Stiletto personnel along with systems developers tracked items of interest from the Stiletto’s Command Information Center,” Tutton said.

The next Stiletto Maritime Demonstration will be in fall 2015.

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