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NEWS | April 2, 2020

NSWCPD Utilizes War Games to Connect with the Warfighter

By Keegan Rammel, NSWCPD Public Affairs NSWCPD

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Philadelphia Division (NSWCPD) engineers recently developed and facilitated a Power and Energy (P&E) focused war game that visualized the way that different potential P&E systems could support future Surface Fleet’s warfighting capabilities.

The game was held 3-5 March at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) Dam Neck Activity with support from NSWCDD, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division (NSWCCD), Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Newport Division, Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) and Naval Warfare Development Command (NWDC). The game featured warfighters from Naval Surface and Mine Warfighting Development Center (SMWDC) in Norfolk and San Diego, United States Marine Corps (USMC), and the Navy Reserve community.

Author Andy Callan, a war-gaming expert, defines a war game as “the creation of a moving context within which players are required to make decisions for the purpose of having a worthwhile conversation and gaining insight on tactical, operational or strategic issues.”

“A war game is a model using certain facets of the real world that enables you to gain insights and/or make observations,” said Chris Wildmann, an electrical engineer in NSWCPD’s Electric Power Research & Development (R&D) branch.

NSWCPD engineers John Kuseian, Jon Berardino, and Chris Wildmann completed the Naval War College’s War-Gaming Fundamental Course in January and are leading the Command’s war-gaming efforts. The U.S. Naval War College has used war-gaming to help shape key decisions on the future of the Navy since 1887.

“The beauty of using a war game for this type of analysis is the designer can breakdown the game to focus directly on what we are interested in getting out of the game,” Wildmann said. “Our game is designed to explore how naval power and energy system implementations can affect warfighting capability. We gain insight on how different technologies could be utilized by the Sailors during a conflict.”

These insights help inform the Naval Research and Development Establishment (NR&DE) on how best to provide the appropriate capabilities to the warfighters. NSWCPD is the Navy’s lead on P&E systems throughout the Surface Fleet.

The March Power and Energy war game pitted two teams against each other using a table top format much like a board game. Teams executed missions with their pieces, which represented land bases, air and sea assets, as well as carrier and strike groups. Players made decisions on maneuvers, scouting, attacks, and defensive measures to meet a set of game objectives. Dice were used to determine the outcome of an action based on a probability of success.

“A probabilistic model could be run on a computer but die were used instead because we noticed that the players were more engaged,” Kuseian said.

Carefully designed games can provide valuable insights into the decision-making processes of the warfighter.

“We get input directly from warfighters that allow us to see how and why they make their decisions they make,” Kuseian said. “The game allows you to get that human piece. You could run a simulation, but hearing their conversations about what they are choosing to do and what risks they are willing to take is invaluable.”

“War games do not give quantitative answers, they give qualitative information that needs further analysis,” Wildmann said. “It allows us to see how the choices impacted usage on the ship; it gives us feedback on how the system might be used and how NSWCPD can best support the war fighter.”

After the game is completed, engineers analyze the data acquired from game actions and analysts’ notes in order to better model the connections between technology, decision making, and outcomes. Post-game modeling and simulation is used to explore the possible trade space around specific engagements.

The game included a total of 25 participants consisting of players, facilitators, adjudicators, subject matter experts, and data analysts.

“This really was an inter-Warfare Center effort. We received a lot of support from Dahlgren, Carderock, and NUWC Newport,” Kuseian said. “We were really happy with the participation of reservists through the NSWC reservist coordinator; we look forward to continuing and expanding that relationship.”

War games provide NSWCPD with a new and innovative way to support the current and future Fleet. NSWCPD has been working for several years to develop this capability and specifically with NUWC Newport and NSWC Dahlgren for over a year. NSWCPD is currently planning future games and supporting other Warfare Centers’ war-gaming efforts.

“War-gaming allows us to connect with the Fleet in ways we haven’t before,” Wildmann said.

NSWCPD employs approximately 2,700 civilian engineers, scientists, technicians, and support personnel doing research and development, test and evaluation, acquisition support, and in-service logistics engineering for Navy ships. NSWCPD is also the lead organization providing cybersecurity for all ship systems.