CRANE, Ind. – Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) hosted Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic and Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory (MCWL) to collaborate on warfighter problems in a one-week, rapid prototyping event. Engineers and technicians from both NSWC Crane and NIWC Atlantic worked alongside MCWL Fellows to solve their operational challenges at the Warfighter Driven Challenge (WDC) at Crane’s Rapid Innovation Prototype Laboratory (RIPL).
“During this Warfighter Driven Challenge, we were able to leverage the expertise of both NSWC Crane and NIWC Atlantic subject matter experts to create solutions to real-world problems the warfighter experiences,” says Andy Brough, the NSWC Crane Expeditionary Warfare Lead across Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA). “Our combined knowledge allows us to provide tailored prototypes and techniques the warfighter can then take back to their commands.”
WDC is a process where warfighters bring problems they are experiencing to Crane to find a collaborative solution. During the weeklong events, several warfighters travel to Crane to work with a diverse, multi-disciplined team to thoroughly understand the problem and brainstorm solutions. NSWC Crane has conducted seven WDCs. This is the first time Crane has collaborated with NIWC Atlantic subject matter experts (SMEs) on a WDC.
“NIWC Atlantic and NSWC Crane collaborate on numerous programs of record (POR), but co-developing solutions for the warfighter was a novel experience,” said Robert Regal, Expeditionary Warfare Department chief scientist at NIWC Atlantic. “Each organization brings different strengths to the table, and we found it very valuable to share in the process of rapid prototyping with NSWC Crane. This opportunity demonstrated the power of direct Marine and engineer collaboration.”
As technology advances rapidly, so do the threats the warfighter encounters. The standard process to getting solutions directly in service men and women’s hands can take months; by that time, those solutions may no longer be relevant. Additionally, Brough explains that the standard process for providing solutions does not always include the warfighter in prototyping.
“By including the warfighter in the process from the beginning, WDC is a way to deliver much more rapid and tailored solutions,” says Brough. “MCWL brought Marines to Crane to work alongside the engineers and technicians. SMEs learn more about the operational environment and use of the technology and the warfighters understand our technical capability. By putting everyone in a room, they are able to work together to move beyond the theoretical to making a real, tangible product and refining requirements.”
WDC is a streamlined approach that reduces cost, technical obsolescence, and acquisition risk to the creation of technology. Over the course of the week, NSWC Crane and NIWC Atlantic experts collaborated with the warfighters to work through several stages: needs identification, ideation, concept development, and prototyping. Using the RIPL and other resources, the teams were able to 3D print hardware, design and print a circuit board, develop and implement a simple software solution, and manufacture other needed pieces to complete the prototyped system.
"Working hand-to-hand with NSWC Crane and NIWC Atlantic to come up with solutions for real world problems from the Marine side was an amazing first experience,” says Sgt. John M. Tully, NCO Fellowship Program, Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. “Being able to tailor solutions to how we can employ it effectively is a great first step."
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.