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NSWC Crane spearheads nearly a decade of Electronic Warfare Live Virtual Constructive testing for Navy

By Sarah K. Miller, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications | Aug. 13, 2020

CRANE, Ind. – Weapon systems form the basis of most military platforms – and these platforms and equipment work together and communicate in a variety of ways. When the Navy wants to understand the way weapon systems on aircraft, submarines, and surface ships work together, they conduct a variety of rigorous testing to assure effectiveness and mission success.

Dr. Jay Marble, Chief Engineer for Live Virtual Constructive (LVC) at NSWC Crane, leads Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division’s (NSWC Crane) LVC initiatives, which is a form of modeling and simulation (M&S) testing for military systems.

“LVC saves tremendous amounts of time, manpower, and money, and allows for large numbers of scenarios to be tested,” says Dr. Marble. “A live integration test where the Department of Defense (DOD) wants to know if all the systems are interoperable with each other, even on a small-scale, can cost millions of dollars. LVC allows us to test what we are currently developing in an actual operating environment and test live assets without having to have a lot of the live equipment. The cost reduction is tremendous.”

Live testing means the systems are on the range and have real people using the equipment. Virtual testing means real people are testing equipment in a lab environment using simulators instead of using equipment in the field. Constructive testing means the people and the equipment are completely simulated.

Stacey Mervyn is the Chief Strategist for Electronic Warfare (EW) at NSWC Crane. Mervyn says Crane’s EW expertise in 2011 allowed Crane the unique opportunity to integrate EW testing into an LVC environment. Crane leveraged the opportunity and made strategic investments in development of a networked LVC capability to enable the integration and testing of EW systems and advanced operational concepts.

“We are recognized leaders in EW,” says Mervyn. “We are focusing on integrating DOD laboratories via DOD networks. The Navy has invested millions of dollars to establish system integration labs at various DOD activities and we are leveraging the Navy’s investment to create a distributed network of testing and evaluation (T&E) capability. This allows us to collaborate with other subject matter experts (SME) across the country and work together to solve complex problems.  We created an advanced integrated concept of operations to optimize EW, figured out a path, and connected with various labs across the country to evaluate the scenario using DOD networks and validated the concept before going to a live at sea test event.”

Dr. Marble says LVC works through the secure defense research and engineering network.

“It’s a self-contained, synthetic environment,” says Dr. Marble, “Much like a video game, the networked sites interact with each other.  Tactical systems are carefully integrated.  Because the environment runs slower than the systems, interpolation/extrapolation is sometimes required. Humans, on the other hand, don’t perceive the delays experienced by the distributed network.”

Sasha Radojkovic, an Engineer at NSWC Crane, says LVC is also a great way to do more testing in the electromagnetic spectrum and allows a great deal of agility to meet emergent mission areas. The Navy has identified Electromagnetic Spectrum (EMS) as a strategic focus area and development of an EMS superiority strategy is key to engagement in future battlespaces.

“Particularly in the areas of Spectrum/Electronic Warfare, many systems have significant hurdles when performing traditional live open air testing. LVC enables the integration and testing of systems that could not be easily supported by live testing on its own,” says Radojkovic.

Mervyn says the LVC network crosses all warfare centers.

“Many of the Navy labs are doing this,” says Mervyn. “We all have our areas of expertise; through safely networking these systems for this type of testing, we benefit from not being constrained by geographic locations. We are able to rapidly prototype, vet concepts of operation on any warfare system, and evaluate outcomes before you go to a live exercise at sea. The benefit of conducting LVC testing before the at sea test event is that it buys down the integration and interoperability risks.”

Mervyn says ‘Live’ Fleet Exercises can be expensive and require longer lead times and a significant amount of planning effort to achieve the large scale testing objectives.

“You don’t want to find out during the live exercise that your concept isn’t going to work,” says Mervyn. “LVC enables us to virtually run through and integrate systems in simulated operational environments. LVC is complementary to the larger test events due to the agility to perform more test iterations at a faster turnaround time before going to a live at sea test event. NSWC Crane has successfully utilized LVC testing in conjunction with large-scale Fleet exercises to buy-down test execution risk and test system elements, such as EW systems, in a controlled environment to complement live testing results.” 

Dr. Marble says over the years, many efforts were made to demonstrate LVC’s capability.

“We have succeeded because we were able to land internal research and development funding and worked hard to make it a reality,” says Dr. Marble. “It was clear LVC was the way of the future, but in the first five years I was known as the guy ‘with his video games’. In 2016 we had our first big success; we connected the tactical system at Crane known as the AN/SLQ-32 to an Aegis Combat system in San Diego. You could have geographically separate tactical systems; we demonstrated how to do it over the Department of Defense computer network. In 2017, our budget grew to support and at the same time, there was a grassroots effort throughout the warfare centers to connect to LVC.”

Dr. Marble says there are now 15 associated LVC labs across the warfare centers and two LVC events each year.

One of the LVC events co-led by Crane is the Naval Integrated LVC Environment (NILE). The NILE is an LVC demonstration and experimentation environment. It is made up of multiple Warfare Centers across the Navy Research Development Enterprise and its workforce. The NILE seeks to develop a “system-of-systems” kill chain representation for use in assessing the performance and effectiveness of integrated kill chains in all domains of interest. Hardware-in-the-Loop, Test Ranges, and Simulation Tools are connected across the network in NILEX events twice a year.

Dr. Marble says LVC increases capability to experiment, test, and train.

“LVC provides more efficient methods of testing; it reduces cost and expands capability. It gives us the ability to try new concepts of operation. LVC is emerging more and more as a capability for customers as we face future threats.”

“The threats the warfighter faces are evolving rapidly,” says Mervyn. “LVC allows us to validate and explore advanced EW and Electromagnetic Spectrum Operations technical ideas, concepts, and solutions. LVC prevents redundancy of lab equipment dispersed at different test sites. Through the LVC network, EW SMEs from across the country are collaborating and evaluating advanced EW concepts by leveraging infrastructure in place to solve difficult EW challenges for the warfighter.”

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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