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Warfare Centers Provide Robust Support During 2020 Valiant Shield Exercise in Indo-Pacific

By Latasha Ball | NSWC Port Hueneme Division | Oct. 22, 2020

PORT HUENEME, Calif. —

Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD), alongside NSWC Dahlgren, supported the 2020 Valiant Shield exercise by ensuring program sponsors halfway around the world could tune into the event.

Valiant Shield is a large joint force exercise which concluded on Sept. 25 involving all branches of the military. The biennial 12-day exercise, which took place in air, on sea, land and in cyberspace, has since 2006 been providing warfighters the opportunity to train and test first-hand the latest technology available to keep our nation protected.

NSWC PHD worked with NSWC Dahlgren to support the exercise from Port Hueneme, Guam, Hawaii and Virginia. NSWC PHD was asked by an element of the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense, which sponsored prototypical and experimental aspects of the exercise’s technological demonstrations, to develop a mechanism that would allow the staff to be part of the event from a distance, said John Winstead, senior advisor at NSWC PHD's White Sands Missile Range Detachment.

“The office came to us to put together a set of equipment that would allow staff members to participate from a distance,” Winstead said. “Since the office was not in attendance at the Pacific command, the equipment would help tie them in with the situation, so, in turn, they knew what was going on.”

The COVID-19 pandemic challenged organizers of this year’s event to execute a successful exercise and meet mission objectives with fewer people on site.

“Because of COVID-19, we would have been co-located in the area, but a decision was made to not send several people on travel overseas,” Winstead explained. “So, the USD Program Personnel did a distributed operation, which means the personnel divided into locations and participated in more of people’s home area. These personnel were tied in using networks so people could monitor what’s going on.”

The pandemic also affected some of the scheduled experiments as people who wanted to be present and test their technology during the exercise were unable to attend.

Dave Whelan, a physicist with NSWC Dahlgren, said, some experiments dropped out because of travel restrictions and costs. Despite these challenges, the team was able to connect and use technology to be fully involved in the exercise.

“We were able to see quite a bit of the same data as people on forward locations like in Hawaii and Guam,” Whelan explained. “There were probably a few things they had that we didn’t have, but it wasn’t anything that a few people couldn’t collect while they were there versus the need to send 10 to 15 people forward like what was planned before COVID-19. Instead, we sent about three people forward and we were able to still accomplish the objectives.”

According to Winstead, several dozen people from White Sands participated in the exercise from Hawaii, Guam and Port Hueneme. They joined thousands of others who represented all military branches also participating in the exercise.

“We had a better set of equipment capable of networking together with distant partners, and a more robust involvement across several entities of the warfare centers,” Winstead said. “There were also partnerships established with non-traditional partners, better coordination, better connectivity and a pretty robust team that we worked with before, but we were more effective because of the tools that were put into place.”

Technology presented and tested during the Valiant Shield exercise will be evaluated by third parties for its effectiveness and capability to serve the armed forces. From there, experts will decide where to move forward.

“As people evaluate the experiments that were performed, they can decide whether that particular technology is worth pursuing further and transitioning permanently to a capability that is handed over to the warfighters,” Winstead said.

In the end, Winstead said he’s excited to support future trainings and implement lessons learned from Valiant Shield to make future exercises just as successful and exceed expectations.

“We’re looking forward to supporting more events like Valiant Shield for different combatant commands,” Winstead said. “We have another one in six months that we are going to be supporting in a similar fashion, so we are looking forward to lessons learned from Valiant Shield to make that next event more effective.”