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NEWS | April 19, 2021

NSWCDD and West Virginia University Partner on ‘Damaged States’ Tool to Transform Surface Warfare

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

When surface warfare officers fire a missile to intercept a threat while defending their warship, what happens when the threat missile sustains specific types of damage at a specified range?

The Navy is collaborating with West Virginia University professors and students who are using a wind tunnel to help crack an aerodynamic code necessary to answer this question.

The answer – vital to warfighting safety and success – will provide the Navy with the key to answer subsequent questions. Will the damaged threat missile still hit the ship? Will it strike the ship and endanger crewmembers?

“Our Sailors should know if they hit a missile and if that threat is still going to hit them,” said Glenna Miller, Damaged State Modeling of a Post Intercept Threat Program manager at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD), regarding questions that have been unanswered since the development of missile systems. “They need to know immediately whether or not there are any pieces of that incoming missile that will hit them and the ship, causing damage to the ship and possibly, loss of life.”

In an initiative to answer the longstanding questions, the Office of Naval Research sponsored NSWCDD and West Virginia University in June 2019 to conduct research leading to the development of an air threat damaged states modeling and simulation capability.

“The answers require an understanding of a damaged anti-ship cruise missile’s behavior which is very complicated,” said Miller. “There are no tools to define and understand the unsteady flow that we see when there is damage to the vehicle. We have to determine – based on the range, the velocity, and the other characteristics of the threat – the likelihood it could still hit our ship or the defended asset.”

The research and development program, also known as Damaged States, endeavors to provide the Navy with a new capability to evaluate true weapon system effectiveness during each and every engagement scenario. The capability must provide warfighters with instant knowledge of air threats that may be damaged, but not destroyed, by an air defense weapons system – enabling warfighters to take action while ensuring the damaged missile does not strike their ship.

To execute this effort, NSWCDD threat engineers are performing aerodynamic research, computational fluid dynamics analysis and semi-empirical aerodynamic analysis to predict the aerodynamics of damaged states systems to produce unclassified prototype research methods and simulations.

That’s where West Virginia University steps in to collaborate with Navy aerospace and threat engineers at the invitation of NSWCDD leaders. The university’s research – especially its wind tunnel testing – is playing a significant role in evaluating the munition effectiveness of nonlethal engagement scenarios.

“They have very creative ways on how to characterize the behavior of the vehicle,” said Miller, regarding the university’s research into various aspects of aerodynamics characterization. Their research enables the development of unclassified simulations to predict the effects of unsteady flow aerodynamics when air defense munitions cause missile airframe damage.

“The university’s methodology to test the vehicle in its wind tunnel with different models and various types of damage on each of the models is extremely innovative,” said Miller. “We are using some of their data as well as their novel techniques representing a threat missile’s behavior post damage in our simulation.”

This ongoing innovation is necessary to overcome scientific challenges related to predicting the aerodynamics of damaged missiles. The aerodynamic forecasts can be applied to high-fidelity flight simulations in order to predict the performance of a damaged threat system. Current tools cannot project the aerodynamics experienced by damaged missile systems.

The university’s professors and students, however, have been using their wind tunnel and other assets to understand the complications imposed by the aerodynamics of a missile or vehicle post damage, which creates a lot of unsteady or chaotic flow around the vehicle, affecting the flight behavior of the vehicle.

“West Virginia University brings a fresh look at how we can get this development data instead of the standard industry methods of looking at this,” said Miller. “The involvement of these brilliant professors and students with our Dahlgren team helped us to be smarter and it’s been fascinating to watch that knowledge transfer continue as we inform the West Virginia team about missile specific knowledge.”

As the Navy and the university collaborate to test and understand threat behavior and performance, the NSWCDD threat performance team is putting those characterizations into a form that could be used by the Navy and across DoD.

“The best way to do that is through modeling and simulation,” said Miller in reference to the Damaged State Modeling of a Post Intercept Threat software. “We’re developing the simulation to represent control of the vehicle once it’s damaged as a function of range among other things, which is quite complicated. It’s not like there’s a book we can go to and see what happens. We have to figure out what really does happen.”

Throughout fiscal 2020, the NSWCDD team working on the project developed a proof of concept for modeling tools in addition to an expanding knowledge base for determining feasibility of the research of damages states. The team continues to research and develop findings in fiscal 2021 in greater support of the effort’s main purpose.

“The research is very important to defend the warfighter,” said Graham McConnell, technical lead for the Damaged States project. “Until now, there has not been much research into this area. As we get the results we want, it will give the Navy and all of our warfighters the ability to better defend themselves while potentially using less resources to defend against the threat. When warfighters know a missile is unable to reach the ship, the defense systems can engage a different threat coming in and that gives better protection.”

The outcome of the NSWCDD and West Virginia University partnership to research damaged states will play a role in developing ship and air defense systems engagement doctrine during air and missile defense missions.

“As we demonstrate the damaged states behavior and performance, that data will be fed right back into the Navy missile and weapon system design, development and upgrades,” said Miller. “Up to now, damaged states has been an assumption. If a weapon hits a threat, the assumption is either ‘yes, we killed it, it’s over, that threat’s gone’ or ‘no, it didn’t have a good enough effect, so we’ll have to reengage.’ This will take some of those assumptions out of the equation.”