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NEWS | May 14, 2021

NSWCDD Engineers Lead Tri-Service Testing Program Aimed at Improving Munitions Strike Methodologies

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

More than a year of meticulous planning and world-class test design led to the brief moment that a 500-pound bomb blew through the soil beneath a 2,500-square-foot concrete masonry unit (CMU) structure. A cloud of dust trailed fragments of airborne building materials as engineers looked on and gathered data that will ultimately inform strike decisions warfighters make around the globe.

Despite delays and logistical challenges imposed by the pandemic, this was just one of eight munitions tests conducted since July 2020 by the Enhanced Weaponeering and Collateral Damage Estimation (CDE) program, sponsored by the tri-service Joint Technical Coordinating Group for Munitions Effectiveness (JTCG/ME).

The overall program, tests and its modeling and simulation are led by the Weapons Engineering and Missile Integration Division at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD). Project participants include Dahlgren’s Test and Evaluation Division, the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC), and the U.S. Army Aberdeen Test Center (ATC).

“We are working to characterize the blast field and secondary debris that is generated when weapons are buried in structures or in the ground,” said Michael Gallamore, NSWCDD physicist and technical lead of the CDE program. “It helps us to understand those secondary debris influences on probability of injury – especially to noncombatant personnel – in order to refine our ability to estimate collateral damage in a strike situation.”

Gallamore and his team of engineers are working, through munitions testing and high-fidelity modeling, to support the creation or revision of methodologies within what he calls “faster-running codes,” or the programs that operational users deploy in the field to determine whether a strike would be both effective and pose risk to noncombatant personnel. 

The modeling programs that are employed in the field are faster-running by design in order to deliver timely results to the warfighter. These quick results cannot model to the high-fidelity specificity that the CDE program can, which Gallamore says can sometimes translate to less accurate information in the hands of the warfighter. 

“We believe, and our testing has shown this, our current modeling estimates in the faster-running codes are very conservative,” said Gallamore. “They almost preclude some instances of the warfighter being able to conduct a mission when they probably could conduct a mission. [The CDE] program is designed to help refine those methodologies and estimates for the operational user.”

Program engineers take the information from testing and expand the available data set with their high-fidelity modeling programs. As the program conducts several different tests with a variance of different munitions, soil types and test conditions, simulations of strike situations become increasingly accurate.

The high-fidelity modeling and the massive data sets the CDE program works with requires serious technological capability. According to Missile Systems Integration and Weapons Effectiveness Division Chief Engineer Bill Loutzenhiser, the high-powered performance computing clusters the program utilizes have been instrumental in achieving its goals in recent years.

“What makes this program successful is not only the technical leadership being provided out of Dahlgren, and obviously the great relationship with the sponsor, but also the high-powered computer cluster that we have locally at Dahlgren that is enabling this,” said Loutzenhiser. “This high-fidelity modeling takes great computer power to run and is absolutely critical for the high-fidelity modeling and simulation for the CDE program. The local cluster has been a major success item for this program.”

Success is a recurring theme in talking to CDE program leadership. Year after year, the multi-agency effort continues to gather and analyze data that will positively impact the warfighters’ ability to assess the collateral effects of a strike situation. Funded by the JTCG/ME, the sponsor continues to commend the program for delivering valuable, correct information on time.

“The sponsors are all very happy with the work being done,” Loutzenhiser said. Referring to the program’s technical leadership he continued, “They are leading the effort and they are producing good work, making great progress and they are doing it in a very technical, diligent manner.”

With nothing but high remarks coming from the sponsor and a slew of tests with near flawless execution and data recording, Wade Rolocut – Division Head of the Missile Systems Integration and Weapons Effectiveness Division – says the program’s success is attributed to its most prized asset: its personnel. 

“It all goes back to the people – the engineers that are executing the work and have done wonders building the test program,” said Rolocut.  “The tests are planned and executed as well as anything I have seen working in the DoD, and I have been involved in some major test programs.  The great engineers we’ve got are pulling this off and – I don’t want to say they are making it look easy – but they sure are doing a great job.”