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NEWS | June 9, 2021

NSWCDD Engineers Develop Post Intercept Debris Simulation to Protect Warfighters, Improve Capability

By NSWCDD Corporate Communications

Meagan Parker looked into the camera and put herself in the shoes of warfighters across the joint services who could be endangered by the consequences of debris created as an interceptor missile engages a threat missile.

The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division (NSWCDD) engineer was briefing the final design of a new modeling and simulation tool called the Post Intercept Debris Simulation (PIDS) to Department of Defense stakeholders over a classified video teleconference at a critical design review held in November 2020.

Parker, who spent more than a year analyzing post intercept debris of different missile engagements while developing PIDS, told the stakeholders that the tool’s capability will help ensure that combat systems are effective in environments where debris from a missile intercepting a threat missile is present and pervasive.

“Everyone was onboard and pleased with our progress and the tool’s final design,” said Parker, PIDS project lead. “We are currently on schedule to deliver PIDS as promised in July 2021. This is a really rewarding project to work on because ultimately the goal is to reduce the risk to our warfighters in our deployed systems. We are empowering and allowing the Navy to study and analyze performance in the presence of post intercept debris.”

Parker, along with PIDS Program Manager Glenna Miller and their team of software developers designed PIDS to provide the Department of Defense (DoD) and Navy testbeds with a representation of post-intercept debris for specific engagements. The simulation of interceptor versus threat and target engagements will help accurately determine the capabilities and limitations of combat system performance in an operational environment.

“Post Intercept Debris may pose a significant problem for the Navy, especially with combat systems and their ability to detect, track and discriminate against threats because debris in their field of view could potentially obscure our radars and sensors so it can have, in that manner, a first-order effect on a successful engagement,” said Parker. “Radars distracted by that debris scene may not be able to detect or track threats that are in that debris field-of-view or coming in from behind. It may pose a really significant impact on our capability to engage the threat.” This results in a requirement to represent an accurate debris picture in modeling and simulation environments for accurate pretest predictions and operational assessments in real world environments.

Although PIDS is still a work in progress while being developed incrementally and despite various challenges, it is currently capable of providing the required debris scene to allow for the prediction of how a weapon system and particularly an intercept missile will respond to the presence of debris in the missile’s field of view. This is essential to the validation of key performance parameters.

“One of the biggest challenges that we’ve had is trying to find all the correct sources of information, especially when we develop a model or simulation that must be validated against live fire test data,” said Parker.

This validation requires modeling and simulation performance results via PIDS to be consistent with observed performance results from actual live fire engagements. Once validated, the PIDS results can be applied to air-to-air, land-attack cruise, anti-ship cruise and ballistic missile defense – impacting all military services.

“It’s a challenge to locate the right people who can provide the appropriate live fire test data,” said Parker. “I think that we’ve made significant progress communication wise within the Navy while raising awareness about potential post intercept debris issues. We don’t have a single source to get all the necessary data but we’ve got the Navy as a whole thinking about this. We can use this validated data to help improve collection opportunities in the future for some live fire events. Additional live fire data and feedback will help ensure that our tool is realistic and aligns with operationally realistic events.”

Meanwhile, the post-intercept debris model that Miller, Parker and their team are developing for Navy surface ship Combat System Testbeds can be modified to fit other Navy and DoD modeling and simulation applications.

In 2020, they were able to successfully integrate PIDS into Lockheed Martin’s MEDUSA (Multi-target Effectiveness Determined Under Simulation by Aegis) simulation to stimulate weapon system responses. MEDUSA encompasses several components of the Aegis Weapon System, including the AN/SPY-1 radar, Command and Decision, and Weapon Control System.

Moreover, the team worked remotely throughout the pandemic to integrate an unclassified version of the PIDS tool into the Combat System Testbed AN/SPQ-9B federate ahead of schedule.

“Our team created a way for the tool to be upgraded and developed in an unclassified zone by developing an unclassified set of data to allow for remote development so we can work from home and work on the tool itself,” said Miller.

The team conducts classified work, which includes database development and the simulation of actual engagements between interceptors and threat missiles in secure spaces at NSWCDD and DoD contractor sites.

“We have had some delays and challenges working at home and on-site during the pandemic and having to work through some issues where people are exposed to COVID but it really hasn’t impacted our overall development so much,” said Parker, regarding the ongoing work on PIDS via the C++ programming language to run on Linux.

“The whole idea behind PIDS is to ensure the warfighter gets what the warfighter needs and that they’re safe out there,” said Miller. “It’s extremely complicated in terms of the RF (radio frequency) field and IR (infrared) scenes, the debris breakup and formation.”

The radio frequency and infrared signatures of the threats are the primary triggers for the combat systems to prosecute the engagements. These signatures’ returns received by the radars and sensors are often complicated or potentially obscured by the presence of debris, both organic to the threat and post-intercept.

The capability of radars and sensors to detect, track, and discriminate the threat missiles may be reduced whenever debris is present. As a result, missiles in flight may experience difficulty in transitioning from midcourse guidance to successfully homing on the threat. As the missile trajectories reach intercept, PIDS will pull the initial PID field from an offline database while selecting and propagating the appropriate number of debris pieces.

PIDS will simultaneously compute the RF and IR signatures of each debris piece. The development team will use an inference analysis approach for engagement scenarios in which live fire data is not available – for example, in Acquisition Threat Engineering Product (ATEP) engagements. In this case, the results will be compared to the live fire data collected from another development activity and an inference analysis will be conducted in order to determine if PIDS is producing a realistic statistical pattern for the ATEP engagements.

“The missile threat engagement environment must be properly modeled to accurately assess performance capabilities and limitations,” said Miller. “All the science behind PIDS is fascinating, including the blue systems (Navy combat systems and elements) and how they apply that data to make sure we are successful.”

“Our incremental approach to PIDS involves building a little and then testing a little,” said Parker. “We’re building in a series of what we’re calling capability demonstrations. In the meantime, we’re releasing software drops that have a certain amount of functionality, certain features, certain specific databases and then we’re handing it off to our users to integrate and test. At that point, we take their feedback to improve the next version of the tool until we get to our final product which will be delivered in 2021.”

Parker and Miller will deliver the final PIDS product to the Navy’s Combat System Testbed for its integration while providing a copy to the project’s DoD sponsor – the Test Resource Management Center.