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NEWS | Feb. 9, 2022

NSWC Crane leveraged NISE funds to prioritize hypersonic and digital engineering technology

By Sarah K. Miller, NSWC Crane Corporate Communications

Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) leveraged Naval Innovative Science & Engineering (NISE) funding to develop critical Department of the Navy (DoN) and Department of Defense (DoD) technology areas of hypersonics and digital engineering. NSWC Crane scientists and engineers (S&Es) showcased their FY21 efforts in the annual NISE End-of-Year Showcase. The combination in-person and virtual event took place at the High Velocity Innovation Center (HiVe) last fall.

The NISE program is one of the largest internal funding sources available for S&Es, fostering creativity and exploring the latest science and technology (S&T).

Brant Ackerman, Director of the NISE Program at NSWC Crane, says the showcase serves as a foundation for technology research and development (R&D) critical to meet the needs of the future warfighter.

“The End-of-Year Showcase gives innovators a platform to show their work,” says Ackerman. “Innovators present cutting-edge technology that has the potential to transition into other S&T funding to continue developing the research or transition into warfighter hands.”

The NISE program provides a way to conduct innovative basic and applied research, transition technologies into operational use, develop the workforce, recruit and retain highly skilled S&Es, and purchase state-of-the-art labs and equipment. About 13% of NSWC Crane’s workforce have participated in NISE projects, including people from each mission area: Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions, and Electronic Warfare.

Ackerman says the showcase is also a time to reflect on how the program has evolved at Crane.

“The NISE program helps Crane focus its research on its strategic thrust areas, allows us to collaborate with researchers from other DoD activities, universities, and private industry, and also demonstrate technology through prototyping and warfighting exercises,” says Ackerman. “NISE allows us to improve Navy systems and grow our S&T footprint. NSWC Crane is growing and has one of the largest NISE programs in the NAVSEA Warfare Centers.”


Ackerman says that there were several technology areas researched using NISE funding this year, but two stand out.

“NSWC Crane innovators had four projects in hypersonics and more than 20 related to digital engineering,” says Ackerman. “Both of these areas are a high priority for the Navy and areas where Crane is growing its workforce and strategic capabilities.”

Hypersonic weapons are one of the DoD’s highest priorities. NSWC Crane is home to the Joint Hypersonics Transition Office (JHTO) Systems Engineering Field Activity. Through this office, government, industry, and academia can collaborate to further this technology area, with NISE helping to fund participation by NSWC Crane S&Es. NSWC Crane has a team of more than 300 people working to advance hypersonic technologies and accompanying enabling capabilities.

“Crane is going to be a leader in hypersonics for years to come,” Ackerman stated.

MTEF and Tesseract

The new hypersonics Missile Test and Engineering Facility (MTEF) is being built using FY21 NISE Lab Revitalization funds. Marie Rose, an Engineer at NSWC Crane, provide an update on a related project, Tesseract, at the showcase. Rose says it is a workforce development (WFD) project for hypersonic technology.

“Tesseract is a WFD project to get a group of engineers more familiar with hypersonics dynamics as the workload will flow into hardware in the loop (HwIL) modeling and simulation that will ultimately be done in the MTEF,” says Rose. “In order to appropriately model, test, and evaluate HwIL configurations of guidance, navigation, and control (GNC) systems, knowledge of the algorithms behind GNC is required as we reach an era of controllable hypersonic missiles. As Crane’s role in hypersonics grows to include independent validation and verification of GNC hardware in the MTEF, personnel with a working knowledge of optimized GNC algorithms, as they relate to trajectory generation, is imperative.”

Hypersonic Antenna Cover Material Selection

Another NISE project, Hypersonic Antenna Cover Material Selection, focused on evaluating alternative materials for radomes. Dr. Jessica Sargent, an Engineer at NSWC Crane, led the project and says the team collaborated across Crane on this initiative.

“Our analysis combines Crane’s expertise in Electronic Warfare with hypersonic R&D,” says Dr. Sargent. “This and follow-on efforts will assist the Navy/DoD in designing superior hypersonic systems with improved antenna shielding and performance. The ultimate goal of this project is to improve antenna protection and allow for high fidelity communications on hypersonic vehicles.”

Digital Engineering

Digital Engineering is an umbrella field that includes many rapidly developing areas. NSWC Crane S&Es are working on many digital engineering projects such as Model-Based System Engineering (SysML-based Descriptive Models), Model Based Engineering (Product & Performance Based Models), Digital Product Support and Logistics, Software Factory (Includes DevSecOps), and Data Analytics (Includes Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning).

One of NSWC Crane’s successful technology transitions, which is another component of the NISE program, is the Live, Virtual, Constructive (LVC) initiative. LVC is a form of modeling and simulation (M&S) testing for military systems. Read more here about NSWC Crane spearheading nearly a decade of EW LVC testing for the Navy, and here about Crane’s LVC lead, Dr. Jay Marble recognized, for his efforts by the DoN.

Systems Interoperability and Evaluation Methods

Sean Suehr, an Operations Research Scientist at NSWC Crane, co-led a Digital Engineering NISE project called Systems Interoperability and Evaluation Methods. Suehr says the project’s significance to the Warfighter is providing a tool to support quantitative approaches to mission planning and CONOPS development.

“Analytics for Systems Interoperability and Evaluation Methods is a proof of concept approach at utilizing digital engineering tools, such as Cameo, Python, and graph theory for modeling and analyzing the interconnectivity of systems utilized to complete different portions of the process,” says Suehr. “It also provides quantitative values on the different process configurations based on systems utilized in mission planning.”

Suehr says the project is relevant to Crane’s mission of leading electronic warfare (EW) development.

“It also looks at the interoperability of systems intended to support coordination,” says Suehr. “Moreover, the effort aligns with Digital Engineering as the intent is to use physics simulation based on parametric modeling of comms and EW systems to understand the underlying telecommunications network of fielded systems.”

He says the project has real-world applications and has been enjoyable to work on.

“The team was inspired to work on a project that has applicability to support warfighters and ultimately make them more effective and safe in contested environments,” says Suehr.

Cameo Hyperlinks

Another Digital Engineering NISE project is called Cameo Hyperlinks. Jarod England, a Computer Scientist at NSWC Crane, says the project aimed to integrate Cameo Systems Modeler model data with external server data. 

“We aimed to create plugins that may be installed into Cameo Systems Modeler to embed a web browser into Cameo Systems Modeler and explored how Cameo Systems Modeler may hyperlink model elements to external locations,” says England. “We also created a test instance of server software called OpenMBEE and successfully changed the Open Source plugin for Cameo Systems Modeler to pass wincertstore certificates for CAC authentication and work around the NTLM reverse proxy.”

England says Cameo Hyperlinks gives an overview of software tools and ways to integrate MBSE Data. 

“We go into detail on available tools, problems with setting up MBSE, how those problems may be resolved, and enhanced capabilities of the Cameo Systems Modeler,” he says.

England says he is excited to have a sharable plugin.

“I’m also excited to have a solution for bringing external data into Cameo Systems Modeler and for when a properly integrated Digital Environment is implemented,” he says. “We have step-by-step details about how to create Cameo Systems Modeler plugins, how to install MBSE tools at NSWC Crane, details and lessons learned about problems we faced, and some of the challenges with implementing and integrating MBSE tools.”

Workforce Development & Technology Transition

The NISE program is not only a funding source for WC S&T programs, but it is also an integral component of NSWC Crane’s workforce development. Ackerman says many NSWC Crane employees get involved in the program over the course of their career.

“Of the 480 employees that have worked on NISE projects in FY21,” says Ackerman, “180 have three or less years of experience at Crane. This is significant because of the perspective the NISE program gives our employees. Thinking of future threats and how we can equip the warfighter with technology to keep them safe requires innovative problem solving, strategic thinking, and space to test, evaluate, research, and develop the next generation of critical solutions.”

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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