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CHIPS Articles: Real-Time Digital Twins of At-Sea Ships Speed Warfighting Capability to the Fleet

Real-Time Digital Twins of At-Sea Ships Speed Warfighting Capability to the Fleet
By Jon Chan and Milan Kumar, Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence - January-March 2019
San Diego–Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (PEO C4I) is undergoing a digital transformation to go faster, drive down cost and deliver more integrated warfighting capability to the fleet. One of the key enablers of this transformation is the Digital Twin.

The Digital Twin concept will enable users to create adaptable digital simulation models that change as their physical counterparts change in near-real-time. This dynamic, digital representation of assets, processes and systems allow simulation and test of real-world platforms, even when those platforms aren’t physically accessible. The fleet receives direct benefit because new capabilities can be developed using more accurate representations of the physical environment and deployed much more rapidly as a result. The PEO is working with the Office of the Chief Engineer at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR) to bring this Digital Twin concept to life throughout the SPAWAR enterprise. PEO C4I is part of that enterprise.

“We’re facing new threats and new challenges,” said Rear Adm. Carl “Chebs” Chebi, program executive officer at PEO C4I. “All our efforts are designed to ensure that when it comes to systems, networks, technology and related capabilities, our forces have everything they need to maintain maritime superiority against any adversary in any situation.”

For PEO C4I, the enterprise Digital Twin capability will provide the ability to create a digital replica/twin for systems and baselines to better manage configuration and monitor then predict performance as well as the ability to dynamically and more rapidly modify, field and remotely troubleshoot systems. Automatic feedback from ship to shore of actual performance data will be incorporated into Digital Twin models to create enhancements and optimizations. The Digital Twin capability will enable better engineering across the systems engineering process from design to testing to operation and sustainment of systems.

Digital Twin is not simply a virtual simulation of a ship running in the cloud. It involves a series of tools, models and processes that allow engineers at a desk in a support location to realize the actual ship at sea. Through this exact realization, engineers can make improvements, enhancements and optimizations that they can push through networked connections instead of delivering physically. Automation of digital tests can replace pen and ink paper tests, and the results can be reviewed and used immediately, not months later.

PEO C4I recently stood up a Digital Twin Working Group. This group facilitates the sharing of program office digital efforts and tracks updates of key knowledge points, and it allows engineers to better understand where those efforts can be applied within their own programs. The goal is to continue to mature specific efforts across the enterprise and use lessons learned from successful ventures to apply to other systems and programs.

Several other program offices at PEO C4I also have roles on the Digital Twin. These efforts include: working with industry to create a proof of concept ability to instantiate a digital twin for testing and troubleshooting from digital baseline data; testing the ability to conduct remote monitoring of health and status; investing in remote installations to provide updates to the fleet faster; using Development and Operations (DevOps) processes that allow continuous integration and testing of applications to create new software tools that will provide warfighter value faster; automating installation and test procedures prior to installation onboard ships; creating digital models of their programs and using them as part of their push for model-based systems engineering (MBSE).

Digital Twin is one of the seven pillars of SPAWAR’s Information Warfare Digital Execution Plan (IWDEP), along with Agile Core Services (ACS), Application Architecture, Data Stewardship, DevOps, Cloud Computing and Virtual Training. Each of the seven digital lines of efforts will enable SPAWAR to implement an Information Warfare Platform that delivers integrated Information Warfare effects in support of the Navy Tactical Grid. To accomplish this, PEO C4I is emphasizing system-of-systems capability portfolios supported and enabled by digital services and processes that cross multiple programs and program offices. These digital enablers are required to create an agile, responsive digital Information Warfare Platform that fields capability at fleet-relevant speed.

"The Digital Twin efforts are a centerpiece to the overall SPAWAR and PEO C4I digital transformation efforts,” said Steve Crosson, assistant program executive officer for engineering at PEO C4I. “Finding ways to utilize these technologies to both provide rapid-response fleet support, as well as to enable more rapid integration and evaluation of new systems preparing to field, is key to our efforts to provide effective, integrated and interoperable warfighting capabilities to the fleet."

Plans for Digital Twin incorporate the tenets of MBSE, digital baselines, digital replication, automation, predictive testing and advanced analytics into the enterprise implementation. These tenets are critical to enhancing systems development for rapid capability deployment, better integration and more representative testing. MBSE and DevOps are the critical building blocks needed to achieve agile, reliable modernization of systems.

Throughout the enterprise, multiple program offices are incorporating the Digital Twin concept into their programs and processes. For example, PEO C4I and the Fleet Readiness Directorate (FRD) at SPAWAR are digitizing and automating System Operational Verification Tests (SOVTs) through the SPAWAR Systems Center Atlantic Interactive Test Procedure tool.

The FRD is investing in the Readiness Analytics and Visualization Environment (RAVEN) to create a federated data environment to enable a readiness dashboard for the PEO, FRD and type commands. All of these efforts are critical knowledge points in the digital transformation campaign.

The Digital Twin concept has spread beyond SPAWAR as well. Lessons learned have been and are being shared across the Navy community to continue to better the warfighter experience and to bring Navy software engineering in alignment with industry best practices.

Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (PEO C4I) provides integrated communication and information technology systems that enable information warfare and command and control of maritime forces. PEO C4I acquires, fields and supports C4I systems which extend across Navy, joint and coalition platforms. More information can be found at

Program Executive Office Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence official seal
Fran White, left, a civil service employee at Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, Systems Center Atlantic, and Clayton Bush, a Tactical Networks contractor, work with Petty Officer 2nd Class James Rago to troubleshoot the video teleconference system of a video information exchange system aboard the aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. PMW-160 and SPAWAR provide the Navy with network fabric and services used by multiple shipboard tactical and business applications and systems and routinely install, maintain and train crew members in operational and maintenance procedures. U.S. Navy photo by Rick Naystatt
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