Naval Surface Warfare Center, Port Hueneme Division (NSWC PHD) is researching the use of open architecture systems to integrate disparate combat weapon systems in an effort to quickly transfer increased capabilities to the fleet at a fraction of the cost.
The requirement to rapidly prototype technology and transition new capabilities is a major thrust for not only the Navy but also the Defense Department, as stipulated by the Chief of Naval Operations' Navigation Plan and DoD Better Buying Power initiatives. Federal agencies outside the DoD are also pursuing similar requirements, wanting to deliver more with less, which is why the Department of Energy (DOE) created a software program known as Raptor, a government-owned and maintained system that allows users to create plug-ins with additional capabilities.
Inspired by the DoE, Brian Hill, Asymmetric Warfare lead at NSWC PHD, believed the same architecture could be employed by the Navy. Using Raptor plug-ins, he and other PhD researchers integrated commercial off-the-shelf sensors to reveal an unknown capability that was able to detect, identify, and classify a variety of maritime threats, including surface threats, periscopes, and small unmanned aerial vehicles. Because existing Raptor plug-ins were used, no integration costs were incurred.
“The uniqueness of this project is not only the immediate recognition of its potential to solve a fleet-identified gap,” said NSWC PHD’s Chief Technology Officer Kurt Schultzel, “but also in how fast the capability could be deployed to fleet units as either a standalone or integrated capability.”
To further identify its multi-use potential, NSWC PHD is partnering with Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division (NAWCWD) Point Mugu to determine if existing passive electro-optics and infrared capabilities could be combined with signals intelligence systems aboard a surface vessel — all using existing Raptor plug-ins.
Lynne Clarke, Joint Electronic Attack and Compatibility Office director at NAWCWD, first learned of the software in 2010 and believed it could be used in addressing mission planning obstacles experienced by operational forces.
“We heard loud and clear from the operational forces that they needed to be able to do their planning and execution all in one interface,” she said. “Raptor was the clear technology to provide what the Marine Corps needed due to the fact that it’s government-owned, enables rapid integration of new capabilities, and allow us to take advantage of other government investments.”
The plan is to continue research throughout fiscal 2017 to demonstrate a complete passive detect-to-engage system on an at-sea platform, and further demonstrate the suitability of Raptor as an extensible architecture for Navy use.
The potential for cost savings is unlimited, depending on how widely adopted Raptor becomes throughout the DON. According to Hill, using the open architecture platform to integrate disparate systems immensely benefits the warfighter, and is merely scratching the surface of its full potential.
“Fusing electro-optics and infrared capabilities with signal intelligence is really just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to demonstrating what could be done with Raptor,” he said. “The Air Force, Marines, Navy, and a variety of other agencies within and outside the DoD are utilizing it already, and the more it’s briefed the more traction it seems to get.”
“I am a major proponent of using existing, mature, government-owned solutions, as are others throughout the Navy enterprise,” Hill added. “The biggest challenge is raising awareness of its existence.”
NSWC PHD is a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command and provides the global United States Navy fleet with integration, test and evaluation, life-cycle logistics, and in-service engineering for today’s and tomorrow’s warfare systems. Located at Naval Base Ventura County, California, NSWC PHD employs more than 2,000 personnel.