Digital Twin will be used not only for faster decision-making on the battlefield but also for faster training as the Navy inserts more weapons and tools onto ships and aircraft,
Navy has many needs for AI tools, especially given the service’s reliance on large data sets such as surveillance video and radar and sonar pictures.
“We tend to focus a lot on decision aids and how to use it to aid in decision-making speed. We look at it a lot of times on how to make sense of lots of data, whether it’s video processing or sonar processing or something along those lines.
An area we don’t talk enough about where there’s also very interesting opportunities is in training, and how do we speed up our training cycles. So if we get our acquisition cycle going very quickly, whether it’s … building ships faster or putting new capabilities on ships, eventually we will be limited in its effectiveness by how fast we can train the crew and make them proficient.
Some of the use of AI is almost a training aid, that’s a whole other area of very interesting possibilities for us to deal with this kind of ever-changing world.”
One early effort to create this kind of AI learning environment is through the use of the Aegis Digital Twin effort, which allows computers and consoles with the Aegis Combat System to be brought onboard a ship at sea and tap into actual radar and information feeds on the ship without interfering with the crew’s ability to navigate and fight the ship.
The consoles running Aegis with real-time data from the ship could be used to test out new capabilities that the Navy hopes to field and wants to solicit user feedback first, or it could be used for realistic training aboard the ship.
The Navy has said that adding artificial intelligence to this existing Aegis Digital Twin setup would allow the system to understand each user and track past performance, creating future scenarios based on proven weaknesses or areas that haven’t been tested previously rather than providing cookie-cutter training to all sailors.
Leaders are also eager to incorporate AI. Navy needs to buy ships and planes, but if it can’t also field enablers then it won’t win a high-end fight. One of the biggest enablers is digital supremacy. Who can turn knowledge into decisions most quickly.
In future combat, we need systems to get to the right decision most quickly. And what enables decisions? Turning a lot of data over to algorithms to crunch it to help give a decision – what most people call artificial intelligence.
Concept of turning data into the right decision more quickly – or more importantly, pointing out when something is going south – is incredibly important. So artificial intelligence … will help speed decisions.
Advances in information as warfare would improve “the ability to command and control a fight, the ability to sense an environment. ability to direct fires, integrate fires. That’s information as warfare, and that’s what we’re working on.”
But the Navy can’t just incorporate new technology for the sake of modernising; it needs to fully rethink how it conducts missions and how it buys new technologies, in the wake of this new digital warfare world.
We need ability to go faster, being able to think about things differently, how we approach things, how we buy things, how we require things and how we get after the fight.
“We can keep improving the way we’re doing business today, but if we need to do business completely differently in order to move at speed and scale, then we’ve got to figure out what that different is.
The Navy will deploy a “Digital Twin ” of the Aegis Combat System-- if the pilot program proves successful, could one day help the service test new Aegis upgrades or add-ons on a cruiser or destroyer at-sea without interfering with that ship’s actual combat system and ability to operate.
The Digital Twin is the entire set of code that makes up the Aegis Combat System housed within a few computer servers that takes up much less room than the actual Aegis Combat System on a guided-missile destroyer or cruiser,
This Digital Twin is already operating we plan to get it out to sea and test its capabilities. Navy will put the Aegis Digital Twin on a destroyer going through its Composite Training Unit Exercise and test how we might be able to introduce an algorithm to baseline build and test it real-time, using real-time input from the system.
We’ll be taking a passive tap off the tactical suite on the ship, so while the ship’s installed Aegis Combat System is controlling operations during exercise the Digital Twin would be “seeing” the exact same scenario and responding based on the additional algorithm it has – in this case, an algorithm to improve the surface tracking picture.
“In addition to the Digital Twin that we’ll have on the ship, there’s also accompanying automated test/re-test capability on the ship. “So at any time we want to run or record data we’ll have plans to have an algorithm that helps improve the surface tracking picture.
We’ll be able to run on the ship and tell us right then on the ship how well the system did, where the problems are, how it performed functionally.”
If successful, the Aegis Digital Twin would prove out this new algorithm in a tactically relevant situation at sea without any additional cost for at-sea testing, since the destroyer would be going through its exercise with or without this Digital Twin testing.
Next phase of this pilot program would put another Digital Twin on a ship conducting a live-fire missile shot of a Standard Missile as part of a Combat Systems Ship Qualifications Trials or another fleet exercise.
Much like the first test, the Aegis Digital Twin would not affect ship operations during the missile shot but would receive all the same inputs as the ship’s combat system and would be stimulated to respond as if it were the one controlling the missile launch.
”The benefits of the Digital Twin are pretty incredible: right now … when we have a combat system capability improvement build that we want to introduce on ship, when we start stepping through its developmental testing or its operational testing, it needs to be taken out to do a live-fire of that event, at the cost and expense of having the ship on range, taking it out of operational availability, and also the cost of targets, the cost of the Standard Missile itself.
Since that capability build has to be tested anyway, “what we are going to try to do is actually have a build that is in development on the same ship that we have a build that we’re testing for operational test, and we’ll be able to stimulate that in-development build with a live-fire event and be able to save all those resources.
So we’ll be able to take the Digital Twin back then to the development branch and make whatever changes we need to, and then make it with some certainty, and then take it out on the range and do the live-fire event.”
Ultimately, this ability to test a less mature build for free essentially would allow the developers to work out any kinks experienced at sea before actually paying for the build’s own operational test and evaluation event. For the third phase of the Aegis Digital Twin pilot program, we’re going to try sending the Digital Twin package out on a destroyer for an entire deployment.
“The eventual vision would be that we could get to the point where we’re collecting real-time data on computer programs that we’re developing – collecting that data real-time at sea shooting real missiles to link that back to the development and test and certification element back on the land.
So we will have a seamless back-and-forth between the ship and land-based site to allow real-time objective quality evidence real-time certification, real-time adjustments to the computer program, and then push that right back out to the ship without having to wait 18 months, 24 months to actually have to go back in, re-code, re-test, re-certify, take it out on the range, etc.
“We have some work to do here. This approach is going to go way to the left of how we are currently doing business and how we collect quality evidence and how we test and certify. It’s certainly a direction we need to go – certainly a step in getting to the point where Aegis eventually goes completely virtual, to where I have the whole computer program virtual.”
Having warfighting systems “virtual” creates significant opportunities not just for testing and certifying but also for training and innovation. Aegis Digital Twin idea will start out as an experimentation tool but will open the door for training opportunities as well.
“When we’re coming out every few months with a new capability that’s absolutely required, making sure the sailors know how to operate it effectively is absolutely critical.
So these kinds of tools will help us both in the schoolhouse, at the waterfront, and then eventually what we want to be able to do is do it on a ship as well. Using any different baselines and configurations that exist in the fleet today.
At Combined Integrated Air and Missile Defense and Anti-Submarine Warfare Trainer, we can just take software, we can load the new Aegis load onto our hardware and run what we need to run on reconfigurable consoles – so the next group of sailors that come through may be on a destroyer that has this baseline, the next group of sailors that comes through may be cruiser sailors on a different baseline, so we’ll take a couple hours, reload the tool and we’ll be ready to train them.”
We’re still trying to understand how to leverage the capability but it only takes up half a rack of computer servers, whereas Aegis Combat System on a ship takes up several racks, so this flexible and more-portable option may yield great benefit to the training community.
“How do we keep up with training, keep the crew relevant with the capabilities they’re getting onboard that ship?. We can take this to the waterfront and help train crews who are getting their ships upgraded, modernised.
Every two years a new software advanced capability build is released but isn’t always pushed to ships very quickly – submarines may wait six years or cruisers and destroyers nine years, if the update just misses them in a maintenance availability.
We need to get to a place where they could be pushed out to the ships and subs faster, and Digital Twin is an important first step in being able to do that.
We have tested on land now, and will test those on a ship in the spring to see how the Digital Twin system works with the sonar system, a first step in understanding if a virtual system can be created to allow for near-real-time software improvements instead of the biannual big block update.
Leaders have been pushing a model-based systems engineering concept that would revolutionise how the Navy designs, tests and fields its equipment, creating a physics-based model of the operational environment, Navy assets and predicted enemy assets; design the new weapon system within this model, allowing for quick iterations as needed; test and begin to certify the system within this model; and put the model into training systems so that operators can get trainers faster than before with the most up-to-date software versions.
In the big picture, this idea as a massive change in military acquisition.
With previous attempts to create a more efficient acquisition and testing system, “we nibble around the edges. This is not nibbling around the edges; this is a fundamentally different approach to the way we design, develop and field our systems, and that’s where we’re trying to go at NAVAIR.
But despite the enormity of the change, we see efforts taking place within IWS as good, tangible starts in proving out and moving towards that grand long-term vision.
“The way to attack this is for the individual programs to go after the pieces that they think they can instantiate in their programs based on where they are in the development cycle. “If we were developing an aircraft program today, why wouldn’t I make sure that my simulators, when I introduce that capability to the fleet, so we have that simulation environment that is current and can allow them to train to that full extent?
We’re still having to update fighter jet simulators today to enable folks to train to Naval Integrated Fire Control-Counter Air. “That’s ridiculous, we should have done that as part of, if not the fighter jet development cycle at the beginning, certainly when we started doing the software upgrades to the aircraft for fire control we should have attacked the virtual environment at the same time.
So we need to roll out the Digital Twin just as quickly as we can. We’re rolling capabilities-based test and evaluation into some of our programs real-time. We are rolling some of the systems-engineering transformation stuff into our programs that are already in the development cycle real-time.
We can’t wait to do this on just new-start programs because we’ll never get anywhere. What we need to do is roll it out in as many pieces in as many programs as we possibly can so we can collectively learn from each other. That’s the way we need to attack this.”
Navy is moving ahead with multiple ways to make systems virtual in pursuit of this Digital Twin vision. At the end of the day it’s a rack of computers in a space off to the side with engineers and sailors checking it out,” but the Aegis Digital Twin pilot program is part of a “digital revolution” and is the biggest contribution we can make right now.
“Doing this for Aegis is huge,” and the Digital Twin model that we’re describing here, that’s already out in industry. There’s a lot of potential for us using this capability, if in fact it proves itself out, to get way ahead of that technological curve of potential adversaries that leaders have challenged us to go do.
We’re pretty exited about the Digital Twin and certainly looking forward to next year and being able to go execute it.”
Navy is continuing a series of exercises to understand what technologies and tactics the services need to rapidly develop to fight in high-end future conflicts, getting potential technologies to prototype and into the hands of the war fighter.
“We’ve been laser-focused on accelerating the adoption rate of mature, fieldable technologies. “We need to be responsive to fleet needs – emergent needs – that are of critical importance and of high complexity.
Each training exercise culminates with a field demonstration phase where emerging technologies are assessed and evaluated by engineers, Marines and sailors. The most promising technologies might then participate in future fleet exercises or get limited fielding.
“The assessments and the insights collected during the course of these initial events will inform decisions to rapid prototype, rapidly field, accelerate tech efforts, or accelerate acquisition.
Concept of multi-domain battle, outlines how joint forces must operate in the high-tech battlespace and against kinetic and non-kinetic threats from peer adversaries. Multi-domain operations include combing network security, space and electromagnetic spectrum missions as well as missions on sea, air and land.
The exercise will explore areas that include “command and control, force protection, tactical diction within littorals, operational distribution to the littoral, cross-domain mobility, signature management and deception, and logistical support.
Training events “have allowed for unexpected findings and disruptive results. That’s a key point- typically, no one technology is going to solve this problem.”
The exercises serve as an “accelerator” to bring together warfighters with tech developers. “We facilitate them through a series of workshops, evaluation exercises, exploration events and experimentation events that advance warfighting concepts and tactics at high velocities,
Training events “have allowed for unexpected findings and disruptive results. That’s a key point- “typically, no one technology is going to solve this problem. The learning that happens on the technology side “is just as important as the learning that happens on the tactics side.”
What makes Digital Twin model feasible is the ability to work in Virtual Space. The classic sequential models of Systems Engineering were necessitated by the need to work with physical objects. Designs had to be translated into expensive physical prototypes in order to do the downstream work of manufacturing. Only a subset of designs could be considered, because the cost of getting it wrong and having to go back and redesign was expensive and time consuming.
The Digital Twin changes that with its ability to model and simulate digitally. Downstream functional areas can influence design because working with digital models in the create phase is much cheaper and faster and will continue to move in that direction.
We have provided a demonstration of how virtual reality can benefit training processes was geared toward Marines within the aircraft armament systems and munition systems, and gave a glimpse of how VR applications can support in providing an enhanced experience to preparation of aircraft for combat missions.
Aircraft armament systems Marines are responsible for maintaining launch and release devices on aircraft. This means that when a pilot pulls the trigger, the devices successfully launch away from the aircraft toward the intended target.
“It’s a way to build the readiness and experience level by leveraging advanced technologies. In the past, we received this level of experience because the weapon systems were in need of constant repair and maintenance. Now, our systems are more advanced, and it’s hard to practice difficult repairs.
“We can build our skill sets and proficiency faster by not having an aircraft break to perform the training. We could break one virtually at any time, any place. Virtual Reality is a unique way to fully train while still maintaining our mission capable rate.”
In this demonstration, Marines experienced an immersive VR training scenario, put on a head-mounted display for VR application and used hand-held devices for training scenarios.
The immersive VR scenario allowed users to walk inside a hangar with a piece of munition positioned for maintenance. The user could look around the hangar, interact with the munition, pull up the technical order in a full-view mode or even watch a video of someone successfully installing that specific item on the munition. Essentially, the user could take apart and reassemble a munition from the barracks.
“In a controlled setting, VR allows for instant immersion into the field to help Marines understand the content better, faster.”
If VR is fully implemented into its training processes, Marines could have virtual hands-on experience much earlier in their careers, which could bridge the training-to-experience gap challenge the Service now faces.
The in-garrison mission may be different from the deployed mission. That gap can become noticeable if a Marine who has a home-station duty on a certain airframe or munition deploys and must work with unfamiliar equipment or in a joint environment. VR could be used as recurrent or just-in-time training to bolster the combat capabilities of users when they are deployed.
Demonstrations like these are designed to combat today’s challenges through innovation and collaboration among top subject matter experts. It’s a way to increase combat capability and solve complex security issues by partnering with experienced organisations to create platforms to house the application.
We have covered what Joint Capabilities Integration and Development System is trying to do and how it connects to the overarching Defense Strategy and the Joint Operations Concepts. We have translated what it asks for into a framework that should be directly applicable to your assessment. We have advised you on what talent you have to procure,to organise, how to execute, and where and when to expect resistance. But, it has taken us quite a few pages to explain all those things clearly.
So, as a summary, we offer something common in the military: a checklist. What follows are the most important things you have to do to conduct an effective capabilities-based assessment. So, ask yourself the following questions as you fight your campaign.
If the answers to all of the questions are “yes,” you probably won’t have to ask yourself the following question: In the future, do I want to tell people that I ran this assessment, or do I want to deny any involvement?
We hope you find this checklist useful – if for no other reason than your leadership will probably use it. Leadership asks for a great deal out of a capabilities assessment, but if you succeed, you will move the organisation forward in a significant way.
1. Does your assessment approach represent the contributions of the alternatives of interest and estimate the measures of interest?
2. Have you collected a solid, defendable set of approaches using the programmed force?
3. Do you have solid, defendable estimates of the mission effectiveness of those approaches?
4. Have you correctly identified the causes and resulting needs from your estimated operational outcomes?
5. Have you developed promising policy, materiel, and concept of operations alternatives?
6. Have you found any game changing capabilities, and have you been able to describe feasible concept of operations for them?
7. Do you have reasonable estimates of the affordability, technical feasibility, and strategic responsiveness of your materiel alternatives?
8. Do you have a good set of alternative portfolio frameworks for your live operations?
9. Have you generated a compelling set of portfolios for each framework that gives your decision makers a real set of options?
10. Have you identified excess capabilities, and do you have an executable plan for bringing them forward?