SPRINGFIELD, VA. - Winning in an increasingly complex world means
overcoming unforeseen and rapidly-emerging threats, Dr. Jeffrey
The Army and the rest of the Department of
Defense cannot yet effectively counter unanticipated threats with
new weapons systems, he argued, because to get from design to
program of record to fielding takes upwards of 10 years.
meantime, new technology "disrupts that program of record."
Holland, who is director of U.S. Army Engineer Research and
Development Center, or ERDC, at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in
Vicksburg, Mississippi, spoke about engineered resilient systems, or
ERS, here at the National Defense Industrial Association-sponsored
18th Annual Systems Engineering Conference, Oct. 28.
further described the problem, saying a lot has to do with getting
the best possible design at the start of the research and
"You've gotten used to plug and play
inside your automobile. That doesn't exist in the realm of weapons
systems we have today," he said.
For example, imagine that a
new, effective railgun has been produced. "What do you do with it?
Do you just snap it right in and bolt it down" to a ship or vehicle
and plug it in to that platform's power? "You'd need a pretty big
The other day, Holland said he received a call from
an Army weapons manager who needed a prototyped weapons package to
fit into both a helicopter and a ground vehicle and was having a
hard time figuring out how.
The point is that systems
designed yesterday were designed without even trying to anticipate
tomorrow's requirements, he said.
Holland said a very effective way to get
systems from development to the field is through something he refers
to as "physics modeling."
October 12, 2015 - An effective way to get systems from development to the field is through something called "physics modeling." As its name suggests, physics modeling uses all sorts of physics data - from speed, weight, vibration and torque to temperature, humidity, wind, dust, ballistics, and even aging, to name just a few - to simulate real-world conditions that a new weapons system might be subject to. New systems, shown here, were on display at the Association of the United States Army Annual Meeting held in Washington
during October 2015. (U.S. Army photo by David Vergun)
As its name suggests, physics modeling uses all sorts of physics
data - from speed, weight, vibration and torque to temperature,
humidity, wind, dust, ballistics, and even aging, to name just a few
- to simulate real-world conditions that a new weapons system might
be subject to, he said.
Modeling material life and failure
would be the Holy Grail for program managers, he added.
software is run on DOD's High-Performance Computing Modernization
Program and the Defense Research and Engineering Network to test
these new systems, he said. Super computing power is needed with all
of those variables.
The tests can and do push various designs
to their limits and then beyond to failure.
Analysis of the
best design can then be made, meaning what materials to use, the
geometry of those materials and trade-space analysis, he said. The
latter means looking at tradeoffs of cost, maneuverability, speed,
component size and so on.
This information is then provided
to the acquisition and requirements community as well as the policy
makers, he said, giving them a powerful tool from which to inform
The Army and its industry partners are
fortunate to be able to tap into these high-performance computers,
admitted that the Army was the last in the DOD to embrace ERS. He
said he'd met with program executive officers and program managers
in the past to explain the benefits of ERS to them, but "they were
very conservative and deliberate in their viewpoints."
tipping point for the Army, and for everyone else in DOD for that
matter, he said, was the cost savings ERS could bring to the table,
an important consideration in this cash-strapped environment.
"Two years ago, we were at the point where we didn't know what
we didn't know. Now, we're about at the point where we know what we
don't know," he said, meaning ERDC is still at the beginning of the
Once the Army got on board with ERS a few
years ago, things happened very quickly, he said. ERS became a
fully-funded program of record and ERDC began applying ERS to Army
helicopters and vehicles as well as Navy ships and submarines and
Air Force jets - but only for some components.
the plan for ERS is by 2017 to 2019, to do the capability
integration, testing and fielding and by 2020 to 2024, making the
full transition to all weapons systems acquisitions. In other words,
by 2024, all new DOD weapons systems would have gone through
rigorous ERS testing.
ERS IN USE BY ARMY
Dr. Marvin Moulton, lead aerospace engineer for U.S. Army
Research, Development and Engineering Command at Redstone Arsenal,
Alabama, said he collaborated with ERDC and used ERS data for
designing more efficient and effective rotors for the CH-47 Chinook
He's currently using ERS data to evaluate the
tail rotors on the AH-64 Apache and UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters as
well. Future plans are to incorporate ERS into an air-worthiness
assessment of the Gray Eagle unmanned aerial system as well.
Moulton said getting the numbers crunched in the computer is pretty
straightforward. The hard part, he said, is getting all of the
current flight performance data variables needed to feed the
computer; such things as lift, speed, maneuverability.
of the documentation was missing or nonexistent, so, he said his
team had to find subject-matter experts to interview, some of whom
had retired. All that information was collected and is now
documented and archived.
RAPID PROGRESS BY GOOD
In just two years, "we've taken those big
[computer] machines and increased the productivity of using those
capabilities 10,000 times," Holland said, noting that he would have
never believed the rapid progress made.
He credited the ERDC
team. "I'm proud of the team," he said. "The folks are wonderful,
very smart and want to work together. Both are required for success,
not one or the other."
ERDC is always looking for new talent,
he added. A lot of good and knowledgeable people are retiring or
plan to soon.
Meanwhile, some defense industries have already
started "digital manufacturing," a term that's also used for ERS, he
Holland toured an industry plant recently that had
gone digital and was told that when the Army goes to fully digital
manufacturing "it will make our lives better," meaning his company
and the Army could share ERS data.
"We're always looking for
more industry partners at ERS," he said, addressing the dozens of
defense industry reps attending the conference. "We're looking for
people active in the area of ERS and willing to invest. In turn, we
look to match those funds to some extent."
He prefaced his
remarks by noting that ERS is "not a giant funding source for great
One of Holland's other titles is lead for DOD's ERS
Community of Interest, or CoI, one of 17 such communities and the
newest one created by the defense secretary. He said to become a CoI
is a big deal and means DOD is fully committed to it.
point in time, it's not a question of should the Army use ERS, it's
a matter of "we cannot afford not to use ERS," he concluded.
Kristen Baldwin, principal
deputy to the deputy assistant secretary of defense for systems
engineering, said Holland and his team have "done an amazing job in
leading the charge," and the use of ERS has spread across DOD as a
She said the ERS modeling must also continue to focus
on cyber threats to systems and must be "red teamed," meaning
engineers must try to attack their own systems in numerous ways to
uncover possible vulnerabilities.
Sharing physics modeling
data with industry partners is good, but everyone must be mindful of
operational security, as there are a lot of adversaries who would
also like to get their hands on that data, she warned.
Baldwin concluded that ERS is an important part of Better Buying
Power 3.0, a DOD-wide initiative that aims to increase the
productivity and efficiency, effectiveness of new systems at an
By U.S. Army David Vergun
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