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  • The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) departs Naval Base Norfolk. It will be one of two ships to initially carry the Information Warfare Platform to sea. Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Shawn Eklund/U.S. Navy​
     The amphibious assault ship USS Bataan (LHD 5) departs Naval Base Norfolk. It will be one of two ships to initially carry the Information Warfare Platform to sea. Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Shawn Eklund/U.S. Navy​

Information Warfare Platform Goes to Sea

The Cyber Edge
February 1, 2020
By George I. Seffers
E-mail About the Author

Digitization includes AI, cyber and data analytics.


Before the end of the fiscal year, the U.S. Navy intends to deliver an early version of the Information Warfare Platform to two ships, the USS Lincoln and USS Bataan before fielding more comprehensive systems to the Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group. The new capability will be enabled in part by artificial intelligence, machine learning and so-called digital twins. It is expected to offer the ability to acquire, test, install and field technologies at a faster, more affordable rate while also enhancing cybersecurity.

“The USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Bataan are going to be our first platforms that we’re going to bring an early version of that whole Information Warfare Platform to. It will be buried in the network infrastructure and the design that we’re bringing to them anyway,” says John Pope, the Navy’s acting program executive officer for command, control, communications, computers, intelligence and space systems.

Installing the Information Warfare Platform, also known as the IWP, on the two ships will be a major step toward digitizing the fleet. “It looks good on paper. It looks good when we do it in a lab environment. We’ve done some limited testing with one ship already. Lincoln and Bataan are going to be where we take it to sea.”

Lessons learned from deploying a limited number of apps to the first two ships will facilitate the integration of more comprehensive capabilities to more of the fleet. “It’s crawl, walk, run. A following strike group is the Theodore Roosevelt Strike Group. We’re going to take the lessons learned from Lincoln and Bataan … and we’re going to do more of the ships in the strike group, and we’re going to do a broader array of applications,” Pope says.

Among other benefits, the IWP will allow the Navy to deliver software updates more rapidly and efficiently, even while ships are at sea, rather than waiting until they are in port. “If the fleet says, ‘Go ahead and deploy it,’ we’re going to leverage that pipeline and push that upgrade to them and test to see where the stovepipe or the chokepoints are, where the challenges are,” Pope explains.

This advance rollout is expected to provide early artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) capabilities to the tactical edge and enhance the warfighting capability with on-ship data analytics infrastructure. The Navy, Pope indicates, produces a lot of data related to training, personnel and technology and maintenance issues, all of which relates to force readiness. “A lot of that data goes somewhere and parks,” he says.

But now, it will be collected in a system known as the Readiness Analytics and Visualization Environment (RAVEN), and ML algorithms will help sift through it to determine an array of readiness trends. “What we started is the ability to draw in all those sources of readiness data into a portal. “We’ve been trying to harness the power of all that data,” Pope adds.

AI and ML also will help with cyber warfare, he notes. “We’re working on some of that, especially our cybersecurity group. The threat evolves faster than a human can go after it, so if we’re doing machine to machine-level warfare, where does AI and ML come on the cyber front, and how do we use it? We’re partnering with a bunch of the national labs and industry to see what they’re bringing and see how that plays on our ships.”

To achieve its technology goals, the Navy also intends to make greater use of modeling, including so-called digital twins, which are digital representations of networks, technologies or capabilities. Pope’s office partners with the Office of the Program Executive Officer for Integrated Warfare Systems (PEO-IWS) on the effort. In October, the Naval Information Warfare Systems Command announced the completion of its first digital twin—a system-of-systems digital model representing the information warfare capabilities being installed aboard the Lincoln.

The development of digital twins marks a shift from the traditional design-build-test methodology to a model-analyze-build methodology, which allows the testing and evaluation of systems in a virtual environment before delivery. The shift is expected to increase system reliability and cybersecurity while decreasing risks to warfighters.

“Digital engineering is vital in modernizing how we design, develop, deliver, operate and sustain systems,” Pat Sullivan, executive director, Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, says in the written announcement. “It enables the use of digital models throughout the life cycle of a system, increasing system cybersecurity, interoperability and resiliency. This provides a solid foundation to enable us to fight and win the conflicts of the future.”

Pope echoes those sentiments. “If we’re going to develop something, I want to make sure it doesn’t cause any issues with the ship. I can run that new code on my twin, verify that it’s clean and has no issues, and when I push it out to the ship via my DevSecOps pipeline, I’m much less in danger of causing disruption,” he says. “There’s going to be a lot of goodness from early collaboration, early fault finding. It’s so much cheaper to fix a problem early than to fix it late.” DevSecOps refers to “development, security and operations,” a methodology for rapidly developing secure software.

The so-called digital Lincoln represents five systems. The Distributed Common Ground System-Navy provides intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting support. The Naval Integrated Tactical Environmental System-Next Generation uses meteorology and oceanography data to help with mission planning and execution, decision making and situational awareness. The Maritime Tactical Command and Control system delivers battle management aids to plan, direct, monitor and assess maritime operations. The Global Command and Control System-Maritime fuses, correlates, filters, maintains and displays information on friendly, hostile and neutral air, land and sea forces. And the Agile Core Services system is an element of the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services system, more commonly known as CANES, the shipboard network.

“You can create a digital version of a lot of your systems that you put out on your ship—such a realistic version that in some cases it can do the same functions as your full-sized fleet-ready system. You can do it digitally back on the beach, or you can do it on the ship itself,” Pope offers. “One of the things PEO-IWS has done with their digital twin is they’ve been able to twin their combat system and actually control and shoot missiles from the digital twin. It gives them a capability to model and try new combat system algorithms in a much faster method and then bring it to sea and see how it works.”

The digital twin also may allow Navy personnel to troubleshoot and repair networks back online more rapidly. “Can I spin up their exact network story on my lab-based compute and see if I can help troubleshoot them remotely? That’s our goal: that digital twin can help us get the ship back online faster,” Pope states.

The Navy’s digitization goals begin with the technology infrastructure. Pope emphasizes the need for a modern infrastructure that will allow for the rapid injection of new capabilities, whether in ships or submarines or in operations centers. “One of the things we’ve been after as technology has advanced is to set the ship up for the next five years of success so that the compute infrastructure is there, the communications infrastructure is there, the cyber infrastructure is absolutely there. And then when a new threat or a new opportunity shows up, I can bring that solution quickly to the ship.”

The new technology infrastructure should save time and effort. “You know when you put a piece of gear in a ship you bring an entire stack of things. You bring welding torches and you can cut, and that was okay maybe 20 years ago. Anymore, that’s absolutely the last thing we want to do,” Pope says. “That’s what we’re about when we talk about being agile, when we talk about being affordable, integrated and interoperable.”

A modern infrastructure offers other benefits as well, Pope notes. “If you build that infrastructure right … what used to be 40 racks of stuff on a ship is maybe 30 racks. I’m giving space back. I’m giving power back to the ship. Or, I use that freed-up space to bring more capability to the ship.”

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