CRANE, Ind. --- Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division (NSWC Crane) led its first virtual Warfighter Driven Challenge (WDC) event to provide rapid prototype solutions for sailors and marines on August 10-14. This WDC was part of a larger Naval Research and Development Enterprise (NR&DE) Novel Modernization effort focusing on finding innovative approaches to solve future operational problems.
NSWC Crane collaborated virtually with subject matter experts (SMEs) from Naval Information Warfare Center Atlantic (NIWC LANT), Naval Information Warfare Center Pacific (NIWC PAC), and Naval Surface Warfare Center Port Hueneme (NSWC PHD).
Andy Brough, the NSWC Crane Expeditionary Warfare Lead across Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA), organizes the WDC at Crane. Brough says that though current circumstances changed the original plan of the event, they were able to adapt to meet the needs of the warfighter.
“A typical WDC consists of a diverse team of government subject matter experts and warfighters on-site to provide real-time feedback and support during the ideation and prototyping process,” says Brough. “Due to the current Covid-19 posture, this WDC was unique and differed from previous events where all interactions with the warfighters were virtual.”
Currently, the Navy’s future capability plans focus on platforms in every domain, such as air, surface, and sub-surface. Leadership structuring the NR&DE Novel Modernization effort identified areas where this WDC could provide low-cost, rapidly prototyped solutions to quickly meet warfighter requirements.
Brough says the virtual WDC began with a videoconference where all technical experts from warfare centers and warfighters from Navy Surface Development Squadron (SURFDEVRON) and 1 Marine Expeditionary Forces (1 MEF) discussed the current challenges.
“The warfighters presented problem statements that needed a low-cost solution that could be rapidly developed and fielded,” says Brough. “After they identified and prioritized the problem statements, the warfare center SMEs determined the problem statement that best aligned to our technical capabilities. The overall intent of this collaborative event was to maximize the number of solutions that the warfare centers could provide in a one-week period.”
Brough says the Crane team comprised of subject matter experts across all three of its mission areas: Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare.
“We went to work addressing a 1MEF need to provide platoon-level communications solutions that identifies radio interference in real-time,” says Brough. “Following a virtual question and answer session, the Crane team quickly arrived at two prototype solutions ranging in cost from approximately $500 to $3000 to produce. The Crane team hosted daily syncs with the warfighters to ensure the prototype solutions met warfighter needs.”
After four days of ideation and prototyping, technical SMEs and warfighters came together virtually where each prototype solution was showcased.
WDC is a process where warfighters bring problems they are experiencing to Crane to find a collaborative solution. During the weeklong in-person events, several warfighters travel to Crane to work with a diverse, multi-disciplined team to thoroughly understand the problem and brainstorm solutions. NSWC Crane has conducted nine WDCs. A future WDC will look at several concepts related to the novel uses of convention munitions and is expected to take place in September 2020.
NSWC Crane is a naval laboratory and a field activity of Naval Sea Systems Command (NAVSEA) with mission areas in Expeditionary Warfare, Strategic Missions and Electronic Warfare. The warfare center is responsible for multi-domain, multi- spectral, full life cycle support of technologies and systems enhancing capability to today's Warfighter.