By Mary Margaret Halford
In a world of rapidly changing military missions, it is crucial to stay ahead of weapon system technologies, or risk falling behind adversaries on the battlefield. Engineered Resilient Systems (ERS), a program centered at the U.S. Army Engineer Research & Development Center in Vicksburg, Miss., is helping accomplish just that.
Using high-performance computing as a main ingredient, ERS is developing concepts, techniques and tools that offer more design alternatives and increase the accuracy and depth of analysis. This approach allows for better-informed selections earlier in the weapons acquisition process.
ERS began in 2011 as a priority steering committee. By 2013, it was one of 17 communities of interest comprising Reliance 21, a Department of Defense effort aimed at encouraging collaboration across agencies.
One of the core concepts behind ERS is that of inserting tradespace analysis earlier in the acquisition process. Cost, performance, schedule, and risk are just a few of the factors that must be considered during the tradespace design phase of a new system. The ERS method integrates computational resources to answer those questions quickly and accurately.
In 2013, just as ERS was being established, these methods were put to the test as Naval Sea Systems Command considered a new amphibious transport dock warship, known as the LX(R). ERS introduced the concept of set-based design, which combines all new requirements on the front end, producing an extensive list of all possible designs (a tradespace) that can then be narrowed down and sorted by feasibility.
The ERS approach to the LX(R) study allowed researchers to look at more than 22,000 concept designs in only three months. In another project with the U.S. Navy, ERS tools and methods helped analyze 3.6 million designs in less than half an hour.
A MATURING SYSTEM
Since the days of introducing set-based design into the acquisition world, ERS has grown significantly— becoming involved with every military branch and with stakeholders throughout industry and academia. The program has matured its high-fidelity physics capability and is working to create mission-level simulations.
For the General Atomics MQ-1C Gray Eagle, ERS methods were used to develop computational tools that modeled the entire flight envelope, including conditions that had not been analyzed before. Similarly, ERS workflow automation tools helped in the re-design of an Army rotor blade. The analyses in that study allowed researchers to compare physical test data with computational predictions for performance in a wind tunnel and interactional aerodynamics.
In conjunction with the Air Force Research Laboratory, ERS researchers moved conceptual design tools to high-performance computing and linked mission simulations to evaluate more than 300,000 designs for the Low-Cost Attritable Aircraft.
COMMITMENT TO CHANGE
As the size of datasets being examined increases, new challenges arise. But ERS researchers are committed to providing an integrated computational environment that supports more detailed tradespace analytics and high-fidelity physics earlier in the acquisition process.
The landscape of battle is changing. ERS tools and techniques stand ready to assist in choosing the most resilient systems to serve and protect the nation’s warfighter.
Mary Margaret Halford is Technical Information Specialist, U.S. Army Engineer Research & Development Center; firstname.lastname@example.org.
[Article first published in the May-June 2019 issue of The Military Engineer]