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For the fourth year in a row, the Expeditionary Intelligence Solutions (EIS) Division of the command’s Expeditionary Warfare (ExW) Department coordinated a weeklong System of Systems Naval Integration Experiment (SoSNIE), deploying sophisticated Marine Corps software and hardware to a remote range on base.
More than 100 NIWC Atlantic engineers, computer scientists and subject matter experts worked to integrate dozens of command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) systems.
NIWC Atlantic’s ExW Department is the lead systems integrator for multiple U.S. Marine Corps edge-to-enterprise C4ISR technologies that include geolocation, next-generation sensors, decision science, signature management, networking-on-the-move and advanced optical communications.
“SoSNIE is an opportunity for employees across NIWC Atlantic to dedicate a week to experimenting and pushing the boundaries of what their systems can do and who they normally work with,” said Carel Peacock, EIS Division chief engineer and SoSNIE lead. “It provided an outlet for individuals to learn about other systems and communicate with as many teams as possible, discovering new capabilities and what might realistically work in a tactical environment. My feedback to everyone was if everything works this week, then we haven’t pushed hard enough.”
The scope of SoSNIE 2023 increased in scale and complexity from last year’s event. The most significant difference was the presence of the Marine Corps Enterprise Network (MCEN), which was piped in live through a new capability called a Tactical Entry Point.
“For naval integration, this kind of event is a game-changer,” said Chief Warrant Officer 2 Ryan O’Rourke from the Marine Corps Cyber Operations Group. “Our warfighting network is the MCEN, and these are the systems we use day in and day out. It’s important for integration that the teams can see how we deploy and operate.”
Inside a large, tent-darkened, makeshift command post on the installation’s Small Autonomous Unmanned Systems Research Range, dozens of civilian and military personnel on handhelds and laptops analyzed real-time data pouring in via biometric, terrestrial and radio frequency sensors as well as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), which included full-motion video.
Also integrated on the network for the first time was a Navy command and control (C2) application.
Leaders called SoSNIE an excellent opportunity for established Marine Corps programs of record to consider new approaches with upcoming technologies. Also, lead system integrators became familiar with new capabilities getting fielded on other Marine Corps and Navy systems, which helped them envision how that could affect future integrations.
Capt. Nicole Nigro, NIWC Atlantic commanding officer, toured the experimentation site on March 16 and was briefed on the many capabilities involved. She said she was impressed with what she saw and hailed the collaboration event as an invaluable initiative.
“With our nation’s pacing threats in mind, we must develop, integrate and maintain our approach of strategic deterrence,” Nigro said. “The purpose and goal of SoSNIE 2023 had naval integration at its core, because engineering a future in which Marines and Sailors receive the best and most advanced tools is our real and greatest service to the warfighter.”
Like last year, Marines from 2nd Air Naval Gunfire Liaison Company (ANGLICO), II Marine Expeditionary Force, travelled from Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, to support SoSNIE and conduct notional fires and targeting while piloting multiple UAVs overhead.
Peacock said tactical, operational and strategic support for this year’s event was nothing short of phenomenal, especially considering the high op-tempo.
“There’s always so much going on in our regular day-to-day,” she said. “We are always so focused — with heads down in our work supporting our sponsors — that we don’t always see what’s happening around us. That’s why I’m so thankful for the time we have out here. It has given people the bandwidth to really talk to each other and find ways to better support the warfighter.”
Across higher ExW Department echelons, leaders said initiatives like SoSNIE enhance their mission to deliver lethal, better-connected C4ISR capabilities to the Navy, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command (SOCOM).
“Marine Corps and SOCOM doctrines make it clear that experimentation will result in speed-to-capability and operationally relevant systems,” said Ashlee Landreth, ExW Department head. “I’m thankful the ExW team rallied around the EIS idea to have this annual sandbox event where cross-domain, cross-service teams can learn what works and what doesn’t so that we can shape requirements, focus resources and enhance capabilities.”
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