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NIWC Atlantic Conducts Largest-Ever, All-Domain, Naval Integration Event

28 March 2024

From Steve Ghiringhelli, NIWC Atlantic Public Affairs Office

In its push to advance joint all-domain warfighting concepts across the command, Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic wrapped up its largest-ever annual System of Systems Naval Integration Experiment (SoSNIE) event on March 22.

CHARLESTON, S.C. — In its push to advance joint all-domain warfighting concepts across the command, Naval Information Warfare Center (NIWC) Atlantic wrapped up its largest-ever annual System of Systems Naval Integration Experiment (SoSNIE) event on March 22.

What began five years ago as a small initiative on base grew this year into a large Joint Base Charleston (JBC) command, control, communications, computers, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C4ISR) cavalcade of scientists, engineers and warfighters marshalling disparate systems and technologies across miles and miles of terrain.

“This year, we initiated technical links with the U.S. Coast Guard as well as air assets of the U.S. Army and U.S. Air Force to better integrate and advance joint force collaboration,” said Ashlee Landreth, who leads NIWC Atlantic’s Expeditionary Warfare (ExW) department, which executed the two-week experimentation. “But at its core, SoSNIE is a technology-based naval integration event that provides our teams a flexible sandbox environment in which to experiment and advance both existing and novel capabilities for the warfighter.”

Integrating systems and coordinating with the joint force are objectives set out by Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Adm. Lisa Franchetti in her list of priorities called “America’s Warfighting Navy.” In the document released in January, the CNO said leveraging wargaming and experimentation could help integrate conventional capability with hybrid, unmanned and disruptive technologies.

“We recognize that we will never fight alone,” Franchetti stated. “We will advance naval integration with the Marine Corps, and synchronize and align our warfighting efforts with the joint force.”

Chief of Naval Research Rear Adm. Kurt Rothenhaus visited NIWC Atlantic headquarters on March 21 as well as SoSNIE’s command post on the Small Autonomous Unmanned Systems Research (SAUSR) Range to learn more about the experimentation.

“Our Sailors and Marines are doing amazing things every day to defend our nation,” Rothenhaus said. “They deserve the very best and most advanced capabilities in the world, including access to leading C4ISR technologies. Experimental events like SoSNIE encourage dynamic scientific research and collaboration between the military services that ultimately close kill chains by equipping leaders with decision advantage.”

During this year’s expansive event, more than 200 NIWC Atlantic engineers, scientists and technical managers collaborated on nearly 50 C4ISR systems, analyzing data exchanges across local airspace to evaluate the proficiency of end-to-end targeting, fires and communications.

In addition to Rothenahus, Timothy Gramp, U.S. Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) deputy to the commander for systems engineering, acquisition and logistics, traveled to Charleston this year and received briefings from ExW department leaders on various simulations while touring the SAUSR Range.

The ExW department is lead systems integrator for many C4ISR systems fielded by MCSC, the organization responsible for overseeing every technology placed into the hands of Marines. While Marine Corps program offices and other entities support SoSNIE, NIWC Atlantic’s Naval Innovative Science and Engineering (NISE) program has been the chief sponsor of the annual experimentation since its inception.

Capt. Nicole Nigro, NIWC Atlantic commanding officer, understanding how much work went into trailblazing a path to cross-service collaboration this year, thanked the entire team for their efforts during a visit to the remote pinewoods of the SAUSR Range.

“The work you did here will really impact the warfighter, because you view everything through a warfighting lens,” Nigro said. “Each seemingly insignificant challenge that you overcame to get to interoperability was a game-changer. Your efforts translate to better survivability and greater warfighter advantage down the road, for both the naval and joint force.”

For realistic connectivity throughout the experiment, Marines from the Marine Corps Cyberspace Operations Group in Quantico, Virginia, were on hand to provide Marine Corps Enterprise Network (MCEN) access via a recently fielded capability called Tactical Entry Point (TEP). Developed by the ExW department’s Enterprise Infrastructure Modernization team, TEP enables Marines secure and direct access to MCEN enterprise services at the tactical edge.

One major addition to this year’s experiment was the integration of Marine Air Defense Integrated System (MADIS), a weapons system that detects and neutralizes low-altitude unmanned or manned vehicles via turret-launched Stinger missiles, heavy guns and multi-functional electronic warfare.

SoSNIE organizers also made important connections with external commands across South Carolina and the region to not only simulate joint force operations but also better enhance the capabilities ExW department already delivers to the Navy, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command.

As a result, communications testing and evaluation occurred with a U.S. Army AH-64E Apache v6 attack helicopter from McEntire Joint National Guard Base, an F-16C Fighting Falcon from the 55th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base and a C-17 Globemaster from the 315th Airlift Wing at JBC.

In addition, Marines from 10th Marine Regiment traveled to NIWC Atlantic to provide Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System integration support.

Strong collaboration also occurred with units that operate unmanned autonomous vehicles (UAVs), an important technology focus area of the joint force.

As a part of that push, Marines from Camp Lejeune traveled to Charleston to operate unmanned aircraft that included the hand-launched RQ-20 Puma.

“Our mission here was to launch our unmanned systems, establish a feed and disseminate that data to various networks,” explained Cpl. Fabian Barajas, a UAV operator assigned to 1st Battalion, 2nd Marine Regiment.

The South Carolina Army National Guard also supported SoSNIE with unmanned RQ-11 Ravens operated by members of 1st Battalion, 118th Infantry Regiment, and the McCrady Training Center.

Throughout the event, UAVs swarmed high above the SAUSR Range and provided participants huddled in tents with real-time data, as did NIWC Atlantic’s tethered aerostat overhead.

Miles down the Cooper River and away from JBC, UAVs in the choppy Charleston Harbor supported SoSNIE as well via NIWC Atlantic capabilities on Sullivan’s Island, where engineers tested communications back to the SAUSR Range.

It was five years ago that Carel Peacock, chief engineer of ExW department’s intelligence division, helped launch SoSNIE under the leadership of Toby Straight, who leads the division’s support for Marine Corps and Special Operations Command sponsors.

The original idea was to create an agile and real-world environment for engineers to work side by side — under existing programs of record — to tackle interoperability issues, find efficiencies and experiment with other technologies, all while aligning mission threads to U.S. national defense and joint maritime strategies.

To build on its successes and take the divisional event to the next level, Landreth tapped Matt Lane and Jason Brooks to turn the SoSNIE concept into a department-wide signature event, also challenging them to grow collaboration outside of the command.

Closing out this year’s event, NIWC Atlantic Executive Director Peter C. Reddy reflected on the scale of SoSNIE 2024 and the many moving parts that made the unique experiment a success.

“This is the value of a warfare center,” he said. “Only in this type of setting can our dedicated subject matter experts, with the feedback from the warfighting program offices they support, produce this kind of synergy that ensures our Navy and Marine Corps remain the world’s preeminent fighting force. For this, I am very proud of the work these teams have accomplished here on behalf of the warfighter.”

About NIWC Atlantic
As a part of Naval Information Warfare Systems Command, NIWC Atlantic provides systems engineering and acquisition to deliver information warfare capabilities to the naval, joint and national warfighter through the acquisition, development, integration, production, test, deployment, and sustainment of interoperable command, control, communications, computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance, cyber and information
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