Navy Looks to Cloud Technology to Extend Warship Missions

The Navy is building laboratory prototypes of a software technology designed to offer instant connectivity

Warrior Maven Video Analysis: Navy & CISCO Cloud Tech and AI Seek to Expand War Missions, Sustain Ships

By Kris Osborn - Warrior Maven

The Navy is working with industry to improve mission time for Navy warships by migrating data and ship-assessment information to the cloud, drawing upon computer simulation and leveraging fast-evolving AI technology.

Working with CISCO Systems, the Navy is building laboratory prototypes of a software technology designed to offer instant connectivity between ship-based networks, command and control and on-board systems such as engines. The concept is to use AI and cloud-enabled real-time analytics to measure on-board systems against a historical database filled with information of great relevance to ship technologies.

“This is not a piece of equipment but rather an underlying technology, using cloud and machine learning to do predictive maintenance. It involves a replication of the ship's sensor systems. It replays, analyzes and replay data and see what is happening and assess how information can be implemented,” Kelly Jones, Systems Engineer for the US Navy Account, CISCO Systems, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

“We are in the process of building prototypes. We have a couple of laboratories where we are working with the Navy on this,” Jones added.

If cloud-enabled on board ship networks are able to measure something like engine rotations and life-cycle information against a historical database detailing prior benchmarks and key benchmarks against which to measure activity - then ship commanders can anticipate system failure. This not only increases mission reliability but also brings the effect of extending deployment time for vessels - thereby massively increasing mission effectiveness.

“When it comes to an engine generator, you could have a replication of it in a cloud-based system and compared it against the data you get back from a deployed ship. This will give you an idea of how far the machinery is from its optimal standard,” Jones said.

The specific technology, called Digital Twin, creates virtual replicas of entire systems, which can perform analytics in a cloud environment and transfer mission-relevant data between ships.

Configure a maintenance period and, ultimately, enable ships to deploy for longer amounts of time.

“This can minimize down-time and keep a ship mission ready,” Jones said.

This Navy-industry prototype effort mirrors two significant Pentagon trends currently being pursued across the services - accelerated cloud migration and massively revved-up collaboration with private sector entities.

These multi-faceted initiatives include data consolidation, efforts to reduce the hardware footprint and connect satellite ground terminals more seamlessly with one another; the key concept, of course, is to increase access to otherwise disparate pools of information, share information quickly and give combat commanders more options on a faster time frame.

The CISCO-Navy efforts appears, at least in part, to be aligned the “Navy Strategy for Data and Analytics Optimization” unveiled last year. Not only does the strategy call for increased collaboration with private industry, but is also emphasizes real-time data analytics - something the Digital Twin prototypes are seeking to accomplish.

“It is paramount that we become able to adapt faster to data-driven information, create new innovations and deploy those innovations. Increasingly, industry and academia are accomplishing this through open source standards,” the strategy writes.

The text of the strategy articulates a few goals, such as an ability to “predict and inventory the right data analytics to meet the demands of DON (Department of the Navy) data consumers and decision makers – and -- deploy and operate innovative solutions with minimal time to market.”

The faster analytics processes pursued by Digital Twin, coupled with data-sharing innovations such as those enabled by could migration, is consistent with what the analytics strategy calls for.

The Navy analytics strategy also specifies close coordination with DOD’s evolving Joint Information Environment (JIE) – an ongoing effort to engender greater interservice data synthesis, integration, collaboration, interoperability and security.

Broadly speaking, any US military movement to the cloud is taking place within the context of an ongoing, widespread effort to move the services more quickly to cloud systems, at the direction of Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan.

At the same time, cloud migration is widely understood to involve a particular paradox; while cloud technology can enable more seamless or ubiquitous virtualized security systems, it can also bring the risk of exposing larger amounts of data to potential intruders should an attack be met with initial success

One solution, which also implicitly brings some contradictions and challenges, is to rapidly harvest commercial technological solutions which, for instance, can allow networks to download the most advanced patches or fixes on a faster time frame. Commercial security solutions can bring advantages in other respects as well, DoD leaders say.

With this in mind, Jones said cloud systems can bring security advantages, such as offering a faster way to patch systems which may be outdated or have vulnerabilities.

“Running ship systems against a baseline, speeds an ability to make security adjustments. You can use automation to pull out infected systems,” Jones said.

An often-discussed phenomenon seems to inform Shanahan’s push for faster cloud migration, is that that multi-year government developmental programs are, in many instances, generating technical systems which are potentially obsolete by the time they are completed.

---Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics& Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist for National TV networks. He has a Masters degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University

--- Kris Osborn of Warrior Maven, can be reached at krisosborn.ko@gmail.com-

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