Junior Navy scientists, engineers develop integration capability for electric weapons

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The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division Sly Fox Mission 25 team in action while demonstrating a hardware representation of PEGASUS -- Power and Energy Generation Analysis SimUlation System -- capabilities. The team proved the potential of PEGASUS to integrate electric weapons and electric propulsion systems aboard Navy ships in several demonstrations held at NSWCDD. Left to right are Peter Corrao, Daniel Apolinar, Joshua Hellerick, Courtney Fredrickson, and Alexa Thomas. (Navy photograph)

It has all the trappings of a bestselling Navy technological thriller — six junior scientists and engineers overcame the odds to develop a new capability that enables the integration of electric weapons aboard Navy ships.

The recent college graduates — Navy civilian employees selected for a special workforce development program known as Sly Fox — verified the veracity of their research and demonstrated that their Power and Energy Generation Analysis SimUlation System (PEGASUS) is not fiction. The Sly Fox Mission 25 team proved the potential of PEGASUS to integrate electric weapons and electric propulsion systems aboard Navy ships in several demonstrations held at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, May 31.

“We developed a durable, model-based systems engineering capability for use in the integration of electric weapons on Navy ships,” said Josh Hellerick, Sly Fox Mission 25 scientist. “This model has the ability to implement multiple different electric weapon system modules, as well as complex mission profiles, including firing frequency, duration, power, ship’s propulsion, ship’s hotel, and power generation systems.”

At first, Hellerick and his five Sly Fox Mission 25 colleagues were strangers to each other while put in a room and tasked as a team to do what it takes to ensure the survival and success of their Sly Fox mission. They took time to get to know each other, including their strengths and weaknesses, while responding to the Navy’s need for a tool that enables the integration of high-powered electric weapons on naval ships as engineers design new ships. The PEGASUS innovation enables this integration via engineering models of combat and power elements coupled with mission profiles to calculate the ship’s power needs profile.

“I learned how different personalities can come together or clash, and that these disagreements contribute to producing a better system,” said Courtney Fredrickson, Sly Fox Mission 25 engineer, regarding the team’s perseverance through long hours and weekends under high stress while developing the PEGASUS capability that models expected power and energy needs of a specified ship configuration.

“There were high expectations in regards to our mission since it was the first Sly Fox Mission to collaborate with another warfare center,” said Marie Zacarias-Morro, Sly Fox Mission 25 scientist. “The collaboration with NSWC Philadelphia Division was key to this effort. They provided us with critical insight into ship power systems that allowed us to reach our mission objective and deliver our final product.”

The team of mentors – senior NSWCDD scientists and engineers – ensured a strong focus on technical rigor as they taught the Sly Fox team how to perform under pressure with limited funds and a six-month deadline.

“Sly Fox provides an opportunity for an entry level team to come together, solve real problems, operate within a real budget, and span the systems engineering process from concept to demonstration in six months,” said Tony Scaramozzi, Sly Fox mentor, who provided guidance as the team developed the PEGASUS solution. “A systems view of requirements analysis, analysis of alternatives, risk management, development, test, and demonstration are elements of the process.”

Sly Fox Mission 25 team members explained the process and the background of their mission at the demonstration. Moreover, they wrote an overview on PEGASUS published in a brochure provided to attendees.

“As more high-powered electric weapons and sensors are added to the Fleet, more ship-board electric power is required; at the same time, electric propulsion systems with their own electricity demands are being adapted,” according to the brochure. “However, naval ship design criteria and integration practices do not exist for integrating high-powered electric weapon systems and electric propulsion systems into a common hull. These efforts highlight the common issues and challenges of integrating electric weapons on-to ships. Sly Fox Mission 25 was tasked to address this need and developed PEGASUS.”

At the demonstration, the team discussed the Navy’s previous efforts to integrate ship service power with electric propulsion aboard DDG 1000 – lead ship of the Zumwalt-class destroyers, a class of next-generation multi-mission surface combatants. Sly Fox team members have been brainstorming a solution since December 2018. Along the way, their collaboration with subject matter experts from NSWC Philadelphia Division – who provided insight into ship power systems and delivery – proved critical to mission success.

“We also developed two module libraries – the Weapons Library, and the HM&E (Hull, Mechanical and Electrical) Library,” said Peter Corrao, Sly Fox Mission 25 aerospace engineer. “By design, the PEGASUS model is highly expandable and customizable. We proved this when we implemented an unmanned vehicle at the near end of our mission.”

The team was able to build a set of models, architectures, data structures, and interfaces that will allow for the development of combat system, power and electric system, and electric weapon and sensor requirements that will then enable develop and demonstration of better management and allocation of shipboard electric power.

“I have a better understanding of the systems engineering process from design, concepts, testing and demonstration as well as the programmatic aspects of a project such as budget, schedule, and risk,” said Daniel Apolinar, Sly Fox Mission 25 mathematician. “I will apply the lessons learned both in my professional work and outside of work. The best of all is working with an amazing team and mentors that made this a truly unforgettable experience.”

The Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division Sly Fox Mission 25 team members are pictured with a Rigid Hull Inflatable Boat integrated with a hardware representation of PEGASUS – Power and Energy Generation Analysis SimUlation System. The team proved the potential of PEGASUS to integrate electric weapons and electric propulsion systems aboard Navy ships in several demonstrations held at NSWCDD. Left to right in the front row are Daniel Apolinar, Alexa Thomas, Marie Zacarias Morro, Joshua Hellerick, Peter Corrao and Courtney Fredrickson. (Navy photograph)

Moreover, the Mission 25 team followed a rapid prototype development process to assess requirements, analyze and evaluate alternatives, design, develop, and test the system, and produce the product. In all, six formal systems engineering technical reviews were conducted on PEGASUS: requirements review, concept review, design review, system test readiness review, demo readiness review, and the final review.

“Throughout my career in industry and government, and as a systems engineer, program manager, and supervisor, I had never seen a workforce development initiative for young engineers and scientists that is as robust in its design and execution as Sly Fox,” said Bill Walsh, Sly Fox Program director. “Looking forward, and working with the CTO (Chief Technology Office) and all Dahlgren leadership, we hope to strengthen an already solid program by aligning Sly Fox with the innovative initiatives and strategic goals of NSWCDD, and to become a cornerstone in the investment that Dahlgren is making in our future.”

“I will remember lessons learned through this program for the rest of my career,” said Alexa Thomas, Sly Fox Mission 25 mathematician. “Sly Fox has helped me understand so much more about the systems engineering process, and it allowed me to touch on topics I never would have seen this early in my career otherwise. Learning how to work on a team like this was something I have never experienced previously, and I will always be grateful for this valuable experience.”