NATO calls for cooperative simulation effort

NATO member nations will begin to share information on virtual prototypes and
simulation-based design.


But representatives of the 15-member military alliance, attending a NATO conference on
the subject recently in Silver Spring, Md., stressed the need for a cooperative effort of
industry and governments to reduce the time and cost required to buy and test new
equipment.


“There is evidence that this kind of cooperation is possible,” said Myles
Hurwitz of the Naval Surface Warfare Center. “And any move in the direction of
working together is certainly a move in the proper direction.”


Representatives speaking at the conference insisted that the driving force behind the
collaborative plan is the prohibitively high cost of building hard prototypes of ships and
submarines.


“Extending the use of modeling and simulation during early procurement phases
these days, while defense budgets are declining, makes good fiscal sense,” said J.M.
Duncan, chairman of the NATO specialist team on simulation design and virtual prototyping.


U.S. officials pointed out that a reduction of between 25 percent and 50 percent in the
cost of ship designing and manufacturing was not unreasonable, Hurwitz said.


“Virtual prototyping and planning, which is relatively exceptional right now, is
likely to be routine in seven or eight years,” Hurwitz said.


But representatives warned that a culture of trust must underpin any cooperative effort
among competing industries and nations.


“We are quite conscious of the need to protect commercial and state
interests,” Duncan said. “Which is why we are considering an advisory group of
NATO and industrial leaders to develop policies that will protect the interests of the
various players.”


Another important goal of the group will be to create an environment that will support
international interoperability between simulation and prototype systems.


Alliance members point out, however, that nothing concrete has been planned.


The NATO group will accept proposals until this fall on the national and NATO-wide
aspects of investment metrics, national requirements and the extent of any alliance and
industrial involvement.


“All of this will take some time to sort out,” Hurwitz said. “The
general feeling is that this is the proper thing to be doing at this time.”


But Hurwitz noted: “I don’t mean to imply, however, that we will be moving
away from any kind of prototype building—there is no substitute for real-life
testing, though through prototypes we feel that we can learn more before we spend massive
amounts of money.”  



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