BAE Systems and the UK Ministry of Defence have created a "battlelab" intended to ensure that new procurement programmes meet the UK's future network-centric warfare requirements during the assessment phase rather than after systems enter service.

A three-year assessment phase for the Network Integration Test and Experimentation (NITEworks) contract is worth £50 million ($79 million).

An MoD source says a foundation of UK defence policy is network-enabled equipment and the "key is to develop systems of systems. We will look at individual components, but also components together, moving away from the shortcomings of what we did in the past."

He says NITEworks will be a "generic service to be made available across the acquisition programme in the future". The official adds that a reason for creating the battlelab is to "start the concept of operations debate much earlier in the acquisition cycle, prior to the later stages or even after initial operational clearance... it gives a catalyst for debate early on".

NITEworks will be based at BAE's Farnborough site and use synthetic environments to demonstrate integration of equipment. MoD personnel will be embedded in the NITEworks team. UK research company Qinetiq, Thales and other organisations will participate.

Initially, NITEworks will be used to study "kill-chain development", the organisation of weapons, sensors and other systems to achieve the best effects within a short period against "fleeting targets" such as Scud missile launchers and mobile surface-to-air missile systems.

"We need to look end-to-end, how we use information, how decisions of which target to engage are made we will do this through experiment," says the MoD source. Another area to be considered is a single integrated air picture.

Frontline specialists from the Air Warfare Centre, Maritime Warfare Centre and the army will also take part in the experiments. Lessons learned from preliminary work performed earlier this year indicate that some in-service problems are caused by how a system is used rather than by the equipment.

Source: Flight International