Netted Sensors ’17 Guides Fleet Modernization

Left, Cmdr. Stephany Moore serves as acting officer in tactical command on behalf of Rear Adm. Kent Whalen, commander, Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 during NS17 while Lt. Dwayne Stoumbough, CSG-12’s joint interface control officer, stands the battle watch captain position in TFC.. (U.S. Navy photo)

This summer the Navy continued its experiments with integrating airborne, missile and ship sensors to find, fix and track surface targets.

The Netted Sensors 2017 (NS17) at-sea experiment was conducted by Navy Warfare Development Command (NWDC) as part of the fiscal 2017 Fleet Experimentation (FLEX) program.

The FLEX program, executed by NWDC on behalf of U.S. Fleet Forces Command and U.S. Pacific Fleet, designs and executes collaborative and synchronized experiments to deliver products that will improve warfighting capabilities within the next one to three years.

A semaphore with the Admiral’s flag flies from the mast of Surface/Aviation Interoperability Laboratory (SAIL), which served as the Tactical Flag Command Center (TFCC) of an aircraft carrier for embarking Carrier Strike Group 12 staff during Netted Sensors 2017. (U.S. Navy photo)

The FLEX program’s series of war games and at-sea experiments continues to examine attributes outlined in the Navy’s “Design for Maintaining Maritime Superiority.”

  • NS17’s primary objectives included:
  • Improving information exchanges to command and control complex engagements in a communications contested environment
  • Improving warfighter ability to rapidly find, fix and track objects in the battlespace
  • Allowing decision makers to identify maritime targets at greater distances
  • Supporting targeting and engagement in a complex maritime environment
  • Enhancing warfighters’ battlespace awareness

Fleet sponsors are conducting technical data analysis, and results will influence warfighting concepts of operations, tactics development, program investment decisions and future experiments.


NS17 brought together fleet personnel led by Carrier Strike Group (CSG) 12 as the Officer in Tactical Command, with USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) and USS Jason Dunham (DDG 109) as assigned forces. Other assets included the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (DASD) Emerging Capability and Prototyping Rapid Reaction Technology Office’s high-speed test vessel, Stiletto, 13 joint and Navy aircraft and two unmanned aerial systems.

NS17 employed more than 95 emitters across the East Coast, including shore sites at Naval Air Station Pax River, Maryland, Wallops Island, Virginia, and Virginia Beach.

Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division (NAWCAD) at Patuxent River provided the NWDC experiment team with range and facilities assets routinely used for test and evaluation (T&E), but tailored for the experiment.

Atlantic Test Ranges (ATR) and the Surface/Aviation Interoperability Laboratory (SAIL) provided the live, virtual and constructive (LVC) environments necessary to bring all the pieces into play.

In addition, the SAIL team reconfigured its facilities to function as the Tactical Flag Command Center of an aircraft carrier for embarking CSG-12 staff, which enabled them to find, track, target and engage targets in a distributed maritime environment. One hundred and twenty operators and technicians operated onsite at SAIL for the experiment, using a variety of processing systems that were specifically installed for the event

In addition to simulating opposing forces, ATR used its extensive T&E capabilities to provide the infrastructure for communications, data architecture, systems administration, Link-16 operations, Advanced Range Data System GPS tracking, network configurations, frequency authorizations, and fused tracks at local and off-shore locations aboard the Stiletto.

ATR and SAIL also integrated the Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) data link radios—a next-generation dynamic networking solution that is fast, flexible and reliable. TTNT’s high throughput enables large amounts of data to be shared at high speed among aircraft, unmanned systems and ground forces. SAIL and ATR will be able to use this new communication technology during future test and experimentation missions.

NAWCAD is preparing for the future by supporting these larger systems-of-systems types of tests with its capabilities-based T&E resources.

Andrea Watters is the editor of Naval Aviation News magazine.

Operators execute the mission from NS17 exercise control stations. (U.S. Navy photo)