NATIONAL HARBOR, Maryland -- The head of Naval Air Systems Command wants every future plane and ship to be developed, built and tested first in the virtual world.
"When we put a new capability, a new platform, a new system in the hands of our sailors and Marines on day one, they should know that it has been fully tested. They should be able to train with it within 100 percent of its capability ... and they should be able to do that in a fully integrated environment," Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags, commander of Naval Air Systems Command, told an audience Monday at the Navy League's 2017 Sea-Air-Space Exposition.
"And the only way to do that is to start from day one in the acquisition program," he said.
Speaking during a panel discussion focused on interoperability between the services, Grosklags stressed the importance of operating in a digital environment, beginning with a program's analysis of alternatives.
Program officials need to create digital models of the threat, operating environment and friendly forces to identify long-term capability gaps, he said.
The next step is to start integrated warfare analysis, which involves "sitting down with the fleet, trying to figure out what is needed to address capability gaps and having the discussion in the digital environment," he said.
"Then typically what we do today is we kind of throw it over the fence in request for proposals to industry and go, 'OK, build us some of these,' " Grosklags said.
"We can't do that anymore. We need to take all that digital information that we have already generated, all those government-owned models, and we need to give it to our industry partners and say, 'Now you build these things in a model-based systems engineering environment.'"
Industry will develop its own models in a similar digital environment, he said.
"When we start getting those models from industry, we are going to start playing with those in a capabilities-based test and evaluation environment," Grosklags said. "Again, we are doing this in a digital environment ... that forms that virtual backbone we need."
The system can be completely built in a virtual environment.
"We have got a digital representation of the systems of systems they are building, and we've got a digital environment we can operate in. That is the foundation of our capabilities-based test and evaluation," he said.
"That is exactly what our Marines and sailors need on day one. I've got a digital model of the system. I can play with it in the live environment. I can play with it in the virtual environment," Grosklags said. "It's been interoperable the entire time from day one. It's not an afterthought."
Once the program goes into production, that same digital model is "turned into a digital thread that can be used to sustain that system for our sailors and Marines for the life of that program."