Marine Corps Enterprise Network Digital Twin
Human decision-making fundamentally relies upon communications and networks to contain, extract, and disseminate time-sensitive, mission-relevant information to win decisively against opposing forces, particularly when engaged in asymmetric combat. Future conflicts will involve attempts to disrupt information systems that are critical for communication and for assured operation of highly sophisticated weapons systems. Disruption is already a capability of potential adversary forces and will spread to secondary threats allied to them. This creates an urgent need to incorporate real-world cyber, communications, and networking effects to support development and sustainment of effective networks, operating concepts, capabilities, and plans. The complexity of a multi-domain, combined cyber and kinetic battlefield requires incorporation of high fidelity, physics-based network digital twins into system integration and test environments to adequately account for potential impacts resulting from degraded network operations and/or cyber vulnerabilities on overall mission outcomes.
Recognizing this need, Marine Corps Systems Command (MCSC) and Marine Corps Tactical System Support Activity (MCTSSA) tasked SCALABLE to provide network digital twin services for modeling of the Marine Corps Enterprise Network (MCEN) in support of the MCEN Planning Yard (MPY). The mission of the MCEN Planning Yard is to provide engineering services to integrate changes to the MCEN to reduce risk and meet or exceed all force requirements, maximize cybersecurity, minimize downtime, and reduce total cost of ownership. The MPY provides an enabling capability to implement Technical Authority over the MCEN by establishing a rigorous and repeatable engineering process to evaluate proposed changes and cyber vulnerabilities. The focus of the MPY includes tactical communications systems, the MCEN persistent environment (garrison), as well as the intervening seams and interfaces. The MCEN digital twin thus must be able to accurately emulate Marine Corps networks from the fighting hole to the flagpole.
Segments of the MCEN are replicated in SCALABLE’s EXata network simulation tool to create the MCEN digital twin, leveraging the Joint Network Emulator (JNE) developed by SCALABLE under prior Government contracts. Resulting MCEN digital twin models are progressively enhanced and continuously updated. Additional sites and components can be iteratively added to ensure the MCEN digital twin contains all required sites and functionality.
EXata/JNE provides the high fidelity models of networking technologies that MPY requires for developing digital twins of the MCEN and various long-haul networks. EXata/JNE also enables the MPY modeling framework to have a real-time, hardware-in-the-loop capability for simulation of the entire net-centric infrastructure.
The MCEN digital twin developed by SCALABLE provides a rapid and easy approach for network analysis, testing, and optimization, thereby reducing recurring costs and lead times for deployment of new capabilities. Specific benefits of SCALABLE’s network digital twin approach include:
- Automated and semi-automated interfaces support rapid creation of digital twins of physical networks. Built-in analysis tools provide measures of performance substantially beyond aggregate metrics, which can help gain deep insight into both network and application performance.
- The digital twin framework enables testing of a large number of networks in a low-cost, lab-based setting with a small hardware footprint, while reducing risk in fielding frequently changing network devices and software.
- Network digital twin’s ability to respond exactly like a live network can play a key role in testing cybersecurity and helping to defend the networked systems against evolving cyber threats.
- Incorporation of relevant MCEN digital twin segments into combat capability development analyses and wargames enables evaluation of potential effects of degraded network operations and/or cyber vulnerabilities on overall mission outcomes. Activities that can disrupt communications such as Cyber/Electronic Warfare attacks, network overload, weather, terrain, etc., are incorporated into the mission scenario and timeline with sufficient fidelity to adequately assess their impact.