DOD enlists supercomputers for battle-system testing

While building body armor prototypes for testing is not overly expensive, building new armored vehicles for testing is just not practical from a cost standpoint.

That's where high-performance supercomputers become vitally important to the Defense Department and other agencies, said government and industry officials at a Capitol Hill meeting May 25 sponsored by the Army High Performance Computing Research Center Network Computing Services Inc.

Supercomputers are necessary to run modeling and simulation tests on everything from armor to aircraft wings. While the benefits of supercomputing are well-recognized, the ways to fund the development of high-performance computing remains a question.

"I was really concerned a few years ago that the whole interest in high-end computing in the federal government was going to disappear, but that's turned around," Rep. Martin Olav Sabo (D-Minn.) said.

High-performance computing is developing rapidly worldwide, said George Cotter, director of information technology for the National Security Agency. In the United States, however, government uses of supercomputers aren't large enough to drive the industry to compete with countries such as Japan.

As the Army adjusts from a Cold War mind-set to a philosophy of urban warfare, high-speed computing will play an important role in the transition, said Lt. General Joseph Yakovac, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army.

"Because we're in urban environments, we need to punch holes in buildings," Yakovac said. "How do we do that? We can leverage [high-performance computing] capabilities to give us solutions."

Computer simulations on new munitions designs can be more effective than actual tests in some cases, he said.

About the Author

Doug Beizer is a staff writer for Washington Technology.

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