Weapon systems analysts traditionally conduct military worth analysis (MWA) to evaluate the warfighter payoff resulting either from the development and implementation of new assets or from the establishment of new concepts of employment for existing assets. Analysis scope ranges from the campaign level to the mission level and thus differs in magnitude, time frame, and level of detail (see Figure 1). While MWA can potentially evaluate hundreds of possible metrics, it typically includes parameters such as time to accomplish objectives, number of targets neutralized, amount of collateral damage, and volume of resources consumed (including dollars). As depicted in Figure 2, laboratory directors must consider both the analytically demonstrated payoff and the clear interest of the user community in making an informed investment decision; therefore, determining the MWA for a particular laboratory technology is vitally important.

Figure 1. Mission- and campaign-level simulations

In the guided weapons arena, analysts must weigh factors such as weapon performance and the number and type of weapons and aircraft (force structure) to employ in a conflict. If a new concept weapon is similar to an existing weapon in its performance and use, analysts can easily employ existing MWA tools and approaches to establish the concept weapon's warfighter payoff. However, most new concept weapons are radically different from existing weapons. Whereas simple, unitary guided weapons have flight times of seconds or minutes, new concepts call for constellations of cooperative weapons with flight times encompassing many hours or even days. Other emergent concepts envision microbots that commanders can deploy and use as automated special operations teams. Evaluating the military worth of these and other new concept weapons is becoming increasingly difficult because existing analytical tools and techniques were not built to address these complex applications.

AFRL created the Concept Impact Team (CIT) to conduct MWA for new munitions concepts and related weapons technologies. The first challenge for the CIT was to conduct campaign-level MWA for Dominator, an AFRL-developed cooperative weapon concept designed to loiter for long periods over a target area, fly in constellations, and deploy multiple submunitions against mobile targets.1 Dominator's autonomous and cooperative behaviors were a real challenge for analysts to represent and evaluate in a campaign simulation. Ultimately, the team developed a Markov chain to represent the propagated effects of each key Dominator design and environmental parameter up to the estimated number of expected kills per sortie for each aircraft in the campaign scenario. The analysts then transferred this data to the Combat Forces Assessment Model, a campaign simulation tool. Representing the effects in this manner allowed them to use the existing Air Force Studies and Analysis Agency (AFSAA)-approved campaign simulation without modification. Working against a tight deadline, the CIT was not only able to represent Dominator successfully at the campaign level, but was also able to show that one of the layer architectures being considered was clearly superior to the others. The team subsequently used the campaign results to eliminate another possible architecture as well, thereby saving several months of mission simulation development time. Ultimately, the CIT demonstrated that using Dominator in a future military campaign would decrease the time to achieve objectives, the number of sorties required, and the overall campaign costs. The warfighter community considers these metrics of great importance to decisions regarding a new weapon system's development.

Figure 2. Making technology investment decisions with MWA

Since its successful completion of the Dominator analysis, the CIT has also completed campaign-level MWA for the Low-Cost Mini Cruise Missile (LCMCM) concept and Hard-Target Influence Fuze (HTIF) projects. The team is planning new analyses to support the Low-Collateral-Damage Munitions technology project and additional analyses on Dominator and the LCMCM. Each analysis effort presents researchers with the challenge of effectively representing a unique concept weapon at the campaign level and assessing its payoff to the warfighter.

Effective MWA extends beyond the campaign level to the mission level. Because mission-level simulations model weapon effects in greater detail than campaign-level simulations provide, they target a much smaller-scale scenario. Accordingly, a mission simulation's typical simulated timespan ranges from minutes to days, whereas the simulated timespan for a campaign may encompass weeks to months. To create a mission-level simulation, the CIT first collaborates with AFRL mission simulation specialists. After building a mission simulation that accurately represents concept weapon effects, the team then creates an equivalent mission simulation representing the inventory force structure for that mission. During the mission-level MWA process, the team compares the concept weapon's performance to the inventory force structure to determine the concept weapon's payoff. The concept weapon could be a completely new weapon, or it could be an existing weapon modified to incorporate new technology.

The CIT's first mission-level MWA was for Dominator. For this analysis effort, the team employed a campaign simulation to identify the appropriate force structure mix to use against the target set of interest; the analysts then used the resulting force mix as the starting point for designing the inventory force structure for the mission. The team found this technique very useful and plans to refine it for future studies. In fact, the CIT's most current effort—a mission-level MWA for the HTIF project—will involve the same process of developing an inventory force structure for the mission and then comparing it to concept weapon performance.

Mission-level simulation requires a significant amount of time and effort to adequately develop models and conduct a sufficient number of simulation runs for extracting meaningful results. Therefore, analysts often conduct shorter, less expensive, campaign-level MWA to first establish the probability of realizing a military payoff should a concept weapon achieve some level of effect (e.g., expected kills per sortie). If the initial, campaign-level MWA yields little or no payoff, analysts do not usually proceed with developing or conducting lengthier, costlier mission simulations. However, if campaign-level simulation results indicate a potential payoff, mission simulation specialists can use them in determining what level of effect the concept weapon must achieve to generate a significant campaign payoff to the warfighter. They can also use promising campaign-level results to identify which mission types to target for the concept weapon.

To conduct meaningful mission-level analysis of any type, mission simulation specialists must develop suitable small-scale scenarios, called vignettes. Because simulation specialists create these mission-level vignettes to highlight and explore the capabilities of the concept weapon, they differ accordingly. Likewise, since these vignettes must be operationally relevant, the CIT consults other knowledgeable organizations and agencies (e.g., Air Combat Command and AFSAA) and local intelligence personnel for assistance in identifying and vetting potential vignettes. These consultants help to develop a smart inventory force structure appropriate to the vignette for some future time period. MWA performed at the mission level effectively provides analysts with insight not attainable at the campaign level. Therefore, once analysts have performed campaign-level MWA to understand a concept weapon's achievable effects and subsequently completed mission-level MWA to make the appropriate comparisons, they may choose to rerun the campaign simulation with refined parameters to narrow the range of expected payoff. The entire process generates a potential weapon performance picture that analysts can interpret and confidently communicate to the warfighter community.

In summary, the CIT believes MWA is crucial for evaluating the warfighter payoff of a weapons technology and, consequently, for making informed technology investment decisions. As a result, the team is extending the MWA capability to support more AFRL future technologies and integrating concepts.

Mr. Larry E. Lewis, of the Air Force Research Laboratory's Munitions Directorate, wrote this article. For more information, contact TECH CONNECT at (800) 203-6451 or place a request at http://www.afrl.af.mil/techconn_index.asp . Reference document MN-H-05-06.


  1. Plenge, B. T. "Area Dominance." AFRL Technology Horizons®, vol 5, no 2 (Apr 04): 49-50. http://www.afrlhorizons.com/Briefs/Apr04/MN0308.html.