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Coast to Coast

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

CANA Attends Key Events

By Will Berry

Pentagon Energy Expo

The Pentagon Energy Expo took place over two busy days in September, one sunny and one rainy. Regardless of the weather, the courtyard of the Pentagon was the ideal setting for over a hundred exhibitors ringing the central courtyard walking path to demonstrate emerging technology capabilities that will help preserve U.S. military dominance in future contested logistics environments.

eThor on Display - Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando
Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks learns more about the eTHOR at the Pentagon Energy Expo. Photo By: Lisa Ferdinando, DOD

The Expo was hosted by a number of Department of Defense sponsors including the individual Service branches, and the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense (OUSD), Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment (OUSD(A&S)), Operational Energy Capability Improvement Fund (OECIF), and the Operational Energy Prototype Fund (OEPF). These sponsors had the opportunity to view a variety of cutting edge technology, including vehicle electrification, installation energy resilience, batteries, energy storage, energy distribution, power generation, software, and cybersecurity.

One of the standout exhibits was the eTHOR, a project funded by OECIF, sponsored by National Information Warfare Center-Pacific (NIWC PAC), and project-managed by CANA. eTHOR will provide a network of electric vehicles capable of storage, transport, delivery, and exportation of energy in a contested environment. In addition, the system is an agile 5G network infrastructure, deploying and extending 5G’s low latency, high bandwidth capabilities to the expeditionary force enabling unmanned systems, artificial intelligence, and all domain command and control. The goal of the system is to increase the efficiency of energy logistics in a contested environment and provide sufficient network communications to enable the future force.

A tag line of the Expo was, “[e]nergy is the key enabler that will keep the Joint Forces in the fight to achieve decisive victory.” With that in mind, the eTHOR exhibit showcased electric vehicle technology and exportable energy all-in-one by having a DANNAR Mobile Power Station (MPS) at the eTHOR booth. It was a unique visual draw that brought hundreds of visitors to the exhibit. Amongst those visitors was Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks, resulting in a special opportunity to directly share the significant energy plus 5G communications capabilities the eTHOR system will bring to bear. In regards to the Expo, Deputy Defense Secretary Hicks was quoted that energy innovation, "...has to do with national security and what it takes to have the capabilities we need for the warfighter today and going forward.” Well said, we believe, and the eTHOR project is excited to deliver.

Unmanned Systems West

The Unmanned Systems West Conference took place late September in San Diego, CA, and was a fascinating forum of presentations, analysis and discussion. It focused on how the military, government, technology industry, and academics can work together to develop capabilities that advance Unmanned Systems (UxS) capabilities to benefit the warfighter on land, sea and air. The conference was billed as an opportunity to further dialogue on tactical and technical priorities and the challenges of autonomy and artificial intelligence and to shine a light on ongoing research and innovation that will help integrate both UxS and robotic capabilities. It was successfully achieved on all fronts.

So Cal Tech Bridge Director, Captain Ben Cohen USMC, giving presentation
So Cal Tech Bridge Director, Captain Ben Cohen USMC, giving presentation

Over the two day conference, there were a number of common themes woven through the presentations and panel discussions, including the need for increased collaborative research on design to decrease prototyping systems costs and to increase design speed. Ideas, such as low-cost platform sharing based on common vehicle chassis, were recognized as a tactic to accelerate change; otherwise we risk losing from an acquisition perspective. While there were many different perspectives offered by the presenters and panelists, the iterative design notion – to collaborate, develop, test, fail fast, and evolve – was a common theme that encapsulated the pathway to effectively meet requirements and achieve success.

On Day One, the conference was capstoned with a special presentation by one of our partners, NavalX So Cal Tech Bridge Director, Captain Ben Cohen, USMC, who discussed industry innovation needs and requirements. Attendees were enlightened to Capt Cohen’s unique perspective as a Marine Corps warfighter and as the new Director of the NavalX So Cal Tech Bridge. Amongst other things, Capt Cohen discussed bringing warfighters into the academic/industry ecosystem by highlighting the need to focus capabilities on the diverse pool of end users first, with the technology to follow. By focusing on the end user first, the culture of the warfighter is taken into account, which is paramount because, as Capt Cohen stated, “...culture eats strategy for lunch.”

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