Through the gates of The Portal

 - August 5, 2008, 8:51 AM

A year ago The Portal opened its doors. The facility, located at QinetiQ’s Cody Technology Park site on the north side of Farnborough airfield, is an advanced experimentation and analysis suite. Established by Boeing in partnership with QinetiQ, The Portal draws on advanced simulation techniques, virtual operations and the insertion of live operations to run complex scenarios to aid a variety of functions.
QinetiQ principally uses the facility to assist the UK Ministry of Defence in the front end of the CADMID  (concept/assessment/demonstration/manufacture/in-service/disposal) life cycle. It simulates future systems and aids the MoD in its procurement decisions and in devising CONOPS. According to Boeing’s director for The Portal, Shane Arnott, “We can use simulation to fast-forward into the future. We can simulate different options in the same environment to aid decision-making.”

Boeing, meanwhile, principally uses the facility for the back-end of the CADMID cycle, particularly to evaluate the effects of new processes in manufacturing and support functions.

The Portal is highly versatile. The heart of the facility is a theater-style room that can display the simulations as they are running. It can be reconfigured to meet many requirements, including a replica command and control center, and even has a hard-standing outside so that vehicles and other equipment can be linked in.

The Portal is connected to several networks so that near real-time simulations can be run across several laboratories around the world. The Portal is linked to QinetiQ’s Quest network and to Boeing’s Labnet. The latter includes not only several sites in the U.S., but also the systems analysis laboratory in Brisbane, Australia. It is connected to the UK MoD’s classified network, and also the International Coalition Federated Battle Lab Network, which includes NATO clients.

For its opening The Portal simulated a complex air-sea-land scenario that involved numerous labs providing simulations into a single scenario. The Portal generated some of the “players” in its own lab, while other participants were provided by the Australian facility and several in the U.S. QinetiQ’s JOUST facility generated some of the aircraft simulations for the exercise.

Highlighting the kind of work that The Portal can do, the exercise involved a simulated RAF E-3 Sentry. Rather than being a standard E-3, it simulated a Project Eagle aircraft, reflecting the capabilities that could be available after the RAF’s Sentry fleet has undergone the far-reaching Block 40/45 upgrade currently in progress for the U.S. Air Force aircraft.

Establishing such multinational networked simulations poses some challenges, especially concerning exportability issues. Technical assistance agreements are in place to smooth the process, while The Portal is configured to run on various levels of classification. Both Boeing and QinetiQ have the ability to run their own programs discretely.