Pentagon drops super funds on 5 centers

The Defense Department last week announced plans to purchase three new supercomputers and upgrade several other systems under a $43 million effort that will support cutting-edge warfighter-oriented research.

The DOD High-Performance Computing Modernization Office tapped five military centers to receive the funds: Arnold Engineering and Development Center the Naval Air Warfare Center and Aircraft Division the Naval Research Laboratory the Redstone Technical Test Center and the White Sands Missile Range. These so-called distributed centers will offer supercomputing power to military researchers nationwide via high-bandwidth telecommunications links.

Additionally the Army High-Performance Computing Research Center located at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis will acquire an advanced scalable system to replace its aging supercomputer.

Kay Howell director of the DOD modernization program said one of the main goals of the program is to reduce the cost of developing weapons systems by performing supercomputer modeling and simulations instead of live tests. For example during recent test flights of the new C-14 aircraft soldiers jumping out of the right and left sides of the plane were colliding.

Program scientists used high-performance computers to analyze the airflow around the aircraft they prescribed a different flying angle and timing sequence for the jumpers that ended the midair collisions.

The new distributed centers will join four major shared-resource supercomputer centers already in place throughout DOD. "We're trying to build a seamless computing environment " Howell said. "We want a user to be able to run through code at the [supercomputer] at one center move to another and not even know that took place." Each center will task existing contractors or create new procurements to acquire high-performance computers for specific studies.

Redstone's selection as a distributed center could mean new business for Nichols Research Corp. which holds contracts to provide systems for two of the shared-resource centers according to Michael Solley president of Nichols' InfoFed Division.

Among the five distributed centers only one Redstone is new to the program. The others were designated as distributed centers in 1996 but all will receive funding for high-performance computing upgrades this year.

The distributed centers will be investing in scalable high-performance computing systems to perform varying applications:

* Arnold Engineering and Development Center at Arnold Air Force Base Tenn. will acquire a scalable system to support testing and evaluation services for among other things F-22 airplanes and ballistic missile defense acquisition.

* The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division at Patuxent Naval Air Station Md. will upgrade its Silicon Graphics Inc. PowerChallenge to allow for simulation of real-time multiple aircraft scenarios and missile defense.

* The Naval Research Laboratory in Washington D.C. will expand an existing SGI/Cray Origin 2000 from 64 to 128 nodes. The laboratory will work with SGI/Cray to deploy a common 64-bit operating system and more robust system administration tools.

* Redstone will acquire a scalable supercomputer that will allow researchers to generate images from threat and target background and environmental databases as the systems receive input from missiles and their flight paths.

* White Sands will acquire a new system that will aid in the development of automated battle management and combat identification systems.

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