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Battle Group in the Sand

Delivering credible combat power to the hands of our Sailors

by By Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Timothy Hale, All Hands Magazine
02 May 2019

Located on Virginia's Eastern Shore, the Surface Combat Systems Center (SCSC) at Wallops Island is the go-to site for combat systems developmental and operational testing as well as training in a maritime and littoral environment. The perfect location to test radars with ships and aircraft in the Virginia Capes Operational Area, it began 30 years ago as a test site for the AEGIS Weapon System — to include the radar. It has grown to include much more.

“Outside the people and the mission, the most important aspect of the installation on Wallops Island has to go back to the geographical location,” said Captain Jeffrey Lock Sr., SCSC Commanding Officer. “At this point, to try to do the work we do in another location would be an incredible challenge. This is because the types of things we do require a maritime environment with access to controlled air space and controlled sea space along with resident, representative Navy weapon systems. Establishing this elsewhere would be a tremendous fiscal and environmental challenge today. Bottom line, Rear Admiral Wayne E. Meyer chose wisely when he selected Wallops Island decades ago.”

Three main facilities make up SCSC Wallops Island. The Aegis Engineering and Training Complex houses AEGIS destroyer/cruiser and Ballistic Missile Defense (BMD) combat systems. The Ships Self Defense Facility houses Ships Self Defense System (SSDS) combat systems used for live and simulated operations for the Navy's aircraft carriers and amphibious ships. The Wallops Island Engineering Test Center houses the CVN 78 and DDG 1000 radar development and testing. In total, SCSC supports combat systems work for over one hundred and thirty US warships.

“We have all these different systems, such as radars and communication systems, that you find out there in the fleet,” said Fire Controlman Ramon Arias, Aegis 1st Class, Sailor Test Team member. “All right here between different buildings we can mimic most of the ships that are out there. We can do anything the ships can do, short of actually moving.”

The base is also home to the Sailor Test Team, which evaluates Aegis Combat System computer programs in the development phase from an end-user perspective, identifying areas for improvement. New equipment typically found in a ship's Combat Information Center comes to SCSC Wallops Island first — prior to going to the Fleet. Lessons learned from the team are immediately shared with program developers in order to implement design improvements rapidly.

While Sailors in the fleet are getting outfitted with the latest technology, SCSC Wallops Island is the place where they have the opportunity to put their hands on the exact equipment they'll be operating on a ship. The bonus SCSC offers is that everything imaginable can be thrown at the system and the Sailors — in a controlled environment — stressing them to the point of ensuring that both are ready to fight in complex combat situations. This helps build Sailors' confidence in the system and the muscle memory they will need when operating these systems in real-world scenarios.

“The Sailor Test Team is an expansion of the ever-growing mission of SCSC, putting tacticians and technicians in the seat to test what our shipmates in the fleet would need to 'Fight the Fight,'” said Fire Controlman — Aegis 1st Class Sean James, Sailor Test Team member. “The test team members utilize their fleet experience in the operation and maintenance of the Aegis Combat System to help them assess new and upgraded computer programs, while they are early in development, to affect change.”

SCSC Wallops Island's mission is to provide live and simulated integrated warfare capabilities in a net-centric, maritime environment to develop, test, evaluate, and conduct Fleet operations and training for the warfighter. The center carries out this mission with a highly skilled team of engineers, Fleet Sailors, civilians and contractors, working together to maintain and operate the “Battle Group in the Sand.” In the execution of this mission, SCSC Sailors receive the most thorough and technically advanced hands-on combat systems experience available anywhere, giving them an advantage when it comes to promotions, and creating journeymen across all AEGIS and SSDS baselines, ready to head back to the Fleet.

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