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Christian Fitzpatrick

Faculty Associate - Research, Computer Science
MS in Modeling, Virtual Environments, and Simulation (MOVES) '09

Christian Fitzpatrick (M.S., Modeling and Simulation, Naval Postgraduate School, 2009) is currently a Faculty Associate – Research at the MOVES Institute, Naval Postgraduate School. Within the Department, Fitzpatrick teaches Advanced Simulation Networking. 

Prior to joining the Faculty at NPS, Fitzpatrick served in the Marine Corps as a KC-130 pilot and Air Support Control Officer. After receiving his degree from NPS in 2009, he served at Marine Corps Combat Development Command where he developed scenarios for combat simulations to analyze the Expeditionary Fighting Vehicle (EFV) and Joint Light Tactical Vehicle (JLTV) using DOD-approved tools including COMBATXXI. He also spent 3 years at the Office of Naval Research (ONR) where he served as a Program Manager and established a tactical cyberspace/electronic warfare S&T development program.

What led you to NPS, both as a student and now as faculty associate for research? What was the most important thing you learned as a student? What has been most impactful during your time as faculty? 

One of my mentors, Capt. Jerry Hendrix, USN (Retired), urged me to apply for the modeling, virtual environments and simulation (MOVES) program at NPS back in 2006 as he knew I served as a simulation officer in my KC-130 squadron and had interest in learning more about how simulations support the Fleet. I am so glad I took his advice.  Looking back, graduating from MOVES was life-changing. Although the curriculum was really challenging for me as a student, the faculty on campus were always willing to drop everything to help me with a question or problem. That example drives me now as a Faculty Associate. I want to be an advocate for our students. Teach them what they need to know. Expose them to the modeling and simulation tools they’ll see in the Fleet. To answer what I have learned both as a student and faculty member, it is that research is a collaborative process. There is too much to learn in academia and working with others effectively is the most critical component to delivering impactful research.

Why is modeling and simulation critical to the innovation process in the current technology and threat environments?

Since joining the NPS faculty in 2018, I have been focused on establishing partnerships with industry. This process has allowed me to insert emerging technologies into the existing combat simulations we have in our MOVES Live Virtual Constructive (LVC) Interoperability Lab. We have been working with Hybrid Air Vehicles (HAV), a United Kingdom-based heavier-than-air aircraft development company. With them, we’ve been able to integrate their Airlander 10 platform into a simulation to show its value in conducting intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance (ISR) operations in the Arctic once the ocean becomes more trafficable for surface vessels mid-century. In addition, we have also been working with Actus Advanced Systems who have developed an innovative concept for an autonomous air delivery system planned to be capable of lifting 20-ton Conex boxes from ship to shore. The system has been named the Transformational Autonomous Aerial Logistics Operations (TALOn) Vehicle. Both these technologies have applications to Contested Logistics environments and we want to show the DOD the value of these systems before they make future investments. 

From your perspective, what are the key benefits and advantages of engaging in CRADAs or similar partnerships between academic institutions and industry leaders like AT&T, TMGcore, Inc., or Hybrid Air Vehicles for example?

Cooperative Research and Development Agreements are absolutely critical in terms of our education as we are trying to create modeling and simulation (M&S) officers that are able to conduct rapid analysis of new systems to provide actionable information to their leaders. Future M&S officers will be expected to interact with commercial industry engineers upon graduation and through our CRADAs we allow our students to engage with them while they are in the learning process. This interaction helps them learn how to ask the right questions in the early stages of development.

Additionally, CRADAs allow NPS students and faculty to leverage the expertise of commercial industry vendors to enable them to make more significant contributions to the Fleet. For example, through the AT&T or TMGcore, Inc. CRADAs, we have access to networks and systems we wouldn’t normally have access to which increases the scope of the research we can do. It makes our work very exciting.

How has the partnership with AT&T enhanced the research capabilities and resources available at the Naval Postgraduate School? What research and solutions are you exploring under the AT&T CRADA? And what are the potential impacts? 

AT&T has been conducting research with the Marine Air Ground Task Force Training Center (MAGTFTC) in 29 Palms, CA. They have been working with the Battle Simulation Center (BSC) on base to connect that facility to Range 220, which is an urban range used for small unit training. The research conducted at 29 Palms is investigating the use of 5G communications networks to create distributed fires training. The BSC Staff integrated the Warfighter Augmented Reality (WAR) headset, Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC) Virtual Trainer (JVT), Android Tactical Awareness Kit (ATAK) tablets, and Virtual Battlespace 3 (VBS3) into this test environment. This evolution is serving as a model for a new class being offered at the MOVES Institute, MV4504 Design and Implementation of LVC environments. The first offering will be in the Winter of 2024. This is another example of how CRADAs can have a positive impact on our curriculum and in the research we conduct on campus. 

How has the hybrid air vehicle research started by Captains Ben Cohen and John Schmaltz evolved over the four generations of students working under the HAV CRADA? 

We are continuing to engage with Hybrid Air Vehicles and Capt. Ben Cohen who is now at the SoCal TechBridge, which is on MCAS Miramar. Through working with Capt. Cohen, our team was recently selected to execute an Operational Energy Capability Improvement Fund (OECIF) project investigating the applications of the Airlander 10 and Airlander 50 for contested logistics and ISR operations. Through this work we are hoping to show how a low-carbon emissions platform can be useful in conducting a wide range of warfighting functions. This work is planned for FY23-24.

During your time as faculty, you’ve advised and conducted a variety of research and experimentation with students, to include Capt. Johanna Tam’s “Enabling Large-Scale Context In Low-Echelon Training With Air Tasking Order Generation”. Based on your expertise and experience, how does Capt. Tam's research contribute to the broader field of simulation networking and command and control systems? 

The most exciting aspect of Capt. Tam’s thesis is that the Joint Staff J7, Directorate for Joint Force Development, is considering integration of her web-based application into their Joint Training Tool (JTT) dashboard. This would make her thesis work available to the joint community for the creation of air tasking orders (ATOs) and airspace control orders (ACOs) for various simulation events. We’re tracking J7’s evaluation of the tool and providing inputs as needed. Overall, this process would enable low overhead integration of the entire air plan into a simulation event more easily for the air control communities in the DOD.

How does her web-based tool address the existing challenges faced by the Air Support Control community in the Marine Corps?

Capt. Tam’s tool has been well publicized in the air support control community in the Marine Corps as well and leaders are asking how they can get their hands on the tool right now. At present, Capt. Tam is working with the NPS Legal Office to determine the best approach to disseminate her work before it becomes available on the JTT. More information will follow as we learn more.

How would the integration of state-of-the-art technologies and spaces, like immersive domes and simulation labs, impact education and research at NPS? How will this impact NPS’ ability to support the DOD’s key research priorities?

Network connectivity between DOD labs, other universities, and training ranges is so critical in making sure NPS stays connected with the research, development, test & evaluation (RDT&E) communities. Connecting to an immersive dome via a network is just as important as having a dome on-site. NPS is expecting to connect to the Secure Defense Research and Engineering Network (SDREN) and the Joint Mission Environment Test Capability (JMETC) Secure Network (JSN) in December of 2023. This installation will connect NPS to all Navy Labs and the Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) BSCs. This will allow the campus to better integrate with engineers at Navy Labs while helping them address some of the applied research challenges they face in their labs.

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