Developing High-Performing Defense Simulations to Save Lives and Money

April 2021
Mike Lewis
Mike Lewis sitting at his desk

Veteran Mike Lewis loves to learn and relishes a challenge. After retiring from the military, he chose to come to MITRE because he appreciates our focus on continual innovation and our commitment to solving the nation’s tough problems


I’m a modeling and simulation engineer leading MITRE’s team building a multi-use digital engineering modeling and simulation (M&S) environment for the DoD [Department of Defense]. People’s eyes sometimes glaze over when I say that, so I tell them to think of it as a virtual development environment for all military branches and their respective weapons systems.

We’re writing the complex programs that allow our sponsors to mimic the real world and develop, test, train, and experiment with new capabilities in a joint military environment. It’s a challenge that no one has done before on such a large scale. We’re building it to work with multiple platforms and other domains including space and cyber. 

It’s an all-around good investment. The government estimates this joint environment will save the DoD approximately $500 million over 10 years. They’ll save on fuel, range time, personnel, and wear and tear on the aircraft.

It’s also safe—no one’s life is in danger. Plus, it’s private. The military can run tests free from observation by any bad guys.

NERVE Provides Agility

Everything we’re developing is up on MITRE’s NERVE network. That’s where we have some of the prototypes built and where our sponsors can experiment with the new capabilities. That approach maximizes agility and collaboration throughout the development process. We can make changes and refinements as the different modules are tested.

This DoD M&S environment will be fully customizable. Each of the military services will be able to add their respective systems and components into the simulations. For example, the environment could include a land-based radar, enemy fighter aircraft, or a space-based system.

Another benefit is that the military will be able to do a lot more in terms of development testing to discover the answers to critical questions: Do the new technologies work together the way they need to? Will they achieve what the services want them to achieve? Development testing helps us ensure we’re meeting the sponsors’ requirements and giving them the best value for the money.

This is a comprehensive multi-year effort. I like to use the analogy of building a new house. You draw up blueprints, build the frame, and close it in. You add the mechanical lines, wallboard, and ceilings. The further along in the process you are, the more customized elements you can add.

We’re completing the basic building blocks for the environment now. When we’re done, the government will own the simulation and can add in additional capabilities and build new modules as needed.

MITRE and its stakeholders are also using MITRE’s platforms—the integrated technologies, domain knowledge, and deep expertise—to provide our sponsors with the capabilities they need for mission success. Because we’re bringing public and private capabilities into a shared environment, we’re fostering collaboration that will help maximize the impact of solutions.

Innovation Built in the Culture

One aspect of the MITRE culture I’ve always appreciated is the commitment to working on the tough challenges. As operators of FFRDCs, we tackle the hard problems, develop solutions, and then move on to the next hard problem. 

Another is MITRE’s willingness to embrace innovation to get the job done.

Our sponsors know that MITRE continues to grow because we’re focused on finding the right solution— the one that will enable them to fulfill their mission.

—as told to Kay M. Upham

Join our community of innovators, learners, knowledge-sharers, and risk-takers: View our Job Openings and our Military to MITRE program.

Recent Conversations