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Microsoft, Other Defense Firms Team Up for Modeling & Simulation Work

Lockheed, BAE Systems, and other firms are using the Seattle giant's Azure cloud platform to develop training and what-if tools.

Microsoft has formed partnerships with BAE Systems and other firms in recent months to pursue Defense Department contracts for gaming, exercising, modeling and simulation, or GEMS, according to a blog post published by the company on Tuesday. 

Wes Anderson, the vice president for defense at Microsoft Federal, said in the blog post that the company and its partners are using Microsoft Azure’s cloud platform and services to develop GEMS capabilities.

“Repeatable, replicable simulations reduce cold starts and help national security planners quickly launch and adjust simulations as global circumstances change,” Anderson wrote. 

DOD views more advanced GEMS capabilities as an important component of maintaining a modern military force. A January 2021 report on GEMS by the Defense Science Board noted that “increased use of GEMS will be necessary to ensure that the DOD is able to meet future challenges” when it comes to “systems development, acquisition, training, deterrence and warfighting.”

And DOD’s ability to conduct more accurate models and simulations also plays an important role in the Pentagon’s ability to anticipate and adequately prepare for future threats. DOD’s 2022 Nuclear Posture Review—a public version of which was released on Oct. 27—noted, in part, that “intelligence analysis, simulations and wargames, ‘red teaming’ and other means offer actionable insights to U.S. leaders that help mitigate” the risk of nuclear escalation and miscalculation.

Given the growing need for DOD to enhance its GEMS capabilities, Microsoft has placed a greater emphasis in recent months on partnering with firms and institutions working to develop and support modeling and simulation technologies for the defense sector. These collaborations have centered, in large part, on companies using Microsoft Azure to support platforms and emerging technologies viewed as critical to the next generation of warfighting. 

BAE Systems announced on Tuesday that they will be using Microsoft Azure to host their Pioneer wargaming platform, which they described as “a system-of-systems that enables wargame operations across multiple domains, including land, air, sea, space and cyber.” The same day, London-based cloud computing startup Hadean also announced that it will be working to integrate its “metaverse infrastructure” with Microsoft Azure to “produce fit-for-purpose and robust solutions that can rapidly cut through data and deliver impactful outcomes for customers across government agencies, defense contractors and the armed forces.”

The dual announcements followed a similar one from virtual and augmented reality company VRAI on Monday that they will also be using Microsoft Azure to “bring next generation simulation capability to military end users.”

Earlier this month, Microsoft also announced an agreement with Lockheed Martin to work on four critical GEMS-related technology areas for DOD, including classified cloud innovation; artificial intelligence/machine learning and modeling and simulation capabilities; 5G.MIL technologies; and digital transformation efforts. 

Anderson said the strategic partnership with Lockheed Martin will allow the company to “build on the Microsoft GEMS technology and Azure capabilities, enabling Lockheed Martin and its customers to test military platforms and technologies that power joint all-domain operations on a digital platform.” 

While Microsoft has, more recently, prioritized partnerships with other defense-focused companies, they previously announced a collaboration with the Naval Postgraduate School in May to conduct research into ways of bringing emerging technologies into the Navy. This ongoing work includes exploring “ways in which the Navy and Marine Corps can leverage gaming, exercising, modeling and simulation to help operational commanders make faster and better decisions.” ​​

News of Microsoft’s recent partnerships with BAE Systems, Hadean and VRAI comes as the company participates in this week’s Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation, and Education Conference in Orlando, Florida, which the organizers have billed as “the world's largest modeling, simulation and training event.”