WASHINGTON — The Air Force Research Laboratory is marking the next step in the development of its space-related infrastructure at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico, beginning construction on a facility dedicated to simulation and analysis last week.

The $6 million, 10,685-square-foot Wargaming and Advanced Research Simulation (WARS) Laboratory will house wargaming and simulation branches for both the directed energy and space vehicles directorates.

“We in the Department of Defense are concerned about competition with our adversaries across all domains of warfighting,” said Space Vehicles Directorate head Col. Eric Felt in a Sept. 15 statement. “The WARS Lab will advance three strategies AFRL is pursuing to deter conflict, which we call ISP — innovation, speed and partnerships.”

The WARS Lab will use digital engineering — which the Space Force is pushing to implement with space system and architecture designs—- to test out new technologies and see how they might operate. The facility will host more than 90 workstations in an auditorium where engineers from across the Department of Defense can collaborate in digital environments.

“I am excited about our vision of a virtual range becoming a reality,” said Teresa LeGalley, program manager for wargaming, modeling and simulation. “We are asked to determine military utility of directed energy, which means we need to insert high energy lasers and high powered electromagnetics into a battle space, to determine how they can be used to complement the weapon systems operators already have.”

“With digital engineering we can explore more concepts faster, without waiting for the ‘real thing’ hardware,” Felt said. “This lab will promote the use of digital engineering, saving time and money, and will provide the opportunity for partnerships within AFRL, with industry and our allies. We are better working together.”

The WARS Lab is expected to open in spring 2023.

The Department of Defense has invested heavily in upgrading the space-related infrastructure at Kirtland, home of AFRL’s Space Vehicles Directorate, and 450 square feet of the WARS Lab will be dedicated to the directorate. AFRL’s other investments include a $4 million Deployable Structures Laboratory, a $3.5 million Skywave Technology Laboratory, and a $12.8 million Space Warfighting Operations Research and Development Lab.

It is teaming with NewSpace New Mexico to launch the Unite & Ignite Space innovation hub with $11 million in federal funding. The Space Force also opened the $17 million Rendezvous and Proximity (REPR) Satellite Operations Center in July.

Nathan Strout covers space, unmanned and intelligence systems for C4ISRNET.

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