Excellence in Survivability:  Brent Waggoner

by Eric Edwards


Brent Waggoner

The Joint Aircraft Survivability Program Office (JASPO) is pleased to recognize Mr. Brent Waggoner for his Excellence in Survivability. With nearly 40 years in Navy modeling and simulation (M&S), Brent is a widely recognized leader in, and passionate advocate for, the use of M&S to optimize infrared countermeasure (IRCM) solutions to better protect U.S. air systems and crews.

Brent’s career began in 1985, when he took a job as an intern for the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) in Crane, IN, working on digital and hardware-in-the-loop (HITL) simulations for the Navy’s Deadeye laser-guided projectile program. After graduating with his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical and astronautical engineering from Purdue University in 1987, he joined NSWC full time and began conducting M&S work for the Marine Corps Air Defense Battalions, supporting the Stinger Basic, Stinger RMP, and Hawk missile programs.

In 1994, Brent joined the Navy Integrated Countermeasures Effectiveness Laboratory (NICEL), where he continues to proudly serve after more than 30 years. Building on his previous Deadeye and Stinger missile experience, he began working on threat missile modeling to support IRCM development for Navy and Marine Corps aircraft. During this time, he also earned a master’s degree in electrical engineering from Rose Hulman Institute of Technology (in 2003), was named NICEL’s Lead Engineer (in 2006), and was further promoted to the Chief Engineer for Modeling and Simulation (in 2017).


It was during one of his first assignments at NICEL that Brent learned an important lesson about model validation. He was comparing two high-fidelity seeker models for a threat seeker and borrowed some threat hardware to address some questions about the performance of one of the circuits. He discovered that although the models agreed with each other, they disagreed with the hardware. As it turns out, both models were based on a circuit simulation that didn’t accurately model the types of circuitry in the actual threat. Brent has often joked that he had wanted to “use democracy, by allowing the data to vote, but it would’ve resulted in the conclusion that the models were right and the hardware was wrong!” The incident helped reinforce in Brent’s mind the critical need to always validate models with actual hardware testing.

Brent Waggoner

The project also helped establish a mantra for Brent (and the entire NICEL). After witnessing unexpected behavior in the seeker’s tracking of an aircraft during a flight test, Brent was able to use further modeling to explain the reason for this behavior. Thus, the project would be yet another example of the George E.P. Box quote, “All models are wrong, but some are useful.”


The first PC-based real-time signal-injection HITL simulator for a reticle-based threat missile was developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory Dynamic Infrared Missile Evaluation (DIME) Laboratory. These systems are now referred to as “Talus” type simulators. Brent realized how useful this technology could be for CM development, so Crane funded the DIME Lab to produce a Talus simulator for the NICEL. Brent pioneered the development of the methodology and code for using these simulators for large numbers of M&S flyout runs to optimize CM devices and techniques. The team then duplicated this original Talus system so they’d have simulators available for both threat variants.

The intelligence agencies that conducted the foreign materiel exploitation on the seeker believed that variant 1 and variant 2 were functionally identical. However, using the Talus HITL simulators, Brent did a signal-level comparison of the counter-CM functionality of the two variants and demonstrated that, although the performance between the two variants could be similar, there were subtle differences that could cause very different outcomes in CM scenarios. Brent’s findings, which he presented at a Military Sensing Symposium (MSS) IRCM symposium in 2002, proved the need to use both threat variants in modeling and field testing to ensure that U.S. IRCM techniques were robust enough to protect against all threat versions.

Brent also developed modifications to the DIME Lab high-fidelity MATLAB/Simulink seeker variant 1 model so that it could also be used to represent variant 2 seekers. Notably, these seeker models are still being used today as a part of the Modeling System for the Advanced Investigation of Countermeasures (MOSAIC) threat engagement simulation.

Brent also worked during this time to collect data from characterization labs on seeker-to-seeker variations in the overall population for a particular threat, and he published recommendations to standardize the characterization processes so data from different labs could be compared. The standards that resulted from these efforts are still in use today.


Brent has also been heavily involved in efforts to correctly model expendable decoy devices using new and novel chemical compositions. Recognizing that traditional methods for reducing flight test measurements and estimating source spectral content were not adequate for these new compositions, Brent wrote MATLAB code to process flight test flare measurement data and helped develop a new methodology to produce source emission spectra for the Tri-Service Flare Database (TFD), which is used by all DoD IRCM M&S facilities.


Yet another focus area for Brent came in the late ‘90s, when U.S. services began fielding expendable area source decoys. Unlike most previous conventional pyrotechnic decoys, these decoys created complex area sources that couldn’t be accurately represented in threat simulations by standard point sources. Thus, Brent performed a seminal study to determine the best techniques for modeling the new devices and wrote code to simulate the reticle scanning and detector signal generation for several threats. He then used the code to compare the resulting detector signals from scanning an actual decoy image vs. various methods for representing them in simulation synthetic imagery. And he made recommendations for area source modeling best-practices and presented his findings at several IRCM venues. These techniques became the standard for DoD modeling for the next 20 years (until more sophisticated image-based scene generation techniques emerged).

Photo Courtesy of Army PM CCS

Photo Courtesy of Army PM CCS

More recently, Brent developed a MATLAB-based simulation of the complex dispersion pattern of area source particles that closely replicates that seen in flight test videos.


As serious as these and other projects were/are, one would be remiss in failing to mention the humor and lightheartedness that Brent has often brought to them. His technical presentations would especially become known for the humorous videos they often included (especially clips from Brent’s favorite 1960s TV series, Batman).

Likewise, Brent and several colleagues once acquired several Redeye missile seekers at NICEL and decided to turn one of them on to see if they could get it to track an IR source such as a soldering iron. They were able to get the seeker powered on and the gyro spun up, but they couldn’t get it to uncage and track the IR source. So, they applied power to one of the missile’s leads to try to trigger the seeker’s uncage circuit. Suddenly, the fins began chattering inside the seeker body, and the seeker got too hot to touch. They immediately disconnected the power, but the fins kept chattering and the gyro kept spinning. Brent exclaimed, “It can’t do that!” What he and the other researchers didn’t realize, however, was that a technician had previously neglected to remove the thermal battery the missile uses as its onboard power source when in flight. Needless to say, the remaining Redeyes were immediately checked for the presence of other thermal batteries so no more “impossibilities” would occur.


Brent also led the NICEL’s M&S efforts for the new MJU-76/B expendable decoy. The Air Force approached NSWC Crane about designing a replacement for the MJU 71/B kinematic decoy with one that had equal or better performance but that was more easily produced and less expensive. The NICEL used M&S in the design of the MJU-76/B to a larger extent than for any previous decoy device. Virtually every aspect of this unit was optimized using M&S. In particular, the aerodynamic properties of the MJU-76/B were designed and optimized using computational fluid dynamics (CFD) analysis. As this was the first time the Navy decoy design team had used CFD to set device requirements, they also performed wind tunnel testing to validate the CFD results. The wind tunnel data matched the CFD well, which is expected to result in more CFD analysis in future decoy designs and significant cost and time savings compared to traditional wind tunnel or live-fire test methods.

Brent Waggoner


Another common theme that has colored Brent’s career is his strong emphasis on collaboration with other DoD labs and organizations. He’s participated in many joint M&S studies, partnering with such groups as the Army Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter (ARH), Joint Cargo Aircraft (JCA), and Office of the Secretary of Defense. In addition, his collaborative spirit has extended to numerous U.S. allies. Notable international projects in which he’s been involved (often serving as the Navy Project Officer) include the following:

  • U.S./U.K. Focal Plane Array Countermeasures Project Arrangement (PA)
  • U.S./U.K. EO CMs/EO Protection Measures PA
  • U.S./Canada Reconfigurable Signal-Injection Missile Simulator PA
  • U.S./U.K. EO Survivability PA
  • The Technical Coordination Program (TTCP) KTA 7-19-11 Scene Fidelity Requirements for HITL Simulators
  • TTCP KTA 7-15 HITL Simulation Cost Reduction Technologies
  • TTCP CP 7-26-15 Standardizing Architectures for HITL Simulators
  • TTCP EWS TP7.2 Workshop on CMs for Advanced EO Threats
  • TTCP WPN HITL Practitioner’s Forum.


Perhaps the best example of Brent’s collaborative spirit and achievement is his work with the Reconfigurable Signal-Injection Missile Simulation (RSIMS) and the associated Joint Infrared Fundamental Hardware Acceleration Working Group (JIRFHAWG). In the late 1990s and early 2000s, many DoD labs were independently developing and running signal-injection HITL missile simulators using their own unique lab-specific architectures. These labs were often wary of collaboration due to a lack of trust and/or funding competition. To address this problem, Brent and others at NICEL worked to promote the idea of a standardized common DoD architecture for signal-injection HITL simulation, as well as to replace the air of competition and suspicion in the community with that of trust and cooperation.

These efforts led to the development of RSIMS as the common architecture, as well as the formation of the JIRFHAWG as the collaborative group promoting the use of RSIMS and the sharing of resources. (Incidentally, the slogan for JIRFHAWG—pronounced “JIRF-Hog”—is, “We make simulations fly!” Hence, the flying pig logo.) The overall result has been an ongoing reduction in costs (with each lab no longer having to maintain its own architecture), as well as an increase in the speed to develop new HITL simulators (with code-sharing and reuse between labs now made much easier). Today, the U.S. team of JIRFHAWG—which Brent has continued to lead since its inception—consists of 12 labs from the Army, Navy, Air Force, intelligence community, and industry; and RSIMS is now also used by the United Kingdom, Canada, and Australia.

RSIM LogoOne of the many innovations that Brent helped incorporate into RSIMS was the concept of a generic reticle processor. When RSIMS was first being developed in the early 2000s, all existing signal-injection missile simulators used reticle processor code written specifically for each type of missile/reticle. However, Brent began promoting the idea of using a generic reticle processor that would work for any type of reticle or scan pattern. This was a controversial proposition at the time and generated a large amount of discussion at the first JIRFHAWG meeting, with several skeptical HITL veterans doubting that a generic reticle processor was possible. With the help of Brent’s ongoing advocacy and demonstrations of the RSIMS reticle processor, however, all naysayers were eventually convinced.

In addition, with the increasing proliferation rate of threats in recent years, Brent also recognized the NICEL was accumulating seekers faster than the RSIMS development team could develop HITL simulators. There was thus an urgent need to run these seekers in modeling studies to keep Navy aircraft and Warfighters protected against the latest threats. Brent led the effort to establish a Prototype HITL Simulator Development request for solutions under an Other Transactional Authority (OTA) contract, which allowed funds to be obligated and the needed simulators developed extremely quickly.


Brent has also been instrumental in the success of JASP. He served as the Navy co-chairman for the Survivability Assessment Subgroup Susceptibility Committee from 2004 to 2016 and continues to serve as the Navy M&S subject-matter expert committee member for the Survivability Assessment and Reduction Subgroup. He’s also participated in 40+ successful JASP projects, personally writing, co-writing, presenting, and/or defending almost a dozen of them.

Furthermore, Brent has been a member of the MSS Specialty Group on EO and IRCM Program Committee since 2009, serving as Vice Chairman for the group from 2019 to 2023 and Chairman from 2023 until present. And in 2016, he was honored with MSS’s prestigious Goodell-Pollock Memorial Award for his many years of dedicated service and significant contributions to the IRCM community.


As far as patents go, Brent is co-owner of a U.S. patent for the “Aerodynamic Simulation System and Method for Objects Dispensed From an Aircraft.” This patent is the basis of the Flare Aerodynamic Modeling Environment (FLAME) tool, a physics-based simulation for expendable decoy trajectories and the DoD standard for IRCM engagement simulations. He is also a co-inventor of a U.S. patent disclosure for the “Reconfigurable Control System Method and Apparatus,” the basis of RSIMS.

MSS Photo

MSS Photo

In the end, Brent is extremely proud of helping to establish threat engagement flyout M&S as an integral part of the Navy’s process for fielding new expendable CM techniques. In fact, every expendable decoy technique fielded on Navy and Marine Corps aircraft today was developed under Brent’s leadership in the NICEL, and the organization remains heavily involved in modeling/effectiveness studies for laser-based directed IR CM (DIRCM) systems. In addition, many other programs across the DoD are now taking advantage of his and NICEL’s M&S services as well.

The most rewarding part of Brent’s job, however, has come when he’s been able to meet pilots who’ve been fired upon by threat man-portable air defense system missiles in combat. Many have credited their survival to their missile warning systems combined with the CM techniques developed by the NICEL. One pilot reported he wasn’t even aware he was being fired upon until he heard the popping sound of his flares automatically being ejected and saw the smoke trail of an enemy missile streaking past his aircraft in pursuit of an ejected decoy.

When not working, Brent enjoys spending time with his wife of 30 years, Susan, as well as their four children and six grandchildren. He also enjoys teaching a high school/college-age Sunday School class at his church and playing bass guitar.

Congratulations, Brent, on this well-deserved award, and thank you for your many years of contributions, leadership, and excellent service to the aircraft survivability community and the U.S. Warfighter.