Using narratives helps future-proof RCN

Innovation / January 25, 2021

“How do you future-proof the Royal Canadian Navy without knowing the future security environment 30 years from now?” asks Commander Scott Shortridge, Director Navy Innovation for the Royal Canadian Navy (RCN).

“Well, you need to focus on outcomes before requirements. And the best way to do that is to use an innovative tool called ‘use cases’.”

The RCN is embarked on a major recapitalization of its Fleet that will ensure the RCN and the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) are well positioned to continue to safeguard Canadian defence and security interests into the foreseeable future.  

Use cases are an innovative approach that define desired outcomes before knowing exact requirements. The approach uses a narrative format to focus on improved communications and can be characterized as a collaborative effort on the part of the user and the solution provider – in this case the RCN and defence industry, respectively. 

The RCN has already used this approach, having developed six use cases for the Canadian Surface Combatant, which were focused on major areas of warfare capability: anti-air, anti-surface and underwater warfare; communications and information systems; cyber; and systems integration. 

Each use case described a variety of scenarios that the ship will be expected to successfully face, in order to achieve its mission. For example, the anti–air warfare use case included a number of scenarios where the ship would need to survive a series of missile attacks against it.

“Looking forward, as RCN projects are developed, use cases will help guide systems analysis work, while also supporting advanced modelling and simulation,” said Cdr Shortridge. Use cases provide a level of transparency to industry about what is ultimately required and greater assurance for the RCN that the ship will perform as expected once delivered.

“For the RCN, the inclusion of use cases in the Canadian Surface Combatant project represented a modern and innovative approach to striking the balance between detailing everything the RCN needed and allowing industry the freedom to develop and propose its own unique solutions to the challenges highlighted in the use cases,” said Cdr Shortridge.

“This balance is far from a perfect science and there are indeed shades of gray, but peering decades into the future is also an art – and solutions are never black and white.”

In the end, by using use cases to support the defence procurement process, the RCN is engaging with world-class industry players to enable them to pull together and to propose leading-edge, innovative, and achievable solutions, so that tomorrow’s sailors will have the equipment they need to get the mission done.