Here, we present the concept of an open virtual prototyping framework (VPF) for maritime systems and operations that enables its users to develop reusable component or subsystem models, and combine them in full-system simulations for prototyping, verification, training, and performance studies. This framework consists of a set of guidelines for model coupling, high-level and low-level coupling interfaces to guarantee interoperability, a full-system simulation software, and example models and demonstrators. We discuss the requirements for such a framework, address the challenges and the possibilities in fulfilling them, and aim to give a list of best practices for modular and efficient virtual prototyping and full-system simulation. The context of our work is within maritime systems and operations, but the issues and solutions we present here are general enough to be of interest to a much broader audience, both industrial and scientific.

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