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Battle experiments: live and virtual troops mix in amphibious exercise.

Mixing live and virtual troops in a multinational force was one of the biggest challenges facing organizers of a Joint Forces Command exercise last summer.

Combined Joint Task Force Exercise (CJTFEX 04-2) was the most complex joint war game of the last decade, according to planners and participants. It involved 30,000 live troops, two carrier battle groups, a plethora of simulated (or constructive) aircraft and ground troops fighting in a Desert Storm-like scenario.

"We still have a long way to go on integrating live, virtual and constructive training," said Bill Johnson, event planner for the Joint National Training Capability (JNTC). For example, there's the question of determining battle damage. "If you have a live aircraft drop ordnance on a constructive target, how do you determine damage to the constructive target? How can a constructive target engage a live aircraft?"

JFCOM exercise planners stuck to one hard rule: do not mix live and simulated aircraft in the same airspace. "The concern is that if a live pilot is being engaged by a constructive aircraft, he obviously can't see it," said Johnson. "There is a flight safety concern that he may maneuver too hard to try to engage."

Life for the exercise controllers got even tougher when virtual weapons engaged each other. In theory, different computer models should be able to talk to one another and agree on the outcome of a mission. But exercise controllers discovered that humans still are needed to adjudicate computer bickering. "If a constructive aircraft in AWSIM [an Air Force model] engages a constructive land target in JCATS [an Army simulation], the models should figure out what the damage actually was," Johnson said. "But sometimes the models don't talk to each other very well."

Another challenge was the communication between live coalition troops. The scenario was an invasion of the hypothetical nation of Kartuna, whose coastline resembled the state of North Carolina's, by the equally fictitious nation of Korona. Coalition forces were tasked with an opposed amphibious landing into Korona to enforce a UN Security Council resolution.

The colorful array of the invading coalition included strike groups centered on the John F. Kennedy and Harry S. Truman carriers, the British 3rd Commando Brigade, U.S. special operations forces and the Minnesota National Guard's 34th Infantry Division. There were also a Peruvian diesel submarine, French and Dutch marines, and force reconnaissance and naval gunfire liaison from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade. Other participants came from Germany, Norway, Denmark, Italy and Canada.

This created difficulties in coordinating command-and-control functions "that we have not normally included in an exercise," noted Johnson, especially when security protocols restricted access to classified U.S. systems.

In addition to real units, a huge array of simulated forces entered the fray via computer models, or were controlled by operators using the JCATS simulation. For the blue forces, there were electronic combat and support units from the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade, supported by digital F-18s, AV-8s and helicopters. They were transported by nine simulated amphibious ships.

Overhead in cyberspace were two air expeditionary wings, including B-2s and B-1s, while below was a psychological-operations battalion and a civil affairs company. The Red (Koronan) forces fielded an eclectic mix of simulated hardware, including F-4s, F-5s, F-14s, Mirage F-Is, Chinese-made F-7s, MIG-23s, MIG-25s, SU-24s, TU-16s and a host of cruise and ballistic missiles--Frogs, Seersuckers, Saccades and Nodongs.

In a theater missile defense drill that linked sea and land &tenses, an Aegis cruiser sailed closer to shore and linked up with two Patriot batteries at nearby Camp Lejeune, N.C. Even more interesting, the cruiser connected with three Patriot batteries two thousand miles away at Fort Bliss, Texas. The batteries tracked simulated targets alongside the Camp Lejuene launchers and Aegis cruiser. Given that Fort Bliss is landlocked, Patriot crews don't often get the chance to practice alongside a Navy warship, Johnson noted.

When planning began in 2002, CJTFEX 04-2 was originally going to be even larger, until the participants were diverted to Iraq.

Further complicating matters was the addition of 11 advanced technology concept demonstrations, including joint command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; joint cruise missile defense; joint GPS combat effectiveness; targets under trees; coalition combat ID; Grenadier Brat laser range finder; multi sensor integration demo; lower tier project office Patriot radar, and cooperative engagement capability.

CJTFEX had to be revamped to accommodate the need to collect data for so many technology demonstrations. "There are times when those data requirements conflict with training objectives," said Johnson.

Planners had to create a window of time when aircraft and other units would switch to supporting a technology demonstration. "We had a U-2 in the exercise. If-it had to fly a certain area at a certain time on a certain route, it wasn't available to the air component commander. We let everyone know up front that it's not going to make military sense, but it's the requirements we have."

For the participants, the biggest benefit was the chance for different components to work together, said Navy Capt. Mike Ulrich, the Second Fleet's assistant chief of staff for training. "We were integrating the training of" various components of a joint task force--the land force component commander, the maritime component, the amphibious component."

Virtual surface targets are of limited usefulness in training, said Lt. Cmdr. Wes Cochran, training officer for Carrier Group Six. To surface watch officers, the use of virtual forces provided a lot of realism. For the pilots, there wasn't as much fidelity, because when a plane was sent to verify a surface contact, it could not interact or simulate interacting with the ship.

The same limitations apply to anti-submarine training. While it provides excellent fundamental training, "on a routine watch, we normally don't see the contacts seen during virtual training," said Lt. Shane Crockett, submarine liaison officer with Destroyer Squadron 24. "In reality, we might see contacts like that once a year. The challenge is that the undersea environment changes sometimes don't come across in simulations. "We can't do all of our work-ups with virtual forces because the fog of war is lost in artificial training scenarios. For example, communications--when pierside during a virtual exercise--work quite well, but when you're underway it's much more of a challenge."
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Title Annotation:Combined Joint Task Force Exercise
Author:Peck, Michael
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 1, 2004
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