Rehearsing the next war: Army aviation develops its BICEP.
The pilots know that moving about the battlefield can be dangerous. The enemy tanks are accompanied by an undetermined number of SA-15 surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems and 2S6M radar-directed anti-aircraft artillery (AAA) batteries. The terrain consists of undulating hills and valleys, prompting the pilots to fly a nap of the earth profile for terrain masking, using the low points of the land, along valleys and riverbeds, to reduce exposure to enemy radar, SAMs and AAA.
The Longbow and the Blackhawk are equipped with the Suite of Integrated RF Countermeasures (SIRFC), a radar warning and jamming system that combines emitter identification and location with digital terrain details. This allows the SIRFC to display a threat's location on a moving map, showing the lethal or detection range of each threat based on the altitude of the helicopter and the terrain between it and the threat. In this mission, the Longbow flies a hundred feet above the rest of the group to update the threat picture on its SIRFC. It then broadcasts this information to the other helicopters via the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System (SINCGARS).
Just three minutes into the mission, the Comanche, hugging the terrain, flies past an SA-15 positioned on the other side of a hill. The Longbow, traveling a few kilometers behind the Comanche, spots the SAM with its SIRFC and relays its location to the Comanche. The Comanche pops up to get a fix with its FLIR and then calls in artillery on the unsuspecting SA-15. Scratch one SAM.
Several miles further into the mission, the Comanche is using its FLIR to scan a ridgeline to its right and unknowingly flies past a pair of 2S6Ms located on a hillside to its left. They either do not see the stealthy Comanche on their radar screens or are willing to let it go, guessing that it is leading a more valuable package of targets. Again, the Longbow's SIRFC detects the AAA batteries and directs the Comanche to slew its FLIR to the left. The Comanche sees them immediately, and two seconds later it takes them out with a couple of Hellfires.
The next part of the mission calls for the Blackhawk to lay Volcano mines along the tanks' escape route. This time the SIRFC on board the Blackhawk provides the situational awareness for the unarmed helicopter to wind its way through a maze of SA-15s and 2S6Ms under the cover of terrain. Although the Longbow could quarterback a lethal defense-suppression (SEAD) mission to knock out the threats, the Hellfires must be saved for the tanks, just a few miles away now. Instead, the Blackhawk uses the information from the SIRFC to plot a safe ingress route to the ambush area, frustrating the radar operators who can periodically see the helicopter on their screens, but can never develop a firing solution due to periodic terrain masking. The Blackhawk picks its way beneath ridges and travels swiftly along fiver beds where it is safe. Once it arrives over the road and lays its Volcano mines, the Blackhawk picks a safe egress route while the Longbow directs the rest of the group into a safe position for the tank ambush.
This mission may sound like the future, and in a sense it is. The Comanche, of course, is still in the development stage, along with the SIRFC. The Longbow has just entered production. In fact, this mission has been fought with a new generation of mission trainers located at Ft. Hood, TX, for the Division XXI Advanced Warfighting Experiment (DAWE). For the DAWE commanders, however, this mission has real implications. The DAWE has been designed and conducted primarily to exercise the command, control, communications, computers and intelligence ([C.sup.4]I) networks within the Digital Division structure. The exercise is also to address and develop ways in which the information can be utilized by the planners of the division - in a sense, information management.
Unlike the brigade-level Force XXI AWE held in March 1997, which used hardware such as the APR-48 RF Interferometer ESM suite on the Longbow Apache (see "Longbow Apaches Show Knack for SEAD" in "EC Monitor," JED, June 1997, p. 24) and the Intelligence and Electronic Warfare Common Sensor in live exercises, the DAWE is being conducted exclusively within a simulated environment.
At the heart of the DAWE's aviation operations is the Battlespace Integrated Concept Emulation Program (BICEP) - a mouthful of an acronym by any standard. BICEP is a tool with which aviation units are able to rehearse their missions prior to flying them using the known threats, terrain and enemy disposition to discover strengths and weaknesses in their plans. BICEP also allows units to participate in a force-on-force virtual environment providing realistic and inexpensive training.
The BICEP consists of five components - trainers, a battlemaster station, tactical systems interface, a mini aviation tactical operations center and communications relays. Collectively, these elements provide an unprecedented training and simulation capability for Army pilots.
The most prominent feature of the BICEP is its four Reconfigurable Tactical Trainers (RTTs) built by Reflectone Inc. (Tampa, FL). As their name implies the RTTs can be quickly reconfigured to operate as AH-64A Apaches, UH-60 Blackhawks or OH-58D Kiowa Warriors. Unlike earlier trainers, the RTTs operate together over a Distributed Interactive Simulation network that allows each pilot to see and communicate with the other pilots in real time, providing training and mission rehearsal in a collective environment. As CW4 Steve Woods, aviation electronic combat (AEC) team leader at the US Army Aviation Command (Ft. Rucker, AL) said, the RTTs do more than train pilots how to fly, they train them how to fight. Woods, along with other AEC officials from the Aviation Command such as CW2 Matt Merryman, played a leading role on the Army Aviation Command team that planned and developed the BICEP. Although it has been built specifically to be used in the DAWE, the BICEP will eventually transition into a mobile training system.
Each RTT offers a color cockpit view of the battlefield for both the pilot and gunner. At the crews' fingertips, a cockpit console offers touch screens that can be programmed for each aircraft type. Cockpit visuals are also provided by the Germin Eye helmet mounted display, a new development from Reflectone. The Germin Eye provides an instantaneous cockpit-perspective field of view and, when the pilot turns his head, offers a 360 [degrees] field of regard. In the Kiowa and Blackhawk configuration, the RTT's side-by-side seating fits the arrangement of the actual platforms. To simulate the front-back positions of the gunner and pilot in an Apache, the gunner's seat in the RTT is curtained off, and the Germin Eye provides our-of-the-window visuals.
According to Kevin Cahill, manager of research and development at Reflectone, the RTT concept started with the Army National Guard's Aviation Reconfigurable Manned Simulator (ARMS) program. (That's right, BICEP and ARMS. Yes, the Army still has a sense of humor.) The goal of ARMS was to develop an affordable trainer. The Army knew the value of fully functional flight trainers, but at $10-15 million per device, there were not enough funds available to procure a sufficient number of systems to conduct widespread collective training. Instead, the Army concentrated on the main elements of training - flying, shooting and navigating - and bypassed other, more expensive elements. Features such as a throttle were left out of the RTTs since throttles are usually kept in one position during flight. The result was a trainer that costs $1.5-2 million and could be bought in large numbers. Once the ARMS test cell was developed, the Army procured another three (dubbing them RTTs) to outfit the BICEP for the DAWE.
The BICEP, however, includes more than the RTTs. It also features a multimedia after-action recording and display system where missions are analyzed and discussed; a mini-Aviation Tactical Operations Center (AVTOC) for command and control of the helicopters; and a suite of tactical communications systems such as SINCGARS for helicopter crews and commanders. All of these are linked over a Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) local area network. In addition, Modular Semi-Automated Forces provide the BICEP with computer-generated red and blue elements that interact with the manned simulators and workstations.
By itself, the BICEP represents the next generation of Army Aviation training and mission rehearsal systems, providing a real-time environment for training and tactics development. For the DAWE, additional simulations are added to tailor the system for the larger environment covered by the exercise. These include a Comanche Portable Cockpit trainer, a Comanche virtual flightstation, two AH-64D Longbow Apache virtual flight workstations and an unmanned aerial vehicle and Joint STARS workstation to provide surveillance downlinks to the AVTOC.
During the DAWE pilots are flying against the Extended Air Defense Simulation, which provides manned threat systems controlled via a link to the Threat System Management Office in Huntsville, AL. Air defenses include a pair of 2S6Ms and four SA-15s. The system is able to engage helicopters during missions and provides a challenge to aircrews never before experienced in virtual simulation, according to Merryman. The pilots are able to shoot back, and on several occasions they have "killed" the threats.
GRASPING THE SITUATION
Although the SIRFC is included in the DAWE missions to provide situational awareness for the pilots, its presence in the exercise also provides an opportunity for developers to see how the SIRFC performs in many-on-many scenarios while the system undergoes the final stages of engineering and manufacturing development at ITT Avionics (Clifton, NJ). "We had an idea of what the SIRFC could bring to the battlefield based on tests in stand-alone trainers and computer modeled simulations, but now we know what it brings to the battlefield and how it will be used by the warfighter," said one official from the Survivability Integration Laboratory (SIL) at the Army's Communications-Electronics Command (Ft Monmouth, NJ). "That makes a difference in system development, since we can implement engineering changes before the system goes to production."
By using the SIRFC in an exercise where future tactics of the Army are being refined, Army pilots are able to hone their skills and tactics around the capabilities of the SIRFC. This may sound like a "no brainer" (using future hardware to develop future tactics), but it is unprecedented since most tactics are developed apart from or after a system is fielded. The benefit is more significant with the SIRFC, since it represents EW's transition from simple radar warning receivers into potent situational awareness systems that provide threat geolocation and lethal range information and perform specific emitter ID.
Before the mission, SIRFC is fed with threat data to create an electronic order of battle (EOB). Once in flight, the SIRFC can update this EOB with off-board data from other SIRFC platforms or theater SIGINT assets such as RC-135 Rivet Joint and RC-12 Guardrail aircraft. As the SIRFC platform approaches its objective, it can further update the threat picture with its own receivers.
The SIRFC display is something new to pilots, who are used to reading awkward threat symbology - squares, triangles and circles - crammed into a tiny cockpit display. The digital moving map provides the ability to zoom in and out and depicts a threat's lethal envelope in red crosshatching or threat detection envelope in blue crosshatching overlayed on the terrain.
Throughout the course of the DAWE, says one SIL official, it has been interesting to see the pilots learn how to use the SIRFC. On the first day, threats seemed to pop up from nowhere because the SIRFC-equipped helicopters were flying with other helicopters and were too low to the ground - about 50 ft - to detect any threats. They soon learned that flying just above the pack affords a far better threat picture, which they can relay via SINCGARS to the other pilots. SIRFC aircraft have become the quarterbacks of the BICEP missions, as they demonstrated during the Volcano mission.
DAWE commanders, noting the excellent situational awareness provided by the SIRFC, are also using it for reconnaissance. Because of the reconfigurable nature of the BICEP's simulations, the receiver portion of the SIRFC was installed on an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for pre-mission surveillance. On these missions, the UAV, traveling at 6,000-8,000 ft, is able to provide comprehensive and timely EOB information to commanders and air crews prior to flying a mission. Often, the enemy air defenses shoot down the UAV almost immediately, giving away their positions but inhibiting such reconnaissance. To prevent this, the full SIRFC suite, complete with jammer, has been installed on the UAV, providing it with a measure of self protection and allowing it to stay on station for longer periods of time.
The lessons learned from the DAWE are many and varied, ranging from [C.sup.4]I issues such as information and sensor management to the need for better connectivity to disseminate situation awareness information.
According to Merryman, the primary finding is the digital division will require extensive information management. Also, with so many sensor systems on the battlefield, division planners find they are spending a lot of time focusing on sensor management. Operators in the BICEP have attached different sensor packages to different platforms throughout the missions and discover that in the future, they will need to have the flexibility to employ multiple platforms with different sensors to provide full spectrum coverage of the battlefield. "The days of the single scout vehicle or aircraft will be gone," Merryman predicts. Multiple platforms such as the Comanche with its second-generation FLIR, the Longbow Apache with its advanced fire-control radar and helicopters outfitted with the SIRFC, are needed to fully exploit the environment and signature of the enemy.
"The Army must also discover ways to provide for horizontal and vertical connectivity between sensors for the sharing of information to complete the picture of the battlefield," Merryman says. He adds that the information flow must become real time, instead of periodic in nature. "We must be able to get the picture of what is occurring now to achieve perfect situational awareness," he explains.
The DAWE has helped to refine message formats, according to Woods. Following the exercise, the Army will begin to define additional data field requirements to the Joint Variable Message Format to allow the SIRFC to receive data from signals intelligence collectors such as the RC-135 Rivet Joint and RC-12 Guardian. Conversely, the Army is looking at ways to send SIRFC data to other platforms. For example, the intelligence community at Ft. Huachuca, AZ, has developed an interest in the SIRFC because of the high-resolution ELINT it can provide for situation awareness.
PROOF IN THE PUDDING
Although many of the DAWE lessons are applicable to the operational world, the BICEP itself is undergoing its own proof-of-concept during the exercise. This will have implications for the training community. According to Kevin Cahill of Reflectone, the BICEP contract extends through May and the RTTs have been sent back to the company to complete their development. This will include containerizing the system into three trailers, allowing it to be shipped to various locations for on-site training. Two trailers each will carry a pair of RTTs while the third will house the after-action review system, battlemaster station and Modular Semi-Automated Forces equipment.
The Army Aviation Center is using the BICEP demonstration to gear up for its next major training program, the Aviation Combined Arms Tactical Trainer (AVCATT). Reflectone and other companies are awaiting the release of the ACVATT request for proposals, which may be combined with the earlier ARMS program and call for up to 36 devices. Like the BICEP, the ARMS program will use reconfigurable trainers. However, this next generation of trainers will likely simulate six types of rotary wing aircraft, adding the CH-47 Chinook, UH-I Iroquois and the AH-I Cobra to the three simulated in the RTTs.
Reflectone is using feedback provided from the DAWE to develop its proposal for the AVCATT program. "For example," says Cahill, "we learned that in certain positions, the pilots don't like touch screens, especially when they have to look down at the center console." In this case, the company is developing a series of panels that offer hard switches. These can be removed and replaced depending on the aircraft type. He has taken sharp notice of the SIRFC systems used in the DAWE missions and says SIRFC may be something to be embedded into the RTT console rather than provided via an external monitor, as they have been during the DAWE.
Ideally, the AVCATT will be developed concurrently with the premier tank training device, the Close Combat Tactical Trainer (CCTT). If so, pilots and tankers will be able to train collectively from remote locations over a DIS network.
A PARTNERSHIP FOR THE FUTURE
The concept of collective training, which emerged just a few years ago with the development of DIS, has made notable progress with the BICEP. The BICEP, however, is more than a revolution in training technology; it's also proven to be a revolution in system development. The BICEP's ability to fuse the flexibility of the RTT with future operational hardware such as the SIRFC has demonstrated the synergistic benefits of combining training with system development. If this becomes the rule rather than the exception, then future collective training systems such as the AVCATT and CCTT may also serve as the test grounds for next-generation EW hardware. Whatever course the Army takes, it has demonstrated at the DAWE why the relationship between hardware development and training can be a perfect match.
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|Title Annotation:||Battlespace Integrated Concept Emulation Program|
|Publication:||Journal of Electronic Defense|
|Date:||Jan 1, 1998|
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