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Simulations test army future combat systems.

As the U.S. Army proceeds with the development of the Future Combat Systems, program officials increasingly will be relying on sophisticated models and simulation to test the performance of the technology.

Much of this technology is being developed at the Army Test and Evaluation Command, and the Developmental Test Command. Engineers are attempting to model and test the performance of FCS as a network, or what the Army calls a "system of systems."

The FCS was conceived as a family of 18 combat vehicles, aircraft and weapon systems, all expected to operate and communicate with each other across the battlefield in a "seamless network."

The Army's challenge will be conducting tests that mirror this network-centric vision of combat operations.

The Developmental Test Command, or DTC, orchestrated a series of exercises to test FCS systems and providing the performance data Army evaluators need to ensure these systems are successful.

At the core of this effort is the Virtual Proving Ground, or VPG, an array of technologies and programs across DTC that allow testers to model and simulate military systems as they would operate on the battlefield.

DTC conducted a series of four complex test exercises as part of the Virtual Proving Ground "synthetic environment integration testbed" (SEIT). The demonstrations were designed as "distributed" testing, meaning simultaneous test operations at various test centers operating under a common operational battlefield scenario. This allows Army evaluators to acquire performance data on a system of systems such as FCS.

The latest of these demonstrations, the "Distributed Test Event 4" (DTE 4), conducted in late August 2004, involved DTC test centers and other Army organizations, as well as Boeing and Science Applications International Corporation, the two corporations that serve as the system integrators for FCS development. They jointly developed the DTE 4 tactical scenario.

The demonstration involved participants at locations ranging from the Pacific Northwest to the southeastern United States.

"A single operational scenario was published to all of the test centers, and each entity or environmental representation played a distinct role in the scenario," explained Tim Clardy, an engineer with DTC's Redstone Technical Test Center, in Alabama.

"The scenario ran for about 90 minutes and involved 140 interoperating computers spread out across the United States," he said. The exercise involved various combinations of weapon-system platforms and functions.

Army test centers and the lead system integrators were joined in the demonstration by the Training and Doctrine Command's Unit of Action Maneuver Battle Lab, which designed the mission for a combined-arms battalion. This process identified each of the individual tasks that a combined-arms battalion would need to execute for a specific mission.

The Night Vision and Electronic Sensors Directorate of the Army's Communications and Electronics Command provided modeling and simulation tools that represented unattended ground sensors, intelligent munitions systems and mines, as well as the Advanced Concepts Research Tool, a technology that represented the FCS reconnaissance and surveillance vehicle and its robotic components.

The task of orchestrating a complex test event across two or more test centers requires centralized command and control--everything from ensuring that actions start and stop on time to managing the communications network that keeps test participants talking to each other.

For that purpose, DTC created an inter-range control center, or IRCC. The J.W. Cox Range Control Center, at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, was selected as the IRCC because it has the facilities and range-management experience suited to that role. Each test center participating in a distributed test interfaces with the IRCC.

All of DTC's distributed test events were designed to demonstrate a wide range of test capabilities for supporting a mix of live, virtual and constructive testing, all of which will be necessary for the development of FCS, said Rick Cozby, chief of the test management division at DTC.

He said DTE 4 is part of a continuous technology development program that began a decade ago when the Virtual Proving Ground was established to address the challenges of network-centric warfare.

Three basic types of simulation environments support testing, Cozby explained. A constructive simulation is "totally contained within a computer," he said. It could be done with mathematical formulas on paper, but it is totally simulated, and there are no live interactions or live elements. Virtual simulations contain a mix of live elements and computer-generated processes.

"You have some mechanism that allows a human to interact with the simulation," he said. For example, a virtual simulation for a Wolverine bridge armored vehicle might simply contain the front part of the cockpit with the actual controls and maybe a simulation of the bridge operation. "What you're trying to exercise in this case is a human interaction with the system," he added.

Live simulations occur when the actual system or part of a system is place in a live environment designed to be as realistic as possible. "Our intent is to create a mixed virtual, live and constructive environment that we can immerse a component, system, or system of systems," Cozby said.

All tests involve simulation to some extent, he added. "Virtually everything we do in the test process is simulation." The Yuma Proving Ground, in Arizona, for example, is a simulated environment to test systems that will be operating in the desert.

The inter-range control center is instrumental in testing distributed capabilities, Cozby said. "One of the things that we discovered back in 1998 with some very early, primitive distributed tests is that you cannot put together an ad hoc network and expect it to operate in a coherent fashion," he said. "You've got to have execution control in terms of starts and stops, the passing of message traffic, and you've also got to have test configuration management and control."

The way FCS systems are being designed to work together through a network and "built-in intelligence" makes it more than the sum of its parts, Cozby said. "The lead system integrator has recognized, as we have, that you need to build, test and train a network-centric force as you would fight it."

The Army, meanwhile, is working with the other U.S. military branches to plan a complex multi-service test and evaluation event that will exercise joint tactical tasks.

Many of the details of this multi-service distributed event have not yet been finalized, but the intent is to use this event to establish a mechanism to support test and evaluation of "systems of systems" that will be used for future joint operations.

As currently planned, the event is to take place in August 2005. It is described as a risk-mitigation event because it will be a prelude to a complex experiment that will be conducted by the FCS lead system integrators the following year. The lessons learned from the event will be applied to enhance the technologies, tactics, techniques and procedures employed by the FCS unit when operating with other services, and also to shape the continuing development of distributed test and evaluation methods and infrastructure.

Mike Cast is a public affairs officer at the Army Developmental Test Command, in Aberdeen, Md.
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Title Annotation:Technology Report
Author:Cast, Mike
Publication:National Defense
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Apr 1, 2005
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