FCS SURROGATES PARTICIPATE IN JOINT FORCE EXPERIMENT
By Scott R. Gourley
Technology elements of the US Army’s Future combat System (FCS) completed participation in their first joint force experimentation. Known as Joint Expeditionary Force Experiment (JEFX) ’06, the experiment is a biennial event that was held at Nellis, Air Force Base, Nevada, during April 2006. The large scale combat experiment was designed to test new network centric communications and targeting technologies with the goal of accelerating the research, development and fielding of new combat systems.
Boeing program representatives for FCS and other JEFX technologies provided an 11 May media briefing on the results of the experiment and inaugural FCS participation.
According to George Muellner, President of Boeing Advanced Systems, Boeing, “along with [its] government customers, had fairly extensive participation in JEFX ’06.”
He added that primary Boeing participation was in two primary areas: airborne assets and FCS.
“[JEFX] is indeed an exercise where near term technologies – near term meaning things that can be fairly rapidly [fielded] – are supposed to be demonstrated to the warfighters. It’s not a traditional OPEVAL [operational evaluation]. It’s to show them, if you will, what the ‘art of the possible’ is in the near term, and in some cases where residual capability could be provided almost immediately,” he said.
He continued, “What we brought to the table this year were a number of our platforms that we enabled to be much more active participants in a network-centric or network-enabled time-critical targeting experiments.”
Boeing equipped F/A-18F and F-15E fighters, B-1B and B-52H bombers, an E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) command-and-control aircraft and seven High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicles (HMMWVs), with terminals that linked them via the armed services’ Tactical Targeting Network Technology (TTNT) and other networking assets. Developed by a Rockwell Collins-led team, TTNT uses standard Internet protocol (IP) and wide bandwidth to enable airborne and ground-based nodes to exchange time-critical targeting information at high speed using still imagery, streaming video, text chat and voice-over IP.
“In addition to that, for the first time ever, we brought in ‘virtual participants,” Mueller said. “By that I mean that we took our internal network of simulation capability – which included manned operator in the loop simulators and our LABNET, which is the network that ties them together – and tied that directly into the network in the CAOC [Combined Air Operations Center]. So we provided a number of virtual participants that actually ‘played,’ if you will, in the exercise. And they were all human in the loop airplanes – whether they be F-15s, [F]-18s, what have you – with actual operators in cockpits that were injected into the exercise. So [that provided] a significant benefit as far as significantly enhancing the density of the exercise from the standpoint of the CAOC and the other players without having to fly actual airplanes.”
Muellner said that a key focus of JEFX ’06 communications experiment involved time critical targeting and exchanging information from sensors – in some cases “non-traditional sensors” – to the CAOC “and then back out directly to shooters that could then put weapons on the ground.”
He emphasized that the key technology demonstrated in this process was the Rockwell Collins TTNT waveform.
“It’s a way of bringing Internet protocol messages to a fairly wide bandwidth dissemination and it’s designed to take this information out to the edge of the envelope – meaning the shooters that actually deliver the weapons,” he said. “TTNT has been strongly supported and carried forward by the folks at Air Combat Command. And we’ve been working closely with them. We brought forward that fielding in F-18s, F-15s, and so on. And what this allowed the exercise to do [was] when