09 Sep 21. Northrop Grumman Demonstrates Next Generation Electronic Warfare and Radar Interoperability at Northern Lightning.
Joint exercise marked the first flight of the electronic warfare suite
Making its first test flight, the Northrop Grumman Corporation (NYSE: NOC) Next Generation Electronic Warfare (NGEW) system joined the AN/APG-83 Scalable Agile Beam Radar (SABR) at Exercise Northern Lightning. NGEW and SABR demonstrated full interoperability in a realistic and contested electromagnetic spectrum environment.
In August, a Northrop Grumman test bed aircraft (pictured) flew with the company’s F-16 Next Generation Electronic Warfare and AN/APG-83 SABR systems in a dense electromagnetic spectrum environment at the Northern Lightning joint training exercise. (Northrop Grumman photo)
“When an EW system and a radar are able to work together fully, as demonstrated with NGEW and SABR, pilots can take advantage of capability without compromise,” said James Conroy, vice president, navigation, targeting and survivability, Northrop Grumman. “With the radio frequency (RF) spectrum becoming increasingly contested, this critical set of capabilities will support the F-16 for many years to come.”
Flying on the company’s test bed aircraft, NGEW and SABR demonstrated full pulse-to-pulse, multi-function interoperability in a contested operational environment. With SABR successfully engaging multiple air and ground targets, NGEW detected and identified a range of advanced threats, employing advanced jamming techniques capable of defeating those threats when required.
At the exercise, the two systems faced a high-density radio frequency environment generated by the Volk Field Combat Readiness Training Center, Joint Threat Emitters. These threat emitters allowed Northern Lightning participants to fly missions under conditions representative of near-peer electromagnetic spectrum environments.
NGEW leverages an open-systems, ultra-wideband architecture, providing the instantaneous bandwidth needed to defeat modern threats. This F-16 system is part of a mature product line of electronic warfare capabilities that can be adapted to virtually any platform. An F-16 will fly with the safety of flight-certified NGEW system in the summer of 2022.
Building on a 40-year legacy of producing radars for the F-16, Northrop Grumman provides the SABR APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) fire control radar for the F-16 with advanced capabilities derived from Northrop Grumman’s family of highly successful 5th generation fighter AESA radars. The greater bandwidth, speed and agility of the APG-83 enables the F-16 to detect, track and identify a greater number of targets faster and at longer ranges. In addition, it features all-weather, high-resolution synthetic aperture radar mapping to present the pilot with a large surface image for more precise target identification and strike compared to legacy systems.
The agreement was issued under SOSSEC Consortium’s Air Force Open System Acquisition Initiative (OSAI) Other Transaction Agreement (OTA) for prototyping. Northrop Grumman will continue to team with non-traditional defense contractors for the execution of this OTA project.
09 Sep 21. RAN, Malaysian Armed Forces combine for maritime training. A Canberra Class amphibious assault vessel and an Anzac Class frigate have engaged in maritime warfare training alongside Malaysian forces. HMA Ships Canberra and Anzac were joined by Royal Malaysian Navy (RMN) guided missile frigates KD Lekiu and KD Jebat for bilateral military training as part of Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2021 (IPE21). The vessels were supported by two Royal Malaysian Air Force Hawks, which engaged in anti-air, anti-surface and anti-submarine warfare. Interoperability exercises included boat drills, air defence exercises, a night encounter exercise, tactical manoeuvring and a live-fire gun exercise.
“This exercise gives us the opportunity to interact with our partners and build relationships in a tactical sense,” Commander Maritime Task Group Captain David Tietzel said.
“It was a really enjoyable three days and it was good to see the professionalism and the interoperability built between the ships over the exercise.”
As part of the combined effort, HMAS Canberra welcomed three Malaysian officers on board to observe and participate in joint maritime task group activities.
RMN Lieutenant Commander Hafiz Azami noted to the importance of maintaining the bilateral relationship.
“It is a good opportunity for both countries to show mutual understanding, sharing the same picture, the same standard operating procedures, in order to safeguard the region and build up the partnership,” he said.
“We can share and offer different capabilities, and with this understanding we can support each other.”
Commander IPE21 Commodore Mal Wise lauded the success of the exercise, despite disruptions caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
“Despite COVID-19 challenges faced in both countries, bilateral engagement has continued to allow for training, information-sharing and collaboration across different areas of government, particularly in defence co-operation,” CDRE Wise said. (Source: Defence Connect)
08 Sep 21. Pakistan, Germany and US navies conduct PASSEX in Arabian Sea, PASSEX is aimed at strengthening cooperation and advancing a common vision of ensuring peace and stability.
photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Rawad Madanat.
The navies of Pakistan, Germany and the US participated in a passing exercise (PASSEX) in the Arabian Sea on 6 September.
Pakistan Navy frigate PNS Alamgir (F 260), German Navy frigate FGS Bayern (F 217), and the US Navy’s guided-missile cruiser USS Shiloh (CG 67) took part in the exercise.
The exercise included advanced maritime manoeuvres, aircraft tracking exercises, and communication drills.
It was aimed at strengthening cooperation between the three nations and ensuring peace and stability.
These drills also enhanced the crews’ ability to jointly operate in a dynamic environment, as well as test and refine combined command and control (C2) processes.
Carrier Strike Group 5/Task Force 50 rear admiral commander Will Pennington said: “Today’s multi-domain operations demonstrate the capacity of the international rules-based system to advance a common vision ensuring peace and stability.
“The US greatly appreciates the opportunity to hone our ability to operate with our partners together at sea.”
PASSEX also witnessed an exchange of leadership between the US and Pakistan aboard USS Shiloh.
Exercises such as PASSEX showcase the US Navy’s continued commitment to strengthening coalition partnerships within the region.
USS Shiloh commanding officer captain Sharif Calfee said: “We were honoured to participate in this exercise and host our Pakistan Navy counterparts aboard Shiloh.
“This demonstration of successful naval operations is a testament to the cooperative nature of our three navies. We achieve results by working together, learning from one another, and sharing a common goal of promoting and defending maritime security.”
09 Sep 21. Rohde & Schwarz introduces R&S VSESIM-VSS that combines EDA simulation with hardware testing. T&M expert Rohde & Schwarz and Cadence have collaborated on a solution aimed at simplifying the engineering process from RF design to implementation and enhancing accuracy by using realistic signals for both simulation and testing. The new R&S VSESIM-VSS signal creation and analysis tool speeds up the development process for RF components. It is particularly useful for customers in the wireless, automotive, and aerospace and defense industries as well as for manufacturers of active components and systems.. New wireless and satellite technologies offer ever wider frequency ranges and involve increasingly demanding requirements. Realistic signal simulation at the early stages in RF system design is more important than ever. Using the same signal creation methods and analysis algorithms as for subsequent hardware testing enables direct result correlation from the early design stages to implementation verification, allowing conclusive and consistent analysis of widely used key performance indicators such as error vector magnitude (EVM).
To this end, Rohde & Schwarz has collaborated with Cadence Design Systems, Inc. to develop the R&S VSESIM-VSS signal creation and analysis tool, which supports all major standards such as 5G, the latest Wi-Fi evolutions and many more. The joint solution combines signal generation, design simulation and signal analysis, building on the strengths of either company′s popular and proven solutions. As a result, developers and design engineers benefit from an optimized tool that allows them to address design challenges earlier than before in the development process.
The R&S VSESIM-VSS signal creation and analysis tool functions as an addition to the Cadence® Visual System Simulator™ (VSS) software, a well-established solution for system simulation and modeling, particularly for RF components and RF assemblies used in wireless communications and radar design. R&S VSESIM-VSS from Rohde & Schwarz is designed to expand the capabilities of the VSS software by adding realistic signals to the workflow, increasing simulation accuracy and simplifying the design process. R&S VSESIM-VSS benefits from two established software tools from Rohde & Schwarz for testing operative circuits, modules and devices – the signal generation capabilities of the R&S WinIQSIM2 simulation software and the signal analysis capabilities of the R&S VSE vector signal explorer software. R&S VSESIM-VSS combines these functions and adds plug-ins for Cadence electronic design automation (EDA) tools.
The data sink plug-in from Rohde & Schwarz provides access to the signal at any point in the design process. The signal can be transferred to a vector signal generator and applied to available hardware, enabling system level analysis of hybrid hardware/simulated implementations. An important feature of R&S VSESIM-VSS is support of direct digital predistortion (DPD) techniques to verify the effects of linearization already in the simulation phase of power amplifier development.
An added benefit of combining the solutions is increased compatibility between Rohde & Schwarz and Cadence tools. Signal generation and analysis provided by the Rohde & Schwarz solutions can also be used in other connected Cadence products such as the Cadence Microwave Office® circuit design software or the Cadence Virtuoso® RF Solution for radio-frequency integrated circuits (RFIC) and RF modules.
Christina Gessner, Vice President Spectrum & Network Analyzers, EMC and Antenna Test at Rohde & Schwarz says: “Connecting EDA design simulation and test and measurement helps our customers achieve first-pass design success and shorter times to market. Using realistic signals, deriving common figures of merit such as EVM and understanding linearization capabilities even before tape-out means a competitive advantage for our customers. We look forward to bringing the results of our cooperation with Cadence to the market.”
Vinod Kariat, corporate vice president of R&D in the Custom IC & PCB Group at Cadence adds: “Customers developing RF frontend communication ICs and systems require access to the latest communications standards. The joint solution from our companies enables our mutual customers to accurately analyze standard compliant signals throughout the design phase, including final test validation.”
08 Sep 21. Saab to deliver live training systems for Polish Armed Forces. The contract includes supply of a complete live training solution for a reinforced mechanised battalion.
Swedish company Saab has been contracted to provide the Polish Armed Forces with multiple live training systems and services.
The contract comprises delivery of a complete live training solution for a ‘reinforced mechanised battalion’. It also covers supply of four training centres for company size units.
Furthermore, the contract includes support for a period of three years.
The total order is valued at around $116m (Skr1bn) and valid for a period of five years. The contract period starts from this year and runs until 2026.
The latest order ensures that the Polish Army is equipped with advanced flexible training solutions and the training capability needed.
These capabilities will enable the customer to train in as realistic conditions as possible and at the point of need in global collaborations.
Saab’s latest exercise control (EXCON) and communication systems, and the company’s newest generation hi-fidelity simulators for soldiers, weapons and vehicles are included in the contract.
Polish Armament Inspectorate chief colonel Artur Kuptel said: “This is an important investment and a long-term solution, which will increase the training capabilities of the Polish Armed Forces, both in the national and allied dimension.
“The obtained systems will allow for their integration with other simulation systems used by Polish Armed Forces and allied armies, and in particular will contribute to an effective training co-operation with the US Army.”
The contract’s support component consists of deployable, integrated logistics, as well as operational support to the Polish Army.
Saab training and simulation business unit head Åsa Thegström said: “By choosing a Saab solution, Poland will remain fully interoperable with Nato and other allied nations.
“Winning this multi-year contract confirms Saab as a world-leading provider of scalable, deployable, and high-fidelity live training solutions.” (Source: army-technology.com)
07 Sep 21. Collins secures additional E-2D contract. Collins Aerospace received a contract modification to enhance HITS-A and HITS-M training devices for the E-2D. Collins Aerospace has continued to add to its Hawkeye Integrated Training System (HITS) business with a $17.62m contract to upgrade training systems for aircrew and maintenance crew.
Awarded by the Orlando, Florida-based US Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division (NAWC TSD), the contract covers aircrew systems within the HITS-A programme and maintainers under HITS-M.
HITS-A provides tactics trainers; operational flight trainers; aircrew procedures trainers; curriculum/courseware; electronic classrooms; a learning resource centre and mission brief/debrief facilities.
HITS-M features a simulated maintenance trainer, a power plant trainer, curriculum/courseware design and support and electronic classrooms.
The main focus of the contract, a modification to a previously awarded deal, is to provide spares and equipment to maintain currency between the aircraft and training devices.
The upgrades will be undertaken at the USN Carrier Airborne Command Control and Logistics Wing’s Fleet and Replacement Squadrons as well as at its Weapons School, where HITS-A and HITS-M are currently used.
According to NAWC, work will be completed in March 2024.
One of the main subcontractors for Collins Aerospace on the programme is Aero Simulation Inc (ASI). The company developed the E-2D Operational Flight Trainers and Aircrew Procedures Trainers for HITS-A.
Earlier this year, the USN announced that two E-2D Advanced Hawkeye Distributed Readiness Trainers (D-DRT) successfully completed Fleet Mission Testing at NAS Norfolk, Virginia and were declared ready for training. These were the first Delta System Software Configuration 3 (DSSC-3) aircrew trainers for the fleet.
The D-DRT allows the two pilots and three flight officers aboard Hawkeye to practise a range of tactical scenarios. The two D-DRT devices are also able to connect and operate together, simulating dual E-2D mission scenarios that require complex battlespace management and procedures.
Two D-DRTs are now being readied for training at MCAS Iwakuni in Japan under a sole-source $44m contract awarded to Rockwell Collins in 2018. According to Shephard Defence Insight, the USN is acquiring 24 E-2Ds from Northrop Grumman for an estimated $5.1bn. (Source: Shephard)
07 Sep 21. Virtual chocks away as RAF training jet is phased out. In response to a parliamentary question by former defence minister Mark Francois on what plans the Government had to replace the Hawk T2 aircraft, as well as its planned out-of-service date, Jeremy Quin, the defence procurement minister, confirmed there was no intention to replace the jet.
Mr Quin said: “The planned out of service date for the Hawk T2 aircraft is 2040 and there are no plans required yet for its replacement.”
The Hawk T2, which is a trainer aircraft for fast jet pilots, has only been in service for around eight years and is made with a life span of more than 30 years.
However an RAF source said it was likely that due to the synthetics now involved in training pilots, the trainer jet could be less crucial to training within 20 years.
He said: “Synthetics and training in virtual engagement means you can do the majority of things virtually.”
Ever advancing virtual training means that pilots can now “miss out steps” that usually involve multiple aircraft, enabling training to be carried out “much more efficiently”, as well as saving money.
The source added that it was “conceivable” that a person could one day become a trained pilot without setting foot in an aircraft, but cautioned that it would not be for some time due to the fact that “environmental pressures that affect the human body such as G forces can be emulated accurately”.
Earlier this year Air Chief Marshal Sir Mike Wigston told an Air and Space Power Association webinar he was in “no doubt that by 2040 the skill base of RAF people will be entirely different to what it is today”.
He also said the role of the traditional aircraft engineer in the RAF will become all but redundant in 20 years and be replaced by digital experts.
In the Defence Review earlier this year the MOD announced that the RAF will retire its fleet of 76 Hawk T1 aircraft as it seeks to save money to invest in future capabilities. However, the Red Arrows display team will continue to fly the HawkT1 until 2030, it was confirmed. (Source: Daily Telegraph)
06 Sep 21. The Hawk T2 aircraft will leave service in 2040. The Hawk T2 trainer includes modern LCD displays instead of conventional instrumentation and is powered by the Rolls-Royce Adour 951 engine. The RAF say that the Ministry of Defence awarded a Design and Development Contract to BAE Systems on 22 December 2004.
The information came to light via a Parliamentary question.
Mark Francois, Member of Parliament for Rayleigh and Wickford Commons, asked via a Parliamentary written question:
“To ask the Secretary of State for Defence, what plans he has to replace the Hawk T2 aircraft in RAF service; and what the planned out-of-service date is for that aircraft.”
Jeremy Quin, Minister of State for the Ministry of Defence, responded:
“The planned out of service date for the Hawk T2 aircraft is 2040 and there are no plans required yet for its replacement.”
The HawkT2 is a trainer aircraft. According to the RAF website:
“The aircraft’s glass cockpit and comprehensive avionics suite provide a realistic advanced fast jet training platform which, as part of the UK Military Flying Training System (UK MFTS), meets current and future standards. It allows trainees to be immersed in more complex tactical environments, ‘downloading’ training from the OCUs onto the Hawk, which is far more economical to fly than the Typhoon or F35.
The Mk 2’s avionics enable simulations of many of the functions of a modern fighter, combined with an extensive mission debrief system that extracts maximum output from every sortie. Via the aircraft’s data link, for example, synthetic radar returns are generated for intercept and basic fighter manoeuvres training, yet no radar is fitted. The on board simulation capability also enables air-to-ground ‘weapon drops’, realistic electronic warfare (EW) training against surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems and other complex operational scenarios.” (Source: News Now/https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/)
02 Sep 21. USAF B-52 bombers support Pacific Air Forces’ BTF deployment. BTF missions demonstrate the strategic credibility and tactical flexibility of US forces worldwide. The US Air Force (USAF) B-52 Stratofortress bombers have deployed to support Pacific Air Forces’ Bomber Task Force (BTF) missions in the Indo-Pacific region.
The deployment includes a group of USAF 2nd and 307th Bomb Wings B-52 aircraft, 230 airmen and support equipment at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.
According to US Indo Pacific Command (USINDOPACOM), the BTF missions align with the National Defense Strategy’s objective of being strategically predictable and operationally unpredictable.
These missions enable different types of strategic bomber platforms to operate anytime and anywhere.
BTF operations director lieutenant colonel Benjamin Poole said: “The BTF provides an opportunity to enhance readiness and give aircrews the necessary training to respond to any potential crisis or challenge across the globe.
“We want to become more operationally unpredictable to adversaries. In order to do so, we routinely exercise with our allies and partners through the employment of our bomber forces.”
In July, a B-52 bomber deployment included a group of 5th Bomb Wing B-52 Stratofortress aircraft, airmen and support equipment at Andersen Air Force Base (AFB) in Guam.
As a B-52 staging point, Andersen AFB allows commanders to address several global challenges through the bomber engagement.
BTF missions demonstrate the commitment of the US to allies and partners in the Indo-Pacific region while proving USAF Global Strike Command’s capabilities.
They also provide opportunities to improve combat readiness via training to respond to any kind of global potential challenges.
Poole added: “We fly bomber missions in the Indo-Pacific region to show our forces’ credibility while addressing a diverse, secured environment.
“Through long-range power projection, we are able to deter any potential adversaries and increase our strategic advantage in great power.”
02 Sep 21. U.S. Army Awards Cubic STE LTS Award. Cubic Corporation today announced that its Cubic Mission and Performance Solutions (CMPS) business division was awarded a U.S. Army Synthetic Training Environment (STE) Live Training System (LTS) prototype development contract.
Cubic will execute this contract with its live training system partner, General Dynamics Mission Systems. The award is for the Army’s modernization of its Soldier, direct fire, and vehicle systems. It will also be used for the introduction of counter defilade and indirect fire systems into the live training environment at Combat Training Centers and Army home stations around the globe.
“This award supports our continued innovation of ground training solutions for our nation’s armed services,” said Mike Knowles, president of Cubic Mission and Performance Solutions. “It will directly improve the Army’s realism of live force-on-force training while increasing soldier and formation readiness.”
The contract provides for a one-year milestone-based prototype development effort with the intent of fielding the systems by early 2023 as the current systems begin to reach their end of useful life.
The STE LTS prototype development effort will establish the roadmap for advancing live training capabilities that are compatible with currently fielded systems and can integrate with both the current live training infrastructure and the Synthetic Training Environment (STE).
STE LTS offers more capability than the existing Instrumentable-Multiple Integrated Laser Engagement System (I-MILES), and provides enhanced realism, a less obtrusive form factor and delivers reliable performance through a high Technology Readiness Level, field-ready solution. STE LTS incorporates a modular approach in both software and hardware, offering superior maintainability, ease of use, and ease of integration, which collectively support rapid technology insertion and foster the incremental evolution of the ground training solution portfolio. (Source: BUSINESS WIRE)
05 Sep 21. In this sixth part of Spring Storm In The Baltic Region our focus falls on the 508 PIR Heavy Weapons live fire on SWIFT RESPONSE in Estonia, reports Bob Morrison. The 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 508 PIR, was first activated almost 79 years ago at Camp Blanding in north-east Florida on 20 October 1942 as part of the recently re-designated 82nd ‘All American’ Airborne Division. After crossing the Atlantic over New Year 1944, the regiment trained briefly in Northern Ireland and then moved to Nottinghamshire to prepare for the forthcoming invasion of Europe (Operation OVERLORD). In the early hours of 6th June 1944, 508 PIR parachuted into Normandy tasked with capturing Sainte-Mère-Église and although many were dropped in the wrong locations most gradually regrouped and fought on in Normandy for a full month, taking over 50% casualties.
After returning to England to reorganise, the regiment subsequently jumped in south-west of Nijmegen during Operation MARKET GARDEN in September 1944 and in the December they fought during the Battle of the Bulge, screening a US Army withdrawal and delaying the advance of the German armoured formation. During their WWII campaigns the regiment earned itself the motto ‘Fury From The Sky’ which it retains to this day; incidentally, during SWIFT RESPONSE 2021 in Estonia their PZ (pick-up zone) for the Air Assault phase was designated FURY. The regiment was deactivated in late 1946 after returning State-side, reactivated from 1951 to 1957, then reactivated once again in 1962. In April 1965 the then 508 Infantry Regiment deployed operationally to the Dominican Republic to assist with a NEO (Non-combatant Evacuation Operation) made necessary by the outbreak of civil war, then in 1968 it was operationally deployed to Vietnam in response to the Tet Offensive.
The regiment’s lineage becomes a little complicated during and after the Vietnam War, but by the 1983 invasion of Grenada under Operation URGENT FURY two of its battalions participated as part of the 82nd Airborne Division. Six years later the 1st Battalion, or 1-508 IR, participated in the invasion of Panama on Operation JUST CAUSE as part of the 193rd Infantry Brigade. Further reorganisation in 1996 saw the colours of 1-508 PIR being reactivated in Italy to form the nucleus of the reactivated 173rd Airborne Brigade, which in 2003 parachuted in Northern Iraq on Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. Two years later, still serving with the 173rd, 1-508 PIR deployed operationally to Afghanistan on Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, before in 2006 the battalion was reactivated once again under the 82nd Airborne. In 2014 1-508 PIR was reassigned to the 3rd Brigade Combat Team (3 BCT) of the 82nd Airborne Division and it was in this role that we joined one of their companies in Estonia in early May on the first wave of SWIFT RESPONSE 2021.
At the invitation of USAREUR-AF (US Army Europe and Africa) Public Affairs, we joined 1-508 PIR on the Estonian Defence Force Central Training Area, the Tapa Polygon, a couple of days after the air assault phase to follow their Heavy Weapons Squads as they conducted a live fire attack on enemy positions with artillery support from the airborne gunners of Charlie Battery, 1-319 AFAR. A 39-strong US Army infantry platoon consists of three rifle squads of nine troops apiece, a heavy weapons squad of nine, and a platoon headquarters consisting of a platoon leader, platoon sergeant and a radio telephone operator. The accompanying photos mostly show the heavy weapons squads from two of the 1-508 PIR platoons which parachuted onto Nurmsi Airfield in the early hours of 8th May after flying across the Atlantic from North Carolina.
According to US Army Training Publication ATP 3-21.8:-
- The Infantry weapons squad provides the primary base of fire for the platoon’s manoeuvre. It is comprised of two medium machine gun teams, two medium CCMS [Close Combat Missile System] teams, and a weapons squad leader.
- The two-man medium machine gun team is comprised of a gunner and an assistant gunner. The weapon squad has two medium machine gun teams. These teams provide the platoon with medium-range area suppression at ranges up to 1100 metres during day, night, and adverse weather conditions.
- The two-man close combat missile team is comprised of a gunner and an ammunition handler. Currently, the team uses the Javelin missile system. The weapon squad has two close combat missile system teams. This system provides the platoon with an extremely lethal fire-and-forget, man-portable, direct- and top-attack capability to defeat enemy armoured vehicles and destroy fortified positions at ranges up to 2000 metres. The Javelin has proven effective during day, night, and adverse weather conditions.
On SWIFT RESPONSE 2021 in Estonia the two medium machine gun teams used the M240L (aka 240 Lima) 7.62x51mm variant of the Belgian FN MAG with 550mm barrel and collapsible stock. A close combat missile team used the M3E1 MAAWS (Multi-role Anti-armour Anti-personnel Weapon System) which is the US designation for the 84mm Carl-Gustaf recoilless rifle; dependent on mission, the FGM-148 Javelin can also be used. Rather than an anti-armour weapon, the fourth team in each of three squads I saw that afternoon used the M224 60mm Lightweight Mortar in hand-held mode.
Reloading the M3-E1 MAAWS (Multi-role Anti-armour Anti-personnel Weapon System) or 84mm Carl Gustaf recoilless rifle [©Bob Morrison]
Once the safety teams had ascertained that I was both familiar with range procedures and live weapons and had worked with the US military since before Gulf War One, and therefore was unlikely to do anything stupid or dangerous, they allowed me to move forward with two of the squads as they left cover and advanced to their firing positions. After engaging armour and personnel targets to their front, each squad then took its turn to reposition on the right flank, using dead ground while an artillery barrage kept the heads of the notional enemy down, before launching a second strike on the prepared positions from a little closer and then storming forward to mop up. [At this point, because I was still limping as a result of a knee tendon injury suffered just three weeks before, and as I had three more weeks of exercises ahead of me, I let each squad tab to their second firing positions while I returned to the start line to pick up the next squad ~ sometimes discretion really is the better part of valour].
Much as I would have liked to cover the Balkans phase of SWIFT RESPONSE 2021, which USAREUR-AF invited us to, pandemic travel restrictions in place at the time plus a lack of scheduled flights prevented this, so as the US and UK Airborne participants packed away their gear for their next tasking I stayed put in Estonia and prepared to meet Denmark’s Jutland Dragoons deployed on KEVADTORM (SPRING STORM) 2021. Watch this space…
02 Sep 21. Recommissioning ceremony of HMS Severn held outboard HMS Belfast on the River Thames near Tower Bridge 28th August 2021. Patrol ship HMS Severn was today officially welcomed back into the Royal Navy family – despite being busy on operations for the past 14 months. Berthed alongside world-famous wartime cruiser HMS Belfast on the Thames near Tower Bridge, the River-class ship was recommissioned in a traditional naval ceremony in the heart of the nation’s capital. Severn has been fully operational since July last year following comprehensive regeneration. She was originally decommissioned in October 2017 after 14 years’ service, chiefly patrolling UK fishing grounds to ensure trawlers were sticking to regulations. However, 12 months later she was later deemed too important to UK defence to be disposed of; in November 2018 the Secretary of State announced that she would return to the Fleet. Which she did last summer following a refit and regeneration. It’s the first time a Royal Navy vessel has been brought back to life since the Falklands conflict in 1982. HMS Severn’s primary role in her second life is a combination of navigation training, protection of UK waters and fishery protection. Since returning to active service she has conducted six Fleet Navigator Officer Courses and one Specialist Navigator Course, training over 50 navigators including international students from Chile and New Zealand. (Source: www.joint-forcescom)
07 Sep 21. At next Project Convergence, 7 scenarios will test American tech against adversaries. After spending nearly a year preparing in the lab and in the field, the U.S. Army is set to launch a second round of its major experimentation event this fall, dubbed Project Convergence. The latest iteration is focused on how the joint force will defeat advanced adversaries and overcome their high-end capabilities in a future fight.
The Army and its partners have spent months running data through simulations in a joint lab and conducting smaller exercises — such as Edge 21, which demonstrated a complex air assault — to prepare for Project Convergence’s main series of live-fire events, which will take place Oct. 12-Nov. 10 at several U.S.-based installations.
The Army held Project Convergence 2020 for the first time at Yuma Proving Ground, Arizona, and mostly on its own, though there were a few joint assets thrown in at the last minute. But this year, “this is experimentation as a joint team to inform the Joint Warfighting Concept,” Lt. Gen. James Richardson, the deputy chief of Army Futures Command, said at a conference in Huntsville, Alabama, last month.
Over the last year, the Army has focused on refining battlefield decision aids to help the joint force sort through data more quickly and pursue the right targets and enemy weapons systems, according to Brig. Gen. John Rafferty, who is in charge of long-range precision fires development, the service’s No. 1 modernization priority.
The armed services are also working to develop the Joint All-Domain Command and Control, or JADC2, framework, which will pair the right sensors with the right shooters, as well as feed data through the proper command post to improve decision-making on the battlefield, Rafferty said during a conference at the Army’s Fires Center of Excellence on Fort Sill, Oklahoma.
“If we can have the architecture right for that, then we can do just about anything that we put our minds to,” Rafferty added. ”So Project Convergence is really the experimentation to answer the question of what could be with the joint force.”
The big questions
The joint force hopes to answer a series of questions through Project Convergence 2021, including which technologies will enable the military to penetrate an enemy’s anti-access, aerial-denial capabilities, and which emerging technologies are needed to execute the Joint All-Domain Operations concept.
The force is also looking for ways to incorporate artificial intelligence, machine learning, autonomy, robotics, and common data standards and architectures to more quickly make decisions across multiple domains of operations at the tactical edge.
It will also consider how to establish a joint network with the bandwidth to support operations in delayed, disconnected, intermittent and limited connectivity environments, as well as assess how available technologies work in such environments.
Expanding Project Convergence
By pulling in the joint force, the exercise is slated to grow from about 500-600 participants to roughly 7,000, with more than 900 data collectors, Richardson said. While last year’s exercise involved experimentation with roughly 30 technologies, this year’s version will see the joint force experiment with 107 different technologies.
Last year’s event was run by engineers, scientists and data collectors; this time, operational units will participate.
Among the expected participants this year are the Army’s Multi-Domain Task Force — which experiments with the Multi-Domain Operations concept and is based out of Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington state — and the 82nd Airborne Division — based at Fort Bragg, North Carolina.
Additionally, the services have developed an integrated joint data collection and assessment plan that will feed information to those crafting joint operational doctrine and designing future exercises. Leadership will receive a brief on the information during the exercise so they can make daily adjustments to enhance and challenge experimentation, according to Richardson.
The main event
The Army has organized its major live-fire events at Project Convergence into seven “use cases” focused on carrying out missions in the first and second island chains of the Indo-Pacific region. There were only three use cases at the first version.
Within each use case is several mission threads, according to Richardson.
The first three use cases will involve the joint force, while the remaining four will be land-focused, Col. Andre Abadie, Army Futures Command’s solutions architect, told Defense News.
The first use case focuses on maintaining joint all-domain situational awareness, including tapping space sensors in low Earth orbit.
The second is a joint air-and-missile defense engagement following an enemy missile attack, while the third will be a joint fires operation as the force transitions from crisis to conflict, Abadie said.
The fourth use case focuses on semiautonomous resupply; a fifth will experiment with an artificial intelligence- and autonomy-enabled reconnaissance mission.
The sixth use case will essentially replay Edge 21 — an Integrated Visual Augmentation System-enabled air assault mission — but with enhancements. IVAS is a heads-up display worn by soldiers that provides situational awareness.
The final use case will be a mounted AI-enabled attack, Abadie said.
Abadie declined to answer questions from Defense News on what weapon systems and technologies will be present at Project Convergence.
“As a matter of policy, we do not discuss specific capabilities that will be tested or recently developed,” he said. “Our goal is to minimize the risk of compromise of technology information, thereby ensuring the Army maintains substantial technological overmatch.”
Yet, Army officials have spoken in extensive detail about Project Convergence in recent weeks. Last month, for instance, Richardson said the Marine Corps is bringing its Ground/Air Task-Oriented Radar, the Navy is bringing its SM-6 missile, and the Air Force will be flying the F-35 fighter and a B-1 bomber.
During the air-and-missile defense use case, sensors will pass information to the Navy, which will shoot one target. Simultaneously, information will be shared with the Army’s Integrated Air and Missile Defense Battle Command System, or IBCS, so that a Patriot air defense system can take a shot at a separate target, Richardson said.
“That hasn’t been done. That’s a big deal,” he added.
The Missile Defense Agency will develop the command-and-control system that will coordinate those offensive fires, he explained, and then the Army will take a shot with its Precision Strike Missile, which is still under development.
As part of the autonomous resupply use case, the Army is bringing leader-follower technology, of which it spent several years developing, as well as an autonomous Black Hawk helicopter, he said.
The centerpiece of last year’s Project Convergence was Firestorm, a technology that uses sensor data to pick the best targets to attack. And it will be back and expanded for use across the joint force this year.
A new prototype of a directed-energy, maneuverable, short-range air defense system will also be present this year, said Lt. Gen. L. Neil Thurgood, the Army’s Rapid Capabilities and Critical Technologies Office director, said at the same conference as Richardson.
During the fires conference, Rafferty detailed a capability up for evaluation this year called SHOT, or Synchronized High OPTEMPO Targeting, an application that will be used in one of the ground stations, dubbed Tactical Intelligence Targeting Access Node (or TITAN for short).
SHOT will apply sensor data to target selection standards, the attack guidance matrix, and field artillery and fires support fundamentals, using AI and autonomous capabilities to pick the best targets to hit, he explained.
“We’ve got a long way to go to develop the algorithms that can find the targets,” Rafferty said. “But we’re making a lot of progress. … We can do this. But can we fight this? That is our challenge.”
The Army continues to refine its development, Rafferty said, “because we know that the volume and targets in large-scale ground combat — it’s going to overwhelm us.”
Additionally, the Army will experiment with making the IBCS work with the Advanced Field Artillery Tactical Data System, or AFATDS, the Army’s fire control network.
“We have to figure out how to be more effective with our systems, more efficient in how we fight; and it starts with this integration of AFATDS and IBCS,” Rafferty said. “We’ll open up opportunities.” (Source: Defense News)
07 Sep 21. New war-gaming center to speed up weapon deliveries to US Marines. The U.S. Marine Corps, tasked with accelerating its force modernization efforts, started the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise series to put promising technology prototypes in the hands of Marines for rapid feedback and learning.
Now, the Corps is planning its next step forward: a first-of-its-kind war-gaming center that will allow the service to repeatedly run scenarios, each time tweaking concepts, tactics and technologies to guide the Corps’ Force Design 2030 decision-making process at a rapid pace.
The Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center will give the service this rapid learning capability, said Scott Lacy, the chief of staff of the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab, which will oversee the center’s operations.
“It’s beneficial because it enables us to speed up what we call the campaign of learning, which is about identifying a concept; war gaming that concept; ultimately taking that result and conducting a live, virtual or constructive experimentation with it; and also identifying where new technology on the horizon may fit in to that process, and then ultimately that turns into requirements, which ideally turns into acquisitions,” Lacy told Defense News on Aug. 27. “And so if you can hasten that process of campaign of learning and build a really rich body of analytic work that underpins those decisions, it’s really valuable to the institution.”
The Marines broke ground on the center in May. Construction should be complete in 2023, with the center opening in 2024 and reaching full capability in 2025, according to a news release.
“We’re not currently manned, trained or equipped for a peer adversary in this operational environment, and we owe it to the country to get ourselves into a better place,” Lacy said. “Everything we can do to hasten the process of change in the right ways, that puts us in a better position for competition with a peer adversary because that adversary is not slowing down, that adversary would love it if we continue to operate as slowly as possible.”
What can Marines do at the center?
The 100,000-square-foot center in Quantico, Virginia, will transform military war gaming from a tabletop exercise to an immersive experience in a simulated environment.
Real-world intelligence will inform the background environment in the war games. Science and technology experts will help shape the tools adversaries employ in the modern and futuristic scenarios. Sophisticated graphics and modeling technology will help players clearly see the challenges they face and recognize how new concepts, tactics and weapons would fare in a potential battle.
The primary mission of the center will be capability development, Lacy said, noting the facility will be large enough to host war games involving hundreds of participants and to simultaneously run multiple, differing scenarios.
“Where we have something like Force Design , where we have a very concrete vision of the way ahead that needs additional details filled out, this is the center that will help us get at those details faster and figure out what works and what doesn’t work” in the war game, and then use that information to design live experiments, Lacy said.
The center will help shape how the service looks in 2030 but will remain relevant well into the future to ensure the force stays ahead of ever-evolving threats.
“The analysis that results from this process and the decisions that are underpinned by that analysis will be part of the institutional decisions on resourcing and decisions on [the] way ahead,” Lacy added. “And as the commandant has described a number of times, this is likely to be against a peer adversary and move/counter-move pacing threat. And so we need to be able to rapidly identify when the adversary has created a counter-move that impacts our plans, and then find our counter to that counter — and this will really expedite that process.”
The center will also help answer questions about force size and equipment needed for the Corps to succeed in various environments — and it will then help the service continuously question those answers to ensure they hold up in modern scenarios.
“The ability to rerun different courses of action at machine speed — you know, many, many, many, many times — allows you a body of data that is impossible to replicate now” with tabletop war gaming and live experimentation, Lacy said.
Given the capacity of the center, he added, there will be opportunities to perform operational planning for missions such as resupplying a disaggregated force in a contested environment, or seizing a particular island or airstrip.
How does industry benefit?
The center is meant to help the Marine Corps as well as its joint and interagency partners focus on preparing for future operations. But the benefits could extend to the acquisition process and to industry, providing faster and clearer requirements for companies to address emerging capability gaps, Lacy said.
Much like the Advanced Naval Technology Exercise, or ANTX, series before it, the war-gaming facility could provide a new way for small businesses to get their ideas to the Marine Corps without needing a fully fledged manufacturing capability.
When the Navy and Marine Corps started ANTX in 2017, businesses large and small, traditional and nontraditional, were encouraged to bring prototypes to the beach for a ship-to-shore maneuver demonstration. Marines and sailors would test the prototypes in something akin to a real contested environment, and then provide feedback to industry and service decision-makers.
“One way in which they’re very similar is the sense of providing very useful, detailed feedback to the institution, to the Marine Corps,” Lacy said, adding that the war-gaming center would do in a simulated environment what ANTX did in a live environment.
He also said the barrier to entry for industry could be lower with the war-gaming center.
“If a firm in industry comes up with a potential solution and … that looks like something that we want to examine further, then we would work via the current process that we’ve got for inputting industry ideas and figure out how to turn that into a representation in a war game. And that would help us determine if the capabilities that are described … would move us in the direction that we want,” Lacy said.
Lacy said the war-fighting lab hasn’t determined how fully engineered a technology must be before it can be used in a war game, but avoiding manufacturing a prototype would be a win for small companies trying to pitch ideas.
In the meantime, he said, industry should continue to engage with the Marine Corps through advanced planning briefs to industry to stay in the loop about acquisition needs to support Force Design 2030. The center, he added, will only help quicken the pace at which the Corps can send requirements to industry for development and acquisition.
“I think what we will ask them in the future is very similar to what we are asking of them now. But we will be capable of moving faster, I believe, to get after those issues [on which] we’re seeking their help,” Lacy said.
Why is a new war-gaming center needed?
The Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center was formally established in 2017 by then-Commandant Gen. Robert Neller, but the idea and early planning work date back to 2015. Now-retired Lt. Gen. Robert Walsh, who served as the deputy commandant for combat development and integration from 2015 to 2018, told Defense News it was becoming clear the Corps needed a path away from optimization for ground wars and toward preparing for naval warfare against an advanced adversary like China or Russia.
“We saw that it was going to take a lot of innovation to move us in a new direction because we certainly didn’t have any of the right ideas, and there was no blueprint on how to do this,” he said in an Aug. 30 interview.
Walsh and other leaders at the time looked to the Marine Corps Warfighting Lab as the nexus of the “combat development process with the operational environment.” They reached out to previous leaders like former Commandant Gen. Charles Krulak, who helped stand up the lab in 1995.
Walsh and his team reinvigorated the lab and reoriented it to address the threat of peer adversaries. ANTX and the Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center were meant to bolster separate parts of the lab to support innovation and rapid learning.
An experiments division and a science and technology division were aided by the creation of ANTX in 2017, with a demonstration format that allowed them to learn a lot in a tight feedback loop among concept planners, war fighters and industry.
The Marine Corps Wargaming and Analysis Center was the comparable idea for the war-gaming division, which already existed to carry out war games that fulfilled Title 10 obligations — the roles of each service — and to participate in joint, interagency and multinational war-gaming events.
Though the war-gaming division did important work, “we were still operating way behind the times as far as what you could do with the technology that was out there today as far as war-gaming, analysis, modeling and simulation,” Walsh said. When he’d brief Marine Corps and Pentagon leadership on his recommendations for new gear to modernize the force, or go to Congress to ask for funding, he said he had analysis from tabletop games, but felt it fell short of ideal justification.
“The Wargaming and Analysis Center [would] beef up the war-gaming division at the war-fighting lab to get more analysis, so when you stood up before another audience to go, ‘This is where we’re headed, this is what they need, these are the capabilities they need, this is the program of record that we need,’ you would have the analysis behind it that you could stand there and people go: ‘OK, we can buy into that, that makes sense, and we’ll support you.’ ”
Walsh said the initial ANTX events had demonstrable effects on Force Design 2030 and Marine Corps acquisition, with the ideas for a long-range unmanned surface vessel and unmanned ground vehicles capable of launching weapons dating back to the 2017, 2018 and 2019 series.
The ANTX series will continue, and Walsh said he hopes the war-gaming center in a few years will bring the force design process full circle, convincing the Pentagon and Congress the Corps has the analytical rigor behind funding requests for new programs, rather than just anecdotal success stories from Marines experimenting in the field.
“When somebody like [Commandant Gen. David] Berger steps up and says, ‘Here’s my Commandant’s Planning Guidance, here’s Force Design 2030; now I need these new capabilities, whether it’s ground-based anti-ship missiles, long-range sensors, [MQ-9 drones],’ — whatever that may be — he’s able to sit there now and show the analysis that goes behind it that can help justify how we got to where they are,” Walsh said.
“So in a very innovative way, that allows the Marine Corps to go from concept all the way to rapid prototyping much quicker because they’re able to put a much finer point on things where people will really acknowledge the hard work that was done. And when they challenge it — they’ll challenge it — and [then] hopefully in most cases [they’ll] be able to accept the work that was done behind it, instead of questioning it and going: ‘Hey, this is too subjective, we don’t have enough detail here.’” (Source: Defense News)
07 Sep 21. ADF, Marines complete live-firing exercise. Over 2,000 troops have wrapped up warfighting exercises at the Bradshaw Field Training Area.
Australian Defence Force personnel and the Marine Rotational Force-Darwin (MRF-D) completed Exercise Koolendong — a combined command construct operation in a fictitious contested area, based out of Bradshaw Field Training Area in the Northern Territory.
Personnel were tasked with destroying the fictitious enemy and handing over security responsibility to local forces, before redeploying to Darwin Island.
The exercise presented the partner nations with an opportunity to rehearse expeditionary bilateral, joint warfighting in a simulated archipelagic region laid over the 6,600-square-kilometre location.
Commander 1st Brigade Brigadier Ash Collingburn, who led the exercise, said forces demonstrated their abilities to rapidly responded to crises in the region.
“Exercise Koolendong was the culminating activity of MRF-D 2021 and a key training event for the Australian Army’s 1st Brigade in enhancing security cooperation between USMC and the ADF through combined-arms live fire,” BRIG Collinburn said.
“It is a tangible demonstration of ADF and USMC capability to respond to a crisis in the region as a coalition force land component with an integrated coalition command structure.”
Commanding Officer MRF-D Colonel David Banning lauded the partner nations’ interoperability skills.
“The ability of MRF-D and the ADF to conduct this exercise during a pandemic is testament to the strength of our partnership,” Col Banning said.
“We’ve brought together all the assets of a marine air-ground task force and an equivalent ADF force, including more than 2,000 troops, 500 vehicles and 20 airframes.”
This year marks the 70th anniversary of the signing of the ANZUS Treaty between Australia, New Zealand, and the US.
“The Australia-US Alliance has never been more important as we look ahead to our shared strategic challenges in the region,” Col Banning added.
(Source: Defence Connect)
03 Sep 21. RAAF finalises bilateral exercise in Alaska with the USAF. Exercise Red Flag Alaska 21-3 has come to a close, with the Royal Australian Air Force finishing two-week training block with the US Air Force. Exercise Red Flag Alaska 21-3, which took part between 12 and 27 August, was designed to support the integration of the RAAF and USAF in a large force employment activity, with the operation taking part from the Eielson Air Force Base and Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson. Among the RAAF aircraft in the exercise were E-71 Wedgetail, F-35A Lightning II and EA-18G Growler assets.
Group Captain Matthew McCormack, RAAF Task Group Commander, outlined that the training enhanced the RAAF’s warfighting capabilities across multiple potential combat environments.
“Exercise Red Flag Alaska exposed crews to complex and realistic war-like scenarios to ensure they are as prepared as possible for any combat situation,” GPCAPT McCormack explained.
“It is essential that the entire team, including crews in the air and support personnel on the ground, can operate together in an austere environment seamlessly.
“Our lethality as a strike capability relies on effective integration with our partner nations, so by training together we get a deeper understanding of each other’s tactics and can capitalise on each other’s advantages.
“This occurs primarily through practice and this is exactly what we achieved during Red Flag Alaska.”
According to Colonel Taylor Ferrell, USAF Deployed Forces Commander, Exercise Red Flag was the first time Australia’s F-35 and EA-18Gs operated alongside US forces.
“Multiple United States Air Force platforms participated in the exercise, including F-35A, F-22 Raptors, F-16 Falcons, as well as F-15C Eagles from Kadena Air Base, Japan,” he said.
“The participation from both fourth- and fifth-generation assets from Australia and the United States meant we were able to integrate with some of our most high-end advanced capabilities to solve really tactically challenging scenarios.
“That’s really critical for us from a warfighting capability to sustain our military readiness, not only as a nation, but as a partnership.
“This enhances our posture in the Indo-Pacific region as well as developing and sustaining the relationship between our two militaries.”
Despite the ongoing pandemic, GPCAPT McCormack outlined how such activities were critical for Australia’s deployment capabilities.
“Our priority is to maintain the health and safety of all personnel, as well as members of the community,” he said.
“This was an opportunity to test our deployment capabilities and how we can operate under contested circumstances, including the COVID-19 environment.” (Source: Defence Connect)
02 Sep 21. France, Germany launch joint tactical air squadron and training center. After several years of planning, the French and German air forces have formally launched a binational tactical air transport squadron starting this month, with plans to fully establish the new unit within three years.
French Defense Minister Florence Parly and German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer signed an agreement Aug. 30 to officially create a joint C-130J squadron based at Evreux Air Base in Normandy. The nations’ pilots will then train in mixed teams “without distinction of nationality,” the two defense ministries said in a joint release.
The squadron will consist of 10 C-130J aircraft, built by Lockheed Martin, including six from Germany and four from France. The four French aircraft have been operational and based at Evreux since June 2021, the nation’s ministry of defense said in an email. One of those four aircraft has been deployed in the Sahel region since summer 2020; two of the four C-130Js can be used as aerial refuelers for helicopters.
The German air force procured their six C-130J aircraft in 2019, with half of the aircraft to be outfitted as KC-130J refuelers and the other half in the C-130J-30 variant. The first of those Super Hercules aircraft rolled off the Lockheed Martin production line this past July, according to the Luftwaffe.
The center will reach initial operating capability (IOC) when the first German C-130J aircraft arrives at Evreux, around February 2022, the German air force said. Until then, airmen from the two countries will train on the four French Super Hercules aircraft currently on base.
Full operational capability is expected around 2024. The German C-130Js will be ready to take on missions soon after they are delivered to the French air base between 2022 and 2024, per the French defense ministry.
“The French and German aircraft versions are very close, allowing the Franco-German teams to indiscriminately fly one aircraft or another,” a French defense ministry spokesperson said in an email.
This binational squadron has been in the works for several years now. France and Germany signed the first intergovernmental accord on the subject in 2017, which concerned the financial aspects of the infrastructure and the joint training center, per a spokesperson for the German Ministry of Defense. The first accord also set the squadron cap at 260 personnel, according to the French Ministry of Defense.
Lockheed Martin is on contract to build and equip the new C-130J training center at Evreux. The ministries did not disclose financial numbers by this article’s deadline, but AIN Online reported in 2018 that each country expected to contribute 110m euro ($130m) for infrastructure improvements to the air base.
The ministries lauded the signing of the agreement as “a new major area of cooperation between France and Germany” on Tuesday. “While retaining the possibility of carrying out missions within a purely national framework, this is the first time an air force squadron is able to carry out operational missions with mixed crews, on French and German aircraft,” the agencies said in the statement. (Source: Defense News Early Bird/Defense News)
About InVeris Training Solutions
InVeris Training Solutions combines an agile approach with an unmatched expertise in training technology to design and deliver customized, cutting-edge, first-rate training solutions that keep military, law enforcement, private and commercial range clients safe, prepared and ready to serve – Because Seconds Matter™. With a portfolio of technology-enabled training solutions, and a team of 400 employees driven to innovate, InVeris Training Solutions is the global leader in integrated live-fire and virtual weapons training solutions. With its legacy companies, FATS® and Caswell, InVeris Training Solutions has fielded over 15,000 live-fire ranges and 7,500 virtual systems globally during its 90-year history. The Company is headquartered in Suwanee, Georgia and partners with clients in the US and around the world from facilities on five continents.