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CHIPS Articles: Bold Quest 16.2 Adds Cyber and Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems to Traditional Demonstrations

Bold Quest 16.2 Adds Cyber and Counter-Unmanned Aircraft Systems to Traditional Demonstrations
Four U.S. Armed Services, Special Operations Forces and 14 Nation Partners Participate
By Sharon Anderson - October-December 2016
Building on its 15-year history of interoperability testing in ground and air defense — and validating new operational concepts — Bold Quest 16.2 broadens its scope this year, according to John Finch, BQ staff officer.

From the founding objectives of the BQ series — Combat Identification; Friendly Force Tracking and Ground-to-Air Situational Awareness; Digitally Aided Close Air Support; Integrated Air and Missile Defense; Joint Fire Support Joint Mission Thread; Live/Virtual Environment; and Coalition Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance — BQ16.2 introduced Cyber and Counter - Unmanned Aircraft Systems and expanded the Federated Mission Networking FMN)/Mission Partner Environment (MPE) on the BQ Mission Network (BQMN), Finch explained in a media call with reporters Oct. 27.

Bold Quest 16.2 was the latest in a series of coalition capability demonstrations and assessments with 18 days of data collection from Oct. 17 to Nov. 3, 2016. BQ16.2 collaborated with the Georgia Air National Guard’s Sentry Savannah 17-1 (SS 17-1), an air-to-air training and readiness exercise.

“This is the first time we’ve been to the Savannah area; that’s largely driven by the desire to have an opportunity for U.S. Navy ships and other maritime assets to join us in the events,” Finch said.

The alignment of Bold Quest with other events, such as exercises and experiments, for economy and improved information sharing began in 2012 and remains a strategic objective.

The four U.S. Armed Services and U.S. Special Operations Command joined 14 partner nations and observers involving approximately 1,500 personnel on site and operating or supporting from distributed locations.

The demonstration collected both technical data on systems and subjective judgments from the warfighters using them.

“Coalition of the Willing”

The United States and partner nations that provided troops and/or equipment included Australia, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, New Zealand, Poland, Sweden and United Kingdom. Participating aviation forces operated from home stations in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, with personnel involved from supporting organizations at installations in Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Texas and Virginia.

The distributed Live/Virtual (L/V) Environment extended outside the United States in BQ16.2 to include three simulation centers in Oksbøl, Denmark; Boscombe Down, United Kingdom; and Nancy-Ochey, France.

Live/Virtual Environment initiatives included vignettes involving coalition Joint Forward Observer/Terminal Attack Controllers (JFO/JTAC) and aircrew in distributed virtual simulations (CONUS / OCONUS), with Air Support Operations Center (ASOC); ISR support; and a Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force (CJSOTF) Response Cell at U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), according to BQ16.2 documentation.

From its origins the Bold Quest series has been known as a “coalition of the willing" because participants fund their own costs while the Joint Staff provides some support for common use aspects, such as network infrastructure and facilities.

Nations participate because BQ16.2 is aligned with their formal test programs; interoperability air and ground testing; to validate their new operational concepts; to satisfy their sustainment training requirements; and to work with joint and coalition partners.

BQ16.2 brings together military and civilian members, developers and analysts in a unique problem-solving forum to inform current and future investments in proven solutions to help develop the future joint force and the Joint Information Environment.

U.S. Navy and Marine Corps Participation

The U.S. Navy provided two Arleigh Burke-class Aegis destroyers as part of the overall command and control structure used in executing the objectives for the integrated air and missile defense thread, according to Finch. The destroyers collected data to assess integration and interoperability of the new Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) encrypted Mode 5 system for the Navy.

IFF systems are used by all aircraft, both civilian and military, in air traffic control. The encrypted military mode known as Mode 5 provides secure, cooperative friendly platform identification.

“It’s a very significant contribution by the Navy to have not just one, but two ships underway and participating,” Finch said.

The initiatives for Integrated Air and Missile Defense included exercising engagement authority and procedures in robust blue force/opposing force (BLUFOR/OPFOR) live and constructive simulation; and air-to-air / surface- to-air / air-to-surface engagements in a complex air and surface environment.

“Although the ships were not part of the call for fire thread, the ships’ systems were duplicated in the BQ lab, and according to nodal analysis, were able to successfully demonstrate call for fire interoperability across national boundaries, as well advancing system development,” said U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Markis Frye.

The Digitally Aided Close Air Support thread included demonstrating interoperability among Joint Terminal Attack Controllers (JTAC), aircrew and C2 nodes and with multiple nations with both conventional and Special Operations Forces JTACs; and fulfilling concurrent credit toward individual JTAC annual sustainment training.

Participating in this joint multinational exercise, the Marine Corps integrated two of its Aviation Command and Control agencies with their digital backbone and services to control the airspace in concert with the Air Force Air Support Operations Center supporting Bold Quest, Frye explained.

“The Multifunction Aviation Operations Center, MAOC for short, combines the capabilities of the Direct Air Support Center and the Tactical Air Operations Center which are already C2 agencies in the Marine Corps,” Frye said.

Participating units deployed for BQ16.2 in mid-October based at the Georgia Air National Guard’s Air Dominance Center (ADC) and used local airspace and ranges at Fort Stewart, Townsend Bombing Range and offshore warning areas.

Cyber and the Mission Network

The BQMN set up for BQ16.2 mimics the operational mission networks used by participating nations and was built to U.S. Department of Defense MPE and NATO FMN standards and guidance, according to the C4/Network lead for BQ16.2, U.S. Army Maj. Uche Njoku.

“The Bold Quest Mission Network is what we use and is the network currently extended to 25 sites — five OCONUS, 20 CONUS sites — that are participating in this event,” Njoku said.

The cyber thread for BQ16 consisted of standing up the Cyber Security Operations Cell, conducting survey, secure, protect operations and holding the first ever graduate-level cyber academic sessions, involving a U.S. Department of Homeland Security/National Security Agency (DHS/NSA) certified local university, according to thread lead U.S. Army Lt. Col. Michael Maharaj.

Cyberspace defense was employed to protect, detect, characterize, counter and mitigate unauthorized activity and vulnerabilities on the U.S. enclave of the BQMN, in order to maintain the three most crucial components of security: confidentiality, integrity and availability. In this context, confidentiality is the set of rules that limits access to information, integrity is the assurance that the information is trustworthy and accurate, and availability is the guarantee of reliable access to the information by authorized partners, Njoku explained.

Cyber defense information learned from this thread was shared with our mission partners in order to build trust, and collectively work to defend the network. Joining Membership Exit Instructions (JMEIs) were established to clearly define the network requirements and cybersecurity posture for all networks to be federated within the BQ mission partner environment, Njoku said.

“So in essence we came together and we agreed upon standards, not specifically tools, but standards based on MPE guidelines… One of the things we did was share some of the earlier lessons learned — and indications from blue team activities… With a lot of coalition partners, they typically like to observe for a while, and especially with something like cyber, they wanted to observe, fully understand what were we doing, who was doing what, and what was required from who, and what the expected result should be before they fully engage. We expect they’ll have an expanded role in the cyber thread next year,” Njoku said.

BQ16.2 Demonstrations

The BQ series is different from the typical military exercises that U.S. forces and its NATO and mission partners take part in, according to Finch.

“We’re technically called a demonstration, and under that heading it allows us a variety of activities and a lot of flexibility in what we do. There are some aspects that would be in more traditional exercises that you see in Bold Quest, but we don’t have, as you might in a large scale training exercise, a scenario that runs progressively through the event on a continuous sequence day-by-day,” Finch said. “In our planning and execution, we have a sort of an overarching scenario, but it’s structured and broken down into vignettes which drive the data collection for the nations and the objectives that they have. If we lose a day because a system goes down or the weather impacts something or for some reason we didn’t capture the data, we can return to that vignette.”

Advancing Friendly Force Tracking and Ground-Air Situational Awareness threads have been the cornerstones of the BQ series. Objectives this year include demonstrating shared situational awareness between U.S. and coalition hand-held tracking systems; informing NATO interoperability standards; and providing friendly ground tracks to aircrew conducting close air support for situational awareness and fratricide avoidance.

The overarching scenario is pulled from different places and products that are already in use within the Services, so the elements of the units that are participating are seeing things that are familiar to them, Finch explained. “They’re general scenarios, they’re not specific. Some of it is fictional, fictional places, for example, and structured just to be able drive the data collection.”

The activities within the vignettes for the CISR thread are structured to collect and process information according to NATO Joint ISR doctrine, Frye explained.

The initiatives defined for Joint Fire Support include validating joint and coalition digital interoperability during an end-to-end fires request from JFO/JTAC executing from target acquisition to prosecution with multiple nations participating with distinct system types exercising extensive cross-service and cross-nation threads.

“These are activities that you would expect a force to see during the conduct of a battle. So, for instance, for fire support, we would have a vignette that would have our maneuver forces doing a stressful activity like a maneuver to contact or passage of lines or even a counter-attack, and that would stress our fire support systems and processes to be able to provide that sort of response through maneuver activities,” said Mike Shifflett, operational manager for the joint fire support, joint mission thread initiative.

The initiatives for Coalition ISR include: establishing joint and coalition partnerships to share intelligence from multiple surface and air sources; and driving operations along with targeting engagement across multiple initiatives within a common scenario.

“Within the coalition intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance thread, vignettes help drive the production of collection management and information request management in order to make a decision about how to request the theater level assets we have participating with Bold Quest… The vignettes can lead into further events later on in the week… If we need to re-attack these cycles we can do that; we have the freedom to do that here in Bold Quest,” Frye said.

Counter - Unmanned Aircraft Systems

Because the introduction of counter-UAS technologies, doctrine, and tactics, techniques and procedures development is a new focus area for BQ16.2, Finch explained that it is too early to evaluate the success of its integration into the demonstrations.

“It’s similar to what we talked about in the cyber area, it’s something new for us and we are starting to explore that area and incorporate it into the scenarios... We’ve had experience with our own unmanned systems – unmanned aerial systems – in collecting information and supporting operations on the ground. We’ve now incorporated that aspect where there is an opposing force there, a counter force, and how you begin to understand that problem and incorporate it into the overall plan. It’s at a very beginning early stage, just an initial step to begin to understand the problem,” Finch said.

“We’re still collecting data and looking at the overall performance and what kind of experience we had, but it will certainly be something we continue in the planning. As I said, we’ll look at the results and try to identify what the next appropriate steps are — and something hopefully — we can grow within Bold Quest because those are both important areas to look at,” Finch said.

Sharon Anderson is the CHIPS senior editor. She can be reached at chips@navy.mil.

Finland transmits a digital call-for-fire (foreground) to the German Fires Cell (background) to exercise Systems-of-Systems message compliance during the Technical Assessment phase of the Joint Fire Support Joint Mission Thread initiative in Bold Quest 16.2. 23 distinct US and Partner Nation fire support systems were represented in JFS JMT initiative during the event. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Marc Benshetler.
Finland transmits a digital call-for-fire (foreground) to the German Fires Cell (background) to exercise Systems-of-Systems message compliance during the Technical Assessment phase of the Joint Fire Support Joint Mission Thread initiative in Bold Quest 16.2. 23 distinct US and Partner Nation fire support systems were represented in JFS JMT initiative during the event. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Marc Benshetler.

Fires Cell Chief for the Netherlands coordinates multinational operations with the Danish Fires Cell during the Multinational Command Post Tactical Demonstration in Bold Quest 16.2. 
The event conducted as part of the Joint Fire Support Joint Mission Thread initiative optimizes 23 distinct U.S. and Partner Nation fire support systems for technical and procedural interoperability. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Marc Benshetler.
Fires Cell Chief for the Netherlands coordinates multinational operations with the Danish Fires Cell during the Multinational Command Post Tactical Demonstration in Bold Quest 16.2. The event conducted as part of the Joint Fire Support Joint Mission Thread initiative optimizes 23 distinct U.S. and Partner Nation fire support systems for technical and procedural interoperability. U.S. Navy photo by Lt. Cmdr. Marc Benshetler.

Canadian Armed Forces Master Corporal James Dowson (left), a section leader with the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, and U.S. Army, 1st Lt. Travis Hines, a platoon leader with Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, plan their next movement at Fort Stewart, Ga., October 31, 2016.Troops were participating in Bold Quest 16.2, a combined training demonstration and assessment event which enhanced interoperability and employed new technology for troops to test. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Wyatt Davis.
Canadian Armed Forces Master Corporal James Dowson (left), a section leader with the Lake Superior Scottish Regiment, and U.S. Army, 1st Lt. Travis Hines, a platoon leader with Alpha Company, 3rd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, plan their next movement at Fort Stewart, Ga., October 31, 2016.Troops were participating in Bold Quest 16.2, a combined training demonstration and assessment event which enhanced interoperability and employed new technology for troops to test. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Wyatt Davis.

A member of the Canadian Armed Forces moves past an American Soldier toward his objective during training at Fort Stewart, Ga., October 31, 2016. Troops were participating in Bold Quest 16.2, a combined training demonstration and assessment event which enhanced interoperability and employed new technology for troops to test. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Wyatt Davis.
A member of the Canadian Armed Forces moves past an American Soldier toward his objective during training at Fort Stewart, Ga., October 31, 2016. Troops were participating in Bold Quest 16.2, a combined training demonstration and assessment event which enhanced interoperability and employed new technology for troops to test. U.S. Army photo by Spc. Wyatt Davis.

German air force joint terminal air controllers gathers intelligence from a digital-aided combat air support device during Bold Quest 16.2 on Oct. 31 on a Fort Stewart Range outside Savannah, Ga. The aim of Bold Quest is to improve interoperability and information sharing across a range of coalition warfighting capabilities. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amber M. Williams.
German air force joint terminal air controllers gathers intelligence from a digital-aided combat air support device during Bold Quest 16.2 on Oct. 31 on a Fort Stewart Range outside Savannah, Ga. The aim of Bold Quest is to improve interoperability and information sharing across a range of coalition warfighting capabilities. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amber M. Williams.

German air force joint terminal air controllers check communications with an aircraft above during Bold Quest 16.2 on Oct. 31 on a Fort Stewart Range outside Savannah, Ga. Bold Quest is an international interoperability event where 14 partner nations come together to develop and test new tactics, techniques and procedures for the employment of close air support in battlespaces around the world. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amber M. Williams.
German air force joint terminal air controllers check communications with an aircraft above during Bold Quest 16.2 on Oct. 31 on a Fort Stewart Range outside Savannah, Ga. Bold Quest is an international interoperability event where 14 partner nations come together to develop and test new tactics, techniques and procedures for the employment of close air support in battlespaces around the world. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Amber M. Williams.
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