Warfighters, technology teams and testers under the flags of 10 nations and each of the U.S. military services came together at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., for the Bold Quest coalition demonstration.
The eleventh in the Bold Quest series, the latest assessment, was driven by the need to provide tools that make warfighters more effective in engaging targets while minimizing the risk of fratricide. The demonstration, which began June 10 and concluded June 21, focused on combat identification issues associated with technologies, tactics, techniques and procedures relevant to air-to-air, surface-to-air and air-to-ground fires.
Led by the U.S. Joint Staff, BQ 13-1 included more than 1,300 participants from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, as well as Germany, France, Italy and Norway. In addition, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom sent observers, said John Miller, the Joint Staff operational manager for the Bold Quest series.
The ultimate goal of BQ is make sure that systems are interoperable and the coalition can operate together before they deploy in a crisis. Each of the nations and services bring their own equipment and objectives for assessing capabilities, Mr. Miller said. “Basically, we [Joint Staff] set the conditions for success and they test their own equipment, tactics, techniques and procedures while responding to threat scenarios that are operationally representative…”
Bold Quest 13-1 is the most complex demonstration in the series so far and hosted several first-time assessments, including how the new identification friend or foe (IFF) systems developed independently by the services work in a joint and coalition scenario. Other precedents for Bold Quest include the air-to-air and surface-to-air engagements that also involved the participation of U.S. Navy surface platforms. Traditionally, BQ has tested ground-to-ground and air-to-ground initiatives.
Bold Quest 13-1 was managed by the Joint Staff J6 Joint Fires Division, who also served as the lead agent for the U.S. services and coalition nations to provide forces to the venue. The lead operational test agency was Commander, Operational Test and Evaluation Force (COMOPTEVFOR), who approved the test plan, assisted in providing the naval assets, and oversaw the data collection to meet demonstration objectives. The Joint Deployable Analysis Team (JDAT), also part of the Joint Staff J6, led the test plan design, execution control, and emplaced the necessary infrastructure to connect the numerous geographic sites across seven states. BQ 13-1 took 18 months to plan, with the infrastructure set in place approximately two weeks before the live demonstration began.
About half of the participants were located at MCAS Cherry Point, Miller explained during a media teleconference from the demonstration headquarters June 20. Another 700 service members participated from bases along the U.S. East Coast and as far west as Tinker Air Force Base, Okla. Cherry Point was chosen for its ideal location for hosting East Coast military assets, two Navy ships, Arleigh Burke-class destroyer USS Jason Dunham (DDG-109) and Ticonderoga-class cruiser USS San Jacinto (CG-56).
Miller said that including the two Aegis platforms, which were also engaged in a major fleet training exercise, was a win-win for the taxpayer and provided unprecedented opportunities for training and testing opportunities never seen in previous BQ demonstrations.
U.S. Navy Reserve Cmdr. Mark Ludovico, Joint Staff J6, explained that with the two ships and more than 40 aircraft flying on any given day of the event, the Navy team stress tested the IFF integrated suite and Aegis ballistic missile defense system Mode 5 in partnership with COMOPTEVFOR under 13 separate initiatives.
The Navy and Aegis BMD are engaged in a joint effort to migrate the Aegis BMD capability into the DDG Modernization Program’s Open Architecture (OA) efforts. The Aegis OA program is central to potentially expanding Aegis BMD capability to all destroyers and some cruisers of the Aegis fleet. Open Architecture and DDG Modernization will also provide the foundation for implementing Aegis BMD in allied navy ships, according to information published on the Missile Defense Agency and Lockheed Martin websites.
Cmdr. Ludovico said testing will ensure that the new Mode 5 combat suite is integrated and functions across legacy hardware, including coalition hardware. “We want to ensure it is backwards compatible,” he said.
U.S. Army Capt. Brent Harty from Headquarters and Headquarters Battery (HHB) 2-43Air Defense Artillery, Fort Bliss, Texas, said the exercise was a great opportunity to test the upgrade to the Patriot advanced capability (PAC-3). Patriot is a long-range, all-altitude, all-weather air defense system to counter tactical ballistic missiles, cruise missiles and advanced aircraft.
According to the Army website, the PAC-3 upgrade program incorporates significant upgrades to the phased array radar set and engagement control station, and adds the new PAC-3 missile, which utilizes hit-to-kill technology for greater lethality against tactical ballistic missiles armed with weapons of mass destruction. Additionally, up to 16 PAC-3 missiles can be loaded per launcher, increasing firepower and missile defense capabilities.
Many of the warfighters touted the benefits of having their technology teams working alongside them so they could observe how the systems were operating in a realistic complex operational environment and make adjustments on the spot. Italian Air Force Col. Vincenzo Falzarano said technicians were able to make on-site modifications to their software that enables digital exchange between aircrew and ground controllers for close air support; a process that otherwise would have taken months to complete.
Although Bold Quest 13-1 was conducted entirely in a live environment, participants intend to use the data collected to improve simulations used for both training and testing.
Most participants worked 12 to 14-hour days testing and collecting data that will be used by the Joint Staff in the quantitative assessment of more than 240 measures, said Air Force Lt. Col. Rob Trsek. The measures help determine success in reaching a smaller set of objectives, which are often multiple for any given initiative, he said. An initial assessment will be completed within 30 days, with the final assessment due in 120 days.
The results, across a range of 13 distinct Bold Quest 13-1 initiatives, will potentially inform development decisions and operations in both the near and long-term. For example, a new combat identification server demonstrated during Bold Quest 11 proved so effective that it was deployed to Afghanistan within months of the demonstration. The system collects and maintains the locations of U.S. and coalition forces in a single server that aircrews can access as they provide close air support.
While all the results aren’t in, Mr. Miller and Col. Tserk agreed that the demonstration achieved the majority of the objectives set by the participants. “In every Bold Quest demonstration we see examples where we wanted to achieve more; otherwise, the bar would be set too low to justify the effort,” Miller said.
Col. Falzarano, a longtime veteran of other U.S.-hosted military exercises, praised the venue and the opportunity to work with the coalition members and their systems in a realistic setting.
The Joint Deployable Analysis Team will conduct a thorough quantitative analysis of the data collected from the event, and provide participants select data based upon their initiatives. The results for the Mode 5 IFF initiative will be forwarded to Director, Operational Test & Evaluation, Office of the Secretary of Defense (DOT&E), Lt. Col. Trsek said.
The next Bold Quest demonstration is scheduled for September at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in Indiana. Two more demonstrations are scheduled for fiscal year 2014.
U.S. Joint Staff and Bold Quest 13-1 participants contributed to this story.
Sharon Anderson is the CHIPS senior editor. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.