Increasingly multinational coalitions are coming together to work on a variety of security challenges worldwide, whether to deter war, promote regional stability, or respond to natural disasters, nations bring their collective capabilities under one umbrella for peacekeeping purposes.
For 10 years, the Bold Quest Coalition Capability Demonstration and Assessment series has provided a realistic venue for joint and coalition members to pool resources, collect and analyze data, and measure coalition effectiveness and interoperability.
In the latest exercise, which began in September, military and civilian members from the four U.S. services, U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM), and Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Denmark, Finland, France, Italy, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Norway and Sweden were participants. Members of NATO’s Airborne Early Warning and Control program also took part in BQ 13.2.
U.S. Joint Staff’s J6 Command and Control Integration Joint Fires Division sponsors BQ. Indiana National Guard’s Camp Atterbury–Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex, Ind., provided the venue for U.S. and coalition warfighters, developers and analysts in a unique problem-solving cooperative that aimed to inform current and future investments in proven solutions to help develop Joint Force 2020.
John Miller, the Joint Staff J6 Bold Quest operational manager, said the assessment series presents a “pay as you play” opportunity for nations to combine capabilities and achieve results greater than if they had acted on their own. The series has been so successful that frequency has increased from one every year to two per year, including two currently in planning for 2014.
The key initiatives and activities conducted during BQ 13.2 were Joint Fire Support Joint Mission Thread, Digitally Aided Fires/Close Air Support, Friendly Force Tracking, Combat Identification Server, Integrated Effects (Cyber) and Jolted Tactics. These were all conducted on the Bold Quest 2013.2 network architecture with distributed sites around the nation in both a live and virtual capability development test environment from September 9-19, 2013.
The objective is to improve technologies already fielded or to assess technologies that can be fielded in the near term. Among the technologies demonstrated in BQ 13.2 were various types of radios, tactical data links and network equipment used to support joint fires, joint terminal attack control (JTAC), personnel recovery and other missions.
Working Toward Greater Coalition Interoperability
Several participants, including coalition members Canadian Forces Maj. Christian Gagnon, Canadian Contingent Lead, French Air Force Lt. Col. Julien Dezemery, Chief of French Detachment and John Mahaffey, NATO Communications and Information Agency, NATO Airborne Early, talked about the role of the JTAC and interoperability challenges in digital ground-to-air communications during a media conference Sept. 12.
“With the significant operation in Afghanistan, in the Kandahar area, and the lessons learned there, working with our American counterparts allowed us to identify gaps in our interoperability, and our work on BQ will help us to define and resolve those. And that’s our aim for us,” Gagnon said.
Dezemery agreed that there are interoperability issues and said members must surmount language, equipment and technical barriers and agree on standards and procedures, but that they work very well at overcoming obstacles.
Mahaffey explained there are two types of standards: technical and operational, and that members agree to incorporate these standards into their doctrine and training. He said coalition forces are highly professional at directing each other’s aircraft in operational environments, but that implementation of the technical procedures at the last mile may differ among coalition members.
“We work through the JCATS MOA (Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation memorandum of agreement) configuration board and are making progress,” Mahaffey said.
The U.S. and coalition nations provided aircraft to work through the assessment scenarios. The U.S. Navy’s Air Test and Evaluation Squadron Two Three (VX-23) provided F/A-18E/F Super Hornets for sorties to test passing technical messages. The U.S. Marines provided AV-8B Harrier IIs. Unmanned aviation participants included: Sky Watch Higinn X1 from Denmark, the RQ-7B from the Indiana National Guard, and the RG-20A PUMA from Norway.
Miller said that one of the UAVs (Sky Watch Higinn X1) is small enough to be literally “thrown in the air by hand.” In general, UAVs provided video to key nodes on the ground.
Gagnon said that the French are using the Blue Force Tracker for increased situational awareness on the ground and that he has been impressed with the work of the other nations in sharing information and improving the speed of the kill chain.
Technology demonstrations play a large role in the assessments, but operating to standards and procedures are equally important.
Technology also helps fill gaps in interoperability among the coalition members, according to Miller.
“The aim is to use technology to speed the flow of information, and do so very accurately, reducing the need for humans to work around gaps in the existing network of systems,” Miller said.
Some of the capabilities tested during BQ.2 have already been fielded and operators are looking for improvements which can be implemented very quickly, according to Miller. In other technology demonstrations, analysts are hoping to speed capabilities to theater based on their assessments. Miller said that many of the technologies under assessment are based on concepts that originated with industry.
Gagnon said French forces use many commercial technologies with a military overlay for security purposes.
Under testing was the Jolted Tactics, which uses a 4G LTE cellular signal to connect military personnel with each other and their commands using handheld devices that provide instant photos and video, as well as radio, typical features of commercially-available smart-phones.
Using the 4G LTE signal, testers could watch a live video feed from a camera mounted on the helmet of a Canadian infantry soldier, for example, while an electronic map of the facility shows where everybody is at all times, according to an article posted to the Camp Atterbury–Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex website.
Unlike the Wi-Fi and wireless systems which people use every day, the Jolted Tactics program established its own network. Ford F-250 trucks acted as two cell phone towers fitted with cellular systems joined with a Pilatus PC-12 aircraft, which can disperse a secure cellular network for more than 40 miles while flying at several thousand feet. The connection created an insular, secure cellular network which was not dependent on any civilian system.
On Aug. 23, Jolted Tactics became a Joint Capability Technology Demonstration through the Office of the Secretary of Defense, which means it has less than 24 months to be fielded.
The demonstration collected both technical data on systems and subjective judgments from the warfighters using them. BQ 13.2 leveraged the varied ground and air environments and capabilities in Indiana to conduct approximately 10 days of live/virtual, scenario-based operations across multiple initiative domains for data collection. Data collected will be compiled in a final report available later in the year.
A summary of BQ 13.2 highlights includes:
- Integration of Calls for Fire with Conventional and Special Operations Force missions at tactical level.
- Demonstration of Ground to Air (G2A) Situational Awareness (SA) “Combat Identification Servers” developed independently by multiple nations.
- Canadian Infantry/Intelligence Team integration in tactical vignettes.
- French (Mirage 200D) and NATO (AWACS) aircraft and supporting teams deployed from Europe.
- Live fire Norwegian/Indiana National Guard (INNG) artillery counter-battery radar test.
- Integration of H-60 and UH-60 missions into BQ13.2 day and night mission support.
- INNG (Shadow) and Denmark sponsored UAS (Sky Watch Huginn) for intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) in support of unmanned ground tactical vignettes.
- Virtual simulators enabling the joint fires thread including ISR platform, dismounted squad, Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) and strike aircrew.
- Integration of high fidelity AC-130 and Army Apache/Blackhawk virtual simulators.
- Automated A-10 simulator responding live JTAC in voice mode.
U.S. Army Maj. Shawn Eaken, who represents Atterbury-Muscatatuck Complex scheduling and operations, explained the incomparable environment that the training complex provides for U.S. forces, law enforcement and emergency medical personnel, counterterrorism organizations and agencies under the Department of Homeland Security.
“The Atterbury–Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex provides a multinational training and assessment platform designed to test capabilities in a complex environment. It is a living, breathing city with bombed out buildings in a realistic setting; it looks like a war zone. We have it all —live, virtual and constructive training for active duty, including SOCOM, law enforcement and multiple players,” Eaken said.
The 1,000 acre site was turned over to the Indiana National Guard in July 2005 and since has been continually evolving into a full-immersion contemporary urban training environment. The site offers training that can be tailored to replicate both foreign and domestic scenarios and that can be utilized by many civilian and military organizations. Unique features include a 180-acre reservoir and urban infrastructure consisting of 68 major buildings, including a school, hospital, dormitories, light industrial structures, single family type dwellings, a dining facility and administrative buildings totaling approximately 850,000 square feet of floor space. Additionally the training area includes an extensive underground utility tunnel system and more than nine miles of roads and streets. A collapsed parking garage and subway station with two subway trains provide platforms for search and rescue training and disaster response.
During past Bold Quest events, assessments have addressed the military utility of:
- Air-to-Ground Non-Cooperative Target Identification using Laser Target Imaging Program and Synthetic Aperture Radar/Aided Target Recognition.
- Ground-to-ground cooperative target identification using Battlefield Target ID Device, Radio Based Combat ID, and Dismounted Soldier Identification Device technologies.
- Air-to-ground cooperative target identification using radio frequency tags and reverse identification, friend or foe (IFF) systems.
- Platform recognition training systems, including Recognition of Combat Vehicle and the Combat Identification Training System.
- Digitally Aided Close Air Support equipment and procedures.
The conceptual roots of the Bold Quest series date to 2001. Operational demonstrations were conducted from 2003 through 2013 at multiple venues in the United States and United Kingdom. These events involved coalition ground and aviation units as well as technical programs. They produced coalition military utility assessment reports that have informed U.S. and allied interoperability, capability development and acquisition.
“There is no single overarching authority directing participation in Bold Quest. Nations come voluntarily and pay their own way. They bring their own slice of contribution pie to test their equipment and procedures,” Miller said.
For additional information contact: Navy Lt. Cmdr. Marc Benshetler, Public Affairs Officer for Bold Quest, at firstname.lastname@example.org.