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U.S. Joint Forces Command supports Exercise Talisman Saber 2007

Red Line

By MCC(SW/AW) Chris Hoffpauir
USJFCOM Public Affairs

Suffolk, Virginia, 26 July 2007 — U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) linked training networks for both Australia and U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) as the command supported Exercise Talisman Saber 2007 (TS07), which wrapped up earlier this month.

Talisman Saber is a biennial series of training exercises designed to conduct collective training and exercise interoperability between the Australian Defence Force (ADF) and U.S. forces in the Pacific region. It is one of Australia's largest military training events.

USJFCOM connected the Joint Training and Experimentation Network (JTEN) and Australia's Defence Training and Experimentation Network (DTEN), allowing USJFCOM, USPACOM and the ADF to continue work on the U.S. / Australian bilateral Joint Combined Training Capability (JCTC).

JTEN, the communications network for Joint National Training Capability (JNTC), provides a rapidly reconfigurable network which supports joint training exercises, experimentation, and the evaluation of new warfighting concepts in support of the U.S. Department of Defense's Training Transformation program.

The link allowed U.S. and Australian forces to link simulation networks so they could train together in a live, virtual and constructive environment (L-V-C). Live portions of the exercise took place in various locations in Australia, including the High Range Training Area in Queensland.

The JTEN/DTEN connection wasn't simply a link between networks but also all the systems they're made of, which sometimes presented problems. John Vinett, deputy for the Joint Warfighting Center's Joint Training Technologies Group, said there were both technical and policy challenges in linking the multiple systems involved.

"We were able to work through those," Vinett said. "There was some pain, and that's not a bad thing. It brought to light some policy issues. We developed some workarounds that got us through Talisman Saber. We have not worked out the long term approach to this."

Another challenge the two nations faced was a language barrier. While both speak English, each uses sometimes unique terminology, sometimes down to the level of individual services within their militaries. Vinett said that probably the most often-heard phrase during the event was "say again?"

Army Lt. Col. Roger Symons, Australia's liaison officer at USJFCOM, said discovering those challenges and facing them in a controlled environment is one of the primary reasons for TS07.

"You can face those challenges now or you can face them after you've crossed the line of departure, and it's far better to face them now," Symons said. "Writing it out in a manual is just not enough, and we've always known that.

"You have to practice, preferably with the people you're going to be deploying with," he continued. "That level of finesse is on the horizon as a reality when you link at these kinds of training capabilities to a readiness schedule for the rotation of units. So it's not just an AC-130 aircraft you're training with, it is the actual unit, perhaps even the actual crew you're going to deploy with."

TS07's organizers used the linked U.S. and Australian training capabilities to create a training environment that included live forces on the ground in Australia, forces participating in a virtual environment (simulators) linked to the network, and constructive forces created by computers. All this information was then combined and displayed to the participating forces.

"What you were looking at on the range is a real piece of real estate in Queensland called Line Creek Junction," Symons said. "It's a fully instrumented urban operations training facility. It looks synthetic, but it is real-time real estate. It's hot, there's confusion down there, people have no sort of bird's eye view, so it's very much reality. It's not just a synthetic environment."

Vinett explained that while the Australian special operations soldiers initially weren't interested in using the technology, which fed a virtual view from a Predator unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) into their joint operations center (JOC), they warmed to it as they saw it in action.

"They weren't too keen on this whole approach, the Predator view," Vinett said. "They relegated it to a screen tucked away in the corner. Then they started looking at it, and the next thing you know it's migrated to the center screen in the JOC. The comment we got from one of the Australian sergeants major was 'That's how we execute operations in Afghanistan today.'

"If you've seen footage from a gun camera or a UAV, it wasn't far off from that. That's the whole idea. You want them to think they're there in that environment," Vinett said.

Vinett said that the Australian soldiers on the ground wore emitters that the range's instruments could detect. That data was then fed through the JTEN/DTEN link to Suffolk, where USJFCOM integrated it with all the other data coming in to create a complete view of the battlespace. That view was then sent back through the link and fed back into the exercise. He added that this all occurred in near real-time.

"The commander doesn't know if it's live, virtual or constructive," Vinett said. "He has to fight the entire battlespace."

"We don't draw a box around joint training and treat it as an entity by itself," Symons said. "What we're looking at here is a conjunction between joint training and the integration of joint fires.

"So for an Australian joint terminal attack controller (JTAC), it doesn't really matter to him whether it's a U.S. Air Force air power component or an Australian one - it makes no difference. For that matter, it could be a U.S. JTAC and we could be providing air support. That's a result of the fact that we built our JTAC schoolhouse around accreditation to provide support for U.S. forces, or receive support from U.S. air power.

Symons said that ADF would like to see a time when joint command and control and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance are integrated into the joint training environment as well.

"Integrating the command and control piece is absolutely critical," Vinett said. "There's nothing better than actually doing it for gaining an understanding of the differences in how we command and control forces.

"If we had our way we'd do everything live. Because that's expensive, we have to put the technology to use to allow for the commander to deal with the entire battlespace without having to put 30,000 troops out there. It's really about moving the electrons and not the people."

Symons agreed that using a synthetic training environment had distinct advantages.

"The less time you spend sending our forces across the Pacific to train with each other, the more time those soldiers can spend engaged in operations, spending time with their families, or whatever they've got to do," Symons said.

Vinett said the next step is to build trust and confidence within each government and among each nation's military services - not only that this kind of joint training works, but that the two nations can share the information they need to and still secure the sensitive information they can't share with anyone.

"There are three things we discovered," Vinett said. "First, the cultural issues are huge, not just between the United States and Australia, but also among our services and between different agencies. The second is policy - we've identified specific things there that perhaps we need to address. Finally, there's trusting the technology - that it's going to do what we say it's going to do. There's a natural mistrust of technology, and we have to show that it works like we say it's supposed to work.

"Those are the things we're looking at as we head toward the next Talisman Saber - or preferably something sooner than that - certainly with the Australians. We think the partnership with Australia has worked very well."

"We've also been extremely happy with the way things are going," Symons said. "All of the things we've discussed occur at U.S. Joint Forces Command. If you want to be with all the U.S. forces, in whatever area of responsibility, this is the place to do it.

"Right now we have troops deployed in U.S. Central Command's and USPACOM's areas of responsibility, and we have other areas of cooperation with the United States as well. We know that in the contemporary security environment those challenges aren't going to go away any time soon, so now is the time to start developing solutions that are feasible and effective."

Vinett said that one of the main goals of TS07 was to prove that the JCTC proof of concept is viable. One way to do that was through showing the effectiveness of an L-V-C training environment.

"I feel very positive that we've demonstrated that this is a viable way ahead, and that we should continue this," Vinett said. "Based on the initial look, things look very promising because what we said we would do I believe we have done. Now it's just a matter of reporting on that and getting the word out. We're very enthusiastic about where we're going in the future."

"I'd say from our perspective, the outlook is similar," Symons said. "We have a great deal of confidence in Exercise Talisman Saber itself - the simulation component of it. We hope to further build on the capability that has been proven.

"The U.S. is not alone in having cultural hurdles to leap in addressing joint training. We have some leaps of faith to make of our own, but we're steadily progressing and building confidence as we go.

"We're currently conducting an enabling study to quantify the benefits of having a persistent L-V-C simulation capability - probably constructed as a federation with the United States - and as we are able to demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of that system, we believe it will stand on its own credibility. It will become quickly evident that it's a capability that we can't do without. The enabling study will put the case to our minister for defense on whether a persistent capability should be pursued and if so, to what extent."

News courtesy of USJFCOM.
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