Plan Jericho: Shaping a Transformed Training System


2015-10-18 By Robbin Laird

The Plan Jericho approach for the Royal Australian Air Force is about shaping a more integrated force built on 21st century situational awareness and decision-making systems.

It is a work in progress for the Royal Australian Air Force and the Australian Defence Force.

It is clearly not just about platforms, but how you re-shape the concepts of operations, and transform to a more integrated force.

Clearly required is a transformation of training, a key element of what professionals pay attention to but do not get the focus of attention which platform acquisition itself receives.

This can be seen a shift in training as described by the C-130 operators in Australia, which requires shaping a flexible multi-mission joint crew, or with regard to shaping the training for the inherently joint asset which the new LHD amphibious ship requires.

The transformation of the C-130J role clearly requires a shift in how the crew operates the aircraft and thinks about its operational role. And operational experiences fold into the thinking about how to re-shape capabilities of the platform to reshape its role as well.

As Group Captain Newman noted with regard to operations to support the humanitarian mission in Iraq during Operation Okra, the performance of the C-130J in the mission was hampered by an absence of organic ISR. If the plane had been able to identify more effectively in the drop space the nature of the threat and the where the desired recipients were, then the team could have been more effectively and more valuable to the rest of the force working the humanitarian mission.

As a result, the RAAF is thinking through possible requirements that may demand organic ISR for the aircraft, in addition to the new ISR linkages enabled by communications upgrades on the aircraft as well.

Group Captain Newman also focused on ways the new capability might be used to provide a variety of specialized force insertion packages. 

“As we shape the capability of the C-130J to operate as an insertion package, we can then provide a variety of specialized tool sets in effect to the commander. In effect we are becoming a swiss army knife working with the embarked forces, which provides a broader range of options to the commander.”

Group Captain Newman underscored that the changing role for the C-130J meant changing the training approach for the crews as well as developing enhanced training opportunities with the Australian Army as well. 

Wing Commander Nick Hogan is in charge of the RAAF’s C-130J training squadron and he focused on how the shift was from a largely rigid training system to a flexible one. In effect, when the C-130J was used predominately as a lifter, training took several months and delivered pilots and crew to support transport similar to airline practices.

As the new capabilities began to roll into the aircraft, bolt-on training modules were added which simply extended training time. But starting in 2012 a fundamental reworking was set in place whereby integration of the various elements into a baseline training system was shaped. The crew required appropriate training to allow them to approach the aircraft as if it were a swiss army knife with the ability to use every blade.

To discuss further the way ahead with regard to training associated with the transformation effort, a phone interview with Air Vice Marshal (retired) John Blackburn, who has been associated with the effort from its beginning last year.

Question: What are the major shifts necessary to transform training to shape a joint force able to leverage the kinds of situational awareness envisaged in Plan Jericho?

Air Vice Marshal (Retired) Blackburn: There are two key goals which, when combined, drive the re-design of the training system. Vastly shared situational awareness to a force, operating, as an integrated team requires a different type of training regime than we have followed in the past.

Historically, the system was broken into parts and managed sequentially. You went from pilot training, to fighter conversion to operational training, to a TOP GUN environment for advanced training. And each of these separate pieces were not really focused on the joint force.

Each part produces a piece of the puzzle.

Nowhere do we have a design on how you train the total system apart from exercising with the other forces or preparing for an operation.

We now need to design an end-to-end training and education system.

You are looking not just to train a jet pilot fighter but a complete team that can fight and operate together with shared situational awareness to enhance its effectiveness.

We need to design a training system focused on the overall combat results we’re trying to achieve and to train for the roles of all the players that are actually going to integrate together to achieve the desired combat effect.

We are talking about a change in mindset.

It’s not just about the platforms and the systems of how they integrate, but how the people will be trained and developed and how they themselves will integrate.   Our training system needs to be able to produce that result.

In other words, we are shifting from a platform replacement mentality and that needs to be joined by a shift in training and education to shape the joint combat effect which in turn can affect how we think about what we need to procure in the future as well.

John Blackburn presenting at the Copenhagen Airpower Symposium, April 17, 2015. Credit: The Williams Foundation
John Blackburn presenting at the Copenhagen Airpower Symposium, April 17, 2015. Credit: The Williams Foundation

Question: With the coming of the F-35 to Australia, you obviously have in mind getting joint combat effect from the beginning from the plane, but the training system will have to focus upon that effect.

What is your thinking about this challenge?

Air Vice Marshal (Retired) Blackburn: Training to fly the jet and to operate with other aircraft will be a crucial first step, but only that. It will be a two way street whereby the F-35 community opens up its aperture to embrace transformation of jointness and the other force elements look at ways to leverage its capabilities for the joint fight.

We need to expand the opportunities to do experimentation.

We should be encouraging students in their courses not only to learn the basics but to think about innovation and experimentation. Obviously, the less experienced they are, the more careful you’ve got to be. But it is the culture you want to embed into all your people in your air force, your army or the navy from day to have the kind of training necessary for combat innovation.

Question: Training, obviously blends with shaping a more integrated training approach for the operational force overall.

What are your thoughts on the cross-cutting of the training and logistics challenges for transformation?

Air Vice Marshal (Retired) Blackburn: They are cross-cutting. It is important in the training of pilots to operate for the joint force to understand that an airplane without sustaining capability is a museum piece. It’s nice to look at but not much use.

We have to educate our people from day one.

There’s a bigger world out there, and yes in the first part of your career, you focus on your specific skillsets, in being a pilot, an air combat officer, or logistician, or an air traffic controller or a battle manager for example.

But, if you don’t understand how it works as a system, then you’re not going to be much use as you progress in your career.

I would argue that day one in any of our military courses, you start to get the students to understand they’re part of a larger system. The critical learning point is that it is not just the platform; it’s the total system that matters.

Editor’s Note: A key challenge is training to the expanded battlespace, a development that will require Live Virtual Constructive Training to become a core capability for the US and its allies.

And this has already started for Australia, the US and Canada.

With regard to coalition partners, the RAAF worked its first Live Virtual Constructive Training Exercise in a full flight mission simulator with the USAF. Richmond and Williamtown were connected to Nellis and the Wedgetail and the C-130Js were linked into a Nellis Red Flag exercise along with the Canadians who brought their own C-130J into the exercise. To do this required setting up new security procedures, data and comms links, but this is simply the beginning of reshaping coalition training capability going forward 

 Clearly, in thinking through operations in the expanded battlespace which the Pacific represents, LVCT is a key tool set. Visits to Fallon and Nellis have underscored how important LVCT is to the US forces; and clearly for the coalition forces as well.

As the head of Naval Warfare, Rear Admiral Manazir put it with regard to LVCT:

The current air wing that we have is capable of training inside the Fallon battlespace in a way in which we normally train:  you use simulators to practice, and then you get in your airplane and you go against representative threat systems.  Most of the representative legacy threat systems are on the Fallon ranges.  And they are either physically there or we have a simulation that emulates the threat presentation.  And all of that can be contained in that air space.

The threat baseline that we’re looking to fight in the mid-2020s and beyond is so much more advanced that we cannot replicate it using live assets.  And those advances are in the aircraft capability, the weapon capability, and in the electronic warfare capability of the threat systems.  That drives us to thinking about a different way to train.

In order to do that, you have to be able to have a realistic and representative emulation of the threat that is not live.  And there are a couple of ways to do that.  The first one is you make it completely constructive, and the second way is you make it simulated.

Live, virtual, constructive (LVC) training is a way to put together a representation of the threat baseline where you can train to the very high end using your fifth generation capability.  Some of it is live with a kid in the cockpit, some of it is virtual in a simulator, and so “virtual” is actually the simulator environment.  And then constructive is a way to use computers to generate a scenario displayed on either or both of the live or simulated cockpit.

You can also combine them to be live-constructive, or virtual-constructive, and by that I mean there are systems out there right now that you can install in the airplane that will give you a constructive radar picture air-to-air and surface-to-air along with the electronics effects right onto your scope.

You’re literally flying your airplane, and through a data link, you can share that information between airplanes, you can share it between dissimilar airplanes.

You could take a set of Navy airplanes, for instance, an E2D and a division of F-18s or F-35s on the Fallon range.  And you could have a constructive scenario that is piped into all five of those airplanes.  It’s the same scenario, has all the same effects.  And then the blue players can act according to that constructive scenario, and react to that constructive scenario in the live environment, but there’s nothing real in front of them…the threat is all simulated by computer generation.

Now let’s say that through fiber network, you pipe that constructive picture over to a coalition partner…for example, you do so to the RAAF in Australia…it is piped to a live airplane or a simulator over there, and let’s say there’s two Australian airplane simulators, and they’re seeing the same picture as the Americans are fighting.

And let’s say that there is a network that goes to the Aegis Cruiser, which is off the coast of Florida, and is going to be their Aegis Cruiser for the training.  And you can show them the same picture.

And you can transmit the comms across that.  You can easily see the training power in this LVC construct.

There are other systems that will allow you to have a live wingman up in the air in Fallon or on another range, his lead in a simulator, and when the simulator lead looks at his or her visual, he can see a virtual representation of his live wingman doing everything he does in the aircraft , and a link sends the aircraft maneuvers down to the simulator.

And when the simulator or the live person looks through their enhanced Joint Helmet Mounted Queuing System, he can see a virtual airplane on his visor.When the virtual airplane on the helmet system say, dumps a flare or drops ordnance against the target, you actually see it come off the airplane in your visor. And you can actually fight a virtual bogey on your visor, and the guy’s not there.  And you fight it with your airplane, just as if it is a real piece of metal.  So that’s the live-constructive piece.

If you optimize the networks so that you have a live airplane flying somewhere, a simulator that’s exactly what emulates a live airplane, and then a constructive scenario that goes to both you now have the full LVC construct.  You can overcome the barriers of geography, if the range is not big enough.  You could also overcome the barriers of multilevel security, because if you go up and use all of your weapons system modes up in the air, live, there are surveillance systems that can pick up what you’re doing.

 In this way, you can protect high end modes with encryption, and then create an architecture where LVC allows you to train to the complete capability of your fifth generation platform integrated into the advanced air wing and connected to AEGIS and the aircraft carrier as well as operations centers ashore.  And that’s what we’re looking to do.

 We realize that the fifth generation platform has now bumped us up against the limits of our training ranges and that we do not quite have the LVC components built yet, so that is where our current focus lies.

For a comprehensive look at Plan Jericho, see the following:

For a comprehensive look at Navy air training, see the following:

Slideshow highlights visit to Richmond Air Base in Australia in August 2015.