2017-09-08 By Robbin Laird
The Australian Defence Force has set a tough bar for itself – shaping an integrated force and crafting an ability to design such a force.
This is a tough bar but one which they are trying to energize in part by leveraging their new platforms to shape a way ahead beyond the classic after-market integration strategy.
But how best to do this with regard to training and development of the force?
And how to maximize the combat effectiveness to be achieved rather than simply connecting platforms without a significant combat effect?
When we visited Fallon this year, we were impressed that the training command is adding new buildings which are designed to shape greater capability to get the various platform training efforts much better connected.
Fallon is known as the Carrier in the Desert; but as the carrier and its role within the fleet evolve and encompass distributed lethality and the kill web, so must the Carrier in the Desert evolve.
It starts with the addition of two new buildings, which embrace the shift.
One building is to house the integrated air enabled force; the second houses the simulators that drive the process of their integration.
The first building, building P420, will house the integrated training effort.
“The entire building is a SCIF (Sensitized Compartmented Information Facility) at 55,000 square feet.
“We will have offices in there.
‘We will have auditoriums.
‘We will have classrooms.
‘We will have mission-planning rooms.
‘And the building will also house the spaces from which we monitor and control missions on the Fallon Range.
“We will be able to do all of our operations at the appropriate classification level for the entire air wing.”
The additional new building will house the simulators.
“Building P440, which is 25,000 square feet, will host initially the simulator devices for the integrated training facility.
“These include F-35, E-2D, Super Hornet, Growler, and Aegis.”
We were also interested in the clear desire to shape Training, Tactics, and Procedures (TTPs) cross platforms where possible.
The F-35 coming to the carrier deck also has key radar capabilities, notably built by the same company, Northrop Grumman, and working integration will provide a key opportunity to enhance the capabilities of the CAG in supporting fleet operations.
Clearly, tools like Live Virtual Constructive training will become increasingly more important in training for the extended battlespace and there is a clear need to work integration with live assets today with US and Allied forces in order to lay down a solid foundation for something like LVC.
The team emphasized the need to have the advanced assets at NAWDC to allow for the kind of integrated training, which is clearly necessary.
They would like to see E-2Ds and F-35Cs physically at NAWDC to allow for the kind of hands on experience, which can build, integrated cross platform training essential for the development of the skill sets for dominance in the 21st century battlespace…
Hence, a different pattern is emerging whereby training is as much about combat development TTPs as it is about single platform proficiency.
“The problem is right now, we don’t have aircraft here to fully develop cross platform integration, because we don’t have enough time spent together to figure out the optimal direction to drive that kind of integration.”
But what is missing is a capability to connect training, notably cross platform training with software code rewriting of the sort, which the new software upgradeable platforms like F-35 clearly can allow.
Indeed, we added to the above article the following:
One could also add, that the need to build ground floor relationships between code writers and operators needs to include the TTP writers as well.
During my visit to Canberra, I had a chance to discuss with Air Vice-Marshal (Retired) John Blackburn how the training approach could be expanded to encompass and guide development.
“We know that we need to have an integrated force, because of the complexity of the threat environment will will face in the future. The legacy approach is to buy bespoke pieces of equipment, and then use defined data links to connect them and to get as much integration as we can AFTER we have bought the separate pieces of equipment. This is after-market integration, and can take us only so far.”
“This will not give us the level of capability that we need against the complex threat environment we will face. How do we design and build in integration? This is a real challenge, for no one has done so to date?”
Laird: And the integration you are talking about is not just within the ADF but also with core allies, notably the United States forces. And we could emphasize that integration is necessary given the need to design a force that can go up an adversary’s military choke points, disrupt them, have the ability to understand the impact and continue on the attack.
This requires an ability to put force packages up against a threat, prosecute, learn and continue to put the pressure on.
Put bluntly, this is pushing SA to the point of attack, combat learning within the operation at the critical nodes of attack and defense and rapidly reorganizing to keep up the speed and lethality of attack.
To achieve such goals, clearly requires force package integration and strategic direction across the combat force.
How best to move down this path?
Blackburn: We have to think more imaginatively when we design our force.
A key way to do this is to move from a headquarters set requirements process by platform, to driving development by demonstration.
How do you get the operators to drive the integration developmental piece?
The operational experience of the Wedgetail crews with F-22 pilots has highlighted ways the two platforms might evolve to deliver significantly greater joint effect. But we need to build from their reworking of TTPs to shape development requirements so to speak. We need to develop to an operational outcome; not stay in the world of slow motion requirements development platform by platform.
Laird: Our visit to Fallon highlighted the crucial need to link joint TTP development with training and hopefully beyond that to inform the joint integration piece.
How best to do that from your point of view?
Blackburn: Defence is procuring a Live/Virtual/Constructive (LVC) training capability.
But the approach is reported to be narrowly focused on training. We need to expand the aperture and include development and demonstration within the LVC world.
We could use LVC to have the engineers and operators who are building the next generation of systems in a series of laboratories, participate in real-world exercises.
Let’s bring the developmental systems along, and plug it into the real-world exercise, but without interfering with it.
With engagement by developers in a distributed laboratory model through LVC, we could be exploring and testing ideas for a project, during development. We would not have to wait until a capability has reached an ‘initial’ or ‘full operating’ capability level; we could learn a lot along the development by such an approach that involves the operators in the field.
The target event would be a major classified exercise. We could be testing integration in the real-world exercise and concurrently in the labs that are developing the next generation of “integrated” systems.
That, to my mind, is an integrated way of using LVC to help demonstrate, and develop the integrated force. We could accelerate development coming into the operational force and eliminating the classic requirements setting approach.
We need to set aside some aspects of the traditional acquisition approach in favor of an integrated development approach which would accelerate the realisation of integrated capabilities in the operational force.