By Robbin Laird
Training is becoming an advanced weapon system.
So much so that the classic formulation of Tactics, Techniques and Procedures upon which training has been built is expanding to now be informed by advanced training that reshapes tactics, techniques, and procedures for the future fight.
Multi-domain training encompassing the synthetic environment with a full role for the digital warriors is becoming a key requirement in shaping a 21st century high-end fighting force able to operate in rapidly changing combat conditions.
In my recent visits to forces stationed in the East Coast of the United States and in the Pacific, finding ways to understand the evolving capabilities of the adversary and weaving those into blue side multi-domain warfighting techniques and approaches is increasingly challenging but also indispensable. Whether a Marine operating from an expeditionary base employing advanced sensors and needing to understand how the adversary operates and thinks, to pilots operating against highly integrated multi-domain systems, the challenge is the same: how to spoof, how to deflect, and how to defeat an evolving adversarial force fielded by a peer competitor.
To understand how to shape such a way ahead, I continued my discussions with Paul Averna of Cubic Corporation on the evolution of advanced training. According to Averna, we need to start with the ability to present a realistic threat environment to our Blue team. To do so requires a significant shift from how we have done training in the past two decades.
Averna: “Previously, we’ve been able to approximate red capabilities with fairly inexpensive or lower cost solutions. In other words, we haven’t had to fly our current blue aircraft against one another to get quality training. We could get by using earlier generation platforms because what we were focused on was training fundamentals of blocking and tackling in the air problem, or the air to surface problem on the physical ranges with the infrastructure that we’ve had.
“After executing a rollback phase, we were able to operate from a relatively static sanctuary to deliver effects in the battle space. We’re facing a paradigm shift. We have peer competitors that make it very difficult to establish a secure combat sanctuary and to hold that sanctuary for an uncontested period of time to dominate the battlespace.
“When you overlay the geographic challenges in the Pacific, it becomes a much more challenging problem. We can solve some of that by prepositioning. And we’re talking about the doctrinal concepts that the Marine Corps is espousing to get forward and to be able to deliver ISR and kinetic effects from a dynamic sanctuary. That’s the direction that we’re going.
“How do you bring a relevant threat emulation to the training environment so that we can be confident that the tactics, techniques, and procedures we are training to can deliver the right solution in a timely manner?”
I pointed out that with the kinds of mission data we are collecting with systems like the F-35, it is important to be able to translate that information into training usable simulated capabilities as well.
Averna underscored how important such an effort is to shape a more effective force. “We’re collecting some interesting information. But how does that translate into the emulation of the dynamic threat environment that we are facing?”
There is also the question of the evolution of software within both the Blue and Red systems and the challenge of then translating those changes into a simulated training environment as well.
Averna added: “The systems that we’re able to put into place have traditionally been singular emulators of a specific system without the ability to rapidly update those system’s capabilities. When software changes are made to the threat system, we don’t have that corresponding ability to rapidly update and emulate the new techniques which can leverage those software changes.”
The question of evolving technologies is one part of the equation.
But the other is understanding of how various peer adversaries use their equipment or how their TTPs are evolving as well.
Averna underscored how significant this challenge was and how the training environment needs to change to deal with this challenge.
“The way that we have built our emulation of the peer threat to date is not something that translates forward because of the rapid nature of the Red side’s ability to change their capabilities combined with the quantities of specific advanced systems that can be fielded.
“For example, if you have a software defined radio, I can operate a wide variety of waveforms within particular brands, and they will look different. Does our system recognize that it’s a different waveform? Those are the kinds of things that we are going to ultimately have to decide. That’s new. That requires a different response. We have to have a faster way of doing this for both the blue and red sides.
“Part of the benefit of an effects-based LVC training environment is that you can actually update the models that are used to emulate the threat very quickly. You don’t have to have that particular update feature tied to the longer development cycle of an OEM operational flight program that has traditionally had an embedded training capability built into it, which is tied to a longer OFP build cycle.
“We need to look at how do we update the red side threat presentation better, faster, cheaper than we have traditionally done.”
In my view, this is why there is a strategic shift in training required to shape dynamic advanced warfighting.
The third T needs to lead the traditional TTPs or perhaps it is AT or Advanced Training driven by integration of the simulated with the live environment with an expanded role for digital warriors within the training enterprise.
Averna: “I just want to revisit that last point that you’re making before we talk about how we do the emulation of the red threat. And that is in the TTP definition, the classic acronym, is tactics, techniques, and procedures. But to your point, there should be a training front end highlighted because this actually changes the way that we fight.”
We then discussed how LVC can provide new ways to get to the AT led dynamic to shape a way ahead for warfighting.
According to Averna: “When you have an LVC training capability where Live, Virtual, and Constructive entities interact in a common synthetic environment, you can actually exercise capabilities, not constrained by the physical ranges, to open up the aperture, and have actual operators evaluating or assessing the impacts of what they’re doing in real time, and then debrief what they have learned.
“I can get fidelity on my systems for the beyond visual range fight in an LVC environment. I can have virtual or other live players who are guising as the red threat show up on my systems as they would in combat. And that’s the real point where we need operate. We need to provide pro realism with regard to the red side threat to the operators so that they can actually assess in real time how well they’re executing their game plan.
“We will build game plans based on our best knowledge of the threat and our best knowledge of how to employ our systems. But being able to train to that game plan and understand when the game plan is working poorly or proceeding as we intended, that’s the essence of high-quality training.
“In terms of training, we need to be able to recognize multi-domain impacts. I don’t typically control multi-domain effects on a single 4th Gen tactical platform, although I might be able to, dependent on the classification and capability of a bespoke system. The fifth-gen systems are much more in that multi-domain capability space. But traditionally, in fourth gen you are typically delivering in a singular lane of effect.
“How you recognize those other participants that are delivering multi-domain effects in concert with what you’re trying to do traditionally, has been about timing coordination / synchronization. At this point in time, this thing should be turned off, whether kinetically or non-kinetically. And therefore, I will have sanctuary to go in and do what I want to do.
“After a certain period of time, if I can expect them to bring that system back up, and then I’m back into a less than optimum sanctuary consideration, and I have to maneuver or do something different. Those are the type of events where we’ve driven predominantly onto a time-hack model.
“But when we talk about a dynamic sanctuary, it’s about maintaining operational advantage across a window of time. And being able to then assess and apply different techniques to achieve or sustain the desired effect. That’s what we want to be able train to.”
Another key aspect which LVC brings to advanced training is the ability to use guising as part of working the red side.
As Averna explained it: “In the virtual world, there are different protocols of how we exchange data about the participants. We call them entities. An entity can be a platform. It can be a weapon. It can be a sensor. It can be an effect. And each entity has a whole slew of characteristics, or attributes, such as electromagnetic properties.
“And that drives the interaction between someone in a man in a loop simulator, and constructive participant. And we already do this in that we can generate a constructive participant to look like anything we need them to look like. And because of the way that they are built, they will appear across our systems in the virtual world as an intended threat.
“Let’s say hypothetically I am an F-15E aircrew in a Tactical Operational Flight Trainer (TOFT) working in a Beyond Visual Range (BVR) training event against a constructive F-16. As I am flying around in the virtual world, I see an F-16 out at range on my systems. Well, that F-16 doesn’t exist. It’s an entity. And that entity has a whole slew of attributes. And then correspondingly, on my systems I’m going to detect him at a certain range, and I’m going to be able to see him with a variety of sensors at a given range, target aspect, whether he’s in full afterburner, or at idle, whether his radar is emitting, etc.
“In my virtual representation of my actual platform, models of sensors, effects, and weapons approximate the real-world capabilities of my aircraft. The radar cross section, as an example, of that F-16 in the real world against a real-world radar. I will see him in a certain range, assuming the atmospherics are nominal and that is when I expect to detect him in the TOFT during the training event.
“What I really want him to look like though is a SU-27. The radar cross section of a SU-27 is different from an F-16. And as a result, I would see him at a different range than I would the actual threat that I’m targeting. Why is that important? From a timeline perspective, the distance and the closing rate matters because it gives me a range of options that I have when I’m going to shoot and how many I’m going to shoot at him at that given range.
“If I can show on my Live blue platform’ systems an SU-27 coming at me, a couple things happen. First, I’m getting the realistic engagement, ranges, and profile with him. And that drives how I am going to be able to do tactics well. I have real-world physics being applied on me and my platform that impact my physiological and cognitive performance. There’s also that psychological element to it, which is I’m going up against a real bad guy as opposed to somebody that I see as a friendly F-16. That is a very important element of realism.
“The science behind how you change the physical characteristics, the IR properties, the other electro-magnetic emissions of all of the participants, whether they’re live, virtual, or constructive, and how you show those altered properties in your system displays for training is what the advanced guising capability is that we’ve figured out during the SLATE ATD and are improving upon during flight validation event here at Pax River at the end of September as we’re having this interview. In essence, we now have the ability to overcome the physical limitations of our current training ranges and deliver the threat environment our operators need for realistic training.
In short, TTPs need to become TTTPs to get to where we need to go with regard to advanced warfighting.
In that shift, the training piece expands the role of the digital space and of the role of digital warriors in evolving the warfighting capabilities of a multi-domain blue force facing an evolving red multi-domain force, changing both in terms of technology and in terms of concepts of operations.