Preparing for Kill Web Concepts of Operations: Squaring the Testing-Training Circle


By Robbin Laird

For the Australians, it is called fifth generation warfare. For the British, it is called the integrated operating concept. For DARPA, it is called mosaic warfare. For me, it is kill web concepts of operations.

But what is entailed is building a distributed force that is integratable throughout an extended battlespace, in which the force is able to distribute sensors and strike systems to enhance the force’s survivability and lethality.

The kill web is a collection of sensors netted with C2, able to pass critical data to the optimal delivery system in order to rapidly achieve the Commander’s intent.  Software technologies are key parts of the way ahead to allow for switching across multiple domains to provide for a secure operational web.

Training for such operations is challenging.

As a P-8 operator put it: “We’re talking about taking targeting data from one domain and quickly shifting to another, just like that. I have killed the target under sea. I am now going to go ahead and work the surface target and being able to understand the weapon sensor pairing network and being able to call in fires from different entities using commander’s intent to engage the target.

“That’s what we’re trying to do: to get our operators to understand that it is not just a one-piece answer. There may be a time when you have to kick to another shooter.”

To train with such a concept of operations means that the operator of a particular platform has to be knowledgeable about what other platforms in the battlespace can do, while creating or operating in what Paul Averna of Cubic Corporation refers to as “dynamic sanctuaries.”

In the stress of combat, how will the operators of a particular platform recognize the changing dynamics and deliver the deliver the right effect at the right place and the right time?

Effects based training is focused on operators of specific platforms working with their joint and/or coalition force partners and their unique combat capabilities to deliver the desired combat or crisis management effects.

These effects are typically pre-determined by strategic decision makers, however, once the fight is underway, who will have the clearest picture of a rapidly moving engagement?

In the past, the tactical decision maker would, however, in the future, it will be whomever has access to the kill web data.

Such training can be done most effectively by combining ways to do live training blended with LVC capabilities.

The simulation part blended into the live training environment is key as well given the nature of the dynamic adversaries we are dealing with. The physical training ranges are too limited to encompass the kinds of new technologies and the combat situations to be anticipated in a dynamic strategic and combat environment.

Put in other words, advanced training encompasses effects-based training but in the context of preparing and engaging in limited war with blue forces operating in dynamic sanctuaries and delivering decisive effect to gain escalation control.

When operating advanced multi-mission systems such as the F-35, operators are using L, V, and C or Live, Virtual and Constructive capabilities as well because there is a desire not to highlight to adversaries’ Blue capabilities that might be used in an actual combat setting.

The reality is that the equipment will only be as good as the operators and decision makers are able to master.

But this requirement is in tension with the evolving focus of the testing community for advanced systems.

Testers are focused on systems and their performance and discovering ways to make them better. As software upgradeability has become a core element of how advanced systems are evolving or being upgraded, the testing community wants to take those modifications into an environment where testing happens behind closed doors.

Because software upgradability is driven by what the operators see as the needed capabilities, there is a growing tension between the evolving testing approach for highly classified equipment development dynamics, and the need for real world operator training.

In a recent interview with Paul Averna, he described how he saw the importance of finding ways to square the circle between evolving testing and training approaches. 

“The push from the test community has been, “We have to take everything indoors in order to accurately replicate the complex electromagnetic operating environment anticipated in a Peer fight.” And this has been echoed by some in the fifth gen world who argue in effect that “The only way to get real outcomes from our 5th gen platforms in training is  to take everything indoors into that  Joint Simulation Environment (JSE) to test performance where the latency of participant parametric data can be maintained within the spec for 5th gen sensor fusion engines.”

He underscored that this “is not going to work in the real world, we have to operate with the joint and coalition force, rather than simply operating an exquisite platform as envisaged by the JSE testing process at a few ‘mountaintop’ locations.”

He noted that “in an effects-based world, you can actually create the cognitive presentation that you need your operators to experience in training, and for them to be doing the right things based on the information that is coming through their systems.”

And the operators experiences and evolution need to become core drivers for the test community, notably with the arrival of software upgradeability as a key reality for advanced combat systems.

The core goal for the operating force was expressed by Averna as follows:  “How are we going to create the right TTPs for the dynamic sanctuary we need to deliver the desired effects?”

He argued that the mosaic warfare paradigm shift requires both a testing and training paradigm shift in which the circle  is squared between testing in a simulation world and the training of operators in the real world who are going to work with the wider joint and force community in real world combat situations.

If the testing community shapes what it thinks is a new capability for a particular platform, the challenge then is to translate that into a training paradigm that determine how to use such a  capability, but there is also the need to do this in reverse, whereby the operators drive the testing they want to see to develop what they value as the key players in real world combat situations.

The real world is significantly different from the testing world.

As Averna put it: “The approximation of the real world misses the mark, if it’s exclusively virtual. How do you bring an integrated combat capability from several platforms together in that common environment, and really validate performance?

“How are you going to manage escalation in conflict with the delivering of the correct effects?

“How do you do this irrespective of what the test community has validated as the current technical baseline for blue operating against the red forces?”

“ The missing link between the push towards training in the JSE and the need to train with thousands of joint and coalition operators is in the translation of how effects identified in the virtual world are presented to Live operators training in their actual platforms given the limitations of the physical training ranges.

“The JSE can be leveraged to not only validate system capabilities but to develop the best Tactics Techniques, and Procedures needed to achieve mission success in a complex peer threat environment.

“But we can’t send the entire Joint and Coalition force through a few high end sim complexes and expect that they will be proficient when the time comes to cross the line of departure.

“Using a blended LVC training environment allows for the presentation of effects developed in the JSE to be seen in live Blue cockpits, to include the guising of adversary participants at the scale of a potential peer fight. To only do one approach (JSE or Live training) will leave the promise of the kill web on the shelf of what could have been.”

For a detailed look at the evolution of training, see the following:

Training for the High End Fight: The Strategic Shift of the 2020s

For an update on the assessment in that book, see chapter four in the following:

Defense XXI: Shaping a Way Ahead for the United States and Its Allies

And for our recently released assessment of the emergence of the kill web approach to the operating force, see the following:

A Maritime Kill Web Force in the Making