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Exercise Seeks to Reduce ‘Friendly-fire’ Incidents

By Jacob Boyer
Special to American Forces Press Service

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C., Oct. 26, 2009 – Warfighters from the United States and 10 allied nations will assess coalition combat identification systems during a U.S. Joint Forces Command exercise Oct. 27 to Nov. 5 here and at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.

Bold Quest 2009, a capability assessment designed by Joint Forces Command's joint capability development directorate, will focus on testing air and ground units' ability to exchange information and on improving coalition warfighters' ability to identify friendly forces on the ground, said John Miller, the joint capability integration and fires division's operational manager for the exercise.

"It's about passing friendly ground force location information to strike [aircrews] who may have to engage ground targets,” he said. “We're assessing some advanced technologies and the associated procedures that would enable those [aircrews] to interrogate ground target areas and receive a quick, accurate response from any friendly ground forces who are equipped with compatible technologies."

Miller said the assessment, the latest in the Bold Quest series, is driven by a need to provide tools that make warfighters more effective in engaging targets while minimizing the risk of fratricide. Past assessments focused on ground forces' ability to interact and identify each other. This time, the idea is to see whether aircrews can use those same technologies.

"Identifying your friends is about as basic as it gets," he said. "Shooters are confronted with a lot of confusion - noise, dust, darkness. The technologies, techniques and procedures that we're assessing here are designed to enable them to start sorting that confusion out."

The demonstration will collect both technical data on systems and subjective judgments from the warfighters using them. Demonstration analysts will collect and analyze information which will be put together as the exercise’s coalition military utility assessment.

Bold Quest 2009 includes military units and technical teams from all four services and U.S. Special Operations Command, as well as representatives from the United Kingdom, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway and Sweden. Most of these nations participated in past Bold Quests, and Miller said their continued participation shows that their militaries see the value in continued participation.

"An event like this enables them to collectively get an early look at what works, what doesn't work, and what has the highest degree of military utility," he said. "As they look at their resources, an event like this will allow them to get an early look at the military utility of these solutions and better enable them to invest further their limited developmental dollars."

Royal Navy Lt. Cmdr. Rob Roscoe, United Kingdom liaison officer, said his nation's military gets multiple benefits from participating in the demonstration.

"We do it to look at emerging technologies," he said. "[It also allows us] to demonstrate our own kit. … We’ve bought the kit, but the environment that you have at Bold Quest is an ideal opportunity to test out what the full capability of that kit is."

Improved interoperability between coalition and U.S. systems is another reason to participate, Roscoe said.

"The ability to test [our systems] with a range of aircraft isn't available to us in the U.K.," he said. "We can test it against our own aircraft, but it's when we go to Afghanistan or other regions, we can test it to a much wider range of aircraft.

"We need to know where the U.S. is going," he continued. "If you go down a particular path of technology, we need to have the same ID system or the same capability to operate an ID system. Otherwise, we'll be a liability when we come to operate together, because you won't know it's us."

Besides operating out of Cherry Point, aircraft from the United States, Canada and France supporting the demonstration will launch from Langley Air Force Base, Va.; Naval Air Station Oceana, Va.; Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, N.C.; Patuxent River, Md.; and Shaw Air Force Base, S.C.

Demonstrations have been held annually since 2003.

(Jacob Boyer works in the U.S. Joint Forces Command public affairs office.)

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