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Pilots Flex Skills in Network Centric Warfare
Edwards’ 412th Operations Group conducted a live fly exercise where,
for the first time, pilots flexed their skills in a Network Centric Warfare environment.
By Airman 1st Class Julius Delos Reyes / 95th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE, Calif., Aug. 15, 2006 – Edwards’ 412th Operations Group conducted a live fly exercise July 31 where, for the first time, pilots flexed their skills in a Network Centric Warfare environment.

The 412th Test Wing volunteered to expand the exercise and make it a distributed event for the Joint Mission Environment Test Capability program.

The pilots were connected with the datalinks of several distributed simulated players via a continental United States-wide distributed network.

"The United States Air Force and Department of Defense are moving to network centric operations."

U.S. Air Force Col. Arnie Bunch

“The Joint Mission Environment Test Capability testing was a very significant event for Air Force Flight Test Center,” said Maj. Gregory Wood, 416th Flight Test Squadron pilot.

“It was the first time we have successfully tested net-centric operations using multiple (types of aircraft) in a large force exercise with both live and virtual players,” he said. “It was a huge success, especially on the Edwards side.”

The test enabled Edwards to expand its link connectivity to other sites across the country helping to establish a 24/7 network that can be used by all assets at Edwards and in the R2508 complex – airspace and associated land presently used and managed by Edwards, Fort Irwin and China Lake, Calif., in the Upper Mojave Desert region, Wood said.

Net-centric warfare is the future and this is a critical capability to develop since Edwards test systems for future wars. 

“The United States Air Force and Department of Defense are moving to network centric operations,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Arnie Bunch, 412th Test Wing commander.

“The goals of this move are to provide a common air picture to our forces and reduce the time from target identification to strike,” he explained. “Since the weapon systems under development must operate in a network centric environment, we must develop the capability to test those systems.”

“We must ensure the data passed across the network are accurate and timely,” Bunch emphasized. “This is one of, and many say, the most important test capability for future systems. Today the 412th Test Wing took a big step to providing that capability.”

On the live-aircraft side, this was also a great success, said Bobbie Wheaton, 412th Test Wing engineer.

The large-force exercise involved six test aircraft – four 416th Flight Test Squadron F-16s, two 411th Flight Test Squadron F-22s and four 445th Flight Test Squadron F-16s used as targets.

The 445 Flight Test Squadron also provided a KC-135 to extend the test period. This enabled the mission to be pushed to three hours.

On the ground side, there was critical participation from range assets – Ridley Mission Control provided display for real-time kill removal and debriefing; Air Defense Systems Integrator provided a critical link between the live players and the virtual assets; Radar Control Facility’s Space Positioning Optical Radar Tracking control gave ground controlled intercept situational awareness to the aircraft on both sides, and the 412th Test Wing engineering developing scenario.

The team was able to receive command and control inputs from the carrier group at Port Loma, Calif., or from the E-2C at Patuxent River, Md. They were also able to get simulated assistance in taking down threats from F-18s at China Lake, Calif., and F-15s from Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., said Bobbie Wheaton, 412th Test Wing engineer. And all under the direction of Joint Interoperability Test Command control at Fort Huachuca, Ariz.

“During testing, the pilots monitored local players through radar and other on-board sensors but also could ‘see’ other simulated assets only through their datalink fed by the distributed network and vice versa,” Bunch said.

Another purpose of this event is to reduce cost and increase warfighter and pilot capability, said Curtis Kenngot, 412th Test Wing Datalink operator. “Through simulation we can do this in a distributed environment by cutting the cost of having multiple aircraft to one location and utilizing other assets.”

The methodology and training evolved out of the Vietnam War with the development of Top Gun School and Warfighter School, said Diana Bladen-Tufts, 412th Test Wing range control officer.

It just evolved and moved out to other bases and ranges to keep proficiencies at standard.

Testing aircraft and flight-related systems in a net-centric environment is of critical importance to the Air Force.

Platforms must be able to share information about air and ground threats, the combat environment, and command and control information to keep the Air Force on the cutting edge and one step ahead of the adversary, Wood said.

This will be paramount as the Air Force is reduced in size. Each component must be more effective and link operations are the component that multiplies the effectiveness of every individual aircraft.

“Last week, the skies over Edwards were filled with aircraft bringing us one step closer to realizing the vision of developing and testing net-centric enabled aircraft and weapons in a safe and effective manner,” said U.S. Air Force Col. Christopher Cook, 412th Test Wing Operations Group commander.
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Sep. 22, 2014
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