Distributed war games network will serve up intense conflicts
- By Paul Constance
- Aug 28, 1995
Pentagon brass are getting ready for the ultimate war exercise,
one that will replicate the sudden and sweeping changes that occur in a major conflict.
This exercise, however, will be carried out exclusively within the confines of an advanced
global modeling and simulation network.
Unlike current virtual war games, in which dedicated computers and networks simulate a
few weapons systems in a narrowly defined combat environment, Defense Department
developers foresee a simulation system that includes thousands of variables, from changing
weather and logistics bottlenecks to computer viruses and psychological factors.
Combined in real-time scenarios, these inputs will simulate the "fog of war,"
military lingo for the chaotic and unpredictable interaction of soldiers, equipment,
communications and the enemy in combat.
"We see all our simulation communities converging and sharing capabilities,"
said Capt. Drew Beasley, newly-appointed head of DOD's Joint Simulation Systems (JSIMS)
program office in Orlando, Fla. "We want to be able to do joint training in all
phases of military operations at any theater around the world."
It will the job of the JSIMS staff to make a departmentwide modeling and simulation, or
M&S, architecture a reality, Beasley said.
As they have with accounting systems and battlefield radios, military shops over the
past 20 years have developed many one-of-a-kind, service-specific simulation systems. The
systems use different data storage and transmission formats, run on a tossed salad of
platforms and requiring legions of specialized support technicians.
The result, according to Beasley, is that current joint simulation exercises require
large investments of time and people to produce inconsistent, unreliable results that have
"a very limited after-action review capability." In other words, today it's
difficult to learn lessons from a simulated battle or war.
JSIMS staff will try to overcome this heritage by establishing the common M&S
architecture to which all future systems will be designed. Following the award of a JSIMS
contract in late 1997, a joint program office will build a core infrastructure that will
then be populated by software modules developed by the services to represent each area of
warfare, Beasley said.
"We want something configurable to the unique requirements of each commander's
theaters and missions," Beasley added, acknowledging a major concern among the
Beasley and other DOD experts said at a military simulation conference in Washington
this month that these new tools will give the United States a distinct advantage over
potential enemies. With such modeling programs, the department will have an early warning
system that will detect hidden incompatibilities long before weapons and systems are
fielded, preventing needless fatalities and saving millions in live training, testing and
war exercise costs, they said.
But these same officials cautioned that this level of simulation will require vast
improvements in software and in distributed processing technology. Additionally, myriad
weapons and R&D organizations must work together closely, Beasley said.
Even after the military services agree on a universal M&S architecture, however,
JSIMS will have to overcome an "enormous computing problem," said Les Parrish,
head of the Naval Simulation System Program at the Space and Electronic Warfare
Directorate in Arlington, Va.
NSS is one of several service-specific systems being designed with a view to
"feeding" JSIMS, Parrish said.
The problem involves coordinating M&S processing over numerous distributed
platforms. Most simulations now are conducted on dedicated mainframes at gymnasium-sized
facilities where war game participants gather, Parrish said. Some of these facilities
recently have been linked over DOD's dedicated Distributed Simulation Internet.
But advances in microprocessor speed are hastening the day when M&S apps will run
on desktops connected by general-purpose fiber-optic links on the Defense Information
In such a scenario, a single simulated event, such as a missile launch initiated from a
desktop by one participant in a joint exercise, would set off a chain reaction altering
the sequence of events at hundreds of other participating workstations.
Before such a system could work, Parrish said, software engineers must devise ways of
updating the "event cues" of widely scattered workstations "in faster than
real time." He pointed out that large-scale simulations would generate thousands of
inputs, or events, each second.
"We're waiting for a solution" to this problem, Parrish said. Distributed
simulation also will require unprecedented access to bandwidth, he added, because of the
volume of information being transmitted and the highly graphical requirements.
Bill Swart, technical director of the Joint Command and Control Warfare Center in San
Antonio, said an advanced joint M&S capability will be crucial to DOD's ability to
anticipate information warfare threats.
"Right now our command-and-control simulation capabilities are very
immature," he said, "so it's difficult for us to evaluate options" for
countering C2 threats.
"Eventually, we want to be able to model global networks and C2 nodes," Swart
said. By combining such models with data about enemy capabilities collected by the
National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies, DOD could run realistic
information warfare attack simulations and devise more sophisticated defenses, he said.