Prototype C2 system gets test drive in war game

The exercise will help DOD brass 'judge and define both near-term and future capabilities,' Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last month.

A Scud missile is launched at the United States. Enemy aircraft are buzzing around trying to gain air superiority by zapping Navy and Air Force planes. The Pentagon learns of the attack through a Navy command and control system that gives joint forces an integrated view of all air defense assets and threats. The United States responds quickly. In just seconds, U.S. forces have intercepted the missile and taken out a few enemy aircraft.

This scenario and dozens more like it were played out on large tactical operations screen display monitors built by General Dynamics Corp. for the Area Air Defense Commander System (AADC).

The scenario was run as part of a war game during the $235 million Millennium Challenge 2002. The challenge, the largest joint military exercise in history, took place during July and August.

Troops from all the service branches, located at facilities from coast to coast, participated in the simulated operations planning and warfighting scenarios. The war games also included live bombing raids, with 13,500 ground troops participating in physical exercises.

The teams at the Command Information Management Facility'a makeshift room at a General Dynamics site in Greensboro, N.C., designed to resemble an Aegis cruiser headed for a maritime operation'were concerned with only one thing: killing the bad guys. AADC paints bad guys as red and good guys, or friendlies, as white.

Using AADC, three teams of Navy reservists plotted attacks and counterattacks against an unnamed country that the United States had engaged in a fictitious war.

The country used for the exercise is real but the Navy won't release its identity publicly, said Navy Capt. Richard T. Rushton, commanding officer of the USS Antietam. The Navy plans in the next few months to outfit a version of the command and control system on the ship, which is based in San Diego.

'This takes the service experimentation cells, and it sows them together in the joint world,' Rushton said. 'This gives us a much greater fidelity. It gives us the technical layout based on the terrain, an accurate depiction of what your true coverage is.'

The reservists used AADC to plan the attack scenarios. In one scenario, the system, which offers a real-time, integrated 3-D air picture of all air defense assets and threats in any given theater, informed U.S. forces that enemy forces launched a Scud missile. The data was transmitted to the U.S. aircraft via a Navy C2 system.

It's a far cry from the grease pencil method used in years past to map out war scenarios and plan attacks, Rushton said, and 'poring over it a long period of time to come up with one plan.' Today, the military also uses voice text messages over tactical radios for planning.
'This is the most advanced capability that we've got so far,' Rushton said.

The exercise will help DOD brass 'judge and define both near-term and future capabilities,' Defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld said last month.

Cruiser phase

AADC'one system tested during the Millennium Challenge 2002'is currently deployed in a prototype phase on the USS Mount Whitney command ship out of Norfolk, Va., and the USS Shiloh cruiser out of San Diego, said Capt. Tom Arnold, AADC program manager.

The integrated theater air defense battle management system has two main functions: air defense planning and management of theater operations.

The concept for AADC began four years ago in the Applied Physics Laboratory at Johns Hopkins University. DOD plans for a full rollout on 12 to 22 Aegis cruisers by 2007, Arnold said.

The two ships running prototype AADC systems are using SGI servers with 32G of RAM, said Jim Brentnell, a software engineer for General Dynamics.

But even before AADC's development got under way'as far back as the Persian Gulf War'Navy officials had begun envisioning a C2 tool that would give pilots and commanders a more unified view of the battlefield, Rushton said.

If anything, the war in Afghanistan has validated the need for such a tool even more, said Arnold.

'The decision to accelerate the fielding of AADC was made prior to the commencement of U.S. operations in Afghanistan. It was based on positive warfighter feedback from the performance of prototype systems on board USS Mount Whitney and USS Shiloh,' Arnold said. 'The events of Sept. 11 and after have further validated the requirement to rapidly field this vital capability.'

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