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NEWS | June 26, 2015

Innovative System Revolutionizes Northern Edge 2015 Battlespace, Maximizes Training Capability

By Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik

High in the skies over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex from June 11-26 viewers might see multiple contrails circling each other in close proximity - these contrails are a glimpse into some of the live action in Northern Edge 2015, the largest military training exercise scheduled in Alaska this year.

What most people won't see are the dozens of additional assets the live pilots and controllers work with in the virtual and constructive aspects of the battlespace in large-scale exercises like Northern Edge and RED FLAG-Alaska.

"LVC [live, virtual and constructive training] offers a more robust scenario than sending up ten Aggressors for a small skirmish with the blue force," said Brian Smith, the 353rd Combat Training Squadron's Army and special operations liaison. "With virtual and constructive assets combining with live participants we can now provide ten threats and herds of other aircraft waiting to continue the fight. We've added defense and depth to maximize the OPFOR [opposition force] piece, which provides a more robust training scenario for the blue force."

In this system, virtual doesn't mean computer-generated forces; virtual aircraft and various platforms are operated by actual pilots, battlespace managers, and controllers participating in the same airspace as their live counterparts. These assets are controlled via simulators at the virtual unit's home stations, which are networked into the locations they will operate in alongside their live counterparts via a system called LEXIOS (LVC Experimentation, Integration and Operations Suite) and dedicated networks.

"RED FLAG-Alaska 15-2 served as the proof of concept for all the pieces of LVC to come together," said Capt. Matthew Mendenhall, the 353rd CTS chief of command and control operations. "It allowed us to ensure our lines of communication were functioning properly before Northern Edge 2015. This is the first exercise to completely integrate the various elements and is the largest LVC integration seen to date in any of the services.

"Virtual asset pilots will see the mountains, terrain and features of their sector of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, and controllers will see the battlespace overlay as if they were operating live in Alaska," Mendenhall explained. "Instead of launching different live assets, aviators can operate from their simulators,"

The constructive component of the LVC system is where computer-generated forces expand the scope and create a training environment very similar to what participants would actually see in a real conflict.

"We can test the command and control relationships between the air and ground forces," said Maj. Derrick Vincent, the 353rd CTS director of operations. Air, ground and sea assets can exercise together with the diverse LVC system and determine in real-time, the programming of shots against enemy targets so each component's strength complements their counterparts in the battlespace, the major added.

The ability to incorporate low-density, high-demand platforms such as a live E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system with a virtual RC-135, allows assets that can't regularly be tasked for training due to real-world requirements to integrate with the blue force and coordinate with their joint-service and inter-agency counterparts, said Mendenhall. "Northern  Edge is the first time from a command and control, and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance standpoint that the virtual, live and constructive assets are interacting at an efficient level, proving they can work and talk to each other consistently."

During one such scenario, aviators from Mountain Home, Seymour Johnson, Tyndall, Ellsworth, Tinker and Offutt Air Force Bases, and Joint Bases Elmendorf-Richardson and Pearl Harbor-Hickam, virtually operated 14 fighter aircraft, one conventional bomber, two mobility transport aircraft, one airborne warning and control system and one reconnaissance aircraft. These virtual participants integrated with constructive players operating eight fighter aircraft, one strategic bomber, five advanced tanker and cargo aircraft, and 80 red air (opposition) aircraft. Live participants in Alaska were able to view the virtual and constructive participants, interacting and coordinating with each type of participant throughout the scenario.

"We can identify targets such as surface-to-air missile sites, see ground forces take them out and communicate the next steps among the joint team, which enables our air assets to move on to the next targets, and allows our forces to gain and maintain air superiority," Mendenhall explained.

While the virtual and constructive aspects of LVC leverage technology and expanded integration, the live training area the exercise participants operate within provides an unparalleled training experience.

"The JPARC is a national treasure that offers our forces the opportunity to train in fully integrated, large-scale joint training we can't execute anywhere else in the world," Smith explained. "We're setting the conditions for joint integration within the LVC environment in this and future exercises, and we wouldn't be able to provide this training to 6,000 Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Coast Guardsmen operating 200 aircraft and a host of other assets without support from the citizens of Alaska."

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