By John Harlow/TRADOC News Service
FORT BENNING, Ga. (TRADOC News Service, Dec. 6, 2006) -- The Air Assault Expeditionary experiment is the Army’s principle live discovery experiment. Spiral three of this experiment concluded in November at Fort Benning, Ga.
It is a campaign of experiments that will take place over the next several years. The Air Assault Expeditionary Force (AAEF) experiment was initiated in 2003 to integrate Command, Control, Communications Computers, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (C4ISR) into the current force using concepts outlined in Air-Mech Strike and Asymmetric Warfare for the 21st Century.
AAEF is a unique annual experiment that links individual Soldiers with emerging communications, battle command and intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance technologies.
This is the third year for the AAEF experiment and this experiment is the Army’s principle live discovery experiment. In the previous two experiments, AAEF has demonstrated improved lethality and survivability in a network-enabled force.
Spiral one focused on networked battle command at the platoon and squad levels and was completed in late 2004. Spiral B adds the elements of mounted vertical maneuver in the form of UH-60 and CH-47 aircraft and the Small Unit Support Vehicle (SUS-V). Systems such as the PackBot were examined under live urban terrain conditions during the first AAEF Spiral event in November 2004. Those camera robots are widely used by Infantry Soldiers in Iraq today.
The experiment that took place in 2006 is Spiral C of the AAEF experiment.
AAEF Spiral C tested to see if C4ISR and other technologies will increase the survivability of a small modular combat unit. The experiment will also experiment with a small mounted unit in a live force-on-force field experiment within an Urban Assault (UA) Brigade Combat Team (BCT)/Joint Task Force (JTF) context.
Another important aspect of AAEF is to identify capabilities and technologies that could be sent forward to the current force, determine if the capability or technology needs further testing or should be discarded from the inventory.
AAEF also looks at the impacts on leaders (increased mental demands and complexities) from enhanced situational awareness, the requirements of sensor planning, employment and management and accelerated decision cycles in a network-enabled force. It will also examine the training requirements of new technologies (Unmanned Ground Vehicles (UGVs) Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) sensors, battle command systems and communications).
“This experiment is our linkage of Soldier equipment and the individual Soldier to the Future Combat Systems and the future of our Army,” said Maj. Gen. Walter Wojdakowski, Commanding General of the United States Army Infantry Center. “We know that this experiment has a great future to do even better of equipping our Soldiers to have the right capabilities to be successful in battle.”
The experiment scenario is in the year 2014 with a mix of special purpose and insurgent forces, a cluttered battlefield and restrictive rules of engagement.
During the experiment a series of day and night operations take place that incorporate urban operations and mixed offensive and defensive operations on a cluttered battlefield.
The 2006 AAEF experiment took place in two phases at which time Soldiers executed simulated combat operations conducted during both day and limited visibility conditions. The first phase is the controlled experiment conducted during a series of ten combat operations throughout the Fort Benning training areas. It challenges a force with the technologies available to the Soldiers currently conducting operations in Afghanistan and Iraq. Upon entering phase two, the Soldiers undergo six-weeks of training and then execute the same ten phase one operations which incorporates future capabilities to include Broad Area Unmanned Responsive Vehicle (BURRO), the Distributed Advanced Graphics Generator and Embedded Rehearsal System (DAGGERS), Command and Control in three dimensions (C3D) and Spectrum Eye Wear.
Over 35 systems and capabilities were challenged during the AAEF Spiral 3. The experiment also challenged 10 C4ISR Integrated Vehicles and 40 Soldier systems.
AAEF is experimenting to find answers to nine major issues.
1. Which technologies enhance the effectiveness of the network and contribute to increased survivability?
2. Which technologies enhance the effectiveness of the network and contributed to increased lethality?
3. How well does the network enable flow of data and information throughout the expeditionary force (EXFOR)?
4. What battle command interface functionality and decision aids are essential at company, platoon and squad levels?
5. How is the quality of information at company and platoon levels impacted by the suite of sensors, implemented fusion processes, and information management protocols?
6. How does information made available through the implemented C4ISR architecture impact the decision making and mission execution at the experimental company and platoon levels?
7. What are the impacts on leaders (increased mental demands and complexities) from enhanced SA, requirements of sensor planning, employment and management, and accelerated decision cycles in a network-enabled force?
8. What organization, equipment and personnel changes are required in the Company Headquarters and Infantry Company/Platoon units to properly conduct sensor planning, sensor employment and recovery, sensor fusion and security?
9. Codify training requirements of new technologies (UGVs, UAVs, sensors, Battle Command Systems (BCS) and communications systems).
The study of these issues will focus across the Doctrine, Organization, Training, Material, Leadership, Personnel and Facilities (DOTMLPF) spectrum.
The live component of the AAEF experiment is the experimentation force (EXFOR) which is comprised of Soldiers from, an infantry company from Fort Benning’s 29th Infantry Regiment. Using many recently returned Iraqi and Afghani veterans to fill the ranks of the EXFOR helps bring real world expertise to the development process. The EXFOR element is configurable, flexible, trained, and equipped to participate and enhance live, virtual and constructive experiments.
This experiment examined sensor management at the company and platoon level to further the body of knowledge related to network-centric war fighting at the small unit level. The campaign has aided in understanding the fusion requirements and complexities of airspace frequency and spectrum management that will characterize future network enabled forces.
When conducting an experiment, the data collected will provide solid information for analysis. AAEF collects data from four different sources.
Instrumented data which tracks the network performance, BCS display data, live ISR system imagery, message traffic and blue force geo-location data of the force.
Human data which consists of human data collector journals, observations, surveys and interviews with the Soldiers participating in the experiment and surveys and interviews with subject matter experts.
Instrumented data collects geo-location data over the time of the experiment of the blue and red forces and shooter-target pairings (MILES).
Simulation data collects data on the performance of the simulated system and live and virtual simulation.
AAEF provides the Army with an unparalleled opportunity to examine emerging technologies and concepts in an environment focused on the individual Soldier. The structure of the experiment promotes shared learning and provides significant cost savings to the government and industry through collective experiments.
The campaign has leveraged the synergy created by previous spirals to provide operational insights, refine requirements, address capability gaps and explore new concepts such as robotic teaming.
Soldier insights coupled with validated tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) compliment large scale system-centric experimentation centered on the Future Force Integration Directorate Enhanced Brigade Combat Team (EBCT) at Fort Bliss, Texas. The EBCT and live small unit field experiments like AAEF are key components with the Army Concept Development and Experimentation plan.
The AAEF campaign compliments major Army programs and experiments, reduces the activity and capacity burden on TRADOC, provides cost savings, mitigates risk for Future Force development and provides a venue for increasing collaboration with Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM) and industries in support of the Army Capabilities and Development plan.
The data collection from the AAEF experiment will go to the qualitative and quantitative analysis for an initial insight briefing date of Dec. 21, 2006 and the final report due sometime in March 2007.