The U.S. Joint Staff is scheduled this month to begin the year’s second Bold Quest exercise, an assessment of the capabilities of dismounted coalition soldiers, with an eye toward reducing friendly fire and improving combat effectiveness.
Virtual training technologies will help dismounted ground forces improve their tactics and techniques, situational awareness and decision-making, according to Bold Quest operations manager John Miller. The exercise is slated to run Sept. 14 to Oct. 19 at the U.S. Army Maneuver Center of Excellence at Fort Benning, Ga.
Launched by the old U.S. Joint Forces Command in 2001, the Bold Quest series was created to provide a realistic means to test the capabilities of many countries, especially ones that could not afford such testing individually, Miller said.
In June, the exercise brought troops and others from 12 countries together to improve how they communicate during close-air support missions. Held at the Muscatatuck Urban Training Complex and Camp Atterbury in Indiana, the exercise included more than 440 participants supported by another 150 people, including representatives of the U.S. Air Force, Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Special Operations Command.
Some of the most important testing took place in a 25-by-25-foot classroom, with radios hooked up two to a table to test their interoperability, said Michael Foley, program analyst for the Joint Staff division that runs Bold Quest.
For example, a Marine Corps ground radio kit was hooked up to a software-simulated F/A-18 fighter jet system, along with testing tools providing a detail analysis of their compatibility. Foley said bringing together war fighters with systems allows for standard differences and other interoperability problems to be identified, sorted out and fixed much more quickly — sometimes on the spot.
Foley said other events tested the interoperability of several messaging formats used by soldiers on the ground to digitally direct aircraft fire. For example, data from a laser rangefinder might be relayed to a fighter jet via a modem attached to the ground soldier’s portable radio.
He said the exercise also tested digital communication of battle damage assessments and marked-up imagery, and standards for streaming data from sensors on Marine Corps and Army unmanned aircraft.
Foley said Bold Quest allows testers to find out about potentially expensive issues with communications software, particularly with aircraft systems, before it is installed. That is much more efficient than discovering the problems later.
“Putting software in an aircraft takes a long time and costs a lot of money,” he said.