With the military rapidly adopting the concept of Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) that promises to more seamlessly connect military assets across domains, the need to develop effective and accessible multi-domain training is readily apparent.
“Our military dominance has been underpinned by our ability to train like we fight. Our warriors need a comprehensive environment to hone their skills securely,” Thomas “Vader” Dempsey of Collins Aerospace, and a retired Air Force F-15C and F-35 pilot and test engineer, told us in a recent interview.
While high-end, large-scale live training like the U.S. Air Force’s Red Flag exercises, according to Vader, offer some idea of what a true theater-level, multi-domain fight would look like, a fully realized multi-domain simulation could offer a chance to train and coordinate command and control (C2) at a level of realism short only of a real conflict.
Vader also describes how, in multi-domain simulation, concurrency is not just about accurately simulating its real-world counterpart. Concurrency in multi-domain training means not only keeping pace with rapid capability-developed systems, but also compatibility between systems—giving operators the ability to respond to each other instantly across the domains of a virtual battlefield.
To better understand why it’s critical to train in simulated multi-domain environments, and what some of the key challenges are, read our full conversation with Vader below.
Modern Integrated Warfare (MIW) Editors: What has multi-domain training looked like historically? What benefit does the warfighter get by participating in this type of training?
Vader: Historically, connected training has happened at the tactical level of war and within a relatively small communications loop, so for example, when I was flying and training locally in the F-15C, I would be able to talk and communicate with my squadron and maybe an AWACs operator.
High-end training events like Red Flag have evolved to give us the opportunity to widen that scope by tying together more groups of operators and working together under some approximation of the theater-level, integrated command and control that you would experience in an actual conflict.
By doing these large-scale exercises, you are getting beyond the tactical level of training and getting closer to the reality of facing a more sophisticated adversary, where we need to engage multiple targets in multiple domains at the same time. This integrated training gives operators a basic familiarity of what those synchronized effects look like, so they’re more ready to fight because they know more what to expect.
It is also important to note that some of the threats and battlespace has to be synthetically created even for live training.
Short answer, multi-domain training has been historically compartmented but has been gradually getting better. In essence, it allows us to train the way we plan to fight, and being able to execute synthetic training on that scale would make it easier for us to train better, more frequently, and out of our adversaries’ sight.
MIW Editors: What would a multidomain, synthetic training environment look like?
Vader: To me, multi-domain operations means getting all the permissions, actions, and reactions together across warfighting domains to work together to achieve a desired outcome. Right now, replicating true multi-domain warfighting is difficult even in live training. You need to give the warfighter all of the inputs they would get from across the battlespace: communications and data that’s protected from cyberthreats and that is accurately gated between classification levels as well. And all of that data needs to be fed up so that C2 elements have what they need to work across the theater.
When you have to do that in a synthetic training environment, you have to replicate every aspect of that using virtual and constructive inputs, and it becomes a challenge to communicate that fabricated reality across all of the participants in this virtual, multi-domain enterprise in a way that offers meaningful training.
The real challenge though, is tying it all together as a whole. Each interdependent piece needs to have a real-time depiction of what is happening in that synthetic environment, and actions players take in the synthetic environment must be accurately conveyed to every other participant, who can react in turn.
It’s critical that we have this capability in simulation. While high-end, live training gives us some idea, our most “real” experience of multi-domain operations currently only happens in theater.
When we can fully realize a synthetic, multidomain battlespace though, I think it will dramatically change how we do business, much like how 5th generation fighter aircraft have reshaped the battlefield. Once you have the synthetic, multidomain battlespace virtually configured, it could also raise the live training standard if ported over. Imagine if you will: a comprehensive environment control system that blends live and virtual and constructive to offer realistic readiness at levels never seen.
MIW Editors: Why is concurrency important for this type of multidomain operations training?
Vader: Warfighters must train with the capabilities they will take to combat. Rapid capability development imposes a daunting task on legacy simulator development. Gone are the relaxed timelines where sims are a translation of the platform’s capabilities. Platform capabilities can evolve in weeks where it used to be years. Concurrent training devices are critical to keep pace with development.
Now, let’s open the aperture to multi-domain readiness. Ultimately all of the training platforms that are looped together in a synthetic environment need to be able to respond to each other in real time to validate and train to the tactics, techniques and procedures for that multi-domain fight.
What that requires is that all of the participating simulators need to be able to talk to each other seamlessly, even if those simulators are built by different manufacturers; from different generations of technology, say simulators for an F-15C and an F-22; and even belong to different coalition partners. If all of them are not concurrent with operational capabilities, security compliant, and compatible with each other, then you can’t have a truly inclusive training experience.
To use a rough analogy, it’s a lot like when you and a group of friends have a Zoom call. If someone’s phone isn’t new enough or if its software is not up to date, that person can’t join.
MIW Editors: In addition to concurrency, we know that latency also plays an important role in simulated training. How does latency influence training across domains?
Vader: Timing is becoming more critical as capabilities advance. Systems can have near instantaneous effects. If you’ve got simulation time delays, then you have an unrealistic training environment, which means you will have negative training. And going forward, speed will increasingly be of the essence.
For example, as hypersonic weapons, that can travel say, fifty or sixty miles a minute, become more widespread, it’s increasingly true that seconds, or even milliseconds can mean the difference between a miss or a hit, success and failure.
So now and in the future, you can’t tolerate a delay in information across the synthetic battlespace because the training just wouldn’t be effective.