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Demonstraton binds coalition forces for common warfighter value

by Chuck Paone
Electronic Systems Center Public Affairs

6/18/2007 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFPN) -- Assessing technologies to determine their potential for meeting critical warfighting needs is the aim of operators during interoperability trials at the Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration taking place here through June 21.

An annual event, CWID is sponsored by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and directed by U.S. Joint Forces Command.  The event allows the 23 participating nations an opportunity for international operators to jointly evaluate technology solutions and to seek out innovative ways to work cooperatively during contingency and wartime operations. 

"Everyone here is committed to figuring out how to work together more efficiently," said Lt. Col. Curt Harvey, the combined forces air component commander for this year's CWID."

That's really important, because when we have that ability, it makes us all exponentially better." 

When he was deployed to the air operations center in Southwest Asia, he was struck by the challenge of working and sharing data with various coalition-nation partners and is now encouraged by the participation of so many of those allied nations.

The Air Force's Electronic Systems Center, headquartered here, is once again serving as the sole Air Force site and one of 17 participating sites worldwide for the demonstration. Hanscom's C4ISR Enterprise Integration Facility has been set up as a small-scale combined air operations center, or CAOC, and is buzzing with a variety of activity each day.

"We're running about three times the number of Interoperability Trials we did last year, and we've got about 50 people on the floor working," said Hanscom's CWID site manager, Capt. Jesse Jaramillo.

The 20 trials Hanscom is hosting are among the nearly 200 being conducted throughout the entire demonstration. They're all loosely tied together through scripted scenarios, and information is shared among the sites through a distributed communications network.

"This is a demonstration, not an exercise, test or even an experiment," Colonel Harvey said. "We run everything off a script. Our job is to follow the script and make sure we really demonstrate the capabilities of the items we're trying out."

The only real "curve balls" come when technologies don't work. "Then our job is to try to figure out why and get it fixed, so we can go back to evaluating the technology," he said.

Although there are numerous tangential benefits to all this work, the main objective is to come away with solid assessments of which technologies deserve more exploration, or even immediate fielding, and which ones don't.

For ESC, that means focusing on far more than providing the site and coordinating activities within it.

"This is a real opportunity for us to demonstrate to JFCOM and our coalition partners some of the incredible materiel solutions we provide," said Col. Leslie Blackham, commander of the 753rd Electronic Systems Group, the center's lead CWID organization.

The coalition piece, she said, allows ESC to demonstrate force multipliers. Those are the tools that enable coalition forces to work together more productively. One example is software that allows an air tasking order, produced in a U.S. format, to be translated into a NATO format. This allows NATO forces to execute the tasking order with the same machine-to-machine interoperability available to their U.S. counterparts. 

The demonstration is also a proving ground for ESC systems and capabilities, Colonel Blackham said. In some cases, the demonstration tests technologies in the early stages of development; in others cases, it tests the most recent versions of existing products, such as the Theater Battle Management Core Systems, which are constantly being upgraded.

Some of the positives already identified by Colonel Harvey include a system that enables data to be transferred between different security levels, new collaborative mission planning software and a dynamic re-planning tool that incorporates live data feeds from aircraft.

"CWID really is all about providing value to the warfighter," said Colonel Blackham, whom ESC Commander Lt. Gen. Chuck Johnson recently appointed as the center's champion for Warfighter Value, one of his five key focus areas. "It's a great way for us to learn more about whether certain capabilities are what operators want and need, and for us to check them out cheaply and quickly."

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