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Hanscom to play vital role in coalition demo

by Chuck Paone
66th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

6/6/2008 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. (AFPN) -- Hanscom Air Force Base officials are setting up to serve as a major host site for the June 9 through 20 Coalition Warrior Interoperability Demonstration, an annual event sponsored by the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and directed by U.S. Joint Forces Command.

The primary goal -- at Hanscom AFB and at CWID sites across the globe -- is to better enable U.S. forces to perform combat and other operations synchronously, with each other, and with coalition partners.

"More and more, coalition forces and U.S. services are coming on board with the concept that interoperability is a crucial element of warfare," said Lt. Col. Curt Harvey, who will operate as the combined forces air component commander during the demonstration for the second consecutive year.

CWID features what are known as interoperability trials, in which operators assess technologies at various stages of development to determine their potential for meeting critical warfighting needs. This year, eight nations are participating, which creates a significant opportunity for international operators to jointly evaluate technology solutions and to seek out innovative ways to work cooperatively during contingency and wartime operations.

Hanscom AFB, where the Air Force's Electronic Systems Center is headquartered, is one of a number of participating sites worldwide. Hanscom AFB's C4ISR Enterprise Integration Facility will once again be set up as a small-scale Combined Air Operations Center and will host many of the trials.

"CWID is a great, low-cost event that focuses on new technologies that can be transitioned to coalition and other government agency operational environments within 18 months," said Col. Jeff Hodgdon, the 653 Electronic Systems Wing Enterprise Integration Division director. "Our combined team from ESC, the Global Cyberspace Integration Center, Massachusetts Air National Guard and coalition partners all play an integral role demonstrating and assessing these capabilities. Successful planning and execution has been our standard bearer, and we look forward to surpassing expectations again this year."

Officials from the Department of Defense, other government agencies including those responsible for first response during emergencies, and various multinational counterparts all sponsor trials into CWID.

"The trials are approved for participation because they address a new information sharing capability or have potential to improve an existing capability in support of one or more broad demonstration objectives that reference clearly defined U.S. combatant commander and coalition capability gaps," Colonel Hodgdon said. The mission objectives are defined in advance by demonstration planners.

The technologies featured in this year's demonstration are aimed at helping achieve some overarching objectives. They are all related to enhanced information sharing among coalition forces, government agencies, non-governmental and first responders, Colonel Harvey said.

"We've arrived at the point with technology where significant machine-to-machine interfaces occur regularly," he said.

This is a great warfighting asset, but it also presents a real challenge. If the joint services, their coalition partners and even civilian agency counterparts can't all participate in these rapid, precise data interactions, then execution is hampered.

"Lots of work has been done to get disparate weapons systems to exchange meaningful information," Colonel Harvey said. "Now we need to ensure that information exchange requirements are interchangeable, to maximize the value of that progress."

There are multiple challenges, he said, including fully modernizing aging equipment -- including '50s and '60s era aircraft -- so that the latest technological innovations can be fully exploited. The different priorities, budgets and needs of all the different partners present a different but equally significant challenge.

Multilevel security is yet another.

"Different coalition forces have different access rights," Colonel Harvey said. "Some have more, some have less, but systems have to be designed to accommodate all of those distinctions."

The 22 trials Hanscom AFB officials are hosting represent more than half of the 41 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.

The technology trials have been brought to CWID primarily by companies -- large and small - that are looking to test out their technologies in a robust environment. In some cases, government program managers have entered existing programs, either to gain valuable, low-cost testing or to gain more joint and coalition exposure.

CWID, which operates off of scripted scenarios and includes no live-fly or fire exercising, provides a very cost-effective way to test-run technologies, Colonel Harvey said.

"They can do it at bargain basement prices," he said. And the benefits flow across the board. DOD and coalition nations learn about products that might improve operational effectiveness while companies and program managers get to see what works well and what doesn't under realistic conditions that they could never replicate on their own.

"In CWID, there are a plethora of systems all running at once, and they're being stressed by the events unfolding in the various scenarios," Colonel Harvey said. "Having the chance to plug your technology in and see how it performs under those conditions is invaluable."

This year's demonstration will run through June 20. After that, assessments will be consolidated and a final report issued. And immediately after that, participants will begin considering technology trials for next year's demonstration.

"Our ability to annually host CWID as a major node is a cornerstone ESC activity that brings continuous value to warfighters," Colonel Hodgdon said. "We have a team of experts dedicated to the entire CWID mission from planning through execution, all driven toward delivering technical solutions that are interoperable with our allied nations."

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