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American Forces Press Service

Joint Military Demonstration Tests Combat-Identification Technologies

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, July 17, 2008 – War fighters from the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom are testing new battlefield systems that can discern friend from foe during the “Bold Quest Plus” joint military demonstration conducted at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

The demonstration’s purpose is to provide warfighters with combat-identification technologies that maximize mission effectiveness while minimizing the chances of fratricide, John Miller, operations manager for coalition combat identification at U.S. Joint Forces Command, based at Norfolk, Va., said today during a conference-call interview with reporters.

The command is sponsoring the demonstration at Eglin, which began July 11. Miller said the two-week-long event is the latest in a series conducted stateside and overseas over the past several years.

One of the desired outcomes of Bold Quest Plus is to provide warfighters with improved means to rapidly identify and engage enemy forces during the smoke and confusion of battle, Miller said.

“We’re trying to give them tools that help them be faster in sorting all that out, and quicker to pull the trigger on the right target, and thereby survive every engagement,” he explained.

Fratricide -- when “friendly” military forces accidently fire on and kill other friendly forces -- can devastate unit morale, Miller said.

“We’re all about minimizing fratricide, but we’re also trying to make our shooters better in a gunfight than the other guy,” he said. “Put those two things together, and that’s why this is important.”

More than 400 warfighters from the U.S., Canada and the United Kingdom are at Eglin testing combat-identification technologies and procedures during air- and ground-based demonstrations, Miller said. He noted that representatives from Germany, Denmark, France and Australia also are on hand to observe the demonstration.

Improved combat-identification capability is now being incorporated into future radio systems to be used by the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, Miller said.

“Radio-based combat ID for ground forces is out there,” he pointed out.

The U.S. Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps also are developing identification technologies for air platforms, Miller said.

One of the systems being demonstrated at Eglin incorporates forward air controllers that quickly radio the locations of friendly forces and enemy-targeting information to coalition pilots overhead, Canadian Forces Capt. Erik Esselaar said.

The system enables this key data to be rapidly transmitted “back in the cockpit for the pilot,” he said.

“The battlefield that confronts Canadian Forces members deployed on operations today is extremely complex and is expected to remain so into the future,” said Lt. Cmdr. Randy Mifflin, representing the chief of force development for Canadian Forces during Bold Quest Plus.

Such complexity, Mifflin observed, is especially true in Afghanistan, where “coalition forces of different capabilities and methods of operation are coming face to face with high-speed, high-tech warfare in a continuously changing and uncertain environment.”

Conducting military operations in Afghanistan “demands fast and accurate means to discriminate between enemies, friends and neutrals to enable the timely, effective and safe employment of our weapons systems,” Mifflin said. The Canadian military, he said, is working to enhance its capabilities in this area.

Working with the United States and other allies, the Canadian Forces’ goal “is to improve combat effectiveness and reduce the risk of fratricide and collateral damage, through better training of personnel, development of better doctrine, including tactics, techniques and procedures, and improvements to the technology assisting combat identification,” Mifflin said.

Bold Quest Plus is scheduled to conclude July 25.

“I think you will see these ‘Quest-type’ of events on a reoccurring basis” every 18 months or so, Miller said. A new exercise is planned for sometime next year.

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