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The Battle Command Training Program (BCTP)
and Army Simulations

by LTC Jeff Cobb and Mr. Bob Fielding

Support Aviation in Deep Operations
Table of Contents
Appendix A:  Glossary

The over-arching theme of this section is the effectiveness of the Battle Command Training Program (BCTP) and the use of simulations in support of contingency operations. The team found that, overall, the BCTP assists units in developing processes and building teams to plan and conduct operations. The BCTP observed the V Corps Deep Operations Coordination Center (DOCC), which was the core of the TF Hawk DOCC, in a Warfighter immediately prior to the deployment. The leadership of the TF all agreed that the involvement of the BCTP enhanced the ability of the DOCC to effectively plan deep operations. The team also discovered that the BCTP and exercise units need to re-look the STARTEX agreements for exercises to ensure that the conditions experienced by the units are realistic. Finally, the Army needs to take a close look at the current family of simulations. Current models do not fully support the requirements of the BCTP and units to conduct rigorous, realistic exercises.

The Battle Command Training Program

The BCTP is the Army's capstone Combat Training Center (CTC). The mission of the BCTP is to:

a. Support realistic, stressful training for Army Forces (ARFOR) and the Joint Force Land Component Commander (JFLCC), and

b. Assist the Chief of Staff Army (CSA) in fulfilling his obligation to provide trained and ready units to win decisively on the modern battlefield and to conduct contingency operations worldwide.

The BCTP provides command and battle staff training for brigade, division, and corps commanders, their staffs, major subordinate commanders (MSC), and supporting special operations forces (SOF), using simulation centers worldwide. It provides the framework to conduct command and control training from brigade to Joint Task Force (JTF)-level operations. The BCTP provides a "free-thinking" opposing force (OPFOR), certified observer controllers/trainers, and senior observers as mentors and coaches.

Corps Battle Simulation

The BCTP currently uses the Corps Battle Simulation (CBS) as its exercise driver. CBS is a command post exercise (CPX) driver, used primarily to train corps and division command and staff personnel operating in their tactically deployed command posts. CBS is a training model, not an analytical model. It is an attrition-based model at the aggregate level. The model forces conflict to drive command post operations and planning.

CBS employs a central VAX computer and many netted MicroVAX computers to generate the simulation. This computer network, coupled with the simulation software and the workstation controllers, "fight" the battle in real time, that is, one hour of game time is equal to one hour of clock time. CBS has the capability to play both belligerent forces that engage in combat when an enemy is detected and within weapons range, and non-belligerent forces that do not engage in direct fire combat even though an enemy is detected and within weapons range. The workstation controllers interact with the simulation via the workstation equipment and portray subordinate unit functions.

The unit used CBS, Tactical Simulation (TACSIM), and Joint Conflict and Tactical Simulation (JCATS) for simulation support during the mission rehearsal exercise (MRE). The Army does not have any single simulation model that can be used for deployment training and operations. CBS and TACSIM were used to portray the intelligence and JCATS provided the detail required for mission execution.

The Effectiveness of the BCTP

In discussions with senior leaders in the Task Force, the general consensus was that the recent unit Warfighter Exercise (WFX), and the events leading up to the exercise, were effective in preparing the Task Force to plan deep operations. The TF Deputy Commander, the Attack Helicopter Regimental Commander, and the Force Artillery Commander all believed that the WFX assisted the units and the DOCC in building and refining the DOCC processes, and forming and solidifying the DOCC team. The aviation commander stated that the mechanics remain the same for both the high-intensity combat exercised during the BCTP process and the current contingency operations. Several of the commanders stated that the Senior Observers and their involvement in the recent WFX were of great assistance to the DOCC team. These senior retired officers provided realistic insight into deep operations and the role of deep operations in prosecuting the fight.

The leaders raised several issues with the BCTP format. First was the need to get to a higher level of fidelity in the execution of operations. The leadership would like to get down to the entity level in execution to provide more realistic feedback to the tactical operations centers. Second, the WFXs do not provide the same stress and rigor of actual operations because there are no soldiers on the ground in harm's way. One commander stressed the need for units to consider the people aspect of decisions during WFXs and not treat the soldiers as icons. Third, WFXs do not train units to operate over the distances simulated during the exercises (mainly a communications issue).

The leaders identified several differences between the WFX and the current operation. The first was the greater level of detail executed in all aspects of the DOCC operations versus that of a WFX or other simulations-driven exercise. This affected the battle rhythm of the DOCC and the attack aviation unit. A corps will typically plan and execute at least two attack turns (against separate targets) per unit per night. In this operation, the DOCC focused planning for at least 24 hours on one troop-level operation. One leader expressed that one operation every 48 hours is more realistic. The targeting and planning cycle for the unit went out 96 hours.

Targeting of threat air defense systems was a major concern in the TF. The level of detail desired in the current operation was much greater than that of WFX operations. Specifically, the DOCC and intelligence sources are normally focused on the target area during WFX deep operations. Units tend to discount the entire short-range air defense system (mainly shoulder-fired systems), and small arms densities located between the Forward Line of Troops (FLOT) and the target area. In this operation, these weapon systems were the primary focus.

The level of detail and attention directed toward the use of Army Airspace Command and Control (A2C2) measures was much greater in the current operation than during the WFX. This is an area that the BCTP would like to see receive more attention by exercise units. One major A2C2area of concern was de-conflicting attack aviation routes and field artillery firing positions. This is an area that is not routinely exercised during WFXs. In Albania, this was an area with which the TF had to deal. The problem is that there is no penalty for failing to use proper measures. The BCTP is unable to get most units focused in this area.

Lessons Learned:

  • The BCTP structure and its focus on processes assist units in preparing for contingency operations. The program's focus on training senior commanders and staff, and reinforcing processes is effective.

  • Units are not capable of conducting multiple battalion-level deep attacks each night.

  • Units do not conduct targeting to the level of detail during WFXs that TF Hawk was required to do during its contingency operation. WFXs need to penalize units that fail to recognize the significantthreat posed by short-range air defense and small arms to helicopters conducting deep operations.

  • Units do not conduct A2C2operations to the level of detail required of TF Hawk. Units need to take advantage of WFXs to use doctrinal A2C2measures. The exercise needs to penalize units that fail to properly employ these measures.

Exercise Design

The observation of TF Hawk raised several issues in the area of exercise design. These issues may be addressed in several forums including STARTEX conferences and White Cell meetings. Many of the issues are not new to the units or to the BCTP. The focus of this discussion is to highlight possible areas where the BCTP and units can increase the realism and rigor of WFXs.

The TF experienced difficulty integrating itself into the joint air operations campaign during the initial stages of the operation. Most of this was attributed to the limited exposure of the unit in joint air operations outside of exercises. The WFX, while exposing the unit somewhat to the friction and coordination complexities of joint air operations, did not fully prepare the unit for operations in Albania. The BCTP, especially on corps-level exercises, attempts to get units out of their comfort zone, normally the tactical level, and get them into the operational level of war. The vertical and horizontal integration role of the corps headquarters is key to this focus.

The terrain and weather had significant effects on the operations of the TF. Mountainous terrain, man-made hazards, and weather, from the rear base of operations through the engagement areas, proved to be challenging to the planners and operators during mission rehearsals. The CBS software used by the BCTP does not replicate the terrain in enough detail, and does not replicate the natural and man-made hazards faced by the aviators at all. In addition, CBS has only a limited weather effects capability; the scripted weather is briefed to all the players.

Units conducting WFXs typically have multiple intelligence assets at their disposal throughout the exercise. A number of these assets are beyond their own organic assets. These may include the Joint Surveillance and Target Attack Radar System (JSTARS), Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV) (Predator and Hunter), imagery, Guardrail, U2, and other theater and national assets. TF Hawk had access to all of these assets, but it did not have tasking authority to focus the assets on its upcoming missions. The only asset over which the TF had tasking authority was the Hunter UAV (the unit also used its counter-fire radars and pilot debriefings as intelligence sources). The unit could send requests for information (RFIs) to the theater to get coverage from JSTARS, Predator, Guardrail and U2.

Communications were critical to success in the contingency operation. Many unit leaders believe that communications are not emphasized enough during a BCTP WFX. The TF had 13 tactical satellite radio sets. It relied heavily on this communications link due to the terrain and the distances over which the unit operated. The unit was not authorized this number of radios on its MTO&E (the authorized number was three). The DOCC also used FM and UHF communications links.

Some key leaders would like to see communications stressed during a WFX. Units, because of the close proximity of operations centers and the battle simulation center, do not have to use satellite and UHF communications; FM communications suit their needs and are easier to use. One of the concerns with this set-up was that satellite communications are difficult to operate and maintain and the knowledge, skills, and abilities associated with this form of communication are very perishable.

Lessons Learned:

  • TF Hawk was under supply and maintenance constraints during the deployment. The BCTP STARTEX agreements need to reflect these constraints during WFXs so units do not become accustomed to operating in an unconstrained environment.

  • The unit believed that the BCTP does stress the requirement to conduct joint air operations coordination. The BCTP attempts to get corps to focus more on vertical and horizontal integration, which includes coordination in the joint arena.

  • During WFXs, most units do not take advantage of the joint targeting assets available. Units should practice this during WFXs and receive credit when it is done well. This applies to all battlefield operating systems with sensors that reach beyond the capability of the unit to put fires on the target (either by restrictive rules of engagement or weapon systems restrictions).

  • The BCTP WFX does reinforce basic processes for JAG. However, the BCTP should look at interjecting at least one scenario during an exercise which will stress the entire operational law system and should include legitimate military targets intermingled with refugees or protected sites. Contingency operations with restrictive ROE require more detailed and refined processes. There is a need to stress the requirement for these refined processes during WFXs.

  • CBS does not provide enough detail in the areas of terrain, hazards, and weather. This may lead to units taking short cuts in these areas during the execution phase of exercises. Future models need to properly replicate these challenges to ground and air operations.

  • Units do not always have the intelligence assets available during contingency operations that they have during WFXs. There are a lot of units competing for limited resources.

  • Units can affect joint targeting and attack operations by passing their targetable data vertically and horizontally to elements that have the resources to attack the targets.

  • Units do not take advantage of all training exercises to stress communications and the perishable skills associated with complicated communications systems.

Army Family of Simulations

The BCTP uses a family of simulations to drive the WFXs. The BCTP and the exercise units continuously search for ways to better simulate (not replicate) the capabilities and limitations of the systems available to both the exercise units and the WCOPFOR. The BCTP conducts periodic reviews of the CBS parameters developed to provide a realistic simulation of systems. The parameters committee consists of battlefield operating systems chiefs and key subject matter experts (SMEs) from the operations groups, as well as simulation experts and contractors. These members attempt to solicit input from the branch schools. The committee recommends changes to computer code (very expensive and the least likely course of action) or workarounds (human actions designed to simulate system capabilities or TTP) to the BCTP leadership.

The CBS-driven exercise provided excellent staff training, however, the TF Hawk leadership stated it did not allow for planning down to pilot level. During the MRE, the simulation model JCATS was used to provide the execution fidelity the commanders and staff desired. Using JCATS would have allowed the pilots to plan and brief each mission, if time had been available. The issue is time and personnel requirements to replicate deep operations to the pilot level. The combination of simulations and additional time and resources would provide the training detail desired.

TF Hawk pre-deployment MRE was conducted on short notice at the Warrior Preparation Center (WPC). CBS, JCATS, TACSIM with HRSS and UAV were the simulations used to support the exercise. CBS, TACSIM and UAV were primarily used to provide intelligence while JCATS provided the detail for mission execution. Although no one simulation has the capability to provide a unit deploying on short notice the complete array of input and feedback, the mix of CBS and JCATS provided the detail and staff coordination requirements necessary to accomplish the mission.

Lessons Learned:

  • The use of CBS for a BCTP WFX meets all requirements for training division and corps staffs. If units want to plan and conduct mission briefs, they have the ability to do so now. The use of other simulations for MREs may be a viable option and the BCTP should explore the use of other training simulations that may be useful for MREs.

  • The BCTP should review other training simulations to determine their suitability of use for MREs.


The results of this study indicate that the BCTP executes its mission to prepare commanders and their staffs to execute combat operations. The focus of the BCTP on battle command and the associated processes does work. However, both the BCTP and the exercise units need to re-look the level of rigor of the exercises to get the units focused on details in the areas of targeting, A2C2, weather and terrain, and integrating into the joint fight. The Army needs to design and field a simulation system that provides more detailed feedback to the commanders and their staffs, and a greater level of fidelity in the execution of missions. CBS works, but the field requires more.

Support Aviation in Deep Operations
Table of Contents
Appendix A:  Glossary

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