A story regarding the exercise Urban Resolve 2015.
Air Force personnel are flying virtual missions from a suite of rooms in the Pentagon known as the Air Force C4ISR Visualization Center which houses one of 19 nodes during Urban Resolve 2015 (UR2015), a major series of joint urban warfare experiments involving all five U.S. military services and participants from thirteen nations.
Story and photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Bryan D. Axtell
USJFCOM Public Affairs
(ARLINGTON, Va. - Oct. 24, 2006) -- Targeting crosshairs float across alleys and rooftops while one hand delicately nudges the ergonomic control sporting weapons toggles, and the other dances across the top of a box full of backlit red buttons and more joystick controls. Another set of hands is griping a spiral bound detailed map and pointing out directions.
Air Force Lt. Col. Beverly Smith and Chief Master Sgt. Stanley Milinski, both with Operations and Strategy at U.S. Air Force Headquarters, are operating an airborne tracking laser as the Air Force experiments with the directed energy weapons of the future.
While different services have been operating unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) from remote locations for some time now, those both are and yet aren't real rooftops that the crosshairs are floating over. The rooftops that Smith and Milinski are flying over exist in a computer; however, those same rooftops exist in the real world too.
That's because the simulator Smith is flying is inside the "world" of U.S. Joint Forces Command's Urban Resolve 2015 (UR2015). It's a world that exists simultaneously in 18 other places across the country. So when Smith pilots her aircraft to the left, UR2015's joint task force commander in Suffolk, Va., can see her do it.
This all occurs as part of UR2015's series of three "human-in-the-loop" or HITL sessions. The two-week long HITL sessions are the "live" portion of this "live, virtual, and constructive" experiment which uses models and simulations to replicate real-world geography, structures and culturally relevant population behaviors.
So is this a video game? A video game maker might program in rubber-neckers if something blew up in that artificial world. A video game might have the traffic jams as part of their "plot."
In this computer world though, there is no pre-recorded footage of actors following a "plot." Real people like Smith and Milinski make real decisions. The buildings they are flying over are exactly where they would be in real life - in some cases down to the centimeter.
1st Lt. Joseph Friel with the Air Force Research Laboratory's Directed Energy Directorate talked about what value he saw in having people like Smith and Milinski participate in UR2015's realistic environment.
"We are experimenting with future systems before 'bending metal' to reduce costs to taxpayers and provide a greater combat capability to the armed forces quickly," said Friel.
Friel said that UR2015's joint experimentation environment allows him to "play" with a real-world command and control network that he can't get in a physics-based-only simulation.
As such he and his team can find and fix problems to future platforms before they are even built. Friel said that changing an existing piece of equipment can cost millions of dollars, whereas rewriting some software to fix a problem costs next to nothing.
Similarly the Army is experimenting with different aspects of their Future Combat System in Ft. Leavenworth, Kan., while the members of the Marine Corps "look over their shoulder."
All of the services either have or will participate in UR2015, which involves 19 different sites and over 1000 people across the country, to explore ways that the military can improve operating in an urban environment as well as its role in stability and reconstruction operations.