Video Above: Patriot Interceptor Missiles & F-35s Could Defend NATOs Eastern Flank Together
Making instant maneuvers amid air combat to elude incoming enemy fire, autonomously shifting course to avoid colliding with terrain or aircraft and drawing upon advanced, Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled computer algorithms to process enemy targeting data... are all critical areas of focus for Air Force trainers as they prepare for great power war moving decades into the future.
Not only will future air war incorporate more speed, range, stealth and lethality, but it is expected to progressively call upon new levels of autonomy, making the need to prepare for and train against a wide range of contingencies extremely critical. This concept forms the basis of the Air Force’s “Red Teaming” training concept wherein groups of air platforms confront specific anticipated enemy threats in realistic combat scenarios. Increasingly, advances in computer technology make it possible for simulations to not only approximate, but replicate enemy aircraft, weapons, maneuver tactics and even computing power through advanced computer simulations.
It is a training focus increasingly being emphasized by the Air Force and Navy, of course in close coordination with actual live-fire training scenarios through exercises such as Red Flag. As part of this integrated process training through simulated networking technologies is being measurably improved by the Air Force in coordination with their industry partners.
The US Navy and Air Force are working on a new generation of training technologies intended to prepare their fighter aircraft for a new class of Russian and Chinese air threats. For instance, it is certainly conceivable that Russia’s Su-57 or China’s J-20 stealth 5th-generation aircraft could present new challenges to US Air Force and Navy fighters.
F/A-18 & F-35s | P5 Combat Training System (P5CTS)
Cubic Mission and Performance Solutions, a division of Cubic Corporation, was recently awarded an Air Force contract for its P5 Combat Training System (P5CTS). The P5 System Security Update (SSU), a drop-in encryption solution is part of a larger technology upgrade intended to massively improve Air Force and Navy pilot training for advanced, high-threat combat scenarios using advanced computer simulations, wireless networks and AI-enabled data organization. In fact, in an effort to accurately replicate high-tech modern weapons systems, producers of Top Gun Maverick put a P5 on Tom Cruise’s F/A-18.
P5 SSU, Cubic explains, will be able to encrypt the Time, Space, and Position Information used to train with hundreds of operational F-35s in coordination with 4th-generation aircraft, enabling larger formations and secure collaborative training across an otherwise disaggregated force. The technical infrastructure informing Cubic’s P5 is designed to enable secure networking of data, in part through the use of software upgrades and common IP protocol standards. “Cubic’s P5 SSU solution features a low- risk, flight-proven, National Security Agency (NSA)-certified Type 1 multilevel encryptor that enables or restricts the access and transfer of information between security domains on the P5CTS without modifying the current training Concept of Operations,” a Cubic statement says.
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With P5 SSU, 4th Gen aircraft will be capable of training securely with over 900 fielded 5th Gen F-35s already equipped with encrypted P5 to protect the Techniques, Tactics and Procedures from enemy exploitation, a Cubic statement says. “Cubic’s current P5CTS/TCTS allows aircrew to train anywhere, anytime and capture live training truth data for post mission analysis and debriefing,” Mike Knowles, president of Cubic Mission and Performance Solutions.
With the security of the Air Combat Training System addressed, Synthetic Inject To Live-Live Virtual Constructive (SITL- LVC) capabilities are also available to provide aircrew with the next generation authentic training environment that replicates the high-end fight challenges a peer competitor might present. As the name implies, SITL-LVC combines Live participants on DoD or Coalition training ranges with Virtual participants (Operators flying in Tactical simulators) and Computer-Generated Forces to interact seamlessly in a blended common training environment. “The hardest part of training our aircrew today is providing a realistic presentation on a Live training range,” explained Cubic’s LVC Subject Matter Expert, Paul Averna. Physical training ranges lack the available airspace needed to train our 4 th and 5 th Generation aircrew and the ability to replicate a sophisticated peer Integrated Air Defense System (IADS). It is extremely difficult to sustain a threat representative IADS, including both ground and air threats with real examples of potential systems or emulations of those threat capabilities at Scale.
While the US Navy and US Air Force seek to replicate the complex electromagnetic operating environment in the Joint Simulation Environment (JSE) for aircrew to experience Night One high end fight characteristics, simulators can only do so much to prepare our operators. “At some point, they need to combine the effects generated in the JSE with real world physiological and psychological effects only available in their actual platforms. This is where the SITL LVC capabilities come into play.
It makes sense that enhanced or upgradeable computer simulations would multiply options and realistically represent specific air threat scenarios, as the US military services continue to have great success with “digital engineering,” a process wherein computer simulations can create, operate and assess the design structures and performance parameters of weapons systems. Digital engineering, which relies heavily upon computer simulations, have greatly contributed to the successful accelerated development of the Air Force’s now airborne 6th-gen Next Generation Air Dominance stealth fighter jet program and the services new ICBM, the Ground Based Strategic Deterrent.
Former Air Force acquisition executive Will Roper said that digital engineering using simulations enabled weapons developers in the GBSD program the opportunity to analyze a wide range of designs without having to spend years building and testing numerous prototypes. Given this, it would make sense that Cubic’s P5 based SITL LVC capability is accomplishing comparable progress in a training environment.
Through the development and follow-on maturation of the Secure LVC Advanced Training Environment core enabling technologies at Nellis AFB and NAS Pax River, the Services and their coalition partners could be fielding SITL LVC in the next 24 months. Over the course of the last 13 years, we’ve learned some critical lessons about integrating fast movers with virtual environments to provide a realistic presentation to the aircrew in their cockpits. “Having a wireless network that allows you to sustain that environment without interruptions. In other words, a low, flat latency is a very important feature,” Averna said. It’s important in this training environment to have a dedicated LVC processing capability, so that you're not diminishing the combat capability of the aircraft that are connecting and using the system. You don't want their computer resources to beimpacted because they’re trying to participate in an LVC environment. So that’s an important additional capability that is needed.”
At the same time, the security features for this SITL LVC environment need to be scalable, meaning multinational training can take place within a common technological framework while still keeping certain key information separate or enclaved to ensure security for any data that might not need to be shared. “Having multiple independent levels of security. And why is that important, because we're going to operate with coalition partners that may not be able to see the same level of classification of data and effects that we would maybe exchange on the web as a joint DoD force, but we nonetheless are going to have to go to war and potential peer conflict with our coalition partners,” Averna said. “Having that architecture allows us to have different enclaves where coalition participation can occur…and we don’t have to give away all the secrets to allow them to join and train with us.” Cubic technology and weapons experts explain that SITL LVC enables continuous seamless presentation to all the participants.
The ability for these computer simulations to replicate and analyze the parameters of air combat in relation to networking technologies, two-way data sharing and even weapons employment enables a level of assessment and technological refinement for continuous modernization which is a natural extension into the world of AI and Machine Learning.
Averna explained that AI is increasingly becoming a large part of the progression of the simulation technology, as it will allow for computer systems to gather and organize otherwise disparate pools of information, perform analytics and transmit relevant, time sensitive data in relevant timeframes to either autonomously command unmanned systems or to reduce the cognitive burden for manned platforms.
“AI will take us in the future to where we are leveraging all of the data we are bringing together from the LVC environment. As an example, we can tailor the construct to behave in a more threat representative manner, so aircrew will start acting and reacting more appropriately to what might be expected from a real fight,” Averna explained. Preparing for the “real fight” in the most specific, accurate and realistic way is increasingly crucial given the pace of technological progress and the extent to which AI continues to inform air war operations such as dogfighting, targeting, rapid decision-making and sensor data fusion.