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Joint Operations With Simulated Forward Air Controller (FAC)

The Joint Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Joint Test and Evaluation program (JUAV JT&E) conducted a modeling-and-simulation (M&S)-based exercise using MetaVR visualization technology that included the use of a MUSE unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in observed, indirect fire missions and a simulated Forward Observer (FO). The week-long event, known as “Virtual Rehearsal #3” (VR-3), was conducted at the Integrated Battlespace Arena (IBAR) located at the U.S. Naval Air Warfare Center Weapons Division, China Lake, California.

VRSG provides the visuals for the video wall and the simulated optics for the laser range finder/designator device in this simulated ground observer's position.

JUAV JT&E conducts virtual rehearsals (VRs) in advance of scheduled live field tests and exercises in order to rehearse data-collection procedures, familiarize the test team with the operational area, check data-recording equipment, and obtain feedback from warfighter participants who play various roles in the simulation sessions. The VRs provide a forum within which the JUAV JT&E team members can conduct direct and specific discussions with warfighters related to specific mission areas -- all in the interest of optimizing the use of the time and resources needed to conduct live fire events. VR-3 was the first occasion for the JUAV JT&E program to “virtually rehearse” artillery fire support (FS) missions integrated with a UAV or UAS. The operating area for the simulation was the National Training Center (NTC) Ft. Irwin, CA. The simulated terrain and the battle scenarios were based on an actual force-on-force prior training rotation at the NTC. For VR-3, the “JUAV force” was part of the OPFOR. In addition to the artillery fire missions, VR-3 included close air support (CAS) and Air Interdiction (AI) missions from a networked simulated F/A18. VR-3 presented simulation missions and tactical situations similar to those JUAV JT&E could implement as future live events at facilities such as Fort Irwin NTC or Fort Hood.

IBAR architecture for VR-3 for either fire support or close air support missions.

The warfighters for VR-3 represented a diverse cross-section of different services from both the U.S. and U.K. military forces. Participants came from all four branches of the U.S. military services, the Royal Air Force, Royal Navy, and Royal Army. A wide range of experience was also represented in the military and civilian staff members of the JUAV JT&E, IBAR engineering staff, and observer-participants from the Joint Close Air Support (JCAS) JT&E.

MUSE UAV simulation work area, staffed by USA UAV crew with observer from Royal Artillery.

MELIOS With InterSense Tracker To add realism to the Forward Observer simulation, an emulated military device with a miniaturized video display is used for target designation in a simulated rock and sand bag setting. The FO is modeled within the simulation as a ground-clamped entity, situated in an isolated location on the terrain in advance of the main forces. The same terrain database is used for the FO, F/A-18, and a MetaVR-based MUSE UAV.

DIS data streams provide the moving targets. The data is geographically correct, so GRID or GPS coordinates are used. A Laser Range Finder with a focal length representative of 8X zoom is used to simulate an actual MELIOS. The radio communications required an additional headset. This provides simulating FO radio frequencies for communication.

Emulated SOFLAM With InterSense Tracker On the left is an an emulated SOFLAM device, integrated with a single-channel VRSG.

A SOFLAM is a hand-held laser range finder containing a single 8X optic. This device is used by JTAC/FO/FAC units to accurately determine locations of targets for both artillery and close air support (CAS) missions.

The emulated SOFLAM has a small CRT where the optics would normally reside. A motion tracker is added to supply GPS coordinate data.

Emulated SOFLAM device instrumented with an InterSense tracker and miniature CRT. Photo courtesey of Knight Eagle Technologies.

The motion tracker allows for the movement associated with real life, which simulates looking through a monocular. The tracking system is integrated directly with the display mechanism such that latency is minimized during rapid movements by the user. The GPS data also helps provide range to target, azimuth, and elevation data.

Both static and moving targets are sent from a SAF system, which provides the ability to create and control entities within a simulated battlefield. Detonations from bombs or artillery fire are also simulated, as they would be visible in all databases. After simulating the lasing of a target, the FO has an accurate set of coordinates.

The image to the right shows a VRSG-simulated view seen through the eyepiece of the emulated SOFLAM.

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