Bold Quest 13-1 Focuses on ‘Friend or Foe’ ID

June 24, 2013

Representatives from every U.S. military service and 10 other nations are wrapping up the final days of a coalition capability demonstration designed to increase combat effectiveness and interoperability while minimizing the risk of fratricide.

Bold Quest 13-1, which officially kicked off June 10 and concludes tomorrow, includes more than 1,300 participants from the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps, as well as Germany, France, Italy and Norway, John Miller, joint operational manager for the exercise, told reporters today. In addition, Denmark, Finland, Japan, Sweden, Turkey and the United Kingdom have sent observers.

About half of the participants are at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., Miller explained during a teleconference from the exercise hub. Another roughly 700 service members are participating from bases along the U.S. East Coast and as far west as Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.

Bold Quest 13-1 is the 11th in the Bold Quest series, created in 2003 to provide realistic conditions for the services and international partners to test their combat identification systems and the techniques and procedures they use to engage them, Miller explained.

“That is really the essence of the whole effort: to create this complex operational environment that requires more than any one individual [entity] could do on their own,” he said.

Fog rolls across the Joint Base Charleston flightline as the sun rises above a C-17 Globemaster III June 4, 2013, at JB Charleston, S.C. The C-17 is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main operating bases or directly to forward bases in the deployment area

During 10 days of exercises and data collection, participants are putting to the test not only their different technologies, but also their tactics, techniques and procedures to ensure they’re interoperable.

The premise, Miller explained, is that coalition members that operate together need to develop and test their capabilities together before they employ them in combat.

“Our assumption is that the user is going to use these systems in a coalition fight, which involves the U.S. services and [coalition] nations,” he said, “so demonstrating that interoperability is key.”

During Bold Quest, every service and participating nation brings its own technologies and objectives to the exercise. Bold Quest 13-1, for example, represents the first time the United States is using the demonstration to assess how new “identification friend or foe,” or IFF, systems developed independently by the services work in a joint and combined environment.

Historically, Bold Quest has focused on ground-to-ground and air-to-ground initiatives, Miller said.

“The initiative brought to Bold Quest reflected current operations,” he said, particularly real-world requirements in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Bold Quest 13-1 represents a new step in the exercise’s 10-year evolution. Focused for the first time on the air-to-air and surface-to-air combat domains, it is helping to address gaps that could impact future operations, Miller said.

Eighteen months in the planning, Bold Quest 13-1 is the most ambitious every conducted. “There has been no event in our series history more complex than this one,” Miller said.

That’s largely because the entire exercise is live. With no virtual or simulation play, it is relying on ground assets, aircraft and, for the first time, two Navy ships to gather and share combat identification information. U.S Fleet Forces, recognizing the importance of the takeaways, is contributing USS Jason Dunham, an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, and USS San Jacinto, a Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruiser, to the exercise, Miller said.

After 10 days of intensive flights and data-collection efforts to conclude tomorrow, evaluators will provided a detailed quantitative assessment.

The results could have an immediate impact on warfighters. For example, a new combat identification server demonstrated during Bold Quest 11 proved so effective that it was deployed to Afghanistan within months of the demonstration. The system collects and maintains the locations of U.S. and coalition forces in a single server that aircrews can access as they provide close-air support.

With the benefits of Bold Quest 13-1 yet to be fully determined, Miller said, the demonstration has had a tremendous training benefit for the participants.

“Bold Quest is not designed as a training exercise,” he emphasized. “But because we set the conditions to be as operationally representative as we can, there is a natural opportunity [for participants] to actually train to do the things they would normally do in their warfighting mission.” It’s an opportunity, he noted, that many have not had in some time because of pressing operational demands and, more recently, budgetary constraints.

The pace of Bold Quest demonstrations is picking up, with the next one slated for September at Camp Atterbury Joint Maneuver Training Center in Indiana. Two more demonstrations are scheduled for the early months of fiscal year 2014.

Miller said enthusiasm for the exercise, particularly during a period of tough budget choices, reflects the effectiveness of Bold Quest in proving out technologies that will directly warfighting operations.

“This is about as good as it gets when you have participants here, working together as well as they are, committed to doing what they are doing and overcoming all the challenges,” he said.

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