|Participants simulate forward air control training in a virtual environment created by the NATO Live, Virtual and Constructive simulation infrastructure.
"Viper 51 this is Rattlesnake 4, let me know when you clear the IP (Initial Point) for your run.” "Roger, Rattlesnake 4.”
The pilot of Viper 51 was flying his F-16 at 300 knots just 200 feet off the ground with six 500-pound MK-82 high-drag bombs under his wings. At this speed and altitude the trees blur into one green mass as he scans the terrain.
"Cleared IP.” The Forward Air Controller (FAC) has only seconds to visually acquire the aircraft. One moment it will be a dot on the horizon and the next it will flash overhead.
Rattlesnake 4 has been a FAC for years and has many combat missions in ISAF. He takes one last look at the terrorist vehicles checking also with the ROVER UAV feed to make sure they have not moved, and that there are not any non-combatants near.
"Tip up”, calls Viper 51. The F-16 begins a pull up manoeuvre to gain altitude. As he levels out, he sees the targets as his aiming dot on his heads-up display creeps across the ground toward the vehicles.
"Rattlesnake 4, tally target.”
"Viper 51, cleared hot.”
Viper 51 barely gets his clearance to drop before leaving the target area. He drops the bombs as he pulls a high G turn to escape the weapon's fragmentation envelope. The explosion destroys all three vehicles; a successful high-threat low altitude target engagement.
This event did not occur in some far off land on a battlefield between two unnamed mountains. Instead, it took place all around Europe. The UAV pilot was located in Great Britain's Defence Science and Technology Laboratory. The Dutch pilot was flying his F-16 on a desktop simulator at TNO in The Hague, The Netherlands. The FAC was conducting his mission at NATO's Joint Force Training Centre, Bydgoszcz, Poland, wearing a virtual reality helmet. All of them were wrapped in a virtual environment created by the NATO Live, Virtual and Constructive simulation infrastructure. ACT, NC3A, The Netherlands and Great Britain put together this experiment hosted in part by JFTC.
Some comments from the forward air controllers, after the event, included, "doing simulated exercises before the initial live run is critical for making these more productive and for decreasing the number of failed runs”. And, "practice of procedures with pilots of the different nations is essential for being ready for real operations. For example, it is critical to deal with different accents or to handle particular ways to describe objects”
"I think this is a huge step forward to improve the training for FACs and air support pilots engaged in multinational operations,” said U.S. Navy Commander, David James, Fratricide Prevention Integrated Program Team leader. He continued, "Distributed multinational training events such as the one demonstrated here are crucial for pre-deployment and mission rehearsal preparations in order to produce the desired effects for the Alliance in a timely and accurate manner.”