7/24/2015 - OFFUTT AIR FORCE BASE, Neb. -- Contrails in the sky over the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex told a story of synthetic battles orchestrated to train the best pilots and aircrews in the world to be better.
The pilots and aircrews were part of an exercise which took place June
11 - 26 in Alaska that was simply called Northern Edge 2015, but for the
55th Wing, it was cutting edge.
What couldn't be seen in the Alaskan sky were the aircraft from Offutt
Air Force Base that were providing live Command and Control for
aircraft. The pilots and controllers were working Northern Edge 2015,
but they were doing it from a simulator back at Offutt.
"LVC [live, virtual and constructive training] offers a more robust
scenario than sending up ten Aggressors for a small skirmish with the
blue force," said Brian Smith, the 353rd Combat Training Squadron's Army
and special operations liaison. "With virtual and constructive assets
combining with live participants we can now provide ten threats and
herds of other aircraft waiting to continue the fight. We've added
defense and depth to maximize the OPFOR [opposition force] piece, which
provides a more robust training scenario for the blue force."
With this system, virtual doesn't mean computer-generated. The virtual
RC-135's from Offutt AFB were operated by actual pilots, battlespace
managers, and controllers participating in the same airspace as the
pilots tearing through the skies. The RC-135 virtual assets, were being
controlled via simulators at Offutt then networked into the locations
where they will operate alongside actual aircraft via a system called
LEXIOS (LVC Experimentation, Integration and Operations Suite) and
"RED FLAG-Alaska 15-2 served as the proof of concept for all the pieces
of LVC to come together," said Capt. Matthew Mendenhall, the 353rd CTS
chief of command and control operations. "It allowed us to ensure our
lines of communication were functioning properly before Northern Edge
2015. This is the first exercise to completely integrate the various
elements and is the largest LVC integration seen to date in any of the
"Virtual asset pilots will see the mountains, terrain and features of
their sector of the Joint Pacific Alaska Range Complex, and controllers
will see the battlespace overlay as if they were operating live in
Alaska," Mendenhall explained. "Instead of launching different live
assets, aviators can operate from their simulators,"
The constructive component of the LVC system is where computer-generated
forces expand the scope and create a training environment very similar
to what participants would actually see in a real conflict.
"We can test the command and control relationships between the air and
ground forces," said Maj. Derrick Vincent, the 353rd CTS director of
Air, ground and sea assets can exercise together with the diverse LVC
system and determine in real-time, the programming of shots against
enemy targets so each component's strength complements their
counterparts in the battlespace, Vincent added.
The ability to incorporate low-density, high-demand platforms such as a
live E-3 Sentry airborne warning and control system with a virtual
RC-135 from Offutt AFB, allows assets that can't regularly be tasked for
training due to real-world requirements to integrate with the blue
force and coordinate with their joint-service and inter-agency
counterparts, Mendenhall said.
"Northern Edge is the first time from a command and control, and
intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance standpoint that the
virtual, live and constructive assets are interacting at an efficient
level, proving they can work and talk to each other consistently,"
During one such scenario, aviators from Offutt, Seymour Johnson,
Tyndall, Ellsworth, Tinker and Mountain Home Air Force Bases, and Joint
Bases Elmendorf-Richardson and Pearl Harbor-Hickam, virtually operated
14 fighter aircraft, one conventional bomber, two mobility transport
aircraft, one airborne warning and control system and one reconnaissance
aircraft. These virtual participants integrated with constructive
players operating eight fighter aircraft, one strategic bomber, five
advanced tanker and cargo aircraft, and 80 red air (opposition)
aircraft. Live participants in Alaska were able to view the virtual and
constructive participants, interacting and coordinating with each type
of participant throughout the scenario.
"We can identify targets such as surface-to-air missile sites, see
ground forces take them out, and communicate the next steps among the
joint team, which enables our air assets to move on to the next targets,
and allows our forces to gain and maintain air superiority," Mendenhall
LVC enables those aircrew members to achieve quality training at a
fraction of the cost of the live training, and even more importantly,
the quality of training provided often exceeds that of the live fly
event by itself.
Master Sgt. Karen J. Tomasik, 354th Fighter Wing Public Affairs contributed to this article.