Gigantic Wargame Tests Air Force Craft in Global Crisis Response

By Erwin, Sandra I. | National Defense, October 1999 | Go to article overview

Gigantic Wargame Tests Air Force Craft in Global Crisis Response


Erwin, Sandra I., National Defense


During a large-scale combat experiment sponsored by the U.S. Air Force last month, pilots across the country flew the futuristic Joint Strike Fighter, even though the plane still is in the early stages of development.

A Joint Strike Fighter simulator located at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, was one of the players at the Joint Expeditionary Forces Experiment (JEFX). Other participants were located at 10 other sites, including Langley Air Force Base, Va.; a Coalition Air Operations Center at Hurlburt Field, Fla. and Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The Navy, the Army, the Marine Corps and allied NATO forces participated as well, bringing the total of individual players to about 4,000.

JEFX was a $60 million experiment designed to try different ways of conducting wars without having to worry about who wins or loses. Officials primarily were interested in testing various command, control, reconnaissance and surveillance procedures, as well as finding ways to deploy to contingencies with fewer people and lighter equipment.

Using computer networks, JEFX allowed various real and simulated units spread throughout the world to share intelligence, weather and logistics information. At the end of the experiment, officials planned to recommend how the lessons learned can be translated into new equipment buys, staff reorganization, leadership training and doctrine, said Bruce Mitchell, a JEFX spokesman. A part-classified report with the proposed changes is expected to reach senior Air Force leaders this month, Mitchell told National Defense.

JEFX "will affect what we buy in the Air Force and in the Defense Department," said Air Force Lt. Gen. Ronald T. Kadish, who ran the service's electronics programs before becoming director of the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization. The technologies that were successful in JEFX likely will be fielded in 2001, Mitchell said.

But the influence of JEFX on major weapon purchases only goes so far, he acknowledged. "We are hoping to nudge the acquisition process ... But it would be unrealistic for us to influence major acquisition programs," he said. …

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