Military officials recognize that the Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps
will need to adjust their training exercises and equipment to make them less
service-centric and more joint-service oriented.
But it is not yet clear how the services will go about doing this, given the
lack of specific guidance from the Pentagon on how to implement joint training
Feedback from military units that fought in Iraq pointed to the need for the
services to train together at the tactical level, in areas that traditionally
have not gotten much attention, such as learning how to speak each other’s vernacular and how to share targeting information.
“One of the problems we have today is that we get together in a joint
exercise, but we play it at the operational level,” said Capt. Dave “Roy”
Rogers, a Navy aviator who served as a joint air-war planner in Operation Iraqi
What is needed is “integration at the tactical level,” Rogers said
at a conference of the National Training Systems Association. “That does
not typically happen, you can make the argument, to the level of detail that
it needs to.”
A case in point is joint close-air support, he said. “Refining JCAS doctrine
and training is a hot-button item right now.”
The war in Iraq illustrated the value of joint training in CAS operations,
said retired Rear Adm. Fred Lewis, president of NTSA. “The Navy trains
with Marine ground units all the time,” he said. “That is why we
saw great performance in OIF.”
When Navy and Marine aircraft had to support Army missions, however, things
didn’t work out as smoothly, Lewis said. “They don’t train
together. Very rarely does the Navy or the Air Force train with the Army.”
Close air support, he said, has been a “major training deficiency in
the joint world for a long time.” The Army’s National Training Center,
for example, rarely hosts joint CAS exercises.
The Army relies on Air Force CAS, but they don’t work very well together,
said Lewis. That is why the Army has attack helicopters.
Gen. Michael Hagee, commandant of the Marine Corps, said that many of the interoperability
problems in Iraq between the Marines and the Army were solved once in theater,
but should have been addressed much earlier, in training exercises.
Marine gunship helicopters, for instance, fought along the Army V Corps’
Apache attack helicopters. But the Marines didn’t learn about the V Corps’
tactics and procedures for deep attack operations until after the war started,
Hagee said at a conference of the U.S. Naval Institute. “We found that
we could support them if they got in trouble,” he said. “But you
shouldn’t be working that out as you cross the line of departure. ...
We need to do more joint training at the tactical level, so we can identify
these seams and fix them before we are ready to cross the line of departure.”
Air Force Gen. Charles F. Wald, deputy chief of U.S. European Command, said
the Air Force often gets an undeserved bad rap for not being committed to close-air
He admitted, however, that the service had let such CAS capabilities as advanced
air-to-ground modems and communications systems “atrophy” up until
2001, when it was tasked to prepare for a bombing campaign over Afghanistan,
where CAS was a primary mission.
“It wasn’t a matter of commitment to the mission,” Wald told
reporters. “We just got lazy on it. Since that time, we had meetings with
the Army a lot. I think there is a lot of old rhetoric that still occurs about
the Air Force not being committed to CAS.”
The Army, for its part, will make its training more relevant and more focused
on missions such as a close-air support, said Gen. John Keane, former Army vice
chief of staff. At the NTC, he said, “we undervalue air power significantly.
We’ve got to stop that. We have to integrate ourselves with Air Force
Red Flag and Navy Blue Flag exercises and get them involved in what we are doing.”
Nonetheless, he said, NTC always will retain its focus on armor. “We
have to keep the normal clash of armor present on the battlefield, but also
make the war more realistic in what’s around those armies, as well.”
Joint training should reflect the way wars are fought now, said Rear Adm. Kenneth
F. Heimgartner, director of Navy fleet readiness.
“As soon as we chop overseas, we go into a joint environment. So it’s
logical to do our training jointly, as much as we can,” he said. “You
find that we do a lot of it now, but it is somewhat ad hoc. JNTC will bring
a formal structure.”
Joint Forces Command
The U.S. Joint Forces Command is in charge of developing a plan for joint service
training, under a program called JNTC, or Joint National Training Capability.
One JNTC exercise planned for early next year at the Marine Corps’ 29
Palms training range and the Army National Training Center will focus on inter-service
close air support operations. A couple of battalions on the ground will work
with aviation units, including Air Force A-10s, F-15s and B-1 bombers.
“There should be more training opportunities for me to talk to the joint
guys, so we are talking the same language, so we are confident we are talking
about the same things,” said one Navy pilot. “That would be huge.”
He said the Navy often trains with Marines and SEAL special-warfare units.
But more integration is needed with the Army and Air Force. “In Iraq,
we weren’t sure if the FAC [forward air controller] knew our procedures.
It almost became a waste of time.”
Among the items that led to miscommunications among the services were the different
denominations each of them employs for geo-coordinates used to target satellite-guided
weapons, such as the Joint Direct Attack Munition. “The JDAM-quality coordinate
definitions are a little different” for each service, said the Navy pilot.
The services already do “a lot of joint training, but they need more
visibility into joint training, on a routine basis,” said Paul W. Mayberry,
deputy undersecretary of defense for readiness.
The Defense Department will provide $1 billion for JNTC over five years, he
said. The funds will cover the cost of upgrading training range instrumentation
and communications systems, so they can interoperate.
“A lot of the joint training in the past was done on a handshake,”
Mayberry said. JNTC will address the “gaps and seams, but we’ll
expect the services to continue their investments in range development and sustainment.”
JNTC dollars will fund things like double-digit infrared emitters, to simulate
ground targets, for example, said Mayberry. They will pay for high-speed Internet
connectivity and digital databases, such as maps or simulated forces.
A former commander of the Army National Training Center, Brig. Gen. Mark P.
Hertling, agreed with critics who claim there is not enough inter-service training.
“At NTC, we have done some great joint training, but it was ad-hoc. It
was based on what the specific services wanted to do. It wasn’t based
on anything the combatant commanders wanted.”
During one exercise with Nellis Air Force Base air-ground operations school
trainees, it turned out that the Air Force couldn’t provide close air-support
aircraft. The Navy stepped in and sent over fighter aircraft from a carrier
off the coast of San Diego. “We had a pretty good link with the Air Force,
but the first time the Navy air came in, they didn’t drop a bomb. Things
were that screwed up. Folks didn’t know how to talk to each other,”
said Hertling. “We have to get beyond that.”
In OIF, an Australian wing commander had a better capability to drop bombs
for the Marines than for the V Corps. The Australians didn’t know how
to talk to the Army, but they had previously trained with the Marines.
“Exercises need to have a closer link to what the commander needs,”
Hertling said. “We are evolving at the joint level. The services have
some pretty good metrics, but linking that to a joint environment is a relatively
Marine Maj. Gen. Gordon C. Nash, commander of the Joint Warfighting Center
at JFCOM, said that the plan is not to burden the services by creating more
exercises, but rather to enhance existing ones, like Red Flag, Blue Flag, the
Army brigade rotations at NTC and Marine rotations at 29 Palms.
“We want to synchronize and consolidate exercises,” said Nash.
For JNTC to work, however, the services will need to spend millions of dollars
upgrading their ranges. That could be a real problem for the Marines, who have
“very little instrumentation at 29 Palms,” Nash said. The Marines
historically have shunned instrumented training, and prefer live training with
Col. Walt Augustin, the program manager for training systems, said the Corps
“never had the money to put instrumentation” in 29 Palms.
“We are completely and utterly unprepared to make it [29 Palms] work
with JNTC,” said Mike Bailey, program director at the Marine Corps Training
and Education Command. “We have a lot of catch up to do,” he told
the NTSA conference. “We are committed to instrumenting our live-fire
training environment, so we can play with JNTC.”
The Marine Corps’ urban-training sites eventually will be instrumented
as well, Bailey said.
The Navy, meanwhile, will adapt to JNTC requirements by taking advantage of
existing systems, said Heimgartner. “As we mature JNTC, we have to build
on what we’ve already invested.” The Navy has spent hundreds of
millions of dollars in the battle force tactical trainer system, said Heimgartner.
“We have money already dedicated to buying the new generation of trainers
Losing the live-fire range in Vieques, in many ways, was good news for the
Navy, he said. “It finally kicked us out of the Cold War approach to training,”
in a single site, in blue water and not joint. Without Vieques, the Navy increasingly
is training along the Atlantic and the Gulf Coast, setting up a network of ranges
much along the lines of JNTC, he said.
Heimgartner stressed that he is in favor of shifting more of the live training
to simulators, a notion that does not fly with many junior officers, who dislike
simulators and view them as poor substitutes for flying hours.
“I’m convinced we are ready to make the leap to where simulation
actually can replace some live fire,” he said. “Having grown up
in airplanes, one of the worst things one could talk about was replacing flight
hours with simulation hours.”
In the future, he said, “one of our challenges will be the right proportion
of live and virtual.”
The concept of JNTC is not foreign to the Navy, which has for years conducted
training via remote links. “When we are out at sea, we don’t have
fiber-optic cable hooked to the carrier, as we drag it around through the ocean.
We’ve always done distributed training and distributed operations,”
“The challenge will be to take what we do at sea and link it to this
JNTC effort ashore. We are not there yet. Not close to the level that it needs
On the aviation front, the Navy expects to conduct up to 14 percent of all
flight training in simulators, said Rear Adm. Mark P. Fitzgerald, director of
“There’s a certain balance that we have to strike between flying
and simulation,” he said. "Things that require in-cockpit technical
knowledge can best be done in a simulator. You don’t have to expend flight
time. Those things that require basic flying skills are best done in the airplane.”
The Air Force has not yet set a numerical goal for simulation-based training,
but generally the service is moving in that direction, said Col. Michael Chapin,
director of the Air Force Training Systems Product Group.
“We need a training program that looks broadly at live vs. simulation,
and replaces live only with simulations that can be done in high fidelity,”
Chapin told National Defense. Fighter aircraft trainers, for example, are static,
because it would cost billions of dollars to simulate the gravity forces of
high-performance flying. “They can do that cheaper in the aircraft,”
he said. “Other features can be done in simulation that couldn’t
be done 10 years ago.”
Chapin’s office now is focused on networking existing flight simulators
under the Distributed Mission Operations program, or DMO. This effort is replacing
what used to be called DMT, or Distributed Mission Training.
“Team training and mission rehearsal is what we are after,” said
Chapin. “So far, we’ve done LAN connectivity between a few trainers,
without much in the way of mission rehearsal. We have to move beyond that.”
Often, he said, “The first time we work together in a strike package
is during the first night of the war. That is not healthy for anyone.”
The DMO network will include 187 cockpits and 549 aircrews.
For joint close-air support, the DMO program will develop an air-to-ground
simulator, said Chapin.
Air Force Capt. Ryan “Buster” Hodges, an F-15 pilot with the 71st
Fighter Squadron at Langley Air Force Base, had mixed reviews about simulators.
The F-15 trainer, he said, is not as realistic as flying the jet, but serves
as a “decent substitute for familiarization.”
The fidelity of the imagery, however, is so much better in the simulator than
in the jet that it results in “negative training,” said Hodges.
F-16 pilot Maj. Dave “Oscar” Meyer, of the 157th Fighter Squadron,
in the South Carolina ANG, said that the command-and-control fidelity is much
better in the simulator than in reality, which also leads to negative training.
“The communications are 100 percent in the simulator,” said Meyer.
In combat operations over Iraq, however, the AWACS “only hears you 50
percent of the time.”
For DMO to be effective, he said, “you need the AOC [air operations center]
in the training,” so the command-and-control is executed more realistically.
Marine Capt. Steve Myers, a helicopter pilot, said simulators generally are
bad news. “The status is pretty poor,” he said. “The simulators
we have are pretty low-rent. Somewhere between an Atari and a Commodore 64.
... We are 1970s guys, in terms of technology.”
But even the high-end simulators cannot truly replicate live flying, said Myers.
“What I want to do is go out with live ordnance and get in close. I am
not sure that technology exists yet to really simulate how we fight. That is
not to sound high and mighty. It’s just the truth. Our best simulator
for us is our airplane.”