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Warfighter Exercise 20-3

Graphic of U.S. Airmen working on computers during exercise with 505 CCW logo and title Warfighter Exercise 20-3.

U.S. Airmen working at the 505th Combat Training Squadron (CTS) in past Warfighter exercise. The 505 CTS facilitated the replication of the appropriate echelons of the Air Operation Center (AOC) for Warfighter Exercise 20-3 (WFX 20-3), an Army exercise running 24-hour operations from 5 – 13 February 2020. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Deb Henley, photo by Shelton Keel) (This image used multiple filters, a wing logo was added to the top right of the frame, text was added the the bottom center of the frame, and the image was cropped to emphasize the subject.)


The 505th Combat Training Squadron (CTS) facilitated the replication of the appropriate echelons of the Air Operation Center (AOC) for Warfighter Exercise 20-3 (WFX 20-3), an Army exercise running 24-hour operations from 5 – 13 February 2020. 

The exercise directly trained over 4,000 joint warfighters and accomplished 50 joint training events using more than two dozen different systems connecting seven sites across the country.

The two primary training audiences, I Corps and 25th Infantry Division, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, and their respective subordinate units from junior enlisted through the three-star general officer level, were trained to meet National Defense Strategy requirements. WFX 20-3 was designed to train, rehearse, team build, and contribute to the overall combat preparation of the training audience.

A total force of 57 Airmen, including active duty, federal civilian, and contractor personnel, was tasked in support of WFX 20-3 at the 505 CTS, Hurlburt Field, Florida, as well as two forward locations. The 505 CTS sustained the bed down of 20 personnel from the Detachment 1, 505th Command and Control (C2) Wing (CCW), Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Det 1, 505 CCW serves as the U.S. Air Force's liaison with the 227th Air Support Operations Squadron (ASOS), Atlantic City Air National Guard Base, New Jersey, and 514th Air Mobility Operations Squadron, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, New Jersey, integrating with the AOC Replication Cell (AOC RC), Part Task Trainer (PTT), and Professional Control Force (PCF). 

The 505 CTS team executed 13 Air Tasking Order (ATO) cycles encompassing more than 10,000 air missions executing Air Superiority, Air Interdiction, Close Air Support (CAS), Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR), Strike, Coordination, and Reconnaissance (SCAR), Mobility, and Refueling mission sets integrating with additional training support units from the Army and Air Force in support of the training audience. This information is fed into the 505 CTS's model and simulation element PTT, which then is integrated into the larger JS/J7 Joint Training and Experimentation Network (JTEN), Suffolk, Virginia, and Army WARSIM models/networks, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to ensure Air Component information (airspace, assets and intelligence) was presented to the Common Operating Picture (COP) and various data collaboration and intelligence systems used by the training audience. This enables the training audience senior leadership to work around and through the fog and friction of war based on the best situational awareness available to plan and react dynamically in real-time to what is going on in the synthetic environment. 

WFX 20-3 trains Army Soldiers and leadership to conduct battle and integrate airpower into it. "As the CAS [Close Air Support] pilot, I role-play the pilots that are flying the Close Air Support aircraft; the simulated aircrafts were A-10s and F-16s mostly. I check-in with the Air Support Operations Center, they send me to the JTAC [Joint Terminal Attack Controller] embedded with the Army, that I am going to be working with," said Mr. Randy Horn, CAS pilot in the Air Operations Center [AOC] Replication Cell, 505 CTS. "I am working with both the PTT [Part Task Trainer] who is actually flying the airplanes and WARSIM [War Simulation] who sees the ground picture, so when the PTT drop bombs, WARSIM tells us how we did and what the bomb damage assessment is." 

"The AOC Replication Cell provides the 505 CTS with the unique capability to present high-fidelity Joint Force Air Component products and processes to Army, Navy, and Marine operational command and control [C2] training audiences, similar to what they would see under a Geographic Combatant Command. This presentation improves overall exercise realism by limiting scripting requirements and allows for a more dynamic and robust event," according to Lt Col Brian Mansfield, commander, 505 CTS. "For WFX 20-3, we coupled the AOC Replication cell with our PTT Air Simulation Model, and a team of Professional Control Force operators driving the tactical units and realistic interactions with lower-echelon Army units. This coupling increases the fidelity of training and directly translates into improved Combat Readiness."

"Something that's super, super important is the ability for us [Air Force] to be able to cross communicate back and forth with not only the Army but the other subordinate units under the major commands," said SSgt Keontoria Stephens, WFX 20-3 senior intelligence duty officer, 505 CTS. "Normally, Warfighter [exercises] are used to train general officers but in addition to training those general officers to be able to make those tough decisions, it also distributes that training down to the lower level so even Airmen or Soldiers can come in and understand what we're doing and perform this job. So I think this exercise gives us the ability to have training on all levels, which I think is very unique."

"The AOC Replication Cell is a low-density, high-demand team inside of the 505 CTS. While not capable of everything a Combatant Command AOC does with 12 highly skilled contractor personnel, they can replicate those essential products, processes, and interactions required by the other Joint Force components to conduct operational command and control training. Their capabilities have resulted in a near-continuous demand signal across the Joint Force," said Lt Col Patrick Applegate, director of operations, 505 CTS.

WFX exercises are complex, multi-tiered, computer-driven, Joint Master Scenario Event List (JMSEL) supported exercises against a competitive opposing force. WFX 20-3 focused on training and evaluating the various division staff elements and warfighting functions on command and control in a simulated, forward-deployed combat environment.

"The PTT provides the air model for the exercise, so it is the ATO [Air Tasking Order] is fed into that, there's a bunch of airplanes doing the missions and dropping bombs," said Mr. Jeff Hindmarsh, models and simulation planner, 505 CTS. "As munitions are dropped, there are effects that happen in the Army model, so things are destroyed or damaged. It counts for the battle damage assessment, so it's hitting enemy targets and effects of the aircraft dropping weapons are seen in the other systems."

WFX 20-3's exercise scenarios offered the opportunity to exercise pre-planned and immediate Close Air Support (CAS), Air Interdiction, Dynamic Targeting, Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD), Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR), Air Mobility, Electronic Warfare, Space Support, Personnel Recovery, and Weather Effects.

Over eight months of planning by the 505th Communications Squadron (CS) WFX 20-3 team gathering C4I (command, control, communications, computers, and intelligence) requirements with the training audience ensured flawless event execution. Based on C4I requirements, 505 CS planners and engineers designed and built the event network with tailored AOC systems to meet joint warfighter training objectives. Once the network architecture was established, 505 CS's Mission Defense Team provided the first line of defense to detect and report anomalies, said Major Kaitlyn Roes, director of operations, 505 CS.  "Our unique modeling and simulation suite enables operational warfighter mission readiness assessment through realistic cyber training environments."

"There's a level of unpredictability because you know what's going to happen, but you can also predict certain situations that will happen," said A1C David Alvarado, a senior offensive duty technician, 505 CTS. "So we try to input real-life situations that they most likely will have to deal with, whether that be certain weapons popping up from the enemy, or whether that be not having enough aircraft to fulfill their desires or their needs."

"The success of these exercises is really a credit to the professional men and women that make up our military, civilian, and contractor team. Our civilian personnel are the backbone of our squadron, providing decades of relevant experience with many having prior military service. They are continuously learning the latest tactics techniques and procedures to ensure the most accurate replication possible while also teaching our Airmen. Our enlisted Airmen, who are typically on their first or second assignment, are able to learn multiple mission sets and positions that give them the flexibility to fit in where we need as each exercise requires in planning or dynamically changes in execution," said Applegate.

"WFX 20-3 represented the culmination of the Korea-based WFX scenario. Together, both Air Force and Army Highly Qualified Expert-Senior Mentors (HQE-SMs), the 93d Air Ground Wing, Moody AFB, Georgia, 18th Air Support Operations Group, Fort Bragg, North Carolina, 1st Air Support Operations Group, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, 505 CCW, Det 1, 505 CTS, and 505 CS, we've brought the forth the most realistic air component replication yet," said Colonel Michael Goodman, commander of Det 1, 505 CCW. "With a new Baltics-based WFX scenario unveiling in April of this year, we're all looking forward to making the replication even better with the addition of expanded multi-domain operations." 

The 505th Combat Training Squadron, Hurlburt Field, Florida, 505th Combat Training Group, headquartered at Nellis AFB, Nevada, and 505th Command and Control Wing, headquartered at Hurlburt Field, Florida, shape the way joint and coalition warfighters execute C2 of multi-domain operations. The 505 CCW provides an advantage to the warfighter to achieve and maintain C2 dominance in air, space, and cyberspace. 

To request an interview regarding Warfighter Exercise 20-3 or the Joint All-Domain Command and Control mission, go to https://www.dvidshub.net/mediarequest.