Virtual training takes wing
Winged Warrior is an exercise like no other. Across the crowded floor of the Lecture Training Facility at Canadian Forces Base Edmonton, long rows of flashing computers light up with complex grids and brightly coloured aerial trajectories.

Technicians sit awash in the ethereal glow of the monitors with headphones on as they carefully survey the complicated series of maps, their eyes scanning a very convincing graphic of a helicopter in flight. The buzz of the communications chatter can be heard as pilots call in their movements and role players respond as air traffic controllers.

The simulation is so detailed that pilots can see a realistic instrument panel; out the window the ground zips by as door-gunners watch over the barrels of their M-134 Dillon guns for any possible threats to the mission.

To an outsider, this mix of civilian and military might look like a large, in-depth computer game. Unlike a video game, though, if trainees get killed in this virtual world, it means the mission was a failure and mistakes could have cost the lives of others.

Winged Warrior, a 1 Wing exercise, employs a virtual simulation program called Virtual Battle Space 2, along with numerous other interfaces that allow exercise controllers to provide a realistic experience to the training audience.

“In theatre, life is very dynamic, and we have to adapt all the time. This exercise is as close to reality as we can make it, and we’re able to show the primary training audience what might happen when they deploy,” said 1 Wing Commander, Colonel Christian Drouin. “I was in Afghanistan for 10 months, and having this training is critical to be able to operate.”

With the deployment of Canadian helicopters to Afghanistan, 1 Wing now uses Winged Warrior as the pre-mission confirmation for Canadian Helicopter Force Afghanistan (CHF(A). The bigger picture is that all of these moving parts must come together to ensure all air components of Task Force Silver Dart are prepared for their deployment to Afghanistan. “Exercise Winged Warrior has surpassed expectations because it’s not just a Tac Hel exercise anymore, but a pan air force one,” Drouin added.

The air force has relied heavily on land elements for the success of the virtual component of Winged Warrior, as the air force does not currently have its own simulation center. The benefit to the land forces cannot be denied though, as the purpose of helicopters in Afghanistan is to reduce the number of road moves needed for transport, thus limiting the risk of improvised explosive devices.

“There is a need to maintain the capabilities we’ve developed in Afghanistan, but while everyone is nodding their head, it’s a lot easier said than done,” said Major General Alan Howard, the Assistant Chief of Land Staff. “It’s a credit to the Tactical Helicopter community that they were able to put this together despite all of the limitations.”

– by Captain Yvette Grygoryev

Comprehending the comprehensive approach
Three D, whole-of-government, holistic, comprehensive approach: call it what you will, the notion of an integrated national approach to security operations is now a prominent focus of most NATO allies.

In Canada, DFAIT, CIDA, DND and other government departments have invested much in this new collective approach to operations, notably in Afghanistan and Haiti, collaborating with non-governmental organizations and private sector entities toward a shared goal.

Though considerable progress has been made in what is being called the Comprehensive Approach, a debate is brewing about whether it will endure once the Afghanistan mission ends.

In an effort to consolidate numerous research projects and experiences from academics and practitioners, LCol Michael Rostek, the lead for the Army’s strategic foresight research team, and Peter Gizewski, a senior defence scientist with Defence Research and Development Canada’s Center for Operational Research and Analysis, have edited a book, Security Operations in the 21st Century: Canadian Perspectives on the Comprehensive Approach, to be published as part of the Queen’s Policy Studies Series in June 2011.

Strategic implications of the U.K. defence review
Cut budgets, scraped programs, reduced force size – much has been written about the implications of the U.K.’s Strategic Defence and Security Review. Whether it is a harbinger of things to come for other Defence departments remains to be seen, but the restructuring will have a lasting impact. Brigadier Barry Le Grys, the U.K.’s defence advisor in Canada, recently outlined the SDSR for Vanguard:

“The National Security Strategy…introduced a National Security Council and a National Security Adviser. The four highest priority tasks are: international terrorism (why the UK is on operations in Afghanistan), cyber attack, international military crises, major accidents or natural hazards. There is a new emphasis on Defence supporting the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and Department for International Development.

“The Comprehensive Spending Review embarks the U.K. on a journey to eliminate the structural deficit. The Defence budget will rise in cash terms but fall by 8% in real terms over four years. There is a two-year pay freeze in Defence. The NATO target of Defence spending being 2% of GDP will continue to be met. SDSR is designed to bring plans, commitments and resources into balance.

“Afghanistan remains the top priority. NATO continues as the bedrock. New models of practical bilateral defence cooperation are being sought: UK-France Declaration on Defence and Security Cooperation is the first, perhaps. A new National Cyber Security Programme of £650M over four years is underway. By 2015, Royal Navy reduces by 5,000 to 30,000, Army by 7,000 to 95,000 in 2015, Royal Air Force by 5,000 to 33,000, Defence employed civilians by 25,000 to 60,000.”

For Le Grys’s complete remarks, see:

Making modern mugshots
The Electronic Biometrics Transmission Specification (EBTS) allows defence and law enforcement organizations worldwide to capture and store not only fingerprints and biographical information, but also mug shots, iris images, palm prints, latent prints, tattoos, special marks, medical information and more – in just a single standard file.

Greg Cannon, chief technology officer at Cross Match Technologies, says EBTS is now a worldwide standard, “in part due to the U.S. Department of Defense’s pioneer use of it in theater.” But he cautions that the mere existence of an interoperable international standard is not enough.

Some vendors still deliver products and solutions that conform to the pre-standards era in biometrics and are creating proprietary records by default. Since large government organizations are acquiring these products for national or international applications – tying themselves to a specific technology vendor in the process – the data collected by their proprietary systems is essentially unreadable by other vendors or organizations using standards-based technologies.

“For our defence programs, our government needs to promote standards-based biometric systems and define guidelines to ensure that all the acquired biometric systems can exchange data,” he said. “It has become a national security imperative.”