JOTM 2000; training the 'eyes in the sky'
Gary Parsons reports from RAF Waddington
AWACS aircraft from Europe were at RAF Waddington over the fortnight of 9 - 20 October to participate in an exercise designed to advance the means by which they share and use information crucial to winning and keeping command of the air in wartime.
The exercise was the first of its kind to focus specifically on data link command and control, and E3 airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft from NATO and France as well as Britain took part. Italy joined the RAF in providing fighter participation.
Entitled the "Joint Tactical Information Distribution System Operators' Tactics Meet", or JOTM to save breath, the exercise comprised a week's build-up and familiarisation flying followed by a week's intensive air training against a large number of ground attack aircraft in a simulated hostile environment.
The air training was that of offensive and defensive air packages, each supported by an E3 AEW aircraft, attacking and defending respectively the target range at Spadeadam at Carlisle in Cumbria. Offensive forces comprising Tornado GR1s, Jaguars and Hawks supported by an E3 "attacked" the range, which was defended by RAF and Italian Tornado F3 fighters, also under the control of an E3. Each E3 controlled and directed its own air package more effectively than the other, thereby outwitting its opponent and succeeding in its assigned exercise role. The exercise will be analysed for lessons learned which will then be incorporated in future standard operating procedures.
In May 99, the decision to cancel JOTM 99 was made based on Operation Allied Force (OAF) commitments and the resulting ops tempo. A way ahead for JOTM was forged earlier this year, capturing the work progressed for JOTM 99.
During Operation Allied Force (OAF), Coalition Forces, both Air and Maritime, were plagued by numerous challenges while striving to build and maintain an effective JTIDS/Link 16 architecture in support of the war effort. From the OAF Lessons Learned it was abundantly clear that JTIDS/Link 16 Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) would be necessary to solve some of the problems encountered and to support future operations.
The importance of JOTM was made evident from the OAF experience - it was agreed that although the lessons learned from OAF must be part of the planning process for JOTM 2000, the focus must remain to develop the tactical use of JTIDS/Link 16. As a result of the experience gained in OAF, however, the original objectives were modified to develop Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for Link 16 Platforms to support coalition operations, validate SOPs in a realistic Link 16 airborne environment and conduct JTIDS tactical training.
As a result, 2 Group UK, the former 11/18 Group, and HQ NAEW&C Force Command, sponsored JOTM 2000 at RAF Waddington. SHAPE Endorsed the JOTM goals and underwrote the Tactical SOPs, which require that JOTM looks at Link 16 only and at the Operators Tactical Level, and that tactical Link 16 SOPs form one aspect of wider Multi-Link Operating Procedures.
The Link 16 players arrived at Waddington without any major problems and following a rapid administrative inprocessing the afternoon of the first day began with a welcome from AOC 2 Group, followed by a day and a half of briefings on the capabilities and limitations of the Link 16 participants and the exercise programme. Link 16 participants included the RAF E3D Sentry, NATO E3A from Geilenkirchen, the French Air Force E3F from 36 Squadron at Avord, French Navy E2C Hawkeye from Flotille 4 at Lorient and six Italian Tornado F3s from 12 & 31 Squadrons at Gioia del Colle. For the first week RAF 11 Squadron Tornados operated from Leeming and deployed to Waddington on Monday for the tactical phase. Although not Link 16 equipped, the UK ASACS sites at Buchan and Neatishead provided support to the Meet. JOTM attracted observers from the USAF E3B/C AWACS, E8 J-STARS, Sea King AEW, Belgian Air Force and TLP. Surprisingly, it was the first opportunity that the two French units have had to work together in the two years since the Navale obtained its two E2C Hawkeyes.
The first week's work-up phase met with some successes, in particular for the visiting crews whose Link 16 experience is very limited compared to the more experienced E3D and F3 communities. The FRA DA 20 Falcons and Spadeadam range provided valuable EW training and opposition aircraft were provided by 100 Squadron Hawks, flying from Leeming. While the work up phase of the Meet tasted some success, operation of the Link identified some factors which, while not preventing its operation, needed resolving to allow it to be used more efficiently and effectively. One of the aims of the Meet - to develop Link 16 SOPs - will help overcome some of the difficulties encountered and aid its more widespread use throughout a growing number of Link 16 operators. Wing Commander Chris O'Connell, the co-ordinating RAF officer, said:
"The object of the exercise is to use
the draft SOPs, develop them so they work and issued to all the various Link 16
participants to actually use and operate with. Everybody's background varies from
reasonably expert to those that have just got the Link, so the first week has been very
useful as a shake-down for everyone to get used to operating the equipment. It's been very
successful, everyone's said they've achieved an awful lot out of it, you can hear the buzz
of the guys de-briefing, everyone's feeling very enthusiastic. SOPs seem to be working
reasonably well, we're only having to tweak them marginally."