Following the cancellation of its largest biennial air defence exercise – Exercise Pitch Black 2020 – because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the RAAF recently conducted a Virtual Pitch Black 2020 (VPB20) in order to at least partly meet its training objectives for the year.
The virtual and constructive exercise was a series of tailored and targeted training conducted by the ADF’s Air Warfare Centre’s Distributed Training Centre (AWC-DTC) with the support of key industry players such as PLEXSYS Australia, Raytheon Australia, MilSkil, Nova Systems, and Skildare with a suite of training products and systems to provide realistic scenarios.
A Defence release says the AWC-DTC provides the software, hardware and, with J7 Joint Collective Training Branch (the former ADF Simulation Training Centre), the connectivity to enable distributed mission training in the synthetic environment. It says the AWC-DTC has evolved with improved distributed planning, briefing, execution and debrief over a mix of Defence Training and Experimentation Network (DTEN) and Enterprise DSN UC.
“PLEXSYS is pleased to have been a partner in this important exercise, which helps ensure the RAAF remains ready to respond whenever the Australian Government requires,” PLEXSYS Australia Director, Robert Miller said in a company statement. “Bringing our flagship product – ASCOT-7 – to the warfighter, is both exhilarating and humbling.”
Training audiences were located at both RAAF Bases Williamtown and Amberley, and some of the RAAF’s simulators – including 36SQN’s C-17A simulator at Amberley, and 2SQN’s E-7A simulator and 41WG’s ground-based C2 element at Williamtown – were successfully networked to provide realistic joint-force scenarios.
“36SQN pilots have gained valuable experience being involved in VPB20, in particular being involved with integrated planning and execution with C2 and fast jet communities,” FLTLT Tim Smith, a C-17 pilot said in a Defence release. “We have limited opportunities to be involved in this type of integrated exercise, especially now given the ongoing impacts of COVID, so participation in VPB has been a rewarding experience for our crews.”
VBP20 lead planner SQNLDR Alexander Cave said, ”When Exercise Pitch Black 20 was cancelled, we seized the opportunity to tailor the virtual exercise to meet training objectives beyond the live exercise. Traditionally, this exercise provides a training platform as a work up but with no live exercise this year, the virtual space was critical for aircrew learning outcomes.
“Air Force, through the Air Warfare Centre, is investing in the Advanced Training and Test Environment [ATTE],” SQNLDR Cave added. “The next generation platforms being acquired bring with them advanced capabilities and the ability to create effects across multiple domains. The ATTE will enable the training, test and experimentation activities that need to occur to maximise the effectiveness of these capabilities in live, synthetic and blended environments.”
The AWC Exercise Control capability was provided by Raytheon Australia which utilised the services of MilSkil, Nova Systems, and Skildare – all of which are small-to-medium enterprises (SMEs) founded and managed by former RAAF pilots.