November 3, 2011

UK MoD's Information Superiority Experimentation Laboratory

Picture: Crown Copyright/Dstl 2011

News Report

A recent news article on the UK MOD website illustrates the activities that are performed in the Information Superiority Experimentation Laboratory (ISEL) in support of UK Defence Operations.

The ISEL, functional since June 2010, is located at the UK Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) at Porton Down in Wiltshire, and employs UK MOD scientists who support operations. The commercially neutral, Government-owned and operated building, where ISEL is situated, provides users from Government, the Armed Forces, industry and academia with a comprehensive support package that includes: secure and flexible laboratory space in ten reconfigurable laboratories, links to secure national and international network links, and access to subject matter experts from across Dstl, including military personnel.
Although the primary focus for ISEL is C4ISTAR experimentation, the facility contributes to a range of related activities, from military training to equipment capability demonstration.

The Technology (VBS2)

Work facilitated by the laboratory includes the use of an adapted commercially available computer game to provide military training. Virtual Battlespace 2 (VBS2), modified from the existing game 'Armoured Assault' by Bohemia Interactive, is now used across the MOD to provide pre-deployment training and the ability to practise drills anywhere - significantly reducing transportation and facility costs.

"These pieces of software have provided real benefit to armed forces during pre-deployment training," said Dstl military adviser Commander Mike Toft, "I have spoken to commanding officers who have told me that the repeated drilling of troops in the correct procedures using VBS2 means that, when faced with real situations in-theatre, they are far more effective; and this has saved lives."

VBS2 is a commercial-off-the-shelf, game-based training platform, incorporating a high-fidelity virtual environment, scenario and mission editors, AAR and a powerful development suite. Soldiers move in a shared, immersive, firstperson environment that supports mounted and dismounted operations. The system provides ground and air vehicles, small arms and vehiclemounted weapons, communications, and interactive opposing forces of the contemporary operational environment, including improvised explosive devices. Warfighters learn to anticipate and respond to tactical situations by practicing existing and developing tactics, techniques and procedures. Trainers and leaders use VBS2 to rehearse tactical missions and conduct AARs of training sessions using easy-to-use authoring tools integrated in the simulation.

The Technology (CFBLNet)

Dstl manages connectivity into and out from the ISEL site, and facilitates the creation of secure collaborative working environments across the UK and internationally. The Combined Federated BattleLabs Network (CFBLNet) allows those operating at ISEL to connect with sites in Canada, Australia, New Zealand and America simultaneously, reducing the need for international travel, along with the associated costs and carbon emissions.

The CFBLNet is a laboratory environment which utilizes a distributed Wide Area Network as the vehicle to experiment with new capabilities by conducting Research and Development, Trials and Assessment (RDT&A) initiatives. The CFBLNet consists of a distributed and integrated network architecture of Combined, Joint, and Military Service infrastructure components (networks, database servers, application servers, client workstations, etc.). These strings of network equipment and services are located within the confines of the various national and international battle laboratories and experimentation sites of the participants, which provide the applications, analytic tools, and communications necessary to conduct initiatives or experiments.

The CFBLNet grew out the network designed to support the U.S. Joint Warfighter Interoperability Demonstrations (JWID), which used to build a support network for the period of the demonstrations and tear it down each year after the demonstrations. In 1999, the Joint Warrior Interoperability Demonstration (JWID) exercise used, for the first time, a permanent infrastructure that became what is now called the CFBLNet, as established by the NATO Consultation, Command and Control Board in 2001.

Further Reading:
  • VBS2 White Paper (pdf)

References: UK MoD (1), US Army (2), CFBLNet (3)


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