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The Joint Warfare Centre (JWC) Computer Assisted Exercise (CAX) Support Branch is responsible for providing a compelling synthetic battlefield. Over the fifteen years that the Centre has conducted its core business of exercise delivery, the simulation environment has evolved based on the changing needs of the NATO Alliance.

Every exercise the JWC executes requires a compelling and realistic environment in which the Training Audience operates. Given the scale and complexity of the operational theatres that are necessary to challenge NATO’s Command Structure, a unique approach is required — the provision of a virtual battlespace. The role of the CAX Support Branch is to provide that environment through the use of computer-based simulation models.

NATO, as a whole, is a major user of modelling and simulation technology and is continually looking to exploit this key enabling capability driven by the Allied Command Transformation’s Transformational Activities.

What sets the JWC apart is the scale and complexity of the exercises we execute. The key challenges we face are the requirement to model activity across the complete spectrum of warfare and to present the outcomes of that endeavour directly into the Training Audiences’ command and control systems in a seamless and transparent way.

If the CAX team executes as intended, the Training Audience is unaware that CAX support exists; they truly train as they fight. To that end, the JWC employs a range of simulation systems and support tools, but the Centre’s vision is actually to keep the technology as simple, agile and flexible as possible.

Delivering a CAX is the mission of the whole of the JWC. The CAX Support Branch is charged with providing modelling and simulation support to the exercise enterprise. A good CAX should highlight weaknesses, as that is the single best way to identify where, we, as an organisation need to improve in our core mission, ensuring the safety and security of the Alliance and its Members.

The greatest risk for the technical element of a CAX is that the benefits of using simulation support are outweighed by the resources required to prepare and deliver that support during exercise execution. We endeavour to ensure our simulation systems are as current as they can possibly be in terms of fidelity and data accuracy to ensure we deliver value across all of the domains represented in exercises of the scale and complexity that the JWC provides.

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Recently, the focus has shifted to large-scale, high-intensity warfighting exercises. The major impact of this change is on the effort required to build the simulation databases that represent operations at the scale and complexity demanded, and on the number of personnel required to execute them. This places even more emphasis on the requirement for the CAX Support Branch to ensure that the parametric performance data for weapon systems is correct, and also to understand how changes in doctrine and the operational art can be accurately represented in a synthetic environment.

NATO’s Level of Ambition associated with its exercise programme is extremely challenging. The increase in the number of events scheduled for the JWC Programme of Work in 2019 and onwards is an indication of the faith placed in the organisation and its ability to assist in the preparation of the Alliance.

To effectively support that continually increasing NATO Level of Ambition and to sustain professional capability over a further fifteen years require significant additional investment in the CAX Support Branch and the organisation as a whole. NATO will need to reassess both how it sources simulation technologies and how it invests in the personnel required to man them if it is to successfully execute its proposed programme of events. If that can be achieved, then the next fifteen years should be as successful as the previous fifteen.

Extracted from Joint Warfare Centre's 15th Anniversary Book: "Celebrating 15 Years: 2003-2018"

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