WASHINGTON– Modern technology makes warfare more fast-paced, efficient and deadly, but the ever-present confusion or “fog” of battle still causes inadvertent deaths of friendly forces and civilians.
The two-week Bold Quest 2009 exercise that began Oct. 27 at Camp Lejeune, N.C., and Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C., seeks to identify emerging technologies that can be used to save military and civilian lives during combat operations.
This year’s exercise is looking for ways to better aid combat air crews in differentiating between friendly and enemy forces and civilians during air-to-ground support operations, said Bold Quest coordinator John Miller, a civilian member at Norfolk, Va.,-based U.S. Joint Forces Command that sponsors the annual exercises.
“That means kill the right target and avoid fratricide,” Miller said today in an interview with reporters from Camp Lejeune.
Bold Quest also is a coalition affair, Miller said, noting 10 nations are actively participating in this year’s exercises with some other countries sending observers.
The coalition component, he said, is an important factor as part of efforts to improve combat identification.
About 1,000 military members are participating in Bold Quest, which includes about 20 U.S. and Canadian aircraft and some 80 U.S. ground vehicles.
Soldiers from the U.S. Army’s 2nd Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, 4th Brigade Combat Team, 10th Mountain Division, are heavily involved in all of Bold Quest’s ground operations, Miller said.
“The purpose of this is indentifying ground troops with this technology, and we’re providing the ground troops,” said Army Capt. Bixler Benson, part of the 10th Mountain contingent bivouacked at the exercise’s tactical operations center at Camp Lejeune.
Benson’s soldiers, he said, are incorporating routine field training as part of their role in the exercise, while interacting with coalition participants.
Coalition partners at Bold Quest demonstrations desire “an early look at what has military utility and what warrants a future investment in further development and fielding,” Miller said.
Canada, a long-time participant in Bold Quest, wants “exposure to future technologies to fill capability gaps in combat identification,” said Cmdr. R.S. Edwards with the Canadian Forces.
The Canadians also are interested “in exploiting new systems for improved interoperability, particularly with the United States, but also with our coalition partners,” Edwards added.
Bold Quest “represents a very safe and testable environment where we can evaluate interoperability for our own systems to make sure that we can cooperate in the field and that we can develop then common procedures in order to operate effectively,” said Norwegian Lt. Col. Bjorn Kristiansen.
The exercise, Miller said, seeks to provide “shooters with the tools to help them to sort out the confusion that they confront on a daily basis, whether from the air or the ground.”
A variety of sensor equipment is being tested, Miller said. For example, “interrogators” installed on aircraft are designed to enable friendly aviators, through query and response, to identify friendly ground troops that carry “responders” on their vehicles.
Other identification devices being tested, he said, are designed to be carried by friendly soldiers and noncombatant civilians.
Yet, because the potential for human error cannot be totally factored out, it’s unlikely that fratricide or civilian casualties will be completely eliminated from warfare, Miller acknowledged.
However, “we can take some steps to try to minimize it,” he said.