U.S. Navy, Air Force and Army forces, along with British and German forces, concluded the four-day Fleet Synthetic Training-Joint Exercise (FST-J) March 29. This fleet exercise simulated at-sea war fighting conditions without involved units actually being underway.
FST-J employs the Navy Continuous Training Environment and Joint Training and Experimentation Network infrastructure to provide the training to the participating units in their respective homeports around the world.
“Augmenting live exercises and deployments with the quality of training that synthetic technology is making possible, better prepares participants for actual deployments,” said Capt. Mark Nesselrode, commanding officer, Tactical Training Group Atlantic. “It allows us to build and fortify relationships; it allows us to identify a more cost effective and time efficient way ahead to resolve issues of regional or global stability.
In addition, FST-J is the first time participants used the Digital Radio Management System (DRMS) to talk to one another. DRMS provided higher fidelity communications than any previous FST exercise and once fully mature, will provide reliable communications between all participants, regardless of the geographical position from which they'll execute their role in the exercise.
"The network affords the opportunity to not only bring participating joint and coalition entities together in a virtual sense, it also brings them to any place on earth,” said Nesselrode.
For FST participants, the virtual theater of operations may be the same or very near the same as any place on earth. By replicating specific features of topography, political situation, military presence and environmental conditions, forces can virtually meet their joint and coalition partners on any playing field at anytime, although the forces may find themselves well dispersed throughout the globe.
The physical distance between the participants had no bearing on the exercise because of the technology employed.
“We are geographically displaced, but in the Combat Information Center it actually gives the look and feel as if we are at sea, in a certain area of the world, with these other assets working with us side by side,” said Cmdr. Sean M. Connors, commanding officer, guided-missile destroyer USS McFaul (DDG 74).
The 56-hour long FST-J gave involved units the opportunity to train everyone from the decision makers to the crew. Leaders from the various commands coordinated battle force operations, and the crews became familiar with real-time war, joint and combined operations and the terminology used by the different branches and countries. Crews used actual command and control systems and simulation systems such as Joint Semi-Automated Forces (JSAF) and Battle Force Tactical Training (BFTT) to carry out the exercise.
FST-J enables the strike groups to correct C4I connectivity issues in port and maximize training at sea. It also provides a method for the fleet to maintain readiness within allocated steaming-days and flying-hours budgets.
Connors explained that by running the exercise pierside the Navy saves precious resources.
“It gives us the opportunity to better spend our time and money at sea," Connors said, "so it’s more of a focused training.”
Being in port had an added positive impact on the morale of the crew.
“Just a couple of years ago, we would have been underway for another week or two conducting the same exercise. Whereas, FST-J is affording us the opportunity to be in port, with our families and spending a day or two on board vice a week or two,” said McFaul Weapons Officer, Lt. Eric Keiser.
U.S. Navy units that participated in FST-J included: guided-missile destroyers McFaul, USS Ramage (DDG 61), and USS Mason (DDG 87), guided-missile cruisers USS Leyte Gulf (CG 55) and USS Anzio (CG 68), Perry-class frigate
USS Nicholas (FFG 47), Los Angeles-class attack submarines USS Alexandria (SSN 757), and USS Newport News (SSN 750), Carrier Air Wings 7 and 1, Destroyer Squadrons 28 and 2, Amphibious Squadron 2, Tactical Training Group Atlantic, Expeditionary Warfare Training Group Atlantic, Strike Force Training Atlantic, and Commander, 2nd Fleet.
Joint forces included Air Force Control and Reporting Center, Eglin AFB, Fla., and AWACS Distributed Mission Operations Center Kirtland AFB, N.M. Army units included 108th ADA, 31st ADA, and U.S. Army RTOS Trainer Fort Bliss, Texas.
Coalition forces included the British Maritime Warfare School in Portsmouth, U.K., and PJHQ, Northwood, U.K.
For the first time German units from Command and Control Systems Command
Wilhelmshaven, Germany participated.
By Journalist 2nd Class Joshua Glassburn, Commander, U.S. 2nd Fleet Public Affairs