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Electronic Warfare: Lt. Col. Antony Buck, Commander, USAF POLYGONE EW Range


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Lt. Col. Anthony "Stash" Buck is the Commander of the US Air Force’s POLYGONE EW range, which is part of the Warrior Preparation Centre located near the Ramstein base in Germany. He talks through a few of the aspects that concern him in this field.

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Electronic Warfare: Lt. Col. Antony Buck, Commander, USAF POLYGONE EW Range

  1. 1. Airborne Electronic Warfare training across the Atlantic Lt. Col. Anthony Buck is the Commander of the US Air Force’ POLYGONE EW range,which is part of the Warrior Preparation Centre located near the Ramstein base in Germany. He talks through a few of the aspects that concern him in this field, before delivering his seminar in September.Defence IQ: I’m interested to hear, first of all, as I’m sure many of our listeners are, just whatthe Warrior Prep Centre is all about; how the POLYGONE EW range fits into that, and whatthe chief aims are for this particular division.Buck: Okay, well, the Warrior Preparation Centre is a wing organisation that answers directlyto the United States Air Forces in Europe Headquarters. Their vision is to provide innovative,realistic warfighting training in Europe, and this warfighting training is not just for UnitedStates air forces in Europe, but it also involves our NATO partners, coalition partners;anybody in the area in Europe, basically. Their mission is to create, support and sustain therealistic war fighting training opportunities within the European continent. Really, the goalthere is to provide certified, standardised and credible JTAC training, enhanced theatre pre-deployment training for those units going downrange, to build NATO tactical air forcecapability, and to present a theatre-wide exercise support base for joint task force training, airforces training, and air and space operation centre – or AOC – training. Dept 3 here atPOLYGONE EW range, is one of five different detachments of the Warrior PreparationCentre, and our piece of the pie is to provide the physical location for, mostly for live training,EW training, in Europe. We are the only EW training facility on the continent of Europe, so weget a lot of customers from Germany, France, and the surrounding area here.Defence IQ: We’ll take a look at that topic now. I gather that most EW simulators for aircrews are now reaching the end of their lifespan, but there are few, if any, crediblealternatives to replace them. How is the Air Force looking to overcome this problem, sir?Buck: Yes, that’s a good point. Our simulators are reaching the end of their life cycle. Ourcurrent simulators had a life cycle out to about the 2015 time frame, and there is currently astudy going on…they were just over here in Europe from the States, talking with some of ourGerman counterparts. The study is trying to decide, or trying to determine whether it is morecost effective to go with live system capabilities; the former Soviet Union emitters, etc, or tocontinue down the path of creating a follow on simulator, or a series of simulators, to provideEW training of the future. What we’ve seen so far is that for the current simulators that wehave in the inventory, there has been a life cycle extension for those simulators, anywherefrom five to eight years beyond their current life cycle, and this is just a commitment tomaintain support for those simulators while this study is going on, and while the follow on next
  2. 2. generation simulator development is in process. We think that by the year 2015 we’re going tohave a good idea on whether we’re going to focus on more live systems, or continue on thedevelopment of the next gen simulator to make sure that we have that training capability forthe out years in follow and forces.Defence IQ: And in terms of importance, without this system in place, how exactly do youthink that would impact the advancement for future operations?Buck: That’s a good question too. Around the tactical air forces – the combat air forces ofthe United States anyway – our EW training capability, as we get closer and closer to the endof our life cycle on simulators, it really causes a problem for the smaller – what we call,backyard – ranges, that are associated with many of the wings throughout the United States.Those smaller backyard ranges, the EW training capability on those ranges will pretty muchgrind to a halt. There’ll be a consolidation of assets from these smaller ranges to the largerbig three to five ranges, Nellis being one of those. And that’s going to increase our reliance onlive systems as well, because the bigger ranges do have some live capability. What’s thisgoing to mean to the impact on training funds and what-not? It’s going to increase our costsdramatically; maintenance is going to obviously go up as we extend life cycles and theequipment gets older and older. There is going to be an increased cost in TDYs for unitsgetting ready to deploy, that need to update their EW training currencies. Instead of havingthose backyard ranges with EW capability, they’re going to have to deploy to one of the largerranges and get their EW training there before they deploy overseas. So, it’s going to end upcosting us; there’s going to be a consolidation within the EW training capability community,and it’s going to end up costing us more in maintenance and travel for units to get theircurrencies updated.Defence IQ: Clearly a priority to get the system up and running then. Just stepping awayfrom the simulator dilemma for now, sir, and looking at general training – what recentexamples could you perhaps provide us on the operational feedback that you’ve received thathas helped you to shape how you actually instruct EW aircraft operators today?Buck: Our training capability here at POLYGONE is really, has been focused on fighteraircraft. We have been, over the last year or two, we’ve been getting a lot more trainingrequests for helicopters and tactical airlift aircraft; those platforms that are seeing more andmore work over down in the AOR. The requirement has forced us to focus on the lesstechnical threats, such as the man pads, or the surface to air missiles that are infrared guided,man-portable; so we’ve been using one of our systems much more lately. It’s a system that isdeveloped and produced out of the UK actually, it’s called Malina; and it’s an IR/UVstimulator. And it is really used to simulate those low tech surface to air missiles that could beman-portable, and could be very dangerous down in the AOR today. We are also looking atexpanding our training capability to include those C2ISR type platforms, the bigger platformsthat are doing a lot of work in the AOR right now. The problem that we’re seeing as far asoperational utilisation on the range, is that with the ops tempo that’s going on right now, aswell as several of the national draw-downs of air forces in Europe, to include the US Air Forcefootprint here in Europe, we’re seeing less utilisation from the fighter aircraft, and increasedutilisation from helicopters and the tactical airlift.Defence IQ: Very interesting, thank you. And in examining the double digit threat – thatbeing the sophisticated new generation surface to air missiles – what are the overallstrategies in tackling these weapons in particular, from a simulation perspective? And howmuch has this approach advanced, or indeed, what plans do the US Air Force have for furtheradvancement?Buck: I can speak to this from a training capability perspective, in that we’ve had a coupleof…in the States we’ve had a…there were a couple of pedestals that were developed,designed and produced, to simulate a double digit threat. And those two pedestals havebasically been in maintenance for the last four years since they’ve been introduced. They’vehad a lot of issues with their emitting the correct signals, and their capabilities in, over thelong term being reliable enough to produce those signals for any kind of training capability ina sustained environment. Right now the production line, it’s basically been halted on those,
  3. 3. and they’re re-looking at whether or not to continue with a enhance/upgraded version of thosepedestals, or to go in a different direction as far as maybe re-thinking whether we use morelive systems, former Soviet Union systems, or we continue along the path with the nextgeneration simulators that will include the double digit capability.In the States, we found that the double digit training has really morphed to be not soapplicable to our everyday forces that the standard fighter aircraft and better aircraft that maybe flying in area of operation today. It’s morphed into more of a fifth generation trainingrequirement, and the stealth technology has been important in the development of tactics andtake down capability of the double digit SAM. So, that being said, there’s not a lot that we canreally talk about in this venue, but I will say that there have been, and continue to be, a lot ofquestions asked about double digit training capability, not only from the US side, but from ourNATO partners as well as other coalition partners, and how we’re going to tackle that animalas we’re faced with it in the future.Defence IQ: I’m sure it will come up in the conference. Other than the topics we’vediscussed here, what aspects of this field are you most looking to gain some insight into at theevent? What are the key concerns our delegates should be discussing from your point ofview?Buck: Well, from my point of view, I am hoping that – and I’m going to bring some of this upduring my presentation – I’m hoping that there is a concerted effort across the NATO forcesas well as individual country forces, that folks are starting to look at the live virtualconstructive training capability, and look at it in a way of making sure that we arestandardising across the board as far as NATO investigates the LVC training capability. It’scritically important that a standard be developed and adapted so that individual efforts areinteroperable and compatible with each other, so that we can have a European trainingcapability across the board. This will lead to far more efficient and cost effective developmentof the LVC training capability and it will lead to an increase in the training capability for eachof the individual countries as well. I think, just off the top of my head, a few things thatdefinitely need to be incorporated in the standardisation of this development, the developmentof the training capability, is to make sure that we have a standard architecture that everybodyis basing their development on. And by this, I mean, right now we’ve noticed in the States –and the LVC capability in the States is still fledgling – but we’ve been at it for now, probablythe last ten years or so, and really, the last five years have been pretty active. But we’venoticed that there are several different architectures out there that the different divisions of ourdefence have been using, that are not compatible across the spectrum.So, there’s been an architecture called TENA, which stands for Training Enabling NetworkArchitecture, which has been developed to kind of, bridge the gap between all these otherarchitectures, to make sure that each of the navy, air force, army systems can talk to eachother. It provides an architecture that’s standardised. I think as NATO investigates LVC, theyneed to make sure that they identify an architecture and maybe piggyback on what we’redoing over in the States on this, to make sure that everybody is designing their operationsaround the architecture so that it’s all interoperable. Also, the multi-level security solutionsthat allow each country to basically play within the architecture to its fullest capability, needsto be common; it has to be; if there’s a bunch of different solutions out there, then as wefound in the States, it becomes costly in the long run, because we have to go back and fixthose incompatibilities. And then lastly, and probably most importantly, we need to make surethat we have a standardised communications backbone that all of this architecture andequipment will operate on. Right now, we have the range up in Sweden that has a verypronounced backbone, communications backbone; we have the POLYGONE here inGermany; we have Spadeadam in the UK; we need to make sure that we have compatiblearchitecture for the actual electrons to all run over and talk with each other. Those are justsome of the ideas that are really lessons that we’ve learned over in the States, that I’m hopingthat as NATO starts getting interested in the LVC training capability, that they take a goodhard look at before the development gets too far down the road.
  4. 4. Our 10th annual Airborne Electronic Warfare Conference takes place betweenSeptember 28-29 2011 in London. You can register through our website, e-mail, or phone us on +44(0)207 368 9300.IQPCPlease note that we do all we can to ensure accuracy within the translation to word of audio interviews but that errors may stillunderstandably occur in some cases. If you believe that a serious inaccuracy has been made within the text, please contact +44(0) 207 368 9334 or email