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Virtual weapons provide realistic training in Emerald Warrior

HURLBURT FIELD, Fla -- The first integration of live and virtual net-centric weapons in Special Operations Forces occurred as part of Emerald Warrior on Oct. 25 at Hurlburt Field.

Airmen participating in Emerald Warrior will benefit from the simulation technology in some capacity, giving them experience in realistic combat training.

In the last few years, simulators have become extremely advanced. Due to safety issues, noise and other peacetime restrictions, practicing with live assets is often impossible. "Crews can train to levels [they] are not allowed to in the live aircraft," explained Capt. Gary Lee, 19th Special Operations Squadron. "I want to be able to practice what I'll do in combat exactly the way I'm going to before I go. Using networked, distributed simulators allows us to do that."

Emerald Warrior relies on sensors attached to aircraft, weapons systems and even people. This allows participants to use live and virtual signals and "translate them into protocols that command and control systems can use," Captain Lee said.

Specifically, simulating weapons connected to command and control networks aims to improve the precision, responsiveness and understanding of Air Force weapons systems.

"If we do our job right, command and control and all other live exercise players will see one seamless picture and not even know if the asset they are controlling or interacting with is a simulator or live aircraft, or even a simulated weapons system," said Captain Lee.

Emerald Warrior is a joint effort, bringing C2 technologies from Eglin Air Force Base, and virtual C-17s and A-10s from Charleston Air Force Base, S.C., and the Distributed Training Operations Center in Iowa, respectively. Each system is routed through the Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. Distributed Mission Operations Center, and then tied into the 19th SOS at Hurlburt using Air Combat Command's 505th Command and Control Wing and Joint Forces Command's Joint Training Experimentation Network.

"Working together in the virtual environment allows us to practice our tactics, techniques and procedures across the Department of Defense," said Captain Lee.

Virtual simulator participation will continue during exercises on Oct. 30.