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AFSOC uses video game--like simulation training, adds realistic, world-wide value

  • Published
  • By 2d Lt. Cassandra Saphore
  • AFSOC Public Affairs

Imagine you’re at home, playing your favorite online warfighting video game with friends from different parts of the country --each with a different contribution to the overall effort. Your goal? Mission success!

After eight months of planning and mission rehearsal, all five U.S. Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) components did just that for the first time in conjunction with the 16th annual Air Force Special Operation Command (AFSOC) hosted Emerald Warrior exercise.

Connected virtually across six separate geographic locations, SOF participants “gamed” using a mix of local, distant, and virtual players. Specifically, the players included an AC-130J (constructive) and MQ-9 crew from Hurlburt Field, MQ-9 and CV-22 crews from Cannon AFB, a MH-60 crew from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment and three groups of Joint Terminal Attack Controller’s from Naval Special Warfare, Marine Special Operations Command and Joint Special Operations Command.

The objective was to capture and collect all information from a person of interest to eliminate a threat against the U.S. and our allies within a constructed virtual environment.

“This was a USSOCOM initiative we were able to turn into a reality and yet another pathfinding step towards SOF components being able to fully exercise in a distributed mission operation (DMO) network,” said Mr. Bill Spicer, Emerald Warrior virtual planner.

The AFSOC Air, Space and Information Operations directorate, or A3, and EW planners led the effort from the 492d Special Operations Wing Operations Center and aircraft simulator facilities.

“Future technology continues to challenge current training capabilities with the introduction of virtual reality, augmented reality, and mixed/extended reality, “said Lt. Col. Heather Demis, C-146 pilot and DMO chief of readiness training. “While there are rigorous cyber security requirements and minor occasional technical issues between software and hardware compatibility, once connected, the simulators allow for streamlined joint and combined interoperability.”

These devices can be connected across the world to ensure the warfighter can train, exercise and implement tactic, techniques and procedures (TTPs) in any environment to prepare for real-world events and missions.

“The future of DMO events will include extended reality for any AFSOC platform in a network exercise through the newest AFSOC Emulator System which is currently projected to be on network for Bold Quest, a joint staff test and evaluation event,” said Demis.

With this notable success, AFSOC hopes to continue to push the envelope for DMO with more participation worldwide across not only SOF units but also allies and partner nations in training our warfighters to succeed on any battlefield. 

“Now that we are in the era of strategic competition, we must adapt and look for opportunities to innovate and transform to remain the most capable, most lethal Air Force in the world,” said Demis. “And with wins like DMO…. that’s exactly what AFSOC is doing.”