U.S. Joint Forces Command will partner with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency to kick off Empire Challenge 2008 in China Lake, Calif., this week, a demonstration designed to enhance joint and coalition interoperability.
By Robert Pursell
(CHINA LAKE, Calif. – July 7, 2008) –- U.S. Joint Forces Command (USJFCOM) will partner with the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) for a demonstration focused on improving joint and coalition intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) interoperability began here at the Naval Air Warfare Center this week.
Empire Challenge 2008 (EC 08), which will run through Aug. 1, will look at the interoperability of ISR systems and data of the services, as well as coalition partners. Army Col. Charles Mehle, who commands USJFCOM's Joint Transformation Command - Intelligence (JTC-I) explained the overall purpose.
"The Empire Challenge series, which started back in '04, was designed for their interoperability demonstrations," he said. "It's one thing to say that we work well as a joint team or as a coalition, but it's another thing to actually, do it, perform it, demonstrate it, watching data, watching networks connected that aren't routinely connected as a matter of daily operations."
John Kittle, the USJFCOM lead for EC 08, said the demonstration will link up a number of ISR data collection systems with each other and look at how they talk to one another. "It remains, as in previous years, on systems and data interoperability," Kittle said.
"It's still very much a data standards-driven event, where they are making sure the data in one service's system can be transmitted to another system and received exactly how it was sent, then the same with our services to our coalition members. So it's very much still a technically oriented activity."
Kittle said foreign partners for EC 08 include the U.K., Canada and Australia, as well as other NATO countries. He explained their benefit.
"There is work being done by the coalition guys who are bringing equipment out there that they intend to take to theater, so they're using this as an opportunity to do some pre-deployment training and work the bugs out of their systems in a real desert environment. China Lake is about 115 degrees in the summer so it's going to be pretty close to what they're going to see."
Mehle discussed a recent coalition success that came out of last year's Empire Challenge. "The Brits were able to accelerate the fielding of the GR-4 Tornado Raptor Sensor System," he said.
"It's a sensor system that goes on the Tornado aircraft that was not going to be ready for fielding for a period of time, but due to the demonstration…the live connect, to make it work in a tactical environment, they were able to accelerate that fielding and get it to Afghanistan. That becomes the value of this. This is a demonstration of things that typically sit conceptually."
Recently, it was announced that USJFCOM will take the lead in Empire Challenge 2009 (EC 09), the under secretary of defense for intelligence's premier ISR event. The focus will be on military operations. Kittle explained what he'd like to see come out of EC 08 to set the stage for EC 09.
"I would like us to be able to move the work down the road that needs to be done on data standards, meta-data standards, the interoperability standards…keep moving that requirement down the road so we can take that goodness, where we ensure the data's interoperability between the services and the coalition, and then in EC 09, take that and apply it to real warfighter requirements."