Fort hosts joint, multinational intelligence exercise
June 2, 2011
FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. -- The eighth annual joint and multinational intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance interoperability demonstration, Empire Challenge 2011, is underway in various military locations here and world-wide until June 3.
EC11 will display emerging ISR capabilities and provide crucial knowledge gleaned from the exercise to improve joint and combined ISR interoperability (the ability of the sensors to communicate with each other and with the sensors of other nations), which will support current combat troops in the field.
The demonstration, which began May 23, is focused on near-term capabilities that can be delivered rapidly to the warfighter.
“During the last Empire Challenge, the British soldiers called their troops in Afghanistan daily to tell forward operations how things were worked during the exercise,” said John Kittle, EC program manager. “They were able to solve problems in a controlled environment and send the solutions to Afghanistan in real time.”
EC11, hosted by U.S. Joint Forces Command, is taking place in various worldwide locations simultaneously. The command center is at Fort Huachuca and the other participating locations include Camp Lejeune, N.C; the Joint Intelligence Lab and Joint Systems Integration Center in Suffolk, Va.; Langley Air Force Base, Hampton, Va.; Naval Air Weapons Center, China Lake, Calif.; Service Distributed Common Ground Surface/System labs; coalition sites in the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia; and the NATO Allied Command for Transformation in Norfolk, Va.
This is the second consecutive iteration during which the fort was used as its primary location. Due to the high copper content in the surrounding mountains, there is a complete absence of electronic interference. This attribute, as well as the very large amount of unrestricted airspace, is unique to Fort Huachuca and cannot be found anywhere else in the United States, making this a particularly valuable training area for testing and fielding ISR equipment.
“The fort has a combination of desert conditions and mountainous terrain that is much like Afghanistan,” Kittle said. “This is as close as we can get with the heat, the stressors, the terrain ... making the training true to life.”
In all, the $14 million EC11 demonstration and exercise will test more than 30 capabilities with upwards of 2,000 personnel from the U.S. and coalition partners from Canada, the U.K., Australia, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and France.
"We will demonstrate and assess the warfighter utility of new and emerging capabilities. There's nothing like a capability arriving in theater that says it will do A, B and C, and then it gets to the field and they realize it does A and B, but C it doesn't do at all,” said Air Force Col. Joe McDonald, USJFCOM Joint Intelligence Operations Center ISR integration, experimentation and system integration chief. “We don't want to leave young Soldiers in the field trying to figure out how to make things work. We need to deliver capabilities that do what they say they do."
By having their own forward operating bases here, the British and the Canadians, who currently have troops in Afghanistan, are able to replicate the operating environment in Afghanistan, providing a more realistic setting which drives realistic results, McDonald said.
EC11, sponsored by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, involved other U.S. agencies and other organizations including the Joint Staff Intelligence Directorate, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the National Reconnaissance Office, the National Security Agency, the services and U.S. Special Operations Command.