FORT HUACHUCA, Ariz. (Sept. 13, 2012) -- Enterprise Challenge 2012, an exercise that allows agencies within the Department of Defense and international partners to demonstrate new and existing technologies, concluded Sept. 7, at the Joint Interoperability Test Command and at sites across the U.S. and Canada.
Enterprise Challenge 2012, or EC12, provided an opportunity for military services and agencies with the Department of Defense and international partners to demonstrate, test, evaluate and assess interoperability of technologies, such as sensors, systems and networks, prior to deploying these systems, said U.S. Air Force Maj. Markyves J. Valentin, project manager, Enterprise Challenge 2012.
"It allows us to work out the kinks in our systems before we deploy them to ensure they work and operate with all different services and coalition partners," said Valentin.
Valentin underscored the importance of interoperability, that is the ability to share data between the various services in the DOD and coalition allies on the modern battlefield. The recent conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq have seen an unprecedented interdependency between all services within the DOD including international partners and allies.
Interoperability allows for a commander on the battlefield to make decisions based on information that is often in real-time, whether that commander is with U.S. Forces or an international partner.
"It's important that all our hardware 'speaks' the same language," he said, "It's important that all our equipment works together."
The roots of EC12 started in 2004 with the engineering-focused Empire Challenge, which was started as a joint DOD service and coalition interoperability demonstration, said Donnie B. Self, the chief for Sensor Assimilation Division, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency.
"It was a place where engineers could bring their sensors and ground systems and see if they work together on a technical basis," he said.
Empire Challenge ended last year with the disestablishment of Joint Forces Command. Afterwards, the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence requested NGA to execute a similar exercise that eventually became Enterprise Challenge, explained Self.
Staying in the engineering-focused spirit of its predecessor, EC12 is unique compared to most military exercises, with EC12, observers and engineers can pause the exercise to resolve and troubleshoot technical problems that might arise during the event. Most military exercises focus on training and often do not provide opportunities to troubleshoot tested systems if a problem does arise.
"Sometimes, you will lose the ability to look at those things if you move very quickly through," said Gary C. Wang, director, Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance Programs within the Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, "whereas, here [EC12] there wasn't that kind of time constraint."
Wang explained that Enterprise Challenge is less costly than the past Empire Challenge and provides a venue for DOD services and coalition partners to test a variety of systems, all under the umbrella of interoperability. Among the participants of this year's Enterprise Challenge, each participant had specific objectives.
"With the Army it was about ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance] on the move, with the Navy it was about exposing data to another sensor and with coalition it was about passing specific information on the SIGINT [signals intelligence] side," said Wang.
EC12 is a multiple site demonstration, engaging nine locations, including eight U.S. locations and one international location at the Canadian Forces Warfare Centre in Ottawa, Self explained. However, JITC at its test site at Fort Huachuca provided some unique characteristics for EC12.
"JITC provides data collectors and does a lot of the technical analysis for us [NGA] and [Defense Information Systems Agency]/JITC provides the [Distributed Development and Test Enterprise] network," said Self. "Having the command center, the white cell [exercise control center] and so forth, just seemed to fit in, with JITC."
JITC sponsored distinguished visitor day Aug. 29, which allowed senior leaders from agencies within the DOD and international partners to see first-hand the event at JITC's test site on Fort Huachuca.
NGA also requested JITC to conduct standards compliance assessments of participating EC12 systems and various sensors data to assist the respective program offices in achieving their EC12 objectives. Testers at JITC assessed participants with the National Imagery Transmission Format Standards, known as NITFS, Motion Imagery Standards, or MIS, and Ground Moving Target Indicator Format Standards, or GMTIFS, for compliance. JITC personnel collected operational data from 33 different systems and sensors at various collection points within the EC12 architecture.
One of the labs at JITC, the NITF Compliant Test and Evaluation Facility oversees the NITFS Test and Evaluation Program for NGA while providing standards compliance testing services to other DOD agencies, NATO partners and commercial vendors seeking NITFS/MIL-STD-2500C compliance certification.
JITC's MIS Lab supports the MIS Board and motion imagery community by validating motion imagery standards and conducting MIS verification for DOD, NATO and commercial customers.
JITC assessed these systems with the established standards and when appropriate validated system and data interoperability, to assist the participating services and international partners in ensuring interoperability on the modern battlespace.
"Warfare takes place over networks, not just in one physical location," said Self. "Enterprise Challenge reflects that, in that it has multiple physical locations or nodes, but the real event is taking place over or on the network."