FORT RUCKER, Ala. — Service members from the U.S. Army, U.S. Air Force, and the U.S. Navy completed Phase I of the Joint Combat Assessment Team (JCAT) training here Jan. 28, 2022. JCAT training provides aviators the opportunity to get a firsthand look at aircraft that were damaged in the past, learn how different munitions behave once contact is made with the aircraft and, practice battle damage assessment (BDA) with an exercise at the end of the phase.
The U.S. military aviation community depends heavily on battle damage assessment and repair capabilities as a tool when it comes improvements of aircraft design. Engineers are able to determine what modifications need to be made in order to improve the survivability of current aircraft and win wars against sophisticated adversaries.
Chief Warrant Officer 4 Mark Chamberlin, aviation combat forensics officer, said “the benefit of training the different service members together allows us all to speak the same language, we all use different acronyms, so this gives the other service branches the opportunity to see how the Army uses acronyms when it comes to JCAT.”
In order to properly practice BDA, the JCAT training uses a variety of aircraft that are non-repairable. What was once used as targets on ranges are now valuable teaching tools for JCAT. Students can assess the damage to aircraft, document how the munitions acted once they struck the airframe and provide insight on how to make the aircraft safer for the pilots and their crew.
“As part of Naval Air Warfare Center Aviation Division, the JCAT training allows us to be able to study threats and combat damage and improve our naval platforms.“ said U.S. Navy Reserve Lt. Cmdr. Mike Allen. “Working with the sister services allows to know who the experts are when it comes to JCAT, and the knowledge we have gained we are to bring it back to our organizations and spread it thorough out our teams.”
JCAT phase II training for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Air Force focuses on fixed-wing assets, while the U.S. Army continues to focus on rotary-wing assets, with the training is conducted at China Lake, Cal. at the Naval Air Weapons Station. The final phase of JCAT training, Threat Weapons Effect (TWE) training is hosted at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. and it brings together all branches of the military and aviation industry partners. TWE is a collaborative effort between DoD services and JCAT members to bring intelligence and technical experts to train the survivability community.
By studying these aircraft that were previously damaged, the aviation community can continue to enhance aircraft durability based on the best lessons learned from earlier conflicts. Looking at the historical data allows the aviation community the opportunity to save more aircraft in future conflicts.
“There is a number of things we get out of this training, the largest is the knowledge retention.” said Capt. Daniel Audducchio, Air Force Lifecycle Management Center engineering directorate. “We have been studying aircraft damage and we roll that into our new aircraft designs, a lot of lessons we learn from the past are the basis for survivability on our aircraft.”
JCAT analyzes more than catastrophic events, over the years they have studied effects of everything from small-arms fire to larger munitions on aircraft. JCAT is also working to help overall survivability for the crew and aircraft, their ability to collect data on all incidents that occur in the aviation community allow them to effectively contribute to aircraft and aircrew survivability.
JCAT has assessed more than 1,200 rotary and fixed-wing aircraft battle damage incidents since 2003.