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Science and technology delivers Air Force capability


Mission-ready Air Force operators must have the knowledge and skills to work effectively in teams, often with joint and coalition forces. Large-scale training exercises are critical for building these knowledge and skills.

Defence scientists Bradley MacPherson, Simon Parker and Christopher Best discuss preparations for Exercise Black Skies 2016
Defence scientists Bradley MacPherson, Simon Parker and Christopher Best discuss preparations for Exercise Black Skies 2016

To help the Air Force make effective use of simulation for high-end training, the Defence Science and Technology Group has been conducting a series of exercises known as ‘Exercise Black Skies’ since 2008.

An integrated team of human factors and simulation researchers have conducted Exercise Black Skies prior to the live exercise Pitch Black, helping Air Force personnel improve performance through simulation training. They have been able to enhance team performance, reduce the cost of designing and executing training events, and identify the right learning opportunities within complex tactical scenarios.

The most recent exercise in the Black Skies series—Exercise Black Skies 16—was recently held within a new facility, known as the ‘Joint Air Warfare Battle Laboratory’, established at RAAF Williamtown. This was the first exercise in the series to be held outside of the Air Operations Simulation Centre in Melbourne.

During Exercise Black Skies 16, simulation systems within the laboratory were connected with the Virtual Wedgetail to provide mission rehearsal for No. 41 Wing and No. 42 Wing personnel prior to Exercise Pitch Black.

The exercise also provided opportunities for Defence science and technology researchers and their coalition partners to demonstrate and evaluate new simulation systems, performance assessment technologies, and after-action review tools.

‘The exercise was successful because we were able to balance the need to provide a valid mission rehearsal environment with a research environment to support longer-term Air Force objectives’, said Dr Christopher Best, Science Team Leader for Exercise Black Skies.

The successful conduct of Black Skies 16 marked the initial operating capability for the laboratory and the beginning of a five-year program of research to be conducted within that facility, which will form part of the Air Warfare Centre.