Capability concepts to ensure the Air Force’s ability to fly, fight and win in the year 2038 were put to the test during the Air Force Materiel Command’s Science and Technology Wargame 2018, Nov. 5 to 9.
More than 75 participants from across the Air Force footprint, including logistics and operations experts, weapons systems technology developers, scientists, engineers and intelligence professionals participated in the S&T 18 capstone event. The games tested the military utility of more than 30 next-generation warfighting capabilities against real-world operational scenarios, with the goal of identifying the concepts that work the best and to provide feedback to improve others with the potential for success.
“Looking at the concepts from this standpoint in conjunction with operators provides valuable information that scientists and creators can then take back to the lab to further develop capabilities in a way to give us an even greater advantage in a real world situation,” said Dr. Joni Arnold, technical director, AFMC Strategic Plans, Program Requirements and Analyses directorate.
Though play of the S&T Wargame extends back to 2002, the 2018 games were executed with a unique format twist where operators replayed the same scenarios exercised during the Air Force Global Engagement games held this past July. Only this time, the technology changed.
“We really wanted to understand the best play for a concept and how it could take a war to the next level,” said Charlene Holmes-Plump, S&T 18 Lead. “We mimicked the same moves and replayed scenarios with new capabilities added in to see how the results would improve or change.”
The materiel concepts tested during the S&T 18 event spanned a wide spectrum of Air Force mission sets, to include air superiority, command and control, base defense, sustainment, strike, intelligence and more. While the games maintained a strong focus on science and technology, they also looked at the Air Force’s ability to establish, support, and sustain operating locations, impacts of adaptive basing, and agile acquisition concepts from a materiel and logistics perspective.
Tested concepts included things such as collaborative low cost missile swarming remotely piloted aircraft, reusable air defense, multi-domain network concepts and expeditionary energy systems, among others.
“We identified the concepts that made the biggest difference in the game and those that were harder to beat. We also gathered feedback from operators on other ways we might use a concept that may imply a different way of fighting,” said Arnold. “All of this information is provided back to concept owners so they can better understand the operational utility of their work outside of the lab.”
The results and lessons learned from the S&T 18 event will feed into the Air Force Weapons Integration Center’s Futures Game in spring 2019. Unlike S&T 18, these will be executed at a higher classification, ultimately taking the games to the next level.
“This will be a chance to vet concepts and see what they can do at a different capability level,” said Holmes-Plump. “The additional competencies can make us more lethal and things more difficult for our adversaries.”
Holmes-Plump emphasized the importance of the Air Force enterprise and the synergy between AFMC, AFWIC and Headquarters, Air Force, among others, in the overall success of the S&T 18 event. Each year the games improve as do the variety in capabilities tested during the event.
“Every year our team gets stronger and the number of concepts in our toolbox grow,” said Holmes-Plump. “The reality of today’s global environment and the need for our leaders at the highest level to know all of the options to maintain our superiority have elevated the games to the next level.”
The final S&T 18 technical report will be completed by January 2019 and will include key findings, insights and recommendations for Air Force technical teams.