SAF exercise command post's task made easier with AI and data analytics

The Singapore Army's High Mobility Artillery Rocket System being deployed at Exercise Forging Sabre 2021 in the US. PHOTO: MINDEF

SINGAPORE - Different enemy targets can show up rapidly on the real-time battlefield map in the command post - the nerve centre that executes the Singapore Armed Forces' operations.

This is a typical scenario facing the Singapore commanders at Exercise Forging Sabre in the United States, a biennial live-firing drill involving some 800 troops from the air force and the army.

One challenge the commanders face is finding the best way to deal with these threats with the assets available, such as the air force's fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters or the army's High Mobility Artillery Rocket System.

This is because they have to consider many factors, such as whether the aircraft has enough fuel to make it to the target without jeopardising any other mission or if it is equipped with the right munitions.

The task is now made easier, with the use of artificial intelligence and data analytics.

A software engine introduced this year (2021) can recommend the solutions to the changing scenarios, with algorithms that propose the best matches of weapons to targets.

The upgraded command and control information system (CCIS) is being put through its paces at the exercise being held at the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho from Sept 14 to Saturday.

The goal is to help the commanders make faster and more robust decisions, said Lieutenant-Colonel Ray Lee, branch head at the Republic of Singapore Air Force's Integrated System Development Group.

"Machines process information a lot faster than commanders, especially when we scale it up. What we've shown is just a very small slice of what typical operations are," he said at a media preview earlier this month.

Reporters were given a demonstration of how the CCIS works at the preview at the Defence Science and Technology Agency (DSTA) Integrated Complex in Depot Road.

The primary interface of the CCIS is an electronic map of a battlefield that flashes an alert when a potential enemy is detected. The software can recommend options that can possibly eliminate it if the commander clicks on the target detected.

The map fuses information from multiple intelligence and surveillance assets, such as the Heron 1 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and the Veloce 15 mini-UAV, which debuted at the exercise.

Mr Sim Jian Ping, head of capability development (military information) at DSTA's Information Programme Centre, said at the preview that the recommendation engine takes in three components of data.

Screenshot of the main interface of the command and control information system used at Exercise Forging Sabre 2021. PHOTO: MINDEF

The capabilities of aircraft and other assets is one aspect, in addition to environmental data such as the terrain at Mountain Home. Data on the exercise's scenario is also included.

While various options can be presented by the CCIS, Lt-Col Lee said the commander still has to weigh the pros and cons of each option before making his choice, with the overall mission in mind.

Other than proposing suitable strike options, the software is also able to plot flight plans for intelligence assets, such as the Heron 1 UAV, when new reconnaissance requirements appear.

Lt-Col Lee stressed that the system - which has been upgraded with each iteration of Exercise Forging Sabre - is a constant work in progress, with technology evolving quickly.

"The system is customisable, it's future-proof. Capabilities are just parameters in the system. To give an analogy, you can use a ride-hailing service, but it can be used to call a sedan, limousine or even a bus."

Mr Sim added: "There's no real endgame; it's what we call continuous development."

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