By: CDR Joseph Toth, CW5 R. Scott Brusuelas, LTC Arild Barrett, and CAPT Matthew Butkis

The past few months have involved a flurry of activity among the Joint Combat Assessment Team (JCAT). In April, JCAT travelled to Aberdeen Proving Ground, MD, to conduct a training assessment during Joint Live Fire (JLF) validation testing of foreign ammunition. A JCAT Army element, CW4 Bart Schmidt and CW3 Mike Clark, was joined by Navy JCAT members CDR Kevin Boissonneault and LTJG Dan Rolfe for this exercise. JCAT’s mission of combat damage assessment requires team members to identify threats for the operational commander and collect combat damage data for survivability research and development. Over the course of 2 days, the team observed the JLF event and assessed the ammunition type and its effects on a rotary-wing platform. This hands-on training reinforces the skills necessary to conduct an assessment of combat damage by foreign weapons and strengthens the relationship JCAT has between its Service components and the test community. JCAT plans to sustain this type of training to remain prepared for deployment in support of the aviation community.

In addition, the Services have continued to build and train the JCAT membership across the Army, Navy, and Air Force. For more than a decade now, the three Services have made a dedicated effort to standardize and consolidate the training requirements used to prepare deploying JCAT members. JCAT officers take three phases of training prior to becoming certified. As mentioned in the spring 2017 issue of Aircraft Survivability, the Army component of JCAT conducted Phase 1 at Fort Rucker, AL, in January. A total of 25 personnel completed the week-long course of instruction, which focused on weapons and warhead effects, combat damage data collection, and casualty information collection.

In March, the Navy Component of JCAT hosted the week-long Phase 2 of the 2017 Joint Combat Assessor Training at the Naval Air Warfare Center in China Lake, CA (see Figure 1). The Phase 2 course is designed to build upon the student’s Phase 1 training with additional classroom-based training of the JCAT mission, threat briefings, aircraft survivability equipment overviews, and hands-on training in actual data collection and threat assessment evaluation under simulated conditions. Navy LCDR Louis Miller facilitated this year’s class, which trained 17 Air Force and Navy officers, as well as 1 civilian. Five Navy instructors, one Air Force instructor, and one Army instructor divided the students into four groups, with each group performing six assessments on a variety of aircraft platforms that had multiple demonstrated weapon system effects and in an environment closely resembling those of previous JCAT Iraq and Afghanistan

Figure 1 2017 Phase 2 Joint Combat Assessor Training Class

mobilizations. The aircraft “boneyard” and range are funded by the Joint Aircraft Survivability Program Office (JASPO) to properly maintain and improve a relatively large number of aircraft test articles used for assessment training.

In May, the Navy also hosted the Threat Weapon and Effects (TWE) Training Course at Hurlburt Field and Eglin AFB, near Fort Walton Beach, FL. This annual training event is a collaborative effort between the Joint Combat Assessment Team (sponsored by JASPO), the Army Research Laboratory, the Naval Air Systems Command, the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, the Missile and Space Intelligence Center, the National Ground Intelligence Center, and other agencies. The training draws information from threat exploitation, live fire testing, and combat experience to provide a complete picture on threat lethality. Hands-on experience is provided with threat munitions/missiles, test articles, and damaged aircraft components. Experienced professionals provide current, relevant information on threat system upgrades, proliferation, and lethality.

Navy LCDR Calvin Martin orchestrated this year’s event, which was attended by 122 aviation operations personnel, Intelligence professionals, weapons system developers, battle damage repair practitioners, survivability engineers, etc., from government and industry. This year’s course was highlighted by presentations of combat resiliency, recent JCAT assessments, Russian air defense artillery, aircraft stealth design, and cyber effects on aircraft. This series of briefings provided key, timely topical insights germane to current military operations as well evolving areas of importance. As the aspects of world events and operations continue to change, it is essential that the team strives to anticipate the use of the latest threats and the impact to accomplishing its mission.

In addition to formal briefings, TWE course attendees were given a demonstration via the Dynamic in Terrorism (DIT) range conducted by the resident explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) team. This demonstration introduced the attendees to an overview of the DIT course and provided an awareness and appreciation of the organization, motivation, operational capabilities, and threats posed by terrorists on a regional, national, and international basis. Although the demonstration represented only a portion of the full course on terrorism/antiterrorism, it effectively emphasized this level of potential threats to U.S. forces and equipment as well as protective measures that government personnel and their families can employ to minimize the threat.

As is the case every year, the live fire demonstration at the Eglin range proved to be the highlight of the 3-day event. The first part of the demonstration illustrated the effects of hydrodynamic ram, with two 30-mm target practice rounds hitting two fuel tanks filled with water (simulating full aircraft fuel tanks). The “finale” centered around a UH-1 helicopter, first with a static shot involving a Stinger basic warhead and followed by a simulated suicide vest containing five pounds of C4. As a result of these successful live fires, attendees received a better understanding of threat dynamics and their effects on crew members and aircraft systems.

Along with the wrap-up of this year’s JCAT courses, Air Force LTC Arild Barrett, a long-time JCAT instructor, wraps up 30 years of military service with his retirement on 1 July. “I have experienced about every status the Air Force has to offer,” he recently said, “including dependent, Civil Air Patrol cadet, active duty, civilian employee, unit assigned reservist and [individual mobilization augmentee] (IMA) reservist. Now the only thing that is left is retire!”

LTC Barrett joined JCAT in 2012 after a long assignment with the A-10 System Program Office at Hill AFB, and serving the unit before that at McClellan and Beale. Following his active duty time as a B-52 navigator, he went on to continue his service in the Air Force Reserve as an intelligence officer with a C-5 squadron at Travis AFB. He later transferred to the IMA program as an aircraft structures engineer at McClellan AFB.

LTC Barrett noted that one of the capstone experiences of his career was deploying to Afghanistan on a short augmentation tour as a combat forensics evaluator in 2013. “It was the first time in my career that I was able to use my training in a real-world front lines operation,” he said. “All my duty up to that point had been preparing to do a mission, but always in a training environment.” He also said that he found the joint nature of the JCAT mission, working closely with the Navy and Army members, highly rewarding. LTC Barrett will continue to work his civilian job at Sikorsky Aircraft as a rotor systems engineer, and he also looks forward to having more time to pursuing his dream of completing a home-built airplane.