JFCOM brings virtual world closer to home

After modeling every building in Baghdad in virtual space, U.S. Joint Forces Command is turning its technology and attention to a much closer location: the Tidewater area of Southern Virginia. JFCOM will soon begin using its highly advanced modeling and simulation environment for homeland security scenarios.

Noble Resolve, a series of experiments beginning April 23 in Suffolk, Va., is a follow-on to the Urban Resolve experiments JFCOM ran in 2006. The effort will bring together JFCOM, Northern Command, the Homeland Security Department and the commonwealth of Virginia to model responses to a terrorist attack. Scenarios involve a 10-kiloton nuclear bomb headed to Virginia from a foreign country.

“We’re taking what we learned with the overseas environment and bringing that back to the U.S.,” said Navy Capt. John Kersh, head of the Joint Innovation and Experimentation Directorate’s Joint Context and Homeland Defense Department. JFCOM’s Unified Quest 2006 war game also shaped Noble Resolve by identifying issues associated with a “loose nuke” coming from overseas, he said.

Noble Resolve will examine how to deter, prevent and respond to a nuclear attack on the United States. At one point in the experiments, the bomb will explode inside the simulation, Kersh said. Noble Resolve will also strive to create processes for interactions among local, state, national and international officials, he added.

In 2006, JFCOM led the Urban Resolve 2015 experiments. The largest modeling and simulation system ever built, UR2015 included more than 2 million individually simulated objects interacting in Baghdad in the year 2015. UR2015 was used to test current, future, and experimental strategies and technologies for fighting in an urban environment based on present and anticipated threats.

UR2015 brought together dozens of military simulations in a federated architecture. The Army’s Omni Fusion simulation, which models their Future Combat System, was part of UR2015. Northern Command will follow the same inclusive, open approach.

Under the architecture, new simulations can be added to increase the system’s overall power. For example, the system could also predict damage from floods and hurricanes using the Defense Threat Reduction Agency’s blast effects model, officials said.

“We’re associating all of these modeling and simulating [techniques] for homeland defense… we’re building a confederation,” Kersh said.

Key to Urban Resolve and Noble Resolve is a technology called the Synthetic Environment for Analysis and Simulation that was developed by a team at Purdue University. SEAS attempts to model nonkinetic effects of military operations in a civilian setting, or PMESII factors. The acronym stands for political, military, economic, social, infrastructure and information effects.

The first part of Noble Resolve will take place between April 23 and 27. In August, Noble Resolve 2 will coordinate with officials in Oregon to model a nuclear attack on Portland. Both efforts are in preparation for DHS' Top Officials exercise in October.

JFCOM officials have said they plan to build intricate models of more cities. The goal is a fully functioning virtual model of the entire world, known as the Sentient Worldwide Simulation. The simulation, still in the conceptual stage, is envisioned as a “synthetic mirror of the real world” that will automatically follow real events in real time, according to the concept paper.

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