SUFFOLK, Va.--Bold Quest 19.1 (BQ19.1), the latest in a series of Coalition Capability Demonstration and Assessment events sponsored by the Joint Staff, concluded May 29 in Finland following nearly two months of on-site preparation, labs, testing, and 18 days of data collection and assessment.
Approximately 2,200 service members, including 700 Finnish Defence Forces (FDF), civil servants and contractors participated in the BQ19.1 testing phase, which ran May 6 through May 24. Representatives from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and National Guard participated in the Finland-hosted integration of demonstrations and capabilities alongside 15 partner nations. The largest contingents hailed from the U.S., Denmark, France, Norway and Sweden. Australia, Belgium, Canada, Germany, Great Britain, Jordan, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, and New Zealand also participated in BQ19.1.
Bold Quest is a collaborative, joint and multinational enterprise in which nations, services and programs pool their resources in a recurring cycle of capability development, demonstration and analysis. Conceived in 2001 as a “Combat Identification” technical project, the first operational demonstration took place in 2003 with U.S. forces and five other partner nations. Bold Quest has since evolved through 23 operational demonstrations in the U.S. and Europe and now counts 20 nations in the Bold Quest coalition.
The largest and most complex in the series’ history, Bold Quest 19.1 was also the largest spatially with 500 miles separating the furthest operating locations in Finland, according to Stuart Whitehead, deputy director for Joint Staff’s Cyber and C4 Integration.
The main Bold Quest Control Center was located in Sodankylä, with supporting centers throughout the nation, including bases in Rissala and Rovaniemi. The national and multinational Combined Network Control Center was located in Riihimäki. In addition to the Finnish locations, multiple participants and support personnel connected daily from distributed sites in Europe and the United States.
As the overall operational sponsor, the Joint Staff sets the conditions for participants to improve interoperability specifically related to sensor-to-shooter in the joint fires thread.
“Bold Quest is really about problem-solving. The focus is on interoperability which just means we want to be able to operate together just as any team would want to operate,” said Whitehead. “What we do is try to identify problems before we enter a training event or before we actually have to go into operations so that we don’t learn those lessons the hard way. So you kind of think of this as a preliminary activity before you actually go out for keeps.”
U.S. Air Force Lt. Gen. Bradford Shwedo, Joint Staff director of Command, Control, Communications and Computers/Cyber and the Joint Staff's Chief Information Officer, traveled to Finland to observe the event. Shwedo said he likes how Bold Quest uses the synergy of all of the nations to fix hard problems, which goes back to the coalition coming together against an adversary from all domains with all of these unique capabilities.
“Warfare is all about creating dilemmas for adversaries,” said Shwedo. “And when we’re working to create dilemmas, more dilemmas become more problematic for the adversary. So when you look at multi-domain operations – air, ground, maritime, space, cyber – from coalition powers … the foundation of all these capabilities is interoperability. And that’s been our focus.”
“When you read our national defense strategy, it’s very focused on creating partnerships. And it’s been great to work for General [Joseph] Dunford, [chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff], because he is driving to resolve any impediments associated with multi-domain and coalition warfare,” he added. “So when you have your boss with that focus, it makes my job a lot easier when I go to Bold Quest and other places where we’re solving his problems.”
“We, of course, value partnerships, also,” said Maj. Gen. Pasi Jokinen, commander of the Finnish Air Force and Karelian Air Command and the Bold Quest 19.1 national lead, regarding his own nation’s objectives.
“Maybe our partnerships are a little bit different – we are working more closely with our neighbors who are nearby – but the general idea that we are not fighting alone and you are not alone in this world, that’s a good thing, and militaries all over the world tend to appreciate that,” he said.
“The precedents achieved in this Bold Quest are many and significant, including the most complex capability demonstration in our 16-year history, and the first Bold Quest of this nature to be hosted by a nation other than the USA., "said John Miller, the Joint Staff’s Bold Quest manager, reflecting on the success of Bold Quest 19.1.
Whitehead explained the advantages to conducting Bold Quest in other nations.
“The value here [in Finland] is that of course you’re closer to home to a lot of the nations, so it’s much easier for them to participate and it lowers their costs. It’s quite an expense for them, for example, to ship heavy equipment to the U.S. to participate, or to fly their jets over. So we do tend to get more coalition participation [in Finland], which makes it even better because that is the purpose of this activity: to work through interoperability issues with all of our partners.”
Each participating nation funded its own costs while Joint Staff and FDF resourced some of the “common benefit” support.
Whitehead added much depends on the objective and focus of the event, and the willingness of whomever the host nation is to help support the event and to take over what ordinarily the U.S. would do back home.
“In this particular case, of course, Finland’s been outstanding, and we couldn’t ask for better support,” Whitehead said. “Because of their level of preparation and professionalism, we’ve not really had to worry about anything, which allowed us to then just focus on the actual event, do the data collection, and get the most out of the activity. So, I would say that’s the big difference – much more coalition participation.”
In addition to the growing community of resource-providing partner nations, other trends include increasing leadership roles and responsibilities of partners; integrating interoperability objectives and unit training opportunities; strengthening ties with U.S.-based hosting installations and aligning with major exercises in the U.S. and overseas.
From its "Combat Identification" origins, Bold Quest has expanded to include capability development in multiple mission areas associated with fires interoperability: Friendly Force Tracking, Coalition Intelligence Surveillance and Reconnaissance, Shared Situational Awareness, Digitally-Aided Close Air Support, and Cyber (Effects, Tactical Level and Network Defense).
In support of partners’ objectives, the Joint Staff J6 directorate oversees the implementation of a coalition network designed along Federated Mission Networking principles distributed to multiple sites throughout the U.S. and overseas. This growing constellation of sites provides Bold Quest participants with additional options to participate via simulation (live/virtual/constructive) from home stations.
Regarding future Bold Quests, Whitehead said while the possibility always exists for further growth in the way of adding partner nations, “Bold Quest is really a coalition of the willing. Its scope and objectives are defined by the participants. It really depends on the desires of the nations and what objectives we want to pursue.”
Planning is already well underway for Bold Quest 20, with several nations making a pitch for hosting it.
As the Bold Quest motto goes, “Fortune favors the bold.”
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