DATE and COEFOR in CTC
The Combat Training Centre, examine the use of Decisive Action Training Environment (DATE) and the Contemporary Operational Environment Forces (COEFOR) in training scenarios.
It is approximately 2000H. The security force currently defending the airfield has been placed on alert - there is a suspicious white vehicle moving up and down the nearby road to the west of the airfield. SECFOR has previously intercepted potential irregular forces attempting to gain entry and is moving into position to do so again.
At the same time, about 1km to the east, a three-man team of the Visayan Peoples Front (VPF) is tactically moving across the wire fence that separates it physically from the multiple rotary wing assets (CH-47 Chinook, MRH90 and ARH Tiger) parked out along the north/south runway. Once lined out directly across from the airframes the three members open fire in controlled bursts into the first three helicopters, doing significant damage and grounding these divisional assets for the foreseeable future. SECFOR reacts and dispatches a call sign to the area where the fire is coming from, moving towards the muzzle flashes, but they are also contacted and begin to engage the insurgents. As the SECFOR troops struggle to shake out and gain dominance in the firefight, they realise that the OPFOR are moving away from them in tactical bounds and they are yet to fix them in place. The SECFOR take 2-3 more bounds then are suddenly surprised to find another unseen three-person team on their right flank has initiated fire with an LSW, cutting across their line of advance. By the time they have swung their force around to face the new threat, the initial team of insurgents has successfully broken contact and moved back across the fence and away from the Australian forces. The second team, having achieved its task, is now also fading away before any sort of large-scale QRF can mobilise.
This is an example of the sort of scenario COEFOR replicates in the DATE system on a CTC War Fighter Exercise, both on Defence training areas and civilian infrastructure. Two small COEFOR teams of VPF are able to generate a disproportionate effect on target in part through use of the DATE construct.
DATE was introduced in 2018. It delivers holistic, contemporary options for training. The DATE system replicates all the regions of the world through five operational environments (OEs):
DATE - Pacific
DATE - Caucasus
DATE - Africa
DATE - Europe
DATE - Arctic (under development).
Each of the OEs is broken down into nation states, and each state can deliver a mixture of hostile, neutral and friendly state/non state actors, all of which have their own agendas. Almost every piece of information required is available in the DATE system, enabling a force to research and understand exactly what their overarching goals and interests are. This allows the soldiers assigned to be able to quickly read up and assume an appropriate posture allowing for realistic and immersive training scenarios.
If there are any gaps in the information provided, then the Training Adversary System Support Centre (TASSC) is readily available to provide support or answer any questions. This allows the unit planners to concentrate on their roles and not be side-tracked developing “enemy” scenarios.
DATE gives the soldiers who are assigned as OPFOR an amazing degree of flexibility to conduct activities with the aim of defeating the Australians. Where previously the ‘enemy’ would just turn up at the right grid to enable the Australian forces to achieve yet another victory over them, now the situation is more balanced. For example, a junior NCO will be tasked as a team leader in the VPF to attempt to damage or destroy some Australian helicopters, but how the NCO achieves this is left up to the individual. The soldier will now plan the mission using insurgent tactics or modifying them to suit the situation. Orders will be given, rehearsals conducted, and ‘actions on’ for all conceivable scenarios will be examined. Then they will carry out the mission, and if the BLUEFOR are doing their jobs, they may be contacted on the way to the task and will have to adapt to the change in situation.
All this provides an excellent learning tool for a JNCO who will build confidence in themselves as a leader, develop the ability to critically analyse the mission, produce a workable plan and execute it. The JNCOs will also walk away having a deeper understanding of Australian TTPs as they develop plans to attempt to nullify or defeat them.
1. DATE has a plethora of options to best support/challenge BLUEFOR. Confirm the requirement early and read up on what’s in your ORBAT.
2. https://odin.tradoc.army.mil/DATEWORLD is your friend when it comes to doctrine and inspiration.
3. DATE allows you to take a manoeuvre approach to OPFOR training - your plan in DATE is limited only by your imagination.
4. Most conventional DATE OPFOR elements use decisive offensive action combined with massed fires; take advantage of this.
5. The better you understand DATE, the better you understand how to fight when it’s your turn as BLUEFOR.
What is COE? The Contemporary Operational Environment (COE) is the collective set of conditions, derived from a composite of actual worldwide conditions that pose realistic challenges for training, leader development, and capabilities development for Army forces and their joint, intergovernmental, interagency, and multinational partners.
COE is a collective term for the related aspects of contemporary OEs that exist or could exist today or in the near- and mid-term future (next 10 years). It is not a totally artificial construct created for training. Rather, it is a representative composite of all the operational variables and actors that create the conditions, circumstances, and influences that can affect military operations in various actual OEs in this contemporary timeframe. This composite can therefore provide realistic and relevant conditions necessary for training and leader development.
COEFOR PL - The COEFOR element within CTC is an integrated team of full-time and part-time soldiers drawn from the Arms Corps whose primary role is to support CTC activities by providing a realistic and challenging threat force to units undergoing training on core events. With guidance from core events planners, the soldiers will work to challenge the BLUEFOR while staying within the realms of the overall scenario. Because of the diverse backgrounds and training of the COEFOR soldiers, they are able to achieve results far in excess of their numbers, utilising tactics found within hybrid warfare. A hybrid threat is the diverse and dynamic combination of regular forces, irregular forces, terrorist forces, and/or criminal elements unified to achieve mutually beneficial effects.
In general, COEFOR is less predictable than OPFORs in the past. It is difficult to template as it adapts and attempts to create opportunity. Its patterns of operation will change as it achieves success or experiences failure. COEFOR soldiers will use battle drills to make the execution of basic tactical tasks that are standard throughout the OPFOR. Battle drills are not designed for a specific unit type, but rather represent a common methodology for executing common, recurring tasks at the tactical level. They are conducted in both offensive and defensive operations.
1. Being OPFOR is an excellent opportunity to test new SOPs/TTPs; embrace it as such.
2. Put the effort in to sourcing DPDU cams/specific OPFOR uniforms - it will enhance the realism and improve the experience for everyone.
3. Confirm the effect needed from your EXCON early - this will inform your planning and ensure you best support the BLUEFOR while still getting after your training.
4. You will rarely be the primary training audience as OPFOR - this is alright, and an opportunity to train while the pressure is off.
5. Enjoy it - it’s an opportunity to grant junior leaders and small teams unprecedented freedom of action, so take it and run with it.
DATE is a modern, continuously adapting relevant product that has the flexibility to evolve when required and continue to meet ADF training requirements. With TASSC available to provide support and sub-branches like the Information Operations Network (ION) giving a real world (social media) friction to events, then brigade and battle group staff are able to concentrate on their real time work of supporting the troops as opposed to spending many hours preparing scenarios and enemy pictures.
COEFOR is an enjoyable and challenging posting where a soldier can go to develop their own skills, knowledge and attributes. It is recommended for senior soldiers as they will often find themselves co-ordinating large events with multiple persons involved and be expected to deal with any sudden or unexpected changes that often occur during training. Soldiers at all ranks can usually expect to complete promotion and career courses while members of the unit.
To learn more about DATE you can contact the TASSC via firstname.lastname@example.org and visit the TASSC website at www.DATE.army.gov.au.