A Warfighter’s Perspective on LVC


[Editor’s note: This piece is written by Jeff “JD” Davis, a recently retired Naval Aviator who served our country for 29 years. He shares his perspective from his years as a warfighter. Davis flew over 200 combat missions over Afghanistan, Iraq, Bosnia and Kosovo, achieving over 4,500 hours and 1,000 arrested landings in aircraft including the A-6E, F-14, E-2C/D, and the F-18D, F/G. He currently is Rockwell Collins’ Director of Navy Programs in the Washington Operations office.]

Jeff “JD” Davis, Retired Naval Aviator and Director of Navy Programs in the Rockwell Collins Washington Operations office

Inside the Department of Defense, the military services, and industry, much thought and dialog is taking place in the field of Live, Virtual and Constructive (LVC) training. Within this dialog, the rationale and necessity (cost avoidance and train to the high-end fight) are consistent; however, there appears to be much disagreement in how to implement it. Much of this stems from the lack of clear and concise understanding of what LVC is, and just as importantly, what it is not.

The United States Department of Defense Modeling and Simulation Glossary defines the components of an LVC simulation as:

  • Live: real people operating real systems.
  • Virtual: real people operating simulated systems.
  • Constructivesimulated people operating simulated systems. (Real people stimulate or make inputs to such simulations, but are not involved in determining the outcomes.)

Perhaps the first step toward achieving a meaningful understanding of LVC and how we will deliver real value to stakeholders and end-users is to consider what U.S. Navy Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John M. Richardson, recently said about Anti-Access Area-Denial (A2AD). He announced that the once ubiquitous term A2AD is to be eliminated from the Navy’s lexicon. Richardson noted that although Pentagon “terms-of-the-moment” such as A2AD have been at the forefront of strategic conversations across the services and military academia for more than 15 years, he would stop using the term for the sake of encouraging more rigor of thought when articulating operational challenges.

Astutely he observed, “To ensure clarity in our thinking and precision… We’ll no longer use the term as a stand-alone acronym that can mean all things to all people or anything to anyone – we have to be better than that.” …and…

“Since different theaters present unique challenges, ‘one size fits all’ term to describe the mission and the challenge creates confusion, not clarity.  Instead, we will talk in specifics about our strategies and capabilities… within the specific context of … concepts, and technologies.”

We, like the CNO, “need to be better than that” when considering the term LVC. We must have a deep and meaningful dialog on what LVC is and what it is not.

There are several key tenants of what LVC is:

LVC is about managing resource scarcity. Quite frankly, if we had enough funding, enough range space, if we had sufficient blue and red fighters with the appropriate levels of security, we would never leave the Live of LVC. Thus, LVC is about scarcity in the training environment, off-boarding, and securely managing and optimizing those resources and capabilities that are either in short supply or vulnerable to exploitation.

LVC is about robust networks.  Referencing an often-overused phrase, “Train like you Fight,” LVC is about networks. While we cannot replicate the same networks we use in combat, it is relatively easy to crosswalk operational domain networking to LVC networking. Operationally, we use terms like Naval Integrated Fire Control- Counter Air to define a concept, or present an OV-1 with lightning bolts that optimizes various capabilities, waveforms, and datalinks such as TTNT, Link-16, MADL, and IFDL to create a resilient “meshed” network that provides insights to how the network will maximize warfighting.

Similarly, in the high-end LVC training environment, the OV-1 is not that much different when we label the lightning bolts with terms like TCTS-II or P5, and move some of the participants from the Live environment to Virtual or Constructive where scarcity, interoperability, or security cannot be satisfied. So it’s about networks, however, while we are logically and correctly inclined to rapidly, though incrementally, cobble together networks and capabilities into an exquisite concept called NIFC-CA, some are willing to wait until simply stumbling upon the exquisite in training.

LVC is about information management systems. LVC requires the secure, collection, assimilation, and exploitation of information and the timely transmittal of that information available to the user (often in disparate locations) in the form of intelligence and decision making-quality information. Interested in the pursuit of LVC, some are more inclined to pursue the “pipe” (waveform) in order to define volume/capacity, rather than a full and holistic understanding of how the “pipe” is used to manage the volume of information, who the customer is, and how that information will be used to its greatest efficiency and impact.

To understand what LVC is, we must also address what it is not:

LVC is not a “one shoe fits all” solution. The dialog of LVC should not be defined by aUSAF Red Flag OV-1 depicting and replicating the high-end, battlespace in a contested environment. It should be defined by its application to who the customer is and the needs of the customer. The attributes that LVC brings need to be scoped and scaled as tools to enable the realism to this training replication of the battlespace or the environment in which it is used.

As an example, LVC training to the high-end fight must support qualities of scalability, expandability, repeatability, security, and high fidelity.  Contrarily, in the training command for inexperienced aircrews, LVC qualities may differ. Perhaps LVC at the basic level of training is supportive of risk avoidance, safety, monitoring and evaluation, repeatability with lower fidelity, and lower complexity. LVC at the training command may simply be about exposure to skillsets and asset preservation.

LVC is not only the pursuit of the “exquisite solution”. Too often, a lack of clarity results in the human tendencies to “admire the problem.” Critical thought provides the clarity needed to make correct investment decisions, however, the search for the exquisite solution in contrast to incremental growth solutions and enhancements may offer the consequence of latency, delay, or failure to embark upon a path never achieving a solution.

In the face of what is sometimes described as a draconian Defense Department acquisition system, the risk avoidance of not investing in today’s solution in search of what’s next, vis-à-vis Moore’s Law and obsolescence, affects parties on both ends of the equation. The Service that “studies to death” through technology demonstrations is faced with a painfully slow selection process. Industry partners who “shoot behind the rabbit” and invest time and resources in order to anticipate the need of the service that “fail to launch” see that time and those resources wasted.

This does not mean that giving up on finding an exquisite solution is sacrificing capability or solution, but fixation on finding that solution may cause all to miss the boat on the next challenge. In short, in searching for the exquisite 2030 solution, we fail to consider and invest in that “thing” right around the corner that will entail a fundamental shift and take the contest and competition to the next level.

If we are truly going to begin to “train like we fight”, we need to have this clarity of discussion. We and the Services need to explore LVC with the same level of specificity and critical analysis that “kill chains” are conducted with. Finally, we all need to acknowledge the utility of terms like LVC, but our thinking cannot be handcuffed by a term. We need to be better than that.