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Exercise Black Skies 2008: Enhancing Live Training Through Virtual Preparation - Part One: An Evaluation of Training Effectiveness

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This research employed a case study strategy to examine the benefits of using synthetic environments to provide mission preparation for command and control teams prior to a large-scale, live warfighting exercise. During Pitch Black 08, we compared the performance of two Air Battle Management ABM teams one team prepared by supporting normal flying operations, the other took part in a virtual mission preparation exercise named Black Skies 08. The synthetic environment provided in Black Skies 08 was designed to simulate Pitch Black 08 as closely as possible in terms of mission scenarios, order of battle, airspace, procedures, and tactics. The evaluation of the training provided in the virtual mission preparation was carried out using the four-level model Reaction, Learning, Behavioural, and Results critera. The members that participated in Black Skies 08 reported that the virtual mission preparation compared favourably to both regular training and live exercises in terms of the capacity to provide training experiences critical to the ABM role. Over the course of the virtual mission preparation, the ABM team displayed a marked improvement in teamwork processes, motivational state, and across most mission essential tasks. During the subsequent live warfighting exercise, the teamwork processes and taskwork performance of this team were rated as better overall than those of the matched ABM team that did not take part in virtual mission preparation. The virtual mission preparation also demonstrated a broader organisational and operational value to the RAAF it provided the White Force with the opportunity to identify deficiencies in, and mitigate risks associated with, the Pitch Black mission scenarios and it allowed the ABM team to refine their Pitch Black plans and procedures, enabling them to more effectively utilise the valuable training opportunity presented by a large-scale, live warfighting exercise.

Subject Categories:

  • Cybernetics
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics
  • Human Factors Engineering and Man Machine Systems
  • Personnel Management and Labor Relations

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