TWSEAS: A pratical training system for the FMF

by LtCol Frank J. Martello, Jr.

Over the past 10 years a substantial number of Marine officers and staff noncommissioned officers have been exposed to the tactical warfare simulation evaluation and analysis system (TWSEAS) either in formal Marine Corps schools or during training exercises in the Fleet Marine Force (FMF). In many cases these officers received their exposure as participants in a large exercise and, therefore, did not acquire a full appreciation of the system’s capabilities or its potential for small unit training. For others the exposure was several years ago and, consequently, their knowledge of the system is outdated. As a result, more than 12 years after its introduction into the Marine Corps, TWSEAS continues to be an enigma to many Marines. This article describes the current capabilities of TWSEAS and discusses some of the preparations and employment considerations that a unit should be aware of when considering this type of training.

During the early 1970s, the Marine Corps began searching for a more efficient method of generating realistic exercise scenarios to support command post exercises and evaluate field maneuvers. The immediate objective was to eliminate or reduce the labor intensive manual generation of battlefield scenarios designed to provide realistic training for operational units and their headquarters staff elements. Two developmental projects were undertaken to accomplish this goal. This first project, the tactical warfare analysis and evaluation system (TWAES), focused on evaluating performance during actual field exercises. The second, the tactical exercise simulator and evaluator (TESE) was developed to facilitate command post and map exercises for training unit staff sections. TWSEAS, which was adopted by the Marine Corps in 1976, consolidates these efforts to provide a realistic and effective training system for both active duty and Reserve forces.

Presently, the Marine Corps has three active TWSEAS systems. One is located at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command (MCCDC) at Quantico. This site provides tactical exercise support for formal schools at the Training and Education Center and also serves as the central network support center for all TWSEAS functions, including future development efforts. The remaining sites at Camp Pendleton and Camp Lejeune provide TWSEAS support for the operating forces of I Marine Expeditionary Force (MEF) and II MEF respectively. A fourth site to support III MEF forces on Okinawa will be activated during 1990. Although the system capabilities are consistent from site to site, the standing operating procedures differ as a result of differing missions, concepts of employment, and available personnel support These differences illustrate TWSEAS flexibility and its capability to adapt to local training requirements.

System Capabilities

TWSEAS is a powerful training medium that enables commanders to evaluate tactical exercises and measure their unit’s effectiveness in the areas of staff planning and command and control. The system can simulate scenarios involving Marine expeditionary unit (MEU) through MEF level forces in low-, mid-, and high-intensity conflicts. During a command post exercise (CPX) conducted with TWSEAS, staff sections at each echelon of the exercise force are confronted with a scenario that requires them to function in a continuously changing environment. The exercise unit determines the scope of the scenario. Friendly forces are built in accordance with input provided by the supported unit’s operations section (S-3/G-3). The opposing forces are built around information provided by the intelligence section (S-2/ G-2) acting as part of the TWSEAS tactical exercise (TacEx) team or a tactical exercise control group (TECG), if one is established. If the supported unit does not provide a TECG, as is common with battalion-level exercises, the TWSEAS TacEx team performs this function. Since in most exercises it is necessary to simulate many higher headquarters agencies and external elements with which a unit would normally interact (e.g., the tactical air command center (TACC) or the artillery battery’s fire direction center (FDC)), the exercise control team also provides the command and control system that would originate or terminate in these constructive elements.

TWSEAS generates exercise play by implementing decisions made by the commander and his staff in such areas as the maneuver of tactical units, use of supporting arms, and the employment of combat service support (CSS) assets. The control of opposing forces is accomplished by the TECG/TacEx team or by a separate unit commander and his staff in a force-on-force, free-play exercise. Once TWSEAS is aware of the combat capabilities of both the friendly and opposing forces, the system measures the results of tactical engagements of opposing units by assessing personnel casualties and equipment damage and provides a setting in which the unit commander can measure the success of his subordinate elements in accomplishing their assigned missions and his “commander’s intent.” All TWSEAS exercise activity is generated by the interaction between real world decisions by the commander and his staff and simulation programs in the TWSEAS application software.

TWSEAS simulations are now controlled by a map maneuver control (MMC) program. The MMC software functions primarily as a tactical staff training mechanism and is used to support CPXs and fire support coordination exercises (FSCExs). When conducting a CPX, the system simulates all maneuver units; when conducting an FSCEx, actual firing units, (e.g., artillery batteries or mortar platoons) can be integrated into the friendly forces constructive task organization. All inter/intra unit communications are conducted over simulated (wire) doctrinal tactical radio nets that would normally be available to the unit in an actual combat situation. These communications nets are usually manned by organic unit communications personnel, thereby providing concurrent hands-on training for junior enlisted radio operators during the course of an exercise.

TWSEAS Simulations

To fully appreciate how TWSEAS provides the driving force for a tactical scenario and taxes the technical and tactical proficiency of the exercise force staff, it is necessary to understand the simulation capabilities resident within TWSEAS software. The cornerstone of these simulations is the generation of raw intelligence data that friendly forces must gather and interpret. The flow of combat intelligence is the principal driving force within TWSEAS, and the ability of a unit’s intelligence section to gather and evaluate it correctly will determine their tactical success during an exercise. Intelligence is made available through higher headquarters agencies (e.g., information provided by force reconnaissance units or photo reconnaissance/remotely piloted vehicle missions), external units provided in the task organization (e.g., battalion reconnaissance teams and sensor control and management platoon (SCAMP) assets), and organic subordinate units (e.g., surveillance and target acquisition (STA) platoons and reports from simulated units operating in the field). The intelligence officer and his staff must use the assets at their disposal to seek out available information and analyze it to obtain an accurate estimate of the enemy’s combat power, capabilities, and probable course of action.

In TWSEAS, as in the real world, a prerequisite to collecting combat intelligence is the ability to detect the movement/activites of enemy forces. The detection module in the MMC software provides this capability through a network of detection simulations. These simulations are designed to reflect, as realistically as possible, the detection capabilities of tactical units and intelligence collection agencies available to the exercise force. In TWSEAS, the ability of a unit to observe or have an aural detection of another unit depends on range between units (and the size of the unit being observed), line-of-sight limitations, and situational variables, such as time of day, weather, illumination, area vegetation, movement by the detector/detectee, and the posture of the observed unit (e.g., unprepared, covered, a hasty defensive, dug-in, or fortified positions). Each of these variables is assigned a mathematical probability factor that is used by system software algorithms to determine the outcome of the detection situations. Further, a randomly generated probability factor varies the outcome in a series of similar detection situations. (This randomly generated probability factor also applies to the supporting arms.)

TWSEAS has the capability to strictly control the mobility of maneuver elements during an exercise. The rate at which any unit or subunit can move is determined by its mode of transportation (e.g., on foot, in wheeled or tracked vehicles, etc.), time of day (e.g., day, night, or nautical twilight), and terrain. TWSEAS can be programmed to recognize the actual relief of the terrain represented in topographical maps of the exercise area. As a result, the exercise force staff must carefully consider the terrain over which its subordinate units must operate, paying close attention to such things as lines of communication, transportation assets available, and any natural or man-made obstacles that might be encountered. The exercise force can employ manmade barriers and minefields to delay or canalize enemy units, thereby exploiting the tactical advantages of available terrain. Concomitantly, the employment of barriers and minefields by opposing forces must be countered through the proper use of friendly engineer assets.

The ability of the commander and his staff to effectively plan and coordinate the use of supporting and combined arms determines a unit’s success or failure on today’s battlefield. TWSEAS fire support and tactical air simulations offer an ideal opportunity for commanders to evaluate and improve their unit’s capabilities in this critical area. The fire support simulation provides exercise forces with the capability to execute a fire support plan and determine its effectiveness in supporting the commander’s scheme of maneuver. TWSEAS can simulate all conventional indirect fire weapons currently available to U.S. forces as well as those of the Soviet Union and its client states. The effectiveness of these fires on both friendly and opposing forces will be determined by such variables as the caliber and type of weapon system being employed, its effective range, and prevailing weather conditions (e.g., snow or heavy rain). Fire mission results are made available to friendly forces if they have a subordinate unit in a position to observe that fire. Since TWSEAS is completely impartial in its casualty assessments, consideration must be given to the “danger close” parameters normally associated with the respective type of fire support used.

The aviation support simulation, the most recent major enhancement to the TWSEAS MMC software, was added to the system in May 1984. Prior to this update, a persistent criticism of TWSEAS was its inability to simulate a realistic air defense capability. TWSEAS is now capable of providing exercise units with a realistic simulation of offensive air support, assault support, and air defense, including air-to-air engagements, surface radar detection systems, and surface-to-air missile defense systems. With the manual simulation of air reconnaissance and electronic warfare capabilities by the TWSEAS TacEx team, exercise units now have the opportunity to plan and coordinate all functions of Marine aviation. MMC monitors variables such as aircraft turnaround times, ordnance loads, fuel expenditures/ time-on-station, preplanned and on-call missions, and time-on-target Battle damage assessments (BDAs) are determined by weighted and random variables in the same manner as described for the fire support module.

The system determines casualties and BDAs when units are engaged in force-on-force confrontations and when they are subjected to direct or indirect fire from enemy supporting arms. As stated earlier, the commander’s task organization structures the friendly forces and their available equipment at the outset of a TWSEAS exercise. Tactical units normally begin an exercise with the personnel strength listed in their table of organization and the weapons and equipment allocated to them in their unit table of equipment or allotted to them in the task organization of the exercise force operations plan. These are finite quantities that will be accounted for by the TWSEAS system as the battle is fought. Units receive realistic spot reports. As a result, all exercise force units receive continuous feedback on the impact of their tactical moves and cost in terms of manpower and equipment. As units suffer attrition, their effectiveness is degraded accordingly until they are not longer combat effective. Casualty limits, (e.g., the point at which a unit will automatically withdraw from an engagement), can be set at the discretion of the unit commander. For instance, setting a casualty limit of 100 percent for a subordinate unit causes that unit to fight to the last man. Decisions in this area must, therefore, be carefully considered. The number of casualties a unit suffers in any particular engagement is determined by the type of weapon system and ordnance employed against it (e.g., heavy machineguns, artillery, etc.), its tactical formation (e.g., column, on-line, etc.), and its tactical posture (ranging anywhere from troops in the open to heavily fortified positions). Once again random probabilities prevent consistent outcomes in similar engagements.

CSS considerations are another factor that must be taken into account by a unit conducting a TWSEAS exercise. Since the system closely monitors such things as ordnance expenditures and the damage or destruction of major equipment items, developing an effective CSS plan to support the commander’s scheme of maneuver is imperative. Because all CSS elements supporting the exercise must deal with the same constraints and tactical threats applied to tactical units within the simulation modules, CSS planners must develop plans for such things as the tactical movement of logistical trains and rear area security.

Amphibious operations are the Marine Corps’ stock-in-trade, and it is also the area in which TWSEAS has its greatest potential. An effectively coordinated TECG, using the full range of simulation capabilities, can realistically execute most aspects of advanced force operations and amphibious assaults across a hostile beach. During advanced force operations, the commander of the amphibious task force and the commander of the landing force receive feedback on the results of preassault operations, such as naval bombardments, deep air strike missions, and intelligence gathered from photoreconnaissance assets and force reconnaissance team insertions. Operations normally conducted during this phase, which are not reflected in the system software, such as mine countermeasure operations and hydrographic surveys of landing beaches, can be generated manually by the TWSEAS TacEx team or TECG.

During the assault phase of an amphibious operation the TWSEAS ship-to-shore simulation allows the ground combat element commander to execute the landing plan developed by his staff and gauge its effectiveness as the tactical situation develops ashore. The ship-to-shore simulation will phase units ashore, on a real-time basis, in accordance with the landing plan entered into the database. However, the sequencing and loading of scheduled and on-call waves acquire added meaning as maneuver elements begin their assault inland to seize amphibious task force and landing force objectives. Consideration of such things as an effective fire support plan, the availability of helicoper deckspace on assigned shipping, single lift capabilities of helicopters and assault amphibian vehicles, and the capability to “pre-boat” tanks, artillery, and other essential combat equipment in landing craft take on critical proportions as maneuver elements attempt to secure their initial foothold ashore.

Maneuver Warfare

There are those who feel that TWSEAS, with its ability to provide specific casualty assessments for personnel and equipment, is an attrition based wargame and, therefore, incapable of evaluating units in the context of the techniques of tactics of maneuver warfare. This is not the case. As stated earlier, the objectives of a TWSEAS supported CPX are established by the commander of the unit conducting the exercise. Success or failure in the exercise must be measured in terms of these objectives. It is the responsibility of the senior controller to ensure that the exercise is conducted in accordance with the exercise force commander’s intent and that system output is used in such a way as to achieve/support the designated objectives.

Attrition data is not inimical to a maneuver warfare exercise. It is, in fact, necessary to any tactical wargame as a means of determining the effectiveness of fire support plans and the relative costs in terms of personnel and equipment of different tactical plans. Problems only develop when players fixate on quantitative data in an effort to determine “winners/losers” of an exercise in numerical terms, thus diluting the importance and effectiveness of the system.

Planning Considerations

The high tempo of operations within the FMF requires that all training opportunities be considered with regard to their cost in terms of preparation time and personnel support requirements. TWSEAS is similar to any other training endeavor; its effectiveness is contingent upon proper planning and aggressive execution on the part of the using unit. TWSEAS is unique in that its flexibility allows a unit commander to tailor an exercise to his specific training objectives and time constraints, thus facilitating its integration with other scheduled commitments. Personnel support requirements for TWSEAS vary depending on the level of the unit conducting the training and the scope of the exercise scenario. As a point of reference, a battalion conducting a CAX using the Twentynine Palms “CAX” scenario would normally provide approximately 10 officers/staff noncommissioned officers and 15 enlisted personnel as TWSEAS facilitators. These Marines are required to perform duties as supporting anus and maneuver cell controllers (officers/staff noncommissioned officers) and radio operators (enlisted personnel). The only prerequisites for these support personnel are a positive attitude and expertise in their respective military occupational specialties. When assigning support personnel, however, one should keep in mind that the performance of these individuals in their assigned billets will determine the quality of the exercise.

As stated earlier, TWSEAS can accommodate MEU through MEF level exercises, including individual battalions and regiments. Note that TWSEAS training is not limited to infantiy units. In the case of combat support and CSS units wishing to use the system for in-house training, a constructive ground combat maneuver element can be generated by the TWSEAS TacEx team to drive a scenario emphasizing their particular training requirements. Nor is physical proximity to the TWSEAS site a limiting factor when planning for an operation. Each TWSEAS site now has the capability to support exercises at remote locations using dedicated phone lines for the transmission of exercise data. This is particularly important to Reserve units since it allows them to conduct a TWSEAS exercise from their local Reserve centers at significantly reduced expense.

As a rule, a unit requesting an exercise should begin detailed planning a minimum of three to four weeks in advance and prepare to attend three coordination meetings with the TWSEAS TacEx team personnel during this period. The first meeting consists of an in-brief during which the appropriate unit staff representatives, usually from the operations and intelligence sections, are given an overview of the system and data input requirements concerning such things as friendly task organization, the composition of the opposing forces, and the commander’s concept of operations. During the second meeting, TWSEAS representatives will review unit input and provide any assistance required in developing the exercise scenario. The third meeting involves final coordination and resolution of any remaining problems. Depending on the size of the exercise force, units will physically set up at the TWSEAS site one to three days prior to the start of an operation in order to establish command posts and ensure all simulated tactical radio nets are functioning.

An average exercise lasts from two to five days, although the actual duration of any TWSEAS training evolution is determined by the exercise unit commander. It is important to emphasize that during a TWSEAS exercise the TacEx team works for the supported unit commander and views that entire evolution as “in-house” training for the exercise force. The TacEx team does not provide post exercise reports to higher headquarters; it only provides post exercise debriefs to the supported unit at its request. Because of the planning requirements mentioned above, exercises less than two days in duration are neither feasible nor practical. In this regard, potential users of the system should realize that detailed planning on the part of the using unit to construct the general and special situation surrounding an exercise is an integral part of the TVVSEAS training cycle. For this reason the TacEx teams supporting I MEF and II MEF do not maintain any canned scenarios designed to accommodate units on a last minute basis.

Future Development

As a result of continuing hardware and software enhancements over the past 12 years, TWSEAS has evolved into a powerful training medium. Nevertheless, the system has a number of limitations that must be corrected if it is to keep pace with future training requirements. Efforts are presently underway to accomplish this with the development of the integrated maneuver control (IMC) program, which is scheduled for implementation during 1989. IMC will significantly enhance the system’s capabilities to support CPXs by adding three new simulation modules that will include the areas of combat engineer operations, communications/electronic warfare, and nuclear, biological, and chemical warfare employment. Many of the existing simulations will also be refined/expanded to reflect an even greater degree of realism for exercise forces.

IMC will also provide the capability to evaluate a unit’s tactical performance during field exercises. Personnel assigned as unit evaluators will be able to relay information to the supporting TWSEAS site from their remote field locations using a tactical radio connected to a digital communication device. Once received, this information will be processed by the system and made immediately available to the TECG, providing a continuous update of the exercise as it develops. Throughout the exercise, operational units will receive feedback on the results of their tactical maneuvers in the form of battle damage assessments resulting from unit engagements.

TWSEAS is not a shortcut to effective unit training or a replacement for the hands-on experience derived from fire support coordination exercises and field operations. However, when used to complement rather than replace traditional training methods, the system can be extremely useful in honing the combat effectiveness of any organization. The crucial point for commanders and their operations officers to keep in mind is that TWSEAS is available today to support the training requirements of operational forces in the FMF. While the system is not perfect, its effectiveness has been well documented throughout the Marine Corps during the past 12 years. Current plans for enhancement of the system will ensure that its training value increases as the Corps’ modernization program proceeds through the 1990s and into the next century.