It was one of the largest and most ambitious military training exercises the British Army had conducted in years.
There were 3,500 troops. Eight hundred vehicles. Six NATO members.
But for Exercise CERBERUS to work, what it really needed was a powerful simulator – something that could engineer conflicts ranging from full-scale force-on-force battles to small, localised asymmetric operations.
That was the work of Raytheon UK’s Advanced Battlespace Computer Simulation System or ABACUS – a high-fidelity command and staff training tool that provides interactive, real-time simulation supporting ground manoeuvre warfare staff as well as air and maritime forces.
Its purpose: to train and validate combat readiness of the UK’s Warfighting Division Brigade Headquarters.
“ABACUS is a critical enabler for British Army training exercises, owing to the sheer size and complexity of scenarios it can produce,” said Trevor Fillary, Raytheon UK’s programme manager for ABACUS.
“We offer a capability that encompasses battle group through to corps command and staff training,” said Fillary who also heads up the Command and Staff Trainer, or CAST, team providing British Army and NATO collective training.
ABACUS can not only simulate at scale for enhanced training, but its realistic gaming environment is also fully interoperable with the Decisive Action Training Environment, a US Department of Defense-owned training tool widely adopted by the UK, Canada and NATO, that incorporates real-world event scenarios, including mapping.
A group of troops discuss mission strategy during the training exercise. Crown Copyright 2022
“We provide very large mapping areas that far exceed most simulation systems, which is what the Army needs on these large exercises that often cover multiple countries,” said Robert Rowbotham, Tri-site lead (CAST Engineers) for Raytheon UK.
ABACUS technology has evolved along with the British Army to also incorporate some of the non-kinetic aspects of asymmetric warfare, such as electronic warfare and live social media and news feeds or broadcasts to replicate the full spectrum of conflict.
How we created the CERBERUS battlespace at scale
The building of the digital battlefield began a full year before the exercise. Simulation planning started six months out with equipment and infrastructure transported to Germany three months after. In the final six weeks leading up to the exercise, the Raytheon UK team arrived on site to rebuild the network infrastructure, which encompassed three separate buildings all leading to the outside environment.
“This build was different as it was our first exercise at our CAST site in Germany since the COVID-19 pandemic. During that time, our building had been used by British Army and NATO units for their specific training purposes, which meant we had to totally re-network our facility in order for CERBERUS to work,” said Stephen Johnson, Raytheon UK’s CAST Warminister site lead who alongside his colleague Rowbotham, took part in the exercise.
The systems integration capability within ABACUS allows Raytheon UK to bring more military systems into the simulation world. For CERBERUS, 160 ABACUS computer terminals were integrated alongside advanced data analytics tools, tactical communication systems, command and control systems, battlefield management systems and other simulation tools.
Using ABACUS, the brigades were tested in a realistic scenario against a simulated peer adversary with the divisional headquarters in overall command. The British-led NATO Allied Rapid Reaction Corps provided NATO command and control over the exercise, emphasising the importance of the NATO alliance and demonstrating the true scale of the deployment.
“There’s not many simulations like ABACUS out there that can run this level of exercise, considering the scale of weapons systems and manpower that we can replicate and the small number of engineers we require to run it,” Rowbotham said.