Virtual Sandbox for Deception Applications

Technological developments already with us today, and being demonstrated daily in the Ukraine, are turning the battlespace into a contest between “finders and hiders”, with “finding” in a period of ascendancy. Ubiquitous Intelligence Surveillance Reconnaissance (ISR) technology, frequently open sourced, combined with advanced processing technologies risks making much of the battlespace transparent to our adversaries. It follows, therefore, that technologies, tactics, and approaches that prevent this will return greater freedoms to Commanders, improve their force protection, and create uncertainty in the minds of adversaries.

01. Problem

There as yet few synthetic environments capable of delivering a flexible, dynamic, multi-faceted sandbox and able to iterate rapidly, with consistent, substantive measurement of effect. Cervus proposed the development of a sandbox, with components useable by both researchers at Dstl and Defence/Army practitioners, and one that could make a significant contribution to the institutional capacity required to evidence future capability options required to redress the “finder-hider” competition.

02. Approach

The aim of the project funded by the Defence Science and Technology Laboratory (Dstl) therefore was to develop a proof of concept for a Virtual Sandbox for Deception Applications (VSDA) to allow users to experiment with deception techniques in an increasingly challenging battlespace. Cervus therefore conducted at pace a series of phases involving Design, Build and Integration elements, and an adaptation of VR-Forces (a Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) Computer Generated Forces (CGF) simulation) combined with our HIVE analytics platform. In addition we designed a simple experimental framework, a data capture and exploitation phase; and then lastly a phase conducting Limited Objective Experiments inside the proposed VSDA.

The results of this project were that we assessed our VSDA proof of concept, using a VSDA architecture, to have been able to demonstrate the ability to meet the original project aim. The build, iteration, and discrimination of electronic deception options can be done effectively in a ground close combat setting within VR-Forces, and it can be done today. VR-Forces and HIVE when adapted, make highly complementary tools with which to achieve this.

The approach of pairing BLUE task performance evaluation with a simulated Threat Electronic Warfare operators’ evaluation inside HIVE, appeared to have significant merit in exploring the effectiveness of different techniques, albeit it at a low tactical level.  This general approach was judged to be extensible to more extended and higher-level missions than those employed in this project.  

03. Relevance

The project proposed a durable architectural view of how a VSDA could be conceived on an enduring basis, and irrespective of how this specific VSDA was envisioned. A recommendation was also made about the development of future requirements for collective training. Some of the delta we observe between what is trained for now and what needs to be trained for could be closed by new requirements fully reflecting and embedding this need much earlier in training progression. This means decisions being made now about the levels of fidelity and the construct architectures for all future collective training systems so that that this is addressed intelligently, to neither detract from the primary training need, but also to not defer the training challenge that digital deception brings.

04. Conclusion

In conclusion the “finders and hiders” challenge will only go on increase in significance and importance in the face of persistent, “staring” surveillance. Opportunities to experiment, test and train in sandboxes deliberately optimised for this should become part of the training diet and arguably do so early. We believe that some of this experimentation will lead to innovative techniques, just as much as technologies, that should only see the light of day on operations, and will not be possible to train with in live training without compromising the approach.