C2: ICARUS (1993 – 1997)


Interceptor Control and Allocation Rehearsal Using Simulation (ICARUS)

Between 1993 and 1997, research at the European level took place into technologies for linking a large number of manned simulators over a Wide Area Network for Complex Air Warfare training. Complex Air Warfare is the air fight in its most complete form with a large number of aircraft in battle under realistic conditions. The demonstrator developed in the project connected a number of Tornado fighter simulators in England and Germany with a Command and Control component developed by TNO called Interceptor Control and Allocation Rehearsal Using Simulation or ICARUS.


The simulator simulated a part of the combat command centre of the Air Operations Control Station Nieuw Milligen (AOCS NM) of the Royal Netherlands Air Force, including:

  • The Fighter Allocator (FA) is the person who coordinates from behind a radar screen the deployment of their own aircraft based on their readiness status on the ground. Once they are in the air, the FA assigns them to an Interceptor Controller that has a direct radio connection to the fighter plane.
  • The Interceptor Controller gives directions via a radio link to the fighter plane in support of intercepting hostile aircraft.

The interactive simulator linking technology used the Distributed Interactive Simulation (DIS) standard, a standard protocol/agreement that establishes the content of the exchanged messages between the simulators. That means that every simulator understands the data it receives from other simulators and may take action. The DIS standard is still in use by a number of Armed Forces in the world for the interactive coupling of simulators.

The project was carried out by a consortium consisting of six companies and research laboratories from Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, Italy, Turkey and the Netherlands.

Complex Air Warfare Demonstrator
Complex Air Warfare Demonstrator

The complete ICARUS simulator consisted of the following components:

  • Three consoles manned by a Fighter Allocator and two Fighter Controllers. These consoles are very realistic copies of the NADGE system (NATO Air Defence Ground Environment) used at the time, in which the most important functions are implemented for the (simulated) execution of Fighter Allocator and Interceptor Controller tasks including radio links. 
    NADGE simulator consoles with communication boxes and VT100 screens
    NADGE simulator consoles with communication boxes and VT100 screens


  • One ICARUS Manager maintains the overview of the entire tactical situation with the help of a computer screen and audio connection. The ICARUS Manager fulfils the roles of the various other officers inside and outside the Control and Reporting Centre. 
    ICARUS Manager console
    ICARUS Manager console


  • There was a direct DIS-link between the ICARUS Manager Station and the tactical environment simulated by ITEMS that generated the Computer Generated Forces (CGF).


ICARUS promotional photo
ICARUS promotional photo

After three demonstration runs for an international audience in 1996, a stock was taken:

  • The demonstration day went perfectly with a new perspective on the technical possibilities for training and education for the spectators.
  • The objectives of ICARUS within the international project context were met 100%.
  • The Fighter Controllers experienced the missions as so realistic that they were recorded in their logbook.

To give an impression of the use of ICARUS and DIS technologies, the following is the report of a demonstration conducted on Thursday, November 14, 1996.

The ICARUS simulator is located in a bunker in Stolberg near Aachen. Our boys from the CRC Nieuw-Milligen are somewhat nervous about the consoles. “We will take those enemy fighters (computer-generated objects)“, they say full of confidence. Given the rehearsals preceding the demonstration, this self-confidence is not justified. The sound of a siren announces the start of the exercise. The enemy entities appear on the radar display and move to a rendezvous point in central Germany. That is still far away from ‘our’ (simulated) airbases Neuburg and Lechfeld in Bavaria.

The simulated enemy consists of a formation of two bombers (one of which is computer-generated) and a manned Tornado bomb-fighter simulator in Stolberg which is flown by an English pilot. These bombers have the task of attacking our airports. The bombers are preceded by three computer-generated Suppression of Enemy Air Defences (SEAD) aircraft that will attempt to silence our Surface to Air Missile (SAM) defences. From the northeast, a Tornado ECR appears, which will activate its radar jammer after a certain period according to the scenario.

From the vicinity of Luxembourg, a formation of four Mig-29s (escort) will appear that will protect the bombers against any reaction on our part. Two computer-generated F-16s also appear in the north. One of these F-16s is governed by an Artificial Intelligence program from the Turkish partner AIT in the consortium: “This F-16 is superior in one-on-one fights” according to the Turkish colleague. As a demonstration leader, I am smiling and receiving this information.

At the beginning of the exercise, eight F-16s were already hanging on Combat Air Patrol (CAP). These are advanced posts at high altitudes that can react immediately if enemy aircraft try to perform an attack. One of these aircraft on CAP is a manned flight simulator, stationed in the United Kingdom. That aircraft is already flying under the leadership of our Fighter Controller 1 (callsign LK022). The other aircraft are Computer Generated Forces (CGFs) that can be routed to their destination by computer-generated Fighter Controllers. Moreover, our air bases contain a large number of F-16s, including a manned flight simulator, which can be used to combat the attacking forces. In addition, we have an AWACS in the air and a tanker to resupply fuel to our aircraft in the air.

Keep on waiting” warns the Fighter Allocator (FA) to his two Fighter Controllers (FC). “I will already put an aircraft in the air for you“, the FA calls against Fighter Controller 2. The Wing Operations Centre (WOC) is called now. The ICARUS manager responds in the role of Wing Ops (WOC) and the FA makes his request.

FA:    Lechfeld, scramble one Lima Lima for intervention mission

WOC:  ICARUS, copied, your call sign will be Lima Kilo One One

FA:   Rodger, Lima Kilo One One, initial heading tree zero zero, climb angels one two, speed gate, Primary TAD 452, Secondary TAD 481


The WOC ends the connection with the FA and orders the pilot (UK1) to take off.

WOC: Lima Kilo One One, cleared for take-off, heading three zero zero, climb angels one two, contact ICARUS on primary TAD 452, secondary 481

UK1: Lima Kilo One One, copied, heading three zero zero. climb angels one two, contact ICARUS on primary TAD 452, secondary 481


Soon the symbol and the track number LK11 appear on the radarscope of the ICARUS simulator, indicating the position and the speed of the plane that has just taken off.

UK1:  ICARUS, Lima Kilo One One on 452 do you read

FC1:  Loud and Clear, how me

UK1:  Lima Kilo One One, read you 5  can be heard over the radio

FC1:  Lima Kilo One One, you have positive radar, positive control, continue heading 300, climb angles 20

UK1: Lima Kilo One One copied

The defence can begin. The FA says to his controllers: “We will first down the Artificial Intelligence Target with track label KM004” … “We attack them with two planes“. “‘You take an easterly circled intercept, while I send another CAP plane directly onto it”.
The FA now gives a computer-generated Flight Controller number 3 the command to intercept the KM004. Soon the F-16 leaves its CAP position and is on its way to the KM004. The FA now sends its English-manned flight simulator to the north to take an outflanking track.


ICARUS communication box
ICARUS communication box

FC3:  Lima Kilo Two Two, heading 350, speed point niner, your target heading 190

UK2: Roger Lima Kilo Two Two

F..k, F..k, I am jammed” shouts FC3, “I can’t see a damned thing“. “That is precisely the intention of jamming“, says FC2.

Damned… the KM004 comes straight onto me“, shouts FC3. “That does not happen to us in Nieuw Millingen during simulated missions.” 
With us everything is real; nothing simulated.“, states the TNO demonstration leader with a smile.

Lima Kilo One One, port zero eight zero, angels five, range six zero, gorilla, heading 190, low, mind active oil fields” calls FC2 in the radio to the pilot. The tension and voice volume of the fighter controllers is increasing …
Turn away from him“, calls the FA in an attempt to get the AIT on the other interceptor.

FC1:  Lima Kilo Two Two, heading zero niner zero, speed one point two, accelerate!!

UK2: Rodger Lima Kilo Two Two, zero niner zero, one point two

It works!” shouts FC1, “He’s going after the other one now.“. “Now you can take him down.“, the FA says, “Turn behind him.”.

FC1: Lima Kilo Two Two, heading two seven zero, your target range 35, five thousand, engage

UK2: Lima Kilo Two Two, two seven zero, your target range 35, five thousand, engage

UK2: Lima Kilo Two Two, firing missile

UK2: Lima Kilo Two Two, report splash

We got him!“, says FC1 joyfully, “the Turks will not be happy now that their superior plane went down.

This all happened within the first ten minutes. The demonstration lasted an hour. We have not seen the Turkish AIT anymore …

The realistic actions lasted for about forty minutes, ending with a manhunt by three F-16s on the German Tornado flown by an English pilot and his German navigator. After fifty minutes of battle, the attack had been repelled and the Tornado was finally ‘buried’.

ICARUS communication box with keypad
ICARUS communication box with a keypad

Design Principles for Intelligent Agents in Distributed Interactive Simulation, E. Oztemel and S. Kocabas.