Editor’s note: This article was written by Phil Jasper, the Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, Government Systems, at Rockwell Collins. Jasper details his opinions and insights on maximizing interoperability and continuous convergence efforts through collaboration and more progressive approaches to the defense acquisition process. His piece was originally published in the first 2018 issue of MS&T Magazine, which you can find here.
Realistic, relevant and secure operational training is fundamental to warfighter readiness. Yet, we are training with a complex array of partially integrated systems that don’t always mirror the way we go to battle. Without a shift in our approach to interoperability, our training systems will be incapable of representing current battlespace complexities, our own platform capabilities, and the growing sophistication and lethality of potential adversaries.
It is understood that the cost of modern military training solely with live assets – properly scaled in the air, on land, and on and under the oceans – is becoming cost prohibitive. Likewise, solely relying on purely virtual training with cutting-edge simulations cannot fully replicate the complexity and nuance of the actual battle environment. Therefore, there is broad agreement that future training environments include the realism, affordability and flexibility provided by the blending of Live, Virtual and Constructive (LVC) elements.
The US Senate has taken note of the potential of LVC and is driving a solution. In the Committee Report that accompanies Senate Bill 1519, the Senate’s Fiscal Year 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the Senate Armed Services Committee includes the following text:
“While strongly supportive of the services’ efforts to develop LVC capabilities, the committee is concerned the services are executing the various development programs to deliver training solutions that are insufficiently integrated and interoperable, inhibiting the potential for taking full advantage of these systems for invaluable joint force training. Therefore, the committee directs the Secretaries of the Air Force, Army, and Navy, not later than March 1, 2018, to provide to the congressional defense committees a report on their respective plans for LVC training …”
This report language from the Senate clearly recognizes storm clouds on the horizon, and is rightly charting a clear course toward a better solution for the joint force. I strongly agree that there is a problem in need of a more thoughtful, joint service approach. From my company’s vantage point, current training networks and systems are an amalgam of interfaces, protocol standards and equipment that make the integration of training environments needlessly costly and complicated and constitute a barrier to truly integrated training. Let me provide a few examples, which include:
- Numerous duplicative standards and protocols (for example; DIS, HLA, ALSP, TENA, HLA-evolved) that are used to network disparate training systems.
- A lack of standardization of cybersecurity requirements expose the LVC systems and network linkages to cyber threats.
- Proprietary standards increase life cycle costs, hamper innovation, and constrain the creation of compostable training environments.
To be fair, the services have begun to recognize this issue and are beginning to address it. For example, a recent Air Force initiative, Simulator Common Architecture Requirements and Standards (SCARS), is a concrete example of how the services are attempting to resolve integration and security issues across disparate simulation systems. The SCARS problem statement recognizes that, “Sustainment of multiple unique simulators and training devices is becoming cost-prohibitive in an increasingly demanding cyber environment.”
However, more can be done. As technology is explored to attain the LVC vision, careful consideration needs to be made to assure interoperability and that an open architecture system-of-systems approach is “baked” in to avoid these present barriers. Interoperability problems cannot be resolved with bolt-on solutions adjacent to the simulation and training systems themselves. Translators, bridges, and simulation gateways just exacerbate the problem.
In my opinion, the Department of Defense is heeding the wakeup call, but we need to fully acknowledge the complexity and magnitude of the problem, and not pursue partial measures. We need a paradigm shift to enable our networked training systems to keep pace with our evolving weapons systems and CONOPS, and an approach to interoperability that doesn’t depend on the ability to define a one-size-fits-all standard.
In my next article, I will outline three areas of focus to move forward in extreme interoperability in training.