Today kicks off I/ITSEC 2016, one of the biggest simulation and training events with a military focus. Last week, we spoke with RADM Robb, NTSA President, who shared his views on the industry and gave us insight on what to expect from the conference. Now, before heading onto the show floor, we had the opportunity to sit down with Nick Gibbs, Vice President and General Manager, Simulation and Training Solutions for Rockwell Collins to talk about the future of military training and how it is changing in our technology-rich world. Mr. Gibbs shared his thoughts on trends to watch and factors to consider when integrating today’s best innovations into training a mission-ready force.
Read on to learn more.
Modern Military Training (MMT): Nick thanks for sitting down with us today to talk about the future of military training. Can you share with us what you see as the top trends in simulation and training?
Nick Gibbs (NG): It’s a pleasure to be talking with you. Military training is going through an exciting period of development thanks to some significant tech innovations. As I see it there are four key trends that military leaders need to be aware of in the coming year: LVC blended training, interoperability, reducing the cost of ownership, and, finally, planning for future upgrades.
For LVC blended training, we need to enable training from securing air and ground networks and datalinks, to end-to-end simulator and training capabilities and the deepest immersive environments in the industry. All assets need to be connected, correlated, secure, and available. As a significant participant in Operation Blended Warrior at the upcoming I/ITSEC show, Rockwell Collins will feature multiple LVC demonstrations.
The second major trend, interoperability, is critical to being able to accomplish LVC blended training. Interoperability is critical as it enables all assets, from next generation to legacy, and coalition forces to train together in real-world environments. The need for interoperability essentially weaves through all new technology trends and produces a faster rate of adoption of many new simulation and training capabilities.
One of the least popular ‘trends’ is the rising cost of ownership for both core training and mission rehearsal training. Costs are rising for new acquisitions as well as during the life cycle phase, regardless of domain of operation. The hunt therefore is on for training solutions that are highly efficient both in terms of infrastructure acquisition and operation, as well as with training throughput. It’s important that training organizations and solution providers are exploring how to deliver Point-of-Need training via the cloud and exploring new ownership models, including Open Source software and synthetic environments. Costs can also be managed by tailoring training based on experience to remove redundant elements and enable shorter, more focused curricula. Tailored curricula not only removes waste from student training time, but also results in lower infrastructure costs as students require less time in front of a simulator.
In terms of planning for upgrades in the near future, training organizations need to be able to move to cloud-based systems to facilitate cross-domain and multinational training. We’re also seeing a lot of interest in speech recognition, particularly for sub-systems such as flight decks, as well as touch-sensitive display technologies, and advanced night vision displays.
MMT: Speaking of the future, what do you see in the future for military training? What are the biggest challenges to get there?
NG: Rockwell Collins is one of the organizations driving innovation in training solutions. This includes everything from traditional CBT, desktop, and classroom training to the ultimate “Train as You Fight” LVC training. We find increased demand for more collaboration across services and coalition partners, in secure networked environments.
There has never been a more important time for training realism. Today’s ever changing battlespace is creating training challenges that prior-generation military leaders never had to face. Whether it’s on the battlefield or in the training environment, real-time, uninterrupted communications between all warfighters involved are more critical than ever. Moreover, with the emergence of in-and-out mission fighting, troops are no longer stationed on the ground in a conflict area for extended periods of time. Therefore, their training scenarios have to adapt, including updating simulations more quickly and cost effectively with increased realism. Simulation technologies such as image generation, visualization, and interoperability need to keep pace with military training demands to achieve mission readiness.
Along with realism, “on-demand training” will be required to allow operators to train anytime, anyplace and with any available training partner. Instead of being locked to a dedicated live training range, a live aircraft may fly against a simulator halfway around the world giving operators the same if not better training than before.
Delivering training to individuals or units that are deployed, or being deployed, requires a Point-of-Need approach to training delivery. It must be available to portable devices via a secure – and typically wireless – connection as networks in theater often have limited access to such commercial infrastructure. However, there are challenges to overcome before such a flexible environment can exist. The first is creating a secure, open air network, over which to deliver and execute training. The network must have adequate bandwidth to deliver high volume data such as real-time graphics for visual simulation while leveraging commercially available technologies such as existing satellite internets. The cyber-secure solution must recognize both U.S. security protocols as well as enable interoperability over partner nation secure networks, affording protection in both environments.
In addition, we are bringing affordable subsystems and simulations that are open systems-based, as well as platform solutions, with high bandwidth data links to facilitate interoperability, networking, real-time, and concurrence. Our customers are demanding more immersive and effective training to enable warfighter readiness.
Training solution costs and timelines are being reduced and must be addressed in new and innovative ways. Two decades ago, militaries migrated from specific hardware solutions to what is now called Commercial off the Shelf (COTS) hardware to address long development times and high life cycle costs. A similar COTS strategy is being assessed for other areas such as software and synthetic environments. Equally, open source training software has been published as a desired solution and we believe that a similar commercial approach to synthetic environments will follow. Success in these new domains will require resolution of an inherent tension: the military’s desire to own technology (to reduce life cycle costs) with industry’s need to profit from technology creation. A new profit model will need to emerge and be accepted, perhaps along the lines of that being successfully applied to the commercial gaming industry.
MMT: Do you have any advice for a military service that is looking to modernize training?
NG: My first advice for training managers is to identify the goal you want to achieve, and not look at the training technology first. It is too easy to fall into the trap of believing that the latest technology will automatically provide increased training effectiveness or reduce training costs. If you haven’t clearly defined your training gaps and end-state goals upfront, then regardless of the technology that’s used, you’ll most likely miss the mark.
With all the training options available, it is essential to work with an experienced training partner that can help you assess your needs and then develop and deliver a cost-effective solution, whether it’s a full-scale, interoperable MILS-certified LVC system, or an open sub-system that’s integrated with your existing equipment. By all means take full advantage of the available technology, but question training efficacy; if it does not meet your specific requirements, then it’s not the right solution for your organization.
MMT: What are your thoughts on the increased emphasis on training effectiveness?
NG: In the training and simulation market, training effectiveness is the gold standard. Typically our customers are faced with two constraints –lack of budget and a lack of time. While neither is conducive to sustaining operational mission-readiness, it is the reality of today’s environment. But we’re also in a really exciting phase of technical innovation – just think about the promise of Mixed and Augmented Reality Headworn Display, like Coalescence, one of our newest products, can bring to a time-strapped force.
However, while technological innovation such as this really exciting, we need to make sure it actually delivers on its promise and meets the training requirement. Training requirements should never be adjusted to meet the specifications of new technology. Conversely, new technology many times can provide greater capability and, with appropriate innovations, provide a superior training solution.
To address this paradox, we use a multi-faceted approach to ensure training efficacy. While following traditional training systems requirement analysis and instructional design guidelines, we also partner with leading universities and research centers to assess training effectiveness. Some of those include the University of Utah’s Engineering Arts and Entertainment Department, recognized as a top game research university, the University of Iowa’s Operator Performance Lab, recognized as experts in human performance, and CogniSens Applied Research Center (ARC), a leader in cognitive performance research.
And while this spirit of innovation and critical thinking drives everything we do at Rockwell Collins, nowhere is it more apparent than in the training environment. Without proven training efficacy, even the latest technological innovations will miss the mark, rather than provide a powerful tool to empower mission ready forces.