The U.S. Military has been and continues to be at the forefront of defense technology. The ability to adapt quickly to evolving technical knowledge and willingness to be at the forefront of innovation proves to be extremely important, now more than ever.
With budget cuts, however, the Department of Defense (DoD), like all other government agencies, must do more with less. To keep our warfighters well prepared, innovation must be bred in other places. Military leaders have opted to think outside the battlefield when it comes to training troops by embracing new technology and being willing to shift training procedures from expensive physical training scenarios to highly realistic worlds of virtual reality and digital simulations
In a recent Military Embedded Systems Q&A, John McHale discussed how DoD budget cuts have created more demand for innovative simulation and training systems for military personnel, from flight crews to radar technicians to maintenance teams, across all services.
LeAnn Ridgeway, Vice President and General Manager of Simulation and Training Solutions for Rockwell Collins, believes that the investment in training systems will continue to grow, despite budget cuts. Ridgeway points to a survey that was taken across the Pentagon and armed forces, which highlights short-term and long-term procurement trends. Military leaders across the globe “have stated goals and plans to reduce the amount of live training they are doing to save operating dollars and constrain resources.” Ridgeway stated. “Either they don’t have enough assets to train against and have to go to a simulation and training scenario or have new platforms such as the F-35 program that can only use simulation and training scenarios to prove out the most advanced technical capabilities.”
When it comes to these and other avionics applications, the push has been, according to McHale, toward commonality in systems so they can work across multiple platforms. According to Ridgeway, there is still a ways to go to create interoperability within simulation & training systems.
She shared that open architectures “are still more of an aspiration in the military simulation and training community … especially for large-scale virtual training scenarios.” According to Ridgeway, the technology and the plug and play capability is here, but silo’ed military branches, as well as different procedures and legacy equipment will keep it from becoming a reality for a while. “There are three primary standards in the military simulation community – Distributed Interactive Simulations (DIS), High Level Architecture (HLA), and the Test and Training Enabling Architecture (TENA). Getting to one isn’t going to happen soon as there is too much current fielded equipment in play with too many current training scenarios based on them.”
There are examples of solutions out there already, according to Ridgeway, who cited a recent Navy demonstration of a common network that allowed multiple vendors to plug and play in this live virtual constructive (LVC) scenario. “Every vendor could participate thanks to common APIs,” she explained. In addition, “the Army has been successfully running a Synthetic Training Environment (STE) that enables modular, open source and open system architectures.”
This willingness to provide accessibility and be flexible is vital to the modern-day military to continue to maintain highly trained forces, despite constrained budgets. As systems evolve and adaptations continue, they will turn more and more to LVC and other simulation and training resources to provide the effective and nuanced training necessary to ensure that our troops stay strong, ready and safe.