Future U.S. Navy investments in training programs must focus on the integration
of real flying, live-firing exercises and simulators, according to service officials.
Such integration is important, these officials asserted, because of the new
emphasis in U.S. warfare doctrine on precision bombing and computer network-based
Navy Capt. Rory Fisher, PMA 205 program manager, said that the primary challenge
for the Navy is to provide enough funding to meet training needs for both existing,
legacy systems, and for new programs such as the new fighter/bomber, the F/A-18
Fisher and other officials addressed a recent symposium in Alexandria, Va.,
sponsored by the National Training Systems Association and the U.S. Naval Air
Systems Command Training Systems Program Office, known as PMA 205.
According to Fisher, the last thing aviators want to see is a decline in live
flight hours in order to be able to afford simulators. But he acknowledged that
when budgets are cut, training and logistics generally are vulnerable accounts.
"We don't ever want to find ourselves in a situation where we have F-18s
with an insufficient number of trainers and simulators."
"When it comes down to a choice between parts for planes or simulators,"
said Cmdr. Bob Finlayson, F/A-18 assistant program manager, "guess which
is going to win?" Spare parts always will be more important, he said.
Finlayson estimated that the Navy aviation program will need $1 billion over
the next 10 years dedicated to training across the spectrum-not only for aircrews
but also for operational and maintenance personnel.
In a speech at the conference, Rear Adm. Mark Gemmill, who heads aviation manpower
and training programs for Navy operations, warned that training should not be
sacrificed in order to support new weapons systems.
Gemmill emphasized the importance of live training.
Simulators, he said, fit naturally into his plan by helping to provide "a
continuum," that runs through training, to actual flight and then combat
missions. "We have to hit the right target, at the right time, with the
right ordnance," he said.
"With the specifics involved in precision bombing, a simulator becomes
even more important," said Dave Bartlett, a retired Marine aviator, now
a marketing manager for computer maker SGI, in Chantilly, Va.
For that reason, Bartlett maintains that the military services must rise above
the old argument of simulator vs. live flying. Continuing to promote one as
more important than the other is counter-productive, he said, and slows down
efforts to integrate the two.
Bartlett did not claim that simulation could replace real flying. "We
will still have to have flight time," he said. However, "with the
specifics involved with precision bombing, a simulator becomes even more important.
You can never replace real flight time, but skills can be greatly increased
in a simulator."
For Gemmill, the key to success is program integration-where the lessons learned
in the simulator are transferred automatically to the cockpit. One of the main
problems Navy officials encounter, he said, is not having simulators that are
equipped with current technology, comparable to the aircraft that aircrews are
training to fly. He said that, often, crews are using outdated simulations.
"Just because it works doesn't mean it's right," Gemmill continued.
"Once again, your technology must be current and made to work for people
who are involved."
Findlayson stressed that the Navy needs to replace its "antiquated training
systems." One priority, he said, is two-seat trainers. "If we don't
fly with a single seat, then why should we have to train that way?"
Because of the expense associated with flying and with firing precision munitions,
Gemmill said, training needs to achieve a "seamless mix" between simulation,
real flight and live fire. "You don't have to drop live precision munitions
to know how to do it," he said. "The expense of the ordnance and the
size of the range will continue to dictate [how training is accomplished]."
The ideal situation, Gemmill says, would be an increase in flight time, in
combination with simulator flying. The recent moratorium on live fire training
at the Navy range on Vieques Island near Puerto Rico, Gemmill said, creates
all the more urgency for a seamless transition from the simulator to the cockpit.
Capt. Robert "Buddha" Snyder, the head of aviation training resources
for Navy operations, expressed concerns that shortfalls in training will affect
naval force readiness.
Non-deployed air wing readiness is a problem, he said, because most of the
training resources are devoted to "those who are going to be deployed."
This trend causes what he referred to as the "bathtub effect." The
bathtub effect is a precipitous dip, which occurs between a high point of readiness
and when a deployed squadron returns to home base once their assignment is completed.
When charted on a graph, the low point that occurs between the two creates what
Snyder referred to as a bathtub.
"There should be a standard readiness profile," he said. "Just
because I can go out and drop a bomb and hit the ground somewhere, what have
Snyder asked. "At least with a simulator, an instructor can grade me on
performance. It's also cheaper," he added.
Snyder said that, when it comes to cost, simulators get the best return on
investment. "Go ahead and fly what you have, but also use simulators."
Proficiency in firing precision bombs, said Snyder, can be refined on a simulator
quite effectively. Once an aviator climbs into the airplane, he said, pilots
should have a feeling of déjà vu.
"There's still no substitute for flight time," he said. "There
needs to be a blend between simulator time and flight time."
Simulators have improved to the point, he says, where approximately 25 out
of possible 40 events can be rehearsed in the simulator. And that number is
growing. But, said Fisher, technologies such as web-based training-which would
allow for more networking between simulators-and embedded training are not getting
adequate funding. Budgets for simulation upgrades and training seem to be the
most vulnerable when cuts are made, he said.
Embedded trainers are built as part of the weapon platform.
Embedded training systems combined with advanced distributed learning (ADL)
offer the ability to train while on the way to a deployment, said Cmdr. Rick
McQueen, a PMA 205 official who is working on the Joint Strike Fighter (JSF).
The JSF will have three variants-for the Air Force, the Navy and the Marine
Corps-but all three will have a large percentage of common components. For that
reason, McQueen believes the JSF will go a long way toward solving compatibility
problems in simulation, modeling and training. "Improved commonality enhances
continuous training," he said. In the JSF program, "we will use a
virtual-strike warfare environment that will incorporate simulation and modeling."
Fisher noted that, despite the advances planned for the future, the Navy remains
equipped largely with outdated technology. "Most home computers are more
capable than PCs in the fleet."
He wants to see all courseware become web-based. "We have to control software,
specifically courseware structure so that we can get ready for ADL." Under
the ADL vision, sailors would be able to take their courses anywhere, even while
deployed, and at any time of the day or night.
"We need to prioritize education. There needs to be value-added learning
to foster trust between the different levels where people are doing their jobs,"
Fisher said. This would help improve interaction between air, maintenance support
crews and industry.
Lack of Trust' Hampers Management of Defense Contracts
A U.S. Navy official in charge of training programs recently asked industry
representatives to assist the service in ironing out problems that stem from
"lack of trust" between contractors and customers. He also chided
contractors for underestimating costs early in a program, thus causing cost
overruns later in the project.
"When we sign a contract between government and industry we still have
problems with costs and definition requirements," said Navy Capt. Rory
Fisher, program manager at the U.S. Naval Air Systems Command Training Systems
Program Office (PMA 205).
He spoke at a conference in Alexandria, Va., sponsored by PMA 205 and the National
Training Systems Association.
The government, said Fisher, currently lacks "insight into all levels
of research, development and production." The result is "unexpected
surprises" in the form of cost overruns, explained Fisher. One problem,
he complained, is that "there's no provision for government insight into
Fisher asked rhetorically, "How do we arrive at a level of trust with
all the legal and contractual issues that exist out there?"
He would like to see a system of "fixed-priced incentives" in order
to avoid project overruns-which are paid for by the government. In a fixed-priced
arrangement, Fisher would include an incentive reward if the contractor meets
cost and delivery requirements. He said that he is "sick and tired"
of seeing cost overruns that often are caused by ineffective estimating procedures.
The problem lies in competing interests of government and industry, says Lt.
Cmdr. Randy Dornan, assistant program manager for the Joint Primary Trainer
System (JPATS). "Industry is profit driven and government is product driven."
Dornan summarized the situation: "Government gives industry the money
to do the job and industry is driven by profit and obligation to the stockholders.
What we get [as a result] is called a management challenge."
Ideally, said Dornan, there should be an arrangement where program managers
would be involved at all levels of research, development, testing and manufacturing.
"You can't do it without input from the people who expect the product,"
he told the conference.
Government program managers need to be able to track their programs down to
the smallest details, said Lari Manning, a Navy training project leader. "This
way the government obtains what it wants instead of ending up at the end of
the process needing to put in more money and no one is happy with the end result."