The Air Force’s umbrella program for simulation-based training—called
Distributed Mission Operations—emphasizes operational concepts and mission
rehearsal. It will gradually incorporate simulation systems that previously
were known as Distributed Mission Training. But it’s not yet clear whether
the Air Force will have the funding for its ambitious DMO program, said Air
Force Col. Curtis Papke.
The “Air Force has some large bills to pay,” he said, but nonetheless
training and simulation are receiving the attention they deserve, in part due
to the visibility that DMO has received among top Air Force officials.
“Within the last four months, the terms DMO and DMT have blended,”
reflecting a desire to incorporate operational concepts into the training process,
said Papke, chief of war fighter training research.
Both Gen. John Jumper, Air Force chief of staff, and Gen. Donald Cook, commander
of the Air Education and Training Command, have pushed for additional training
dollars, said Col. Michael Chapin, director of the Air Force Training Systems
Product Group, at Wright Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.
Jumper is a “strong supporter of the idea of an enhanced distributed
mission training simulation,” said Papke. Under the DMO concept, a network
of aircraft simulates air operations in conjunction with command and control
units. However, rewriting these training requirements into what is expected
in “true mission rehearsal” remains a big challenge, said Papke.
Currently, DMO capabilities include F-15, F-16 and AWACS trainers. Plans are
also in the works to include the Predator unmanned aerial vehicle, the B-1 bomber,
the F-22 and the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.
The challenge is in the networking of the simulators, according to Chapin.
He commented on the difficulty of obtaining “multi-level security”
and “moving critical data across a commercial network in near real-time.”
TSPG is currently in the fifth year of a 15-year program to network all Air
Force training systems. However, Chapin said that the project would never reach
a hard-line completion date because of the changing nature of Air Force operational
concepts and aircraft capabilities. The goal, he concluded, is “fidelity,”
so that simulators would mirror the aircraft as realistically as possible.
Training and simulation programs are becoming critical for rehearsing emergency
and evacuation drills, according to Chapin. A pilot flying close air patrols
in a no-fly zone, for example, “would not be training in emergency procedures.
... His training skills would atrophy while he is deployed” said Chapin.
Such a capability needs to become deployable and in the future, virtual reality
computer-based training will make that possible, said Chapin. The logistics
then becomes a matter of shipping a computer disk and minimal equipment instead
of heavy, cumbersome machinery.
Much of the virtual reality technology the Air Force needs for advancing its
simulation systems already has been developed in the commercial sector. However,
it will take at least 10 years before the Air Force will be able to fully exploit
those capabilities, said Chapin.
Chapin currently is working with industry and government research labs to “take
the Hollywood, Disney Studios lead into virtual reality” and “try
and move our trainers in that way,” he told National Defense.
Simulators and training equipment nowadays are large pieces of equipment designed
for one aircraft with specific capabilities programmed into the system’s
embedded computer software. When these capabilities change, ideally, so should
the simulator. This is not the case, however, said Chapin.
The new targeting pods that were integrated into the A-10 Warthog close-air
support aircraft offer one example. The Air Force quickly upgraded A-10s with
targeting pods for Operation Enduring Freedom. But because the trainers did
not reflect that new capability, the pilots were not able to simulate this before
To be able to measure the progress of virtual reality, all current systems
must switch to computer-based programming instead of hands-on simulation, Chapin
For maintenance trainers, such as the Modular Simulated Maintenance Trainer,
the move towards a computer-image program has many advantages. This simulator
is loaded with images of different parts of the F-16. These pictures can be
analyzed and discussed by maintenance trainees in a classroom setting. It also
allows for tighter control of variables and cuts the need to replace new or
broken equipment. Ultimately, it is the reduction in cost that makes computer-based
simulation so attractive.
The Defense Department’s effort known as the Joint National Training
Capability is a driving force in simulation programs. A memorandum from Deputy
Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz asked the services to prepare for a national
training event by October 2007.
Nevertheless, before national-level training can take place, service-specific
programs must be addressed, said Chapin.
In the future, “we really need to transform joint training,” said
Air Force Brig. Gen. Norman R. Seip, Air Force deputy director for operations
“The majority of our flying training events are not self-licking ice
cream cones, and involve coalition partners and joint partners,” he told
a conference of the National Training Systems Association. The top priorities
today are distributed mission operations, joint close air support and range
modernization, he said.
“Can we train the way we are going to fight and do it all live on a range?”
he asked. “The answer is absolutely no. Not in this day and age.”
Live training is too costly and it’s difficult for the units to make time
for exercises, given the operational tempo today.
In the DMO efforts, Seip said, “we are looking to team with industry.”
DMO ranges from individual to full mission rehearsal and levels in between:
live, virtual, man in the loop, constructive, computer generated. “It’s
the next generation of joint readiness training,” said Seip.
Coalition partners, however, don’t have the DMO architecture, he explained.
“So industry is coming in on their own dime to help lay down the architecture
and tie in with the Air Force.”
The first DMO exercise is scheduled for 2004. Called First Wave, it will link
DMO assets from seven NATO nations.
“We need to look for high-fidelity virtual battle spaces,” said
Seip. “The way ahead is with DMO. We don’t have enough opportunities
to do live flight training. Even if we did, we don’t have the money, especially
with the low-density high-demand assets (JSTARS, AWACS, Rivet Joint). The first
time we see those is when they show up on the battlefield.”
According to the DMO “implementation roadmap,” said Seip, the goal
is to achieve a “robust mission environment” by 2010. There will
be a Mission Training Center at each operational unit, he said. Elements will
- A fighter and air battle management MTC, comprising F-15, F-16C, AWACS and
special operations forces.
- An integrated ISR center that will link J-STARS, Rivet Joint and the Predator
- A command-and-control and space mission rehearsal MTC that will include the
F-22, the F-15E and the B-2 bomber.
- A JNTC full capability for joint and coalition training.
Joint close air-support training also will be emphasized, said Seip. Operations
Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom reinforced the critical need for services
to train and fight as a joint team, he said. JNTC will mix live exercises with
virtual and constructive simulation environments for synergistic combined arms
training, providing the services the opportunity to “train the way we
JCAS is the primary focus of the first JNTC exercise scheduled for January
The Air Force, additionally, needs to step up its range modernization efforts,
said Seip. “We need to focus on threat systems and targets,” he
said. “We need to get away from containers. We want realistic targets
that simulate time critical fleeting targets.” Currently, he added, “we
have obsolete Cold War threat systems that are hard to maintain.” nd
Susan Rietze is a cadet at the U.S. Air Force Academy, in Colorado Springs.