Study: Virtual Simulation Training Can Reduce Costs, Improve Readiness
STERLING, Va. — Incorporating virtual simulations into live training exercises can save the military hundreds of millions of dollars a year while also improving readiness, a new study released on Jan. 29 concluded.
The report, “Going Virtual to Prepare for a New Era of Defense,” specifically highlighted the benefits of live-virtual-constructive training. LVC, which has been growing in popularity in the defense sector, combines simulation, live training and computer models to create a comprehensive virtual environment.
“LVC is the growing trend in training. We believe that it is quite frankly the future of training. It enables the defense forces to train effectively and more economically than by using just a ... live training scenario,” said LeAnn Ridgeway, vice president and general manager for simulation and training solutions at Rockwell Collins.
Simulated training has become increasingly important as the military faces tighter budgets and cuts back on expensive live exercises, such as flight training. Live exercises can be extremely costly when one factors in fuel and logistics, Ridgeway said during a press briefing at the company’s Sterling, Virginia, office. They can also be adversely affected by weather conditions.
Training in a flight simulator is five to 20 percent cheaper than live training in a real aircraft, the report said.
The Air Force could save $1.7 billion between fiscal years 2012 and 2014 “by offsetting a decrease in live flying hours with virtual training,” the report said. Additionally, the Navy plans to save $119 million a year starting in 2020 by increasing virtual training for the MH-60 helicopter and the F-18 jet fighter, it added.
Further, it is a safer option for trainees, Ridgeway said. Pilots can push the envelope in a way that they cannot in a live scenario. That will be particularly important when training with new generation aircraft such as the F-35 joint strike fighter and the F-22.
The report was put together by the Government Business Council and commissioned by Rockwell Collins. Researchers surveyed 310 Defense Department personnel as well as conducted interviews and research during the fall of 2014.
The report also discovered some drawbacks to virtual training. Participants surveyed said the fidelity of simulations must be improved. In addition, there is a lack of understanding of virtual training and a general preference for live exercises, said Daniel Pitcairn, a research analyst at the Government Business Council.
“One misconception that we found when doing our research is that there are fears that virtual training will simply replace live training,” he said. That is not the case, he noted.
The report comes at a time of worry over the state of readiness, Ridgeway said.
“Many believe that there is a military readiness crisis that is facing us today,” she said. It is caused by a combination of economic issues such as sequestration and the changing nature of warfare, such as an increased focus on precision strike weapons over boots on the ground.
“There is a real belief that our forces toady are less prepared and able to respond to any pop-up or current rapidly changing world contingencies,” she said.
Pitcairn agreed with Ridgeway. “There is a readiness crisis looming on the horizon. The Army is as unready as at any point in its history. Everyone I spoke to, whether they were at the Army's National Simulation Center, NAVAIR [U.S. Navy Naval Air Systems Command], the office of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness or in industry, they all said that this problem exists,” he said.
The survey found that only 23 percent of Defense Department managers surveyed were confident that current training levels would meet readiness needs.