Four Services Must Network Simulators to Prepare for Future Fights (UPDATED)

By Stew Magnuson

Photo: Navy

ORLANDO, Fla. — The exhibition floor at this year’s Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference is packed full of the high-fidelity simulators that help pilots learn to fly, soldiers and Marines become better marksmen and sailors prepare to fight on the seas.

But the world is changing, senior leaders have said. Great power competition with rivals such as China and Russia will require the armed forces to fight in multiple domains: cyberspace, space, the electromagnetic spectrum along with air, land and sea. They will have to fight jointly.

But today’s simulators are not set up that way. They are built with proprietary technology and normally for one weapon system.

“We have got to break through that paradigm of every weapon system having its own, unique training environment and its own unique stovepiped industry partner,” Maj. Gen. Michael Fantini, director of Air Force global power programs in the office of the assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, said during a panel discussion.

The first requirement to make simulators more interoperable will be open and secure software to serve as the “backbone” for any training and simulation system.

The second requirement will be for common standards across all of the Defense Department, the services and allied partners, Fantini said.

The third will be agile and “quick” contracting regimes to help speed the development of these interoperable systems “so that folks can latch onto that environment with unique and innovative and disruptive type technologies,” he said. His message for the “big six” defense contractors is that the Air Force is looking for vendors who are agile.

That gets into the touchy subject of who owns the intellectual property: the government or vendors?

“We need as much intellectual property that is appropriate to create competition. And inside that competition or that competitive environment, we need to gain affordability out of that. So sticking with one major prime is probably not the vision of the future,” Fantini said.

One place to start with is the F-35 joint strike fighter — an aircraft flown by the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corp. It has common software and standards. “Why would we not hook onto that wagon for training?" he asked. "Understanding how that environment works, we can continue to build from an open architecture with the appropriate set of standards with agile contracting vehicles so that we create competition. So in my mind, that is a major avenue of opportunity for the Department of Defense.”

Fred Drummond, deputy assistant secretary of defense for force education and training in the office of the assistant secretary of defense for readiness, said: “We must be prepared to fight as a unified force.” Training must be joint and it must be able to include coalition partners, he added.

He recently observed a joint Air Force-Navy advanced technology demonstration at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada — the Secure LVC Advanced Training Environment, or SLATE — where the two services’ pilots used live-virtual-constructive training. The real-life aircraft interacted with simulators on the ground along with computer-generated aircraft and surface-to-air threats. He called the interactions “seamless.”

“It is doable. It is here. It is now. How do we take it forward and make that capability operational?” Drummond said.

Updated with more details about the joint Air Force-Navy technology demonstration.


Topics: Simulation Modeling Wargaming and Training, Training and Simulation

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