TRAINING AND SIMULATION
NDIA Perspective: Services Look at What’s Next in Training Tech
Photo: Defense Dept.
The National Training and Simulation Association, an NDIA affiliate, hosts the annual Training and Simulation Industry Symposium in mid-June where all four services discuss their visions for training systems of the future.
This year, due to COVID-19 limitations, the event was held virtually. Ironically, a central theme from the presenters was their service leadership mandates to increase the use of synthetic training environments as a means of increasing readiness. The services described their visions on how they plan to blend live, virtual and constructive elements into their training programs. All placed great emphasis on improving human performance as the key factor to winning in a multi-domain operation.
Will Roper, the Air Force’s acquisition executive, was looking for a massive multi-player capability that had the ability to simulate the entire service going to war. This bold high-level challenge engages the systems commands to completely revamp Air Force simulation architecture, requirements and standards from the bottom up. The long-term intent is to integrate a vast network of distributed training sites into a joint simulation environment where live, virtual and constructive entities can engage simultaneously across the full spectrum of missions.
The importance of realizing this vision is that the full capability of current and next-generation platforms cannot be exercised in the real world due to security and range restraints. While live exercises are obviously required, training to full mission capability can only be accomplished in synthetic environments.
Navy and Marine Corps aviation suffer the same constraints and both services are moving quickly to integrate live, virtual and constructive assets into training systems. The current range structure will not support the advanced missile system ranges and capabilities, so aircrews will be engaging both live targets on the range, and constructive targets outside the range on any given flight. Additionally, a combination of game-based environments and augmented reality provides a significant opportunity to create realistic environments quickly and affordably not only for training but in combat.
The Army, through its Synthetic Training Environment cross-functional team led by Maj. Gen. Maria Gervais, is pursuing a grand vision of transforming Army component training to accommodate its multi-domain mission. While the service currently has the ability for soldiers to engage targets force on force with a blend of live and synthetic systems, only 60 percent of the brigade combat teams’ training capabilities currently include virtual environments, she noted.
The program also highlights the common challenge to network, secure and integrate a wide range of simulations into a common core architecture. The Army will stand up a Technology Integration Facility in Orlando this summer specifically tasked with working with industry to take on the integration challenge.
Another common element of next-generation training is the focus on improving human performance. All the services are working to identify and collect key performance data not only for after-action reviews, but for use in real time by feeding the data to artificial intelligence and machine learning algorithms to assess performance and then present corrective training or mitigation during and after the training event.
Long-term visions include developing detailed digital twins of trainees that will allow advanced intelligent tutors to provide training tailored to the individual with the goal of eventually achieving “human learning optimization.”
Military leadership is working to improve their ability to understand the art of the possible and bring nontraditional expertise to the training requirements process. The establishment three years ago of the Orlando-based Training and Readiness Accelerator — an other transaction authority consortium focusing on next-generation training, modeling and simulation — was a solid step toward opening the requirements apertures and accelerating acquisition timelines for training systems.
The program managers are collaborating with the consortium members while they develop requirements so as to include cutting edge advancements in the commercial markets into their solicitations. Advances in augmented, virtual and mixed reality are happening at great speed in the commercial markets as are gaming, machine learning and AI, all of which will be key elements of future training systems.
There is a growing emphasis on focusing Small Business Innovative Research programs toward training and the use of “pitch days,” where entities small and large can present unique solutions to hard training challenges.
It is clear that all the services and the office of the secretary of defense understand the importance of revolutionizing education and training, fully realizing that human performance is our primary advantage in the fight. All are working on ways to take cognitive and physical burdens from the warriors and empower them with systems that improve performance, situation awareness and decision-making.
The future is full of machines thinking and communicating in the background while humans concentrate on their tasking. The fact that Army Futures Command is leading a cross-functional team on the synthetic training environment, the Navy has embarked on its Sailor 2025 training and education initiative, Air Force leadership is focused on winning the War of Cognition, and the Marine Corps is quite literally trading its tanks for better training and education systems all demonstrate that military leaders understand that the mission of winning the battle of future training is one we cannot afford to lose. NDIA and NTSA are at the heart of that mission.
Retired Navy Rear Adm. James Robb is president of the National Training and Simulation Association.