JUST IN: Royal Navy Lagging Far Behind Adopting Synthetic Training

By Stew Magnuson

Ministry of Defence photo

LONDON — In a candid speech delivered at Europe’s largest training and simulation conference, the U.K. Royal Navy commander in charge of fleet training said the sea service is finally going to jump head first into the waters of synthetic training.

Commodore Andrew Stacey, commander of the Royal Navy’s fleet operational sea training, announced April 29 at the IT2EC confab in London that the Ministry of Defence had approved funding for the Defence Operational Training Capability (Maritime) program. When that funding comes through in about two weeks, the Royal Navy will be able to move “quite quickly” to fully embrace the world of computer-based — as opposed to — live training, he added.

While Stacey would not disclose the amount of funding or what capabilities it would begin to develop, he was blunt assessing how far behind the service was in fielding virtual training systems that have been used by some militaries for decades.

“I can simply no longer provide the necessary level of complexity, threat representation, agility, tempo and reach needed to deliver elective training to the right standards for our forces,” he said.

He estimated that the U.K. Navy was about two years behind the Royal Air Force in establishing such programs.

The Royal Navy does have a few computer-based systems limited to specialized training areas, which comprise about 20 percent of training conducted. His superiors have charged him with boosting that to a 50-50 percent split between live and synthetic training by 2024, and a 25-75 percent split by 2030, Stacey said.

“This is a challenge,” he said. “And while I hope I won’t be too flippant here, whilst it may be a challenge, it is not rocket science,” he said. He had walked the exhibition hall at the conference where vendors were displaying the latest in military simulators. “I can see an awful lot of the tech enablers and the thinking going on. It’s just drawing it together in some coherent fashion.”

The Royal Navy needs the benefits that synthetic training provides, he said.

“There is an imperative here,” he said. While there are certain tasks on ships and submarines that are best left to the hands-on experiences that can only be achieved with live training, “there are other areas and training objectives that I’m responsible for where synthetics are much more appropriate.”

The ability to replay and reconstruct synthetic training lessons to review later is growing particularly important as military technology grows more complex, he said. Live training takes ships and crews away from home ports, leaves a large carbon footprint and disrupts maintenance schedules, he added.

The U.S. military is pioneering live-virtual-constructive training, where some warfighters may be on an actual training ground — the live portion — others are simultaneously operating aircraft or vehicle simulators — the virtual part — and enemy forces are computer-generated avatars — constructive.

“I am convinced that live-virtual-constructive training offers unimaginable benefits across defense,” Stacey said. The ability to replay exercises to debrief participants later is only one of the advantages, he said.

The Royal Navy is committed to a forward-deployed posture, which would mean sending training teams to the “far-flung corners of the Earth” simply to do routine training, he said. If he can conduct synthetic training while ships are under maintenance, that would take operational pressure off the fleet, he added.

Stacey outlined two major areas of concern going forward: one was operational security. The data associated with training moving through the network is the service’s “crown jewels,” he said. It must be protected,” he stressed.

The other concern is interoperability as the Royal Navy takes part in multi-national exercises. The synthetic training systems “have got to be able to plug and play with allies and partners,” he said.


Topics: Training and Simulation

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