Magazine article National Defense

Suppliers of Imaging, Modeling Systems Race to Fill Gaps in Military Simulation

Magazine article National Defense

Suppliers of Imaging, Modeling Systems Race to Fill Gaps in Military Simulation

Article excerpt

Rapid advances in technologies that produce high-quality imagery and process digital data at high speeds are proving to be a boon for military users of simulation and modeling, according to industry experts. The upshot, they say, is that customers are steadily expanding the application of these technologies because systems perform better and cost less.

During the 1970s and 1980s, military simulations were largely restricted to training activities-such as an aircraft pilot or tank driver practicing maneuvers in a simulator. Today, Pentagon planners also use simulation and modeling to predict the outcome of future wars, design new generations of weapon systems, and rehearse combat missions while en-route to a theater of war.

The pace and complexity of air warfare, for example, present growing challenges to both system operators and those who plan, command, control, and support the forces. Modeling and simulation technologies, say Air Force officials, allow them to gain maximum benefits from routine war games. "We use our exercises not just to train, but to develop operational concepts and tactics, adjust to new missions, and test new approaches," says a spokesman.

During a recent joint-service strategic war game, officials demonstrated the value of air and space power by modeling air and space power capabilities more realistically than ever before. 'his breakthrough was accomplished, in part, by the capabilities of our newest war gaming technologies to enable near-real-time analysis of each move throughout the game," the spokesman says.

As more military training continues to migrate toward simulator systems, however, "we are proceeding with care and with the understanding that there is no substitute for field training-but also with the understanding that advanced simulation offers enormous potential we can exploit," he adds.

Synthetic Models

In industry parlance, simulation and modeling systems aim at creating "seamless synthetic environments" that are shared by developers, scientists, engineers, manufacturers, testers, analysts, and troops.

Within these environments, simulations are distributed and interactive so that users thousands of miles apart from each other can participate. Synthetic environments, says an Army expert, "enhance the possibility for exploring various design options in full battlefield context, allowing workers to design and assess concepts that could not be explored using traditional approaches because of safety, environmental, and cost considerations."

Distributed interactive simulation, he says, "accelerates research to permit advances in technology to be brought to the field in a timely fashion." When hardware procurement is eliminated because the needed information can be obtained through simulation, savings result in both time and money.

Computer modeling and simulation systems can generate images of complex data. Visualization techniques used with complex models, says the Army expert, "permit scientists and engineers to exploit new concepts without the development of costly prototypes and enable visual images to be developed without resorting to photographs or artists' concepts."

Simulations are valuable because they can validate a weapon system and prove it meets its operational requirements before it's built, says Eugene Joseph, chief technical officer and founder of Virtual Prototypes, Montreal, Canada.

The firm developed a suite of software tools that automate the development and deployment of real-time human-machine interfaces. The product, called VAPS, is used primarily for aerospace applications to develop flight displays. It takes digital information and turns it into a picture, says Joseph in an interview. "It's an intelligent moving picture that you can connect to a simulation to test and develop equipment."

He points out that Boeing is now using VAPS to develop embedded cockpit displays across its entire line of military aircraft. …

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