Magazine article National Defense

Distributed Simulation Systems Are Panacea for Budget Distress

Magazine article National Defense

Distributed Simulation Systems Are Panacea for Budget Distress

Article excerpt

The perennially tight Pentagon budget, vanishing training facilities, burgeoning environmental concerns, and a drumbeat of open-ended international threats are combining to produce a robust array of opportunities for the simulation and training industry.

But contractors are being challenged to offer both low cost solutions and, coincidentally, a multitude of new technologies in rapid order.

Navy, Marine Corps, Army, and Air Force acquisition executives enumerated a broad span of requirements ranging from compact, high fidelity training devices for individual sailors, soldiers, and airmen to distributed, mission training and rehearsal systems that would give forward deployed forces a decisive edge in future combat and peacekeeping missions.

These distributed systems have particular allure for the military services because they allow them to train and prepare for combat in a virtual environment that provides complex mission variables in one-on-one and group scenarios. The current level of fidelity is fostering quality training that has application in other government agencies and the private sector.

Fistful of Challenges

At a joint Defense Department advance planning briefing to industry sponsored by the National Training Systems Association (NTSA) that drew about 450 industry and military attendees in Orlando, Florida, senior officials laid out a fistful of challenges and invited providers in many cases to put up their own research and development funding.

Rear Adm. Frederick L. Lewis, USN (Ret.), NTSA executive director, said the interface with the military should help industry in determining where to put its research and development dollars.

Most of the requirements that were presented at the annual confab are expected to be met by commercial products now on the shelf or in some stage of development.

Major Defense Department players at the two-day event are the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division, the Army Simulation, Training and Instrumentation Command, and the Air Force Training Systems Product Group.

Among the forces pushing simulation and training development are continuing budget constraints, multi-mission requirements, technology advances, and the leeway made possible by Defense Department acquisition reform.

Officials at the briefing also said that existing simulators currently are working at capacity.

The word from all services is that there is strong and continuing demand for simulation and training products. Officials also are seeking new approaches to developing and producing affordable systems before they are made obsolete by technological advances that are creating new generations of hardware and software every 18 to 24 months.

Training system trends, they said, include deployable platforms. The services are pursuing instructor-less training, training that can be accessed through the Internet, joint and multinational capable systems, adaptive multi-media training, and systems that address urban warfare challenges.

Representatives from all of the services demanded smarter systems that are bolstered by fuzzy logic and artificial neural control. Networked trainers and simulators remain a key requirement. And increasingly the services are seeking embedded trainers that can be used on an individual, unit, and multi-unit basis.

Heightened realism also will come from improved visual and sound systems. High definition television, flat panel displays, head mounted units and three dimensional displays are being sought.

Officials placed heavy emphasis on distributed mission training (DMT), which they said is being spurred by current conventional training limitations, the ever changing complex rules of engagement, and the need to preserve platform life. DMT, they noted, offers high end training in a low risk environment that with deployable systems can be conducted anywhere at any time. …

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