Partnerships Shape Industry Landscape
The simulation and training industry now has fewer companies than it had a decade ago. But today's corporate players are finding that competition is tougher than ever. And they are finding that it often makes sense to form partnerships with their competitors in order to gain market share. These industry trends and other emerging developments in the simulation and training arenas were the focus of interviews conducted by contributing writer Linda Billings with executives from 15 companies. These firms are sustaining member companies of the National Training Systems Association and were selected for this feature based on their prominent role in the industry.
AAI Defense Systems
Smaller, faster systems are the wave of the future-the key will be "easy to train, easy to use." The Pentagons adoption of commercial standards, additionally, has been "a godsend" for smaller, innovative companies, said George Kursels.
He is vice president and general manager of AAI Defense Systems, AAFs largest business unit. Demand is growing for portable training systems, said Kursels, and users are finding that smallscreen trainers can be just as effective as full-scale simulators.
AAI Corp. (www.aai.com) of Hunt Valley, Md., a subsidiary of United Industrial Corporation, has two business units that work on training and simulation, primarily for U.S. military customers. AAl Defense Systems' current projects include the Joint STARS Maintenance Training Simulator, joint Service Electronic Combat Systems Tester, and Moving Target Simulator. AAI Engineering Support Inc. specializes in training and simulation support.
AAI is "near the top" of the second tier of companies in training and simulation, providing specialized service that the big companies do not Offer, according to Kursels. The company developed the industry's first Mobile Combat Systems Team Trainer for the Navy in 1980. It now provides the Navy onboard radar trainers and portable, configurable carryon combat systems trainers. AAI also markets electronic warfare simulation, high-resolution simulation, and onboard sonar, as well as radar testing. Its best-selling products are shipboard radar and sonar trainers, which permit operators to train like they fight.
"The industry is changing dramatically" as a result of the development of smaller, more powerful hardware and software products. One imminent change is the advent of "true virtual reality," Kursels predicted. And portable training systems will prove to be a better option than embedded systems. "Embedded trainers are too expensive," he observed.
AAI is drawing on its experience with largescale programs to break up big systems into subparts, developing, for example, smallerscale trainers such as the Battlefield Readiness Electronic Warfare Trainer, a stand-alone workstation for training on a variety of radars, which used to require a roomful of equipment, Kursels said.
The Navy is AAI's top training and simulation customer. The company has been building unmanned vehicles for the Navy for years, and it anticipates growth in demand for unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) training and simulation.
The company currently is not planning to expand into the commercial market. But it is stepping up international marketing; its business is now about 80-20 domesticinternational, and the company expects to double its international business annually during the next several years. AAI has sold 27 anti-aircraft-missile dome trainers to customers in the United States, Germany, Japan, and Turkey. AAI Defense Systems recently won its first international contract for onboard training, from ADI Limited of Australia, prime contractor for a Royal Australian Navy guided missile frigate upgrade project. AAM will provide onboard training systems and land-based software support centers.
The company routinely works with bigger companies in training and simulation. …