Managing Editor Jeff Loube, with files from Marty Kauchak and Chuck Weirauch reports on the event held in Orlando 2-5 December 2013
The IITSEC exhibition is over for 2013 and long time attendees will have noted some changes. The show floor was a bit more subdued – there were more joint booths, booths were more moderate, and the aisles less crowded. MS&T noted a surprise lack of "new" product announcements - with the exception of the always competitive projector sector. Some familiar exhibitors were noted by the absence of a floor presence, choosing to pursue B to B in the margins. Total registrations were about 14000, some 70% of 2011’s high of 20,000. In all, organizers reported there were 526 companies represented in 395 exhibits.
Overall delegate attendance, however, remained relatively steady thanks to the strong international presence. I/ITSEC 2013 welcomed some 2000 international delegates from 69 countries, about 57% of delegates. Organizers believe that the higher international participation reflects the growing interest in M & S worldwide and the recognition that I/ITSEC is a key event in the world of training systems.
The General/Flag Officer Panel was marked by the frankness and openness of the Service and Departmental representatives. The money theme and its variants overshadowed all the comments. VADM David Dunaway summed the challenges faced by not only the US military, but also some other western militaries, by calling up the growing “readiness demand/budget gap” and noting that maintaining proficiency is the greatest challenge. Others pointed out that the nature of the gap is changing. MGen James Jones said that after a couple of decades operating in a permissive environment, there is now a requirement to train for operations in a “non-permissive” environment and “we don’t have the capability to train for that”. He went on to say that the solution will be heavy on LVC, but the reality is that there is a need to change the way business is done. “There is no hope for a return to the status quo.” And following that theme, LtGen John Johnson stated that now is the time to think about how we train, and how we maintain skills, calling up the spectre of post WWII loss of combat expertise and equipment and the effect on US readiness for the Korean conflict. “Where will we be in 5 years?” he asked rhetorically. And finally, as to the future, Frank DiGiovanni, Director, Training, Readiness and Strategy ODASD (Readiness) suggested that M&S could provide a hedge in a time of contraction by maintaining agile and adaptive forces.
And in a reflection of budget realities, M&S Caucus Co-Chairman Forbes was among the members who called on industry representatives to educate their congressional delegations about M&S in terms of: here's the need for it and here's how M&S benefits the nation. "Don't tell them how M&S works," he concluded. In other words, speak to the ROI.
The Training Technology Special Event played to a full house, a house seeking the vision of the future. Speakers spoke to the need for true systems thinking; “The air wing is the combat system”. And asked the question how to optimize the mix of technologies for training systems? And the training technologies would have desirable features like being distributed, interoperable, reconfigurable, and being able to be integrated into real time training, and of course, be cost effective; all the while with technology objectives framed by a training outcome of forces that can out think, out maneuver, and out perform near peer opponents.
The newest arrow in the DoD training quiver is Transmedia. Dr. Elaine Raybourn defined it as a scalable system that provides a sustained core experience through multiple media that involves learners personally in the story and results in measurable behavioural change. Transmedia uses all media, not just digital media to provide that experience and clearly requires a systems view of the military training and education process. It is not about a technology and thus this DoD ADL-led initiative has the potential to be a game changer for all those in the military training business. It is considered to be transformative.
The Show Floor
MS&T Editors felt, as they always do, somewhat overwhelmed by the time/space challenge; however, there were some things that caught their eye.
Industry continues to provide higher fidelity and more rigorous training and mission rehearsal products for unmanned air system (UAS) pilots and sensor operators. Brookline, Massachusetts-based MetaVR continues to enhance its low-cost aircraft data collection system to collect and process real-time 3-D terrain following a UAS mission. A booth demo highlighted the process that permits the operator of a Raven-sized UAS to collect imagery and send it to be processed – resulting in a terrain end product with 3 cm (1.2 in.) resolution. The particular scenario is adequate for the command post intelligence officer to note soldiers in small ravines and other data to support tactical maneuvering on the battlefield.
General Dynamics Information Technology (GDIT) continues to deliver UAS instruction to the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps for the Shadow, Hunter and other US DoD UASs and upgrading its UAS delivered courses and training to replicate current tactics and procedures. In one instance, UAS operators are able to learn and rehearse their skills during missions when their platform is teamed with a manned helicopter, much as they do in current operations in Afghanistan.
In the land training domain, Raydon is fielding its fourth generation Virtual Combat Operations Trainer (VCOT) product for its US Army National Guard customer. Greg Recker, the company’s vice president for business development, noted that as part of the VCOT hardware and software life cycle upgrades, there are 18 titles in the curriculum. “That is not a small number,” Recker pointed out, adding that normally there is one curriculum title for one piece of hardware. “We have 18 titles allowing the training audience to train to different types of events. You can train an individual or one crew with gunnery exercises. Or you can populate it all and train for convoy operations.”
Also in the land training sector, MS&T has watched Meggitt Training Systems’ small arms simulation technology rapidly evolve through the last several years. At the 2013 I/ITSEC, delegates saw the inclusion of the 3-D Marksmanship Training environment, demonstrated with CryENGINE graphics and Meggitt’s tether less BlueFire(R) weapons simulators, with several other new enhancements including “convertible” fully sensored BlueFire® simulator (M4); through-sight Devices - FIST Thermal Sight (FTS) and Commanders Target Locater (CTL); and enhanced user interface for simple navigation and user feedback.
Meggitt continues to deliver its virtual marksmanship products around the world. The company went to this I/ITSEC after having completed sales in the second half of 2013 to military forces in Italy and the UK.
COTS – commercial off the shelf – is alive and well. CM Labs were highlighting a prototype integrated LAV driver trainer composed entirely of commercial software and hardware products. The impetus for the prototype was the recent DST –led experiment in the UK that demonstrated the effectiveness of simulation based driver training and that COTS software and hardware was in all likelihood the most suitable option for cost effective training. CM Labs (Vortex) partnered with Presagis (Stage and Vega Prime), DI-Guy, VRX, and D-Box.
The presence of BISim and VBS was stronger than ever. Joined by 8 partners in their community booth, well-attended live demonstrations of VBS were run throughout the show. BISim also hosted their best-ever attended VBS3 User Group, and in fact had to run two additional targeted ones for military and industry customers.
MS&T continues to monitor technology applications in adjacent sectors that may be of interest to the military end user. One program that falls into this category is Aerosim’s B737NG Maintenance Training Suite, an equivalent civil platform to both the P-8 and C-40 military aircraft derivatives. The company’s B737NG Maintenance Training Suite is in service with China Eastern Airlines, Samara State Aerospace University in Russia and others around the globe.
Erik Tobler, the company’s product marketing manager, pointed out the training suite is “high fidelity” and permits the learner to “do everything from completing training systems theory to operating procedure, and up to a troubleshooting event – a malfunction, fault or other problem with the system.”
And finally, a sign of the times is the rise of national pavilions such as the Netherlands Simulation Pavilion, the Brazilian Defense and Security Industry Association and the Canadian Atlantic Alliance of Aerospace and Defense Associations (AAADA). Organizers were pleased with the trend towards special country pavilions, and advised MS&T that a strong delegation from Australia has already committed to supporting a pavilion in 2014
Sightings of US military personnel were few and far between, even though higher-ranking officers and decision-makers were well represented during show events and at service exhibits. And even with fewer US armed services personnel on the show floor, several industry exhibitors told MS&T that they were able to make significant business contacts. However, there were fewer military exhibits than in the past several years, and they were more modest.
Of those at the show, the US Air National Guard had the most impressive, with a full 360-degree dome Advanced Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) Training System on display. Several military commands and supporting companies conducted networked joint JTAC exercises throughout the show via the trainer.
A significant direction for the US Air Force is the Readiness Through LVC (LTC) initiative. The Air Force Agency for Modeling and Simulation (AFAMS) provided the "home base" for this concept at its exhibit area throughout the show. Elements of the RTL program showcased included the Air, Space, and Cyberspace Constructive Environment (ASCCE) and the Air Force Continuously Available Operational Training Environment (AFCOTE). AFAMS representatives were also fielding queries related to the service's Distributed Mission Operations Center (DMOC).
Next to the Air Force, the US Navy provided show attendees with the broadest scope of its directions for simulation-based training. The Naval Air Warfare Center Training System (NAWCTSD) exhibit featured such examples as the NROTC Mariner Skills Trainer, the Next Generation Threat System and Helicopter Control Officer Tower Trainer. Intelligent tutoring technology was also a theme at the NAWCTSD exhibit, since the Navy is placing a major focus on this technology for instruction at its brick-and-mortar schools.
The Office of Naval Research (ONR) featured its Fleet Integrated Synthetic Test And Training Facility and Command and Control Simulator for Small Craft Threats, along with an Aircrew Tactical Team Trainer and the Bravo Aircrew Tactical Team Trainer.
While government restrictions on participation in I/ITSEC 2013 were evident for other US training commands and organizations, in no place were they the more obvious than for the Army's Program Executive Office for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) and the service's Research Development and Engineering Command (RDECOM)s Army Research Laboratory (ARL). The Army agencies did not feature any training devices, but rather depended on industry partners to demonstrate the products they provide to the Army. For example, Lockheed Martin showcased the Urban Operations Training System, while Engineering and Computer Simulations provided overviews of medical simulation tools that the company developed in conjunction with the ARL. Raydon operated its truck trailer-based mobile Virtual Convoy Operations Trainer and Stryker Platoon Blended Training Package that it provides for the Army National Guard.
The NATO Modelling and Simulation Task Group provided information on a number of its initiatives, including its efforts to exploit M&S technologies to strengthen the organization's Cyber Defense policies and training. Also at the exhibit was a demonstration of the capabilities of the NATO Electronic Individual Training and Education Programme (e-ITEP).
According to NDIA spokesman, John Williams, “The quality of I/ITSEC 2013 was quite possibly the highest in its history, ... The B to B and B to G interaction on the floor was as smooth and productive as it could possibly be, … and the technical papers presented maintained the high quality for which I/ITSEC is known”.
Organizers consider that under the circumstances I/ITSEC 2013 was a tremendous success. Williams stated “Our government and industry partners demonstrated an incredible level of support given the extraordinary pressure placed on them by a weak economy and an uncertain budget environment.” He expressed optimism that, with the passage of the 2014 budget and a two-year spending plan, attendance will return to historic levels in 2014
Serious Games Showcase and Challenge
Jenn MacNamara of Breakaway and this years SGSC chair called this year’s competition “the best year yet!” Eighty evaluators examined some 50 submissions and finally showcased 17 Finalists.
The 2013 SGS&C winners are:
- Students’ Choice – Algeburst by Muzzy Lane Software
- Best Business Developed Serious Game – MACBETH by University of Oklahoma
- Best Government Developed Serious Game – Decisive Combat by Singapore Armed Forces Center for Leadership Development
- Best Student Developed Serious Game – A Slower Speed of Light by MIT Game Lab
- Best Mobile Serious Game – GORDEE by US Army PdM-Ground Maneuver
- Special Interest Category – Adaptive Force Training – MACBETH by University of Oklahoma; and
- People’s Choice – GORDEE by US Army PdM-Ground Maneuver