High attendance and a focus on future technology marked this year’s event. MS&T’s Chuck Weirauch reports.
In anticipation of the projected four percent increase in the Fiscal Year 2016 US Department of Defense (DoD) budget over the previous fiscal year, the 2015 Training & Simulation Industry Symposium (TSIS) held in Orlando June 17-18 set an all-time attendance record for the NTSA sponsored annual event. At the conference, representatives of the US Navy's Naval Air Warfare Training Systems Division (NAWCTSD) expected the continuation of a 20 percent growth in that command's business over the next few years.
The US Army's Program Executive Office for Simulation Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) organization emphasized future efforts in moving towards a more advanced synthetic training environment than the current Integrated Training Environment (ITE). With the US no longer involved in full-time combat operations, the Army and PEO STRI are focusing on taking the time to more fully and properly plan for the next generation of training capabilities. The goal for the Army is to transition from the current ITE to a single Synthetic Training Environment beginning in fiscal year 2018.
For the first time at the TSIS event, the Army segment on TSIS Day 2 featured discussion panels made up of both service, industry and academic experts to emphasize the essential collaboration needed between these parties to successfully direct the Army's future training goals. Three such panels, one for Live Training, the second for the Integrated Training Environment, and the third for Cyber, provided comprehensive forums on what each group of panel participants sees as training gaps and how all can work together to meet these current and future challenges.
This year, unlike the past two, the Air Force was nominally present. Col. Daniel Marticello, Chief of the Air Force Material Command's Simulators Division, provided the TSIS audience with an overview of future training directions, noting that the “virtual environment has become mandatory.” An in depth view of was however presented to industry at the mid May Simulation and Training Community Forum in Dayton, Ohio.
Captain Wes Naylor, NAWCTSD Commanding Officer, pointed out that the Navy's major focus areas are now in cyber security, LVC, Intelligent Tutoring, the Navy's new Manpower, Personnel and Education (N1) effort, the Mobile Electronic Warfare and Radar Test System (MRTS) and the E-Sailor programs.
"Government budgets are under pressure, but the need to train and to provide the next generation of training systems and capabilities to our warfighters continues unabated," Naylor said. "We have to come up with ways to supplement the loss of physical assets, so we have to use live, virtual and constructive simulation and virtual environments to get our warfighters to the level of proficiency they need to be able to execute their missions. That's our challenge."
According to Naylor, NAWCTSD has an annual $1.2 billion base value of contacts, and this amount it has been growing at 20 percent each year.
"I expect that to continue," he added. "That's a pretty good chunk of business, and we have to do that with our industry partners. We have to figure out together how we can provide training more efficiently."
Rob Mathews, NAWCTSD Technical Director, said that shrinking defense budgets, coupled with large future programs, would stress Navy aviation investments over the next 5 to 10 years.
"We must think differently if we are going to continue to provide quality training to warfighters," Matthews said. "This means leveraging virtual technologies, pursuing smaller, more diverse, and economical solutions for upgrades and modifications. We also need to develop common standards for training systems, something we are calling the Training System Common Environment (TRACE)."
"We need deployable training onboard to be able to provide training continuity," Matthews continued. 'We are not doing much onboard for proficiency. So we are looking at how we can bring shipboard training and experimenting with VR technology to help meet this need. We are looking for industry partners as to how we can go forward with this technology. Another emphasis is on common open systems technology. It is much less cost for the Navy," he summed up.
MG Jon Maddux, Program Executive Officer for Simulation, Training and Instrumentation (PEO STRI) said that his organization and the Army are now focusing on science and technology via industry and academic research and development efforts for future training solutions, rather than upgrades for current systems. This means delaying some new capability development, and investing in the next generation of capabilities, he reported.
"We are focused on the downsizing of the Army as well," Maddux said. "So we will be focusing on new systems and science and technology. Our intent is to maintain momentum in our previous focus areas while we are concentrating on these top two. We need this strategic look in this portfolio. Fifty percent of every training budget has been focused on maintaining current and legacy systems that we have today. But we need to move towards a more immersive environment."
"Our goal is to help you focus your IRAD [independent research and development] dollars as we refocus our efforts on S&T and what we need to do for new programs," Maddux continued. "Our center of gravity will be on the synthetic environment, but there are others as well, such as medical modeling and simulation."
BG Mark O'Neil, Commanding General for the Army's Combined Arms Center for Training at Fort Leavenworth, KS, pointed out that 60 percent of the world's population will live in urban areas by 2030, and that the Army will be focusing on training for operations in this environment.
"Our capabilities were designed to face yesterday's threat, not today's or tomorrow’s," O'Neal emphasized.. "They do not provide our commanders with adaptive training capabilities. In the midterm, we will focus our current capabilities on the live synthetic training environment. Our long-term investments in research and development will make the future holistic training environment possible for 2025 and beyond. The process begins by adapting the Integrated Training Environment that we currently have so that we can make some informed decisions on our future investments as we transition into the synthetic training environment. To do so, some of our focus will be on augmented and virtual reality."
This year, unlike the past two, the Air Force was able to provide a physical presence at the TSIS event. Col. Daniel Marticello, Chief of the Air Force Material Command's Simulators Division, provided the TSIS audience with an overview of future training directions for that service.
"Over the last 10 years, the virtual environment is becoming mandatory," Marticello said. "The weapons schools, graduates and instructors from those schools say that they want simulation. There is a hunger out there for more simulation. It has really been a sea change over the past few years."
"Within the Air Force Air Combat Command, they find that they are unable to provide the training that is required in the real world," Marticello continued. "We need to get to a virtual and constructive world in order to provide realistic training and scenarios so that we can provide adequate training for the warfighter. Range safety is becoming an issue, since we just can't generate the targets in a live environment. So we are going to have to move back to virtual and constructive environment, primarily in the Distributed Mission Network."