The RCAF has a vision, a plan, and is in full implementation mode. Managing Editor Jeff Loube writes.

This is the first of a two part series: this part addresses the RCAF Simulation Strategy 2025 and the second, to be published in Issue 1/2015 reports on MS&T’s visit to an element of the system of systems - the 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THS) Aircrew Training Centre. Central to this part is the Q&A with Colonel Paul Dittmann, the Director charged with implementation.

In short, the RCAF vision is of a system of systems creating an integrated virtual battlespace in which to train aviators. The RCAF Simulation Strategy 2025 (RSS) defines that vision and maps the way ahead. While the way ahead is explicitly focused on aircrew training, achieving the vision, in all its aspects, will provide a framework and foundation for applying the strategic principles across the whole spectrum of Air Force training and procurement.

The Executive Summary: RCAF Simulation Strategy 2025 (, the central public document, provides an overview.

The summary describes the desired end state [the vision] as a system of systems connecting new and legacy training devices to form a virtual battlespace. This consistent virtual training environment will utilise a common synthetic environment, a common exercise control and debrief capability, and common scenario development that will allow the efficient delivery of simulation-focused training. The system of systems will support collective training by ensuring that all RCAF training devices are able to interact in a common virtual training environment.

The document goes on to note the optimization of simulation across all training activities mandates that simulation be fully embedded into the training system and states that simulation will be supported by a training information management system (TIMS) as well as common database and scenario generation, a distributed mission operations centre (DMOC) and a persistent and secure training network.

In the Executive Summary, the network (see image) is described thusly:

“The RCAF DMOC will provide common services and function as the point of connection for RCAF distributed training as well as with CAF and allied systems. Each operational community will be served by a training centre that provides a similar set of services for their community, with the focus being on modifying or extending the common assets to meet community-specific training requirements. Finally, the system will provide remote training devices, which rely upon the DMOC and training centre for their development services and focus purely on instruction at the local level. Together, these systems will form a comprehensive training system capable of delivering effective and efficient individual, collective, joint and combined training.”

Canadian industry welcomes the certainty that comes with a well-mapped strategy. Mike Greenley, Vice President and General Manager CAE Canada, speaking as Chairman of the Board of the Canadian Association of Defence and Security Industries (CADSI) noted RSS 25 provides a long range view that is “good for industry”, providing a path ahead that allows industry to plan accordingly to meet RCAF needs.

“The strategy expresses a very clear vision and we are already seeing the effects of that vision on new procurements. For example the FW SAR (, RFP specifies a comprehensive in-service support requirement, including a FWSAR training centre, for up to 20 years.” This RFP closes on January 2016.

Greenley also noted that even though overall the “state of simulation technology is not a problem”, he considers the largest technical challenges reside in the networks.

The Q&A

Colonel Paul Dittmann, Director Air Simulation and Training, is charged with leading the implementation of the RSS. MS&T posed several questions to the Director that we consider relevant to our readers. His frank and open responses, which elaborate on the Executive Summary, are included in their entirety below. 

MS&T: Briefly describe your mandate with respect to the RSS.

D Air Sim & Trg: First let me give you some brief background to simulation in the RCAF. The RCAF has a long history of employing simulators, and is further integrating this culture within the RCAF as capabilities in the field of modeling and simulation continue to grow. The RCAF first embraced the synthetic training environment in 1952 when it commissioned CAE to provide a CF100 Canuck simulator. Although not modern by today’s standards, back then it was cutting edge technology. And ever since, the synthetic environment has grown in relevance to how the RCAF trains its pilots and maintains operational readiness.

However, we have historically acquired simulators to meet singular training objectives specific to a given weapon system. By the mid-2000’s, senior RCAF leadership realized that we needed to think more broadly than just training on an individual weapon system; we needed to look at a series of networked training systems that achieves readiness goals in a collective fashion, making the resultant training outcome much more significant than the cumulative sum of the individual training events.

To that end, in 2013 the Commander of the RCAF directed that a plan be drafted to deliver a coherent, persistent, and integrated system of training systems that would lead our force generation efforts well into the future. What resulted was the RCAF Simulation Strategy 2025 (RSS). Through this, the RCAF is positioning itself to be agile in the area of simulation, to leverage these technological advances alongside its stakeholders, partners and industry.

As you have read, the vision of the RSS is to create a simulation-focused training system, which skillfully leverages live, virtual, and constructive domains within a networked common synthetic environment. This system will optimize the means by which RCAF aviators achieve and maintain readiness, fully exploiting advances in both technology and training methodologies, to deliver world-class capabilities for the full spectrum of operations. This is consistent with the RCAF overall vision, which is to maintain an agile and integrated air force with the reach and power essential for Canadian Armed Forces operations.

This vision is admittedly ambitious and resource-intensive, and it won’t happen overnight. But as your readers understand, in aviation a flight plan is essential to reach a destination via a charted path. The RSS is our flight plan and I am certain we are on the right path; feedback from the Royal Canadian Navy, the Canadian Army, and our allies confirms that. When we arrive at our destination and achieve our vision will depend on either the headwinds or tailwinds we encounter along the way.

So to answer your question, my mandate is first and foremost to advise the Commander RCAF on how to best achieve the RSS and to lead the implementation efforts. Establishing effective strategic communication channels and a responsive governance structure will allow the Commander to guide the implementation while receiving frequent updates on its impact at the operational level.

In addition to this fundamental task, my team manages the RCAF’s existing training systems that are contracted to industry, such as for the CH147, CF118 or for undergraduate pilot training. This role is expected to expand to include any future training systems of this nature. We also provide coordination between the operational user community within the RCAF and our procurement and support partners at PWGSC and within DND, ADM (Materiel), helping to bridge operational needs with procurement realities.

Achieving all of this requires a cadre of knowledgeable professionals, so a key emerging mandate surrounds professional development for RCAF personnel in the field of modelling and simulation. We are building a program that will ensure that the RCAF has access to the personnel resources necessary to implement the RSS, not only at the staff officer level but also down to the end users of the actual systems. All capabilities consist of technology, processes, and personnel – my mandate ultimately touches on all three of these pillars.

MS&T: What are the major challenges in implementing the strategy? Certainly, with a horizon of 10 years there can be many challenges – such as maintaining momentum.

D Air Sim & Trg: Certainly there will be many challenges! First of all, we have to acknowledge the primacy of operational readiness over cost savings as the driver for a modern synthetic training environment and a virtual battlespace. If we hope to embrace the full potential of what the synthetic environment has to offer, there will be a significant resource investment to make but the anticipated dividend yield of high readiness, reduced risk, and increased weapons system availability for force employment will be worth it. Of course there may be other coincident benefits too, such as flight hour and maintenance savings, or extended weapon system life expectancies.

That said, the main challenge with pursuing a strategic vision of this magnitude is found in the execution of the necessary institutional changes. The technology required to support this vision largely exists today and the RCAF already possesses, or has access to, much of what will be required. Therefore, to be successful we will need to direct our training focus towards an increased simulated/live training ratio. And, we will need personnel who are smart about modeling and simulation, training and education, and simulation acquisition and program management; this is a mix of skill sets that we have not traditionally developed for one purpose. Addressing this need will be difficult but essential.

Additionally, change itself is inherently disruptive. We must try to contain this disruption to those areas of the RCAF that need to change, specifically the training realm, while minimizing the impact on operations. This is, in fact, one of the key reasons that the Strategy is focused on a 10 year horizon – trying to make these changes faster places too high a risk on operational capability. Though 2025 is a marker, I don’t see it being an absolute marker by which we will measure our Simulation Strategy’s success. Rather, just as the RCAF will evolve into the next decade, so too will both the RSS and its final end-state as we learn more about simulation and how to integrate a virtual battlespace into our force generation plans.

One of the key overarching challenges actually forms the RSS’ centre of gravity – Unity of Purpose. This is the challenge that any large organization will face when attempting to make significant changes over a long period of time. Achieving the vision will require commitment from all stakeholders and decision-makers to keep on track when progressing simulation-related projects and initiatives. This can be difficult given rotation of personnel and evolution of leadership priorities, but is the reason for our policy and professional development thrusts. An initiative that is well articulated and where the need is well understood stands a much greater chance of surviving through the winds of change.

The continual cycle of technological innovation and the speed at which it advances are also challenges to consider when working within the defence procurement arena. Industry and our allies will evolve their standards to remain compatible and relevant, and so too must the RCAF. And we will have to work within the acquisition processes as well, which can be challenging when seeking rapidly evolving systems. We will need to be flexible in our solutions – which will be based on departmental funding constraints and project management decisions – particularly when we may not fully understand today what technologies may be available in 2020, 2025 and beyond. As hard as these challenges may be, they are not insurmountable, especially when tackled together with the intellect, professionalism, and motivation that my team and the rest of the RCAF demonstrate every day.

And yes, momentum can be difficult to maintain, but it is building. Just one year ago we had only a draft strategy. Today we have a governance structure, an internal training and education program that on 23 Oct finished its inaugural serial with 20 students, and we have a new annual virtual exercise series that will act as a forcing function to develop new synthetic training capability - Exercise Virtual 15 kicks off in November and planning for Exercise Virtual 16 is already underway. This exercise has already branched into the joint arena. On other fronts, we recently linked our C130J fleet into Exercise Coalition Virtual Flag with the USAF and we continue to participate in the combined arena through support for initiatives such as the Coalition Attack Guidance Experiment (CAGE). We have for some time been advancing technician training in the virtual world, while through our Defence Learning Network all RCAF course content is migrating from stove-piped storage and access to one enterprise learning management system that will underpin all training, present and future. So as I said, the momentum is building.

MS&T: The introduction of training technology and systems invariably affects training curricula, policy, and governance. Activities in Spiral 1 purport to address these issues. Do you see any particular challenges in this area? What are the significant policy/governance issues that must be addressed to allow all the value of the strategy to surface?

D Air Sim & Trg: First of all, I think that policy, governance, and readiness requirements are the drivers of curricula – not the other way around – which then determine the technologies and training methodologies we integrate into our training systems. The recent change in RCAF leadership presents a logical time to re-evaluate our policy direction and prioritize short- and medium-term efforts during the next few years while the long-term focus on the RSS’ vision is maintained. My new Commander, LGen Mike Hood, understands both the advantages that the synthetic environment can provide and the need to keep the RCAF at its leading edge, and he is now formulating his direction to the RCAF Force Development team. Once I receive my vectors, we will forge ahead in a manner that factors in evolving priorities and ever-present resource constraints.

On the policy front, we have already made some good progress. For example, a recent Air Force Order directs a “simulation-first” concept such that when a simulator and an aircraft are both equally capable of achieving a training outcome, the simulator will be the primary training aid. Additionally, we are developing a set of simulation standards, based on industry best practices and our allies’ lessons learned, that will increase our ability to integrate individual simulators to support collective training in a virtual environment. These standards will also allow for increased reuse of critical support elements, such as visual databases, entity models, weather, and pre-mission and post-mission briefing capabilities, all of which will help to reduce our overall support costs. We are also working on a set of common High Level Mandatory Requirements that will be applied to all future RCAF training system procurements, ensuring that they are fully aligned with the Strategy.

However, one of the most critical policy elements will be the establishment of an RCAF Simulator Accreditation Process. It isn’t sufficient to just move training into simulators. The RCAF must demonstrate that these flight training devices are capable of delivering the required and desired training effect. We need to know that when called upon for real-world operations, our aviators can safely and effectively apply the skills they developed in our synthetic training environment. By doing so, we can achieve the necessary institutional buy-in, from both our operators and our leaders, for the RSS to succeed.

Finally, we have also moved ahead on governance efforts. The RCAF has established an executive governance board and an operational/support governance committee. These will facilitate active direction from senior leadership on priorities for the execution of the RSS and solicit frequent feedback from the operational and training communities on what is working and what remains to be done. Additionally, simulation continues to remain a discussion point when the Commander formally engages with his General officers.

MS&T: Related to the previous questions, my colleague, Marty Kauchak, based on in his recent visit to Petawawa, notes (See Sidebar) that while the CH-147F training syllabus was initially designed with 95% simulation, the commander 1 Wing determined that the syllabus would be initially be supported with 60% simulation with the expectation that the simulation based content would increase as the programme matures. Would you care to comment? It appears 1 Wing is leaving a significant ROI on the table.

D Air Sim & Trg: As you can appreciate, air operations are inherently risky. The approach the RCAF takes is one of mission accomplishment at an acceptable level of risk. Regarding simulation, this means that it is essential that the training we provide our aviators enables them to operate safely and effectively. While the industry-provided CH147 training system design incorporates 95% synthetic training, our ability to achieve this level while remaining safe and effective is not yet proven. We are confident that we should be able to achieve a rate of about 60% simulation – 450 Sqn is close to if not already there now – but advancing that figure must be done in a measured fashion. One of the key enablers to reach this goal, and later shoot for a higher figure, will be a simulation accreditation process.

In order to provide the appropriate level of assurance and confidence that simulation can be incorporated to a greater extent, our simulators and flight training devices must be verified (technically) and validated (operationally) to meet our specified training requirements. Furthermore, they will need to be accredited (or certified) by proper RCAF authorities. Without a Verification, Validation, and Accreditation process to identify the equivalent live-fly value of one simulated hour of flight time, how can we credibly identify the offload from the live to the virtual training environment when we often measure experience by the number of hours a pilot has in his log book?

While the CH147 simulator is a very realistic representation of the aircraft, it has not yet been fully certified and fine-tuned to match the aircraft. As a result, it does not yet faithfully reproduce some maneuvers such as pinnacle landings or AFCS-off flight. Once the simulator has been tuned and accredited and the RCAF is confident it can provide safe, effective and realistic training, a greater simulated/live training ratio may be possible.

Let’s also recognize that a 95% simulation ratio has a strong link to a commercial fixed-wing metric of 100% for major operators. Commercial operations vary little in nature and their operating environment is quite easy to simulate with high fidelity. They also start with a student who has several thousand flight hours. In contrast, RCAF pilots start on their first operational weapon system with little more than 200 flight hours on average. Additionally, most military flight operations are far more dynamic and are conducted in far more challenging conditions. For example, the CH147 inserts troops, slings loads, and drops parachutists, often under cover of darkness or in a degraded visual environment and in the presence of enemy forces. And as with the enemy, every building, wire, tree, and snowball or dustball can also pose a threat. These threats, or training considerations, are much more difficult to simulate with high fidelity, especially in the low-level environment where helicopters operate. For these reasons, military rotary wing training will likely not achieve the same simulated/live training ratios realized by fixed wing commercial aviation.

60% may be the Commander 1 Wing’s starting point, not the end-state, so I feel that to make an assessment today of the ‘Return on Investment’ is premature. In fact, it wasn’t too long ago that we stood up the CH147 with a simulated/live ratio of about 40%, so let’s have this discussion in about five years when the CH147 training system is fully mature.‎

MS&T: In current resource environments, training system optimization in procurement and practice has been raised to a position of prominence. Do you have, or will you be, developing a process for ensuring the optimization of training systems?

D Air Sim & Trg: Yes, although focused on simulation, the Strategy recognizes that optimization is only part of an overall training system that was developed with that in mind. Achieving the RSS’ aims – improved training effectiveness and efficiency – requires training system optimization as a whole. The RCAF has significant experience in this area through initiatives such as NATO Flying Training in Canada, Contracted Flying Training and Support, or the Operational Training System Provider programs. It’s no coincidence that management of these programs and the implementation of the RSS are all mandates of my office. The RCAF seeks to leverage the many successes of these programs, while also addressing the lessons we have learned from them.

Training in general and simulation in particular offer the combination of continually advancing technology, domestic employment, and specialist support skills that make it well suited for creative partnerships with industry. Our experience in this area is further borne out by similar programs operated by our allies, such as Flight School XXI at the US Army Aviation Center at Fort Rucker and the United Kingdom’s Military Flight Training System. These types of programs can maximize the availability of operational aviators by minimizing their commitment in support of force generation rather than in the conduct of operations.

Training arrangements of this nature can embrace the rate of change that is characteristic of technologically advanced systems. We can be proactive to advances in the field of modelling and simulation, rather than being reactive to the issues of obsolescence common to commercial hardware, through the use of pre-planning technology refreshes that are built into support contracts. Further, through considered use of incentives, we can encourage creative thinking by our industry partners by empowering them to propose improvements to the system that can benefit all involved. This is a particularly effective means of addressing one of the greatest challenges we have faced with our legacy training devices – keeping them technologically current and aligned with the aircraft they support.

There is more to training system optimization than the technology and support mechanisms in place. We can also optimize the system through the development of clear training objectives and a deliberate mapping of these objectives to the training devices available to us, ranging from the use of advanced interactive courseware through to desktop trainers, from high-fidelity weapons system trainers to the use of actual live aircraft, which will remain critical for certain tasks not suited to simulation. This optimization will involve the application of deliberate training needs analyses that ensure we make best use of the assets we currently have and make informed decisions regarding the assets we need in the future. The conduct of these analyses is a key front-end activity within the RSS and efforts in this area have already begun.

An RCAF Center of M&S Excellence

The Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF)’s 450 Tactical Helicopter Squadron (THS) Aircrew Training Centre has emerged as a center of excellence on using new and emerging learning technologies to achieve and maintain readiness. The ground-breaking efforts of the Canadian Forces Base Petawawa, Ontario-based squadron and its industry partners will serve the RCAF well as it implements the RCAF Simulation Strategy 2025 throughout the force.

This October this author [Group Editor Marty Kauchak] traveled to the 450 THS to prepare a feature article on the RCAF CH-147F program scheduled for publication in MS&T issue 1/2016. The visit occurred as the squadron was on schedule to achieve final operational capability in July 2017 for its new fleet of 15 Boeing CH-147F Chinooks. The new capability, under the overarching Medium-to-Heavy Lift Helicopters project, will allow Canada to increase its responsiveness to air logistics missions at home and, when necessary, overseas. As significant, this September 15 the 450 THS also declared that its Aircrew Training Centre was “Ready for Training”.

While the CH-147F operational training flight syllabus was initially designed to be supported with 95% simulation, this February, the commander of 1Wing determined the syllabus would be initially supported with 60% simulation – with the remainder occurring onboard the rotary aircraft. The syllabus content supported by simulation is expected to increase as the program matures.

The CH-147F training system design resonates with the RCAF Simulation Strategy 2025’s commitment to optimize the live, virtual and constructive domains for service learning.

The centerpiece of the training system is four CH-147F simulation devices built and delivered by CAE: one weapon systems trainer; one tactical flight training device; one deployable tactical flight training device and an integrated gunnery trainer.

CH-147F fleet maintenance training is delivered with the support of a Boeing-provided training station built on a legacy MH-47E chassis.

A tactical control center, technology-enhanced classrooms, brief/debrief facilities, a NVG trainer and enabling courseware round out the CH-147F training system.

On the CH-147F training audience’s horizon are the expectations the training system will be integrated with other service training devices and centers, and will obtain technology enhancements to match the operational lessons learned as the expanding fleet’s aircrews gain more flight hours. - Marty Kauchak