Group Editor Marty Kauchak provides insights from five industry leaders on the military-industry team’s efforts to provide true interoperability during LVC events.

Military services around the globe are using elements of an LVC (live-virtual-constructive) environment to train and rehearse missions with own nations’ forces, in a combined context (with other countries’ military units), a whole-of-government setting (with non-defense agencies) and even non-government organizations. As service men and women quicken their pace to train in the LVC environment, it has often been in discreet, individual events, exclusively in one of the three domains. Now, a flurry of funded programs of record is converging to take LVC to the next level – more fully embracing the “holy grail” of true interoperability, anytime anyplace, across training devices, and with allied and friendly nations.

ME to EU to US

There is a frenetic pace of LVC activity in various military and industry organizations. Phil Perey, the head of Technology for CAE Defence & Security, pointed out most services are in the process of examining and implementing the required infrastructure and security protocols to bring live, virtual and constructive together on a more common and routine basis. He called attention to three instances of his company’s efforts to enable their customers’ LVC journeys.

One early-adopter example of distributed mission training is the CAE-owned and -managed Medium Support Helicopter Aircrew Training Facility at RAF Benson in the UK where a network of six high-fidelity full-mission simulators have engaged in ‘Thursday Wars’ for almost 20 years. Separately, at the CAE-supported International Helicopter Training Centre for the German Army at Bückeburg, the company has networked a suite of H135 full-flight helicopter simulators for multiple training exercises over the past decade. “Work is currently underway so that sometime in 2019, it is expected that we will network these two facilities so that the UK and Germany can test joint, coalition virtual training,” Perey said.

In the naval domain, in 2016, CAE was awarded a contract to develop a comprehensive Naval Training Centre (NTC) for the United Arab Emirates Navy. “The first phase of this program will see the main NTC facility open in Taweelah during 2019,” Perey explained.  “The overall program ultimately envisions a total of seven sites across the UAE, networked together, including eventual connectivity to ‘live’ docked ships. This massive training infrastructure integrating live, virtual, and constructive training will permit ship-level and fleet-level training for the UAE Navy.”

CAE has cast a wide net for industry partners in its LVC pursuits, bringing onboard, depending on the specific program and incumbency, Collins Aerospace, Cubic and Northrop Grumman to name a few.

In the US, one of several forward-leaning LVC efforts is the Navy’s Tactical Combat Training System (TCTS) Increment II program, envisioned to replace Navy and US Marine Corps training range infrastructure while improving effectiveness of training across all squadrons and fleet forces.

Chip Gilkison, the director for Live Blended Test and Training Solutions at Collins Aerospace, noted his team had successfully advanced the detailed design work and was closing out the Navy’s Critical Design Review (CDR) program milestone. “Exiting CDR will allow Collins to proceed into the fabrication, demonstration, and test phases of TCTS II. Production hardware in our System Integration Lab enables us to push the boundaries of blending live, virtual and constructive training entities to help advance aircrew proficiency training across all squadrons and fleet forces,” he told MS&T.

Leonardo DRS continues to be Collins Aerospace’s key teammate on TCTS II.

Cubic Global Defense has worked with AFRL and NAVAIR to successfully complete the SLATE-ATD. One milestone called for an LVC pod fitted to a US Air Force F16 for an Electromagnetic Interference/ Compatibility test. Image credit: US Air Force/William Graver.
Cubic Global Defense has worked with AFRL and NAVAIR to successfully complete the SLATE-ATD. One milestone called for an LVC pod fitted to a US Air Force F16 for an Electromagnetic Interference/ Compatibility test. Image credit: US Air Force/William Graver.

In a second, high-profile US DoD effort, Cubic Global Defense (CGD) has worked with the US Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) and Naval Air Systems Command (NAVAIR) to successfully complete the Secure LVC Advanced Training Environment (SLATE)-Advanced Technology Demonstration (ATD).

Mike Knowles, CGD’s president, called attention to SLATE-ATD’s significance “in that it validated through demonstration what AFRL refers to as the ‘six pillars of LVC’.” These are:

  1. LVC infrastructure, standards and architecture that are non-proprietary;
  2. Multiple Independent Levels of Security (MILS) technology and associated rule sets;
  3. The 5th Generation Advanced Training Waveform (5G-ATW), which is a high-throughput data-link with low and flat latency proven to be able to cohabitate in a congested spectrum environment;
  4. LVC off-board processing in a pod form-factor;
  5. Special LVC Operational Flight Program (OFP); and
  6. Documented training effectiveness benefits with LVC.

Whereas most LVC efforts have demonstrated subsets of LVC, the SLATE-ATD made a leap ahead by demonstrating very close to a complete set of LVC capabilities, in a large force exercise using operational combat aircraft. Knowles added, “We not only blended constructive with virtual, or constructive with live, we blended all three together. Our focus was on bringing ‘V’ and ‘C’ into live aircraft cockpits, fully blended with live sensor data. To demonstrate this, we also needed live ‘red’ air to verify that aircrew would not be able to distinguish between a live versus synthetic participant. To my knowledge, no demonstration has come close to achieving what AFRL and NAVAIR demonstrated in the SLATE-ATD.”

For the pod technical development during SLATE-ATD, Cubic worked closely with Boeing engineers.

Divers Impediments

Beyond the quick pace of LVC-focused activities, technology and associated challenges remain on the road to achieving increased levels of interoperability.

John D. Illgen, a senior consultant for Monterey Technologies, observed that with increasing technology advances (Big Data, the Cloud, cyber protection and network advancements), scalability (entity throughput and entity interactions in real-time), and integration and interoperation architecture, major changes to the LVC process are required on a continuous basis. Illgen is the recipient of the 2017 National Training and Simulation Association’s Governor’s Award for Lifetime Achievement in Modeling and Simulation.

As the military-industry team pursues the grail of true interoperability, Illgen provided a compelling case for paying particular attention to scalability, integration and interoperation architecture.

One frame of reference – the simulations of the Pentagon’s heritage WARSIM initial operational capability were based, in part, on a simulated 47,100 entities (automated units and equipment groups), interacting in communications and other ways, over five nodes with eight CPUs each (a total of 40 processors), Illgen explained. As LVC constructs become more complex with burgeoning numbers of entities and associated tasks, a truly scalable system should handle the increased entities or “workload” by proportionately adding more computing power.

To that end, a more stable, reliable and capable LVC system requires a peer-to-peer (P2P) architecture. Illgen said a P2P architecture uses a network model in which each node has the same capabilities, so that any node can initiate a direct communication session with another node. “A peer-to-peer architecture is inherently scalable because there is no central process or facility that can become a bottleneck. Of course, the Internet uses a peer-to-peer approach and scales exceedingly well.” P2P architectures represent industry’s best bet for meeting the military’s ever-expanding requirements for massively scalable applications, (Big Data and more), Illgen emphasized: P2P is “an essential foundational technology to allow developers to scale to the millions [of entities].”

Additionally, “for distributed simulations using HLA (High Level Architecture), there is at present no scalable implementation of the HLA simulation engine, the RTI (Run Time Infrastructure), that is used to manage the interactions among the various models of constructive simulations,” he observed. Illgen offered that for discrete-event simulations, “the latest version of the fully HLA-compliant Defense Modeling Simulation Office RTI is unable to exceed 200 grants of time advance per second. This is for the case of two federated simulations where there are no event messages and a fast-switched network is used.”

For its part, Monterey Technologies is providing a more dynamic and capable LVC construct via SimulationSim, a tool capable of simulating the performance aspects of a simulation, including the infrastructure on which it depends.

ZedaSoft’s MiLToC product allows users to transfer entities from a constructive simulation to a virtual cockpit simulation using the DIS v6 protocol standard. Image credit: ZedaSoft.
ZedaSoft’s MiLToC product allows users to transfer entities from a constructive simulation to a virtual cockpit simulation using the DIS v6 protocol standard. Image credit: ZedaSoft.

In a slight departure from LVC’s technology foundation, Fred Fleury, vice president for Corporate Development at ZedaSoft, called attention to another challenge – the limited live resources available to realistically recreate the battlespace in testing and training for live platforms. The desire using LVC, Fleury explained, is to inject simulated entities either via constructive entities or virtual entities to “fill out” the battlespace interaction. “The use of subject matter experts to man the virtual simulators is highly desirable as it allows for instantaneous changes in tactics, but has become a serious resource constraint to many training commands.” Accordingly, ZedaSoft has leveraged its MOSA (modular open systems approach)-compliant CBA for Simulation framework to allow the interleaving of virtual simulators with the constructive simulator systems which typically generate the majority of the battlespace entities.

Fleury added, “This new capability is called man-in-the loop transfer of control (MiLToC), whereas a constructive entity (ie, flight lead) is transferred from the constructive environment to the virtual man-in-the-loop station nearly instantaneously allowing the SME to control the flight for more effective red and blue force interaction. MiLToC allows users to transfer entities from a constructive simulation like ASCOT (Advanced Simulation Combat Operations Trainer), Big Tac, XCITE (eXpert Common Immersive Theater Environment) or NGTS (next-generation threat system) to our virtual cockpit simulation, using the DIS (Distributed Interactive Simulation) v6 protocol standard.” This instantaneous transfer puts the user in full control of the entity, thereby increasing the realism of the adversary role in training scenarios.

Perey said CAE has been involved in supporting numerous Coalition Virtual Flags over the years, enabling simulation assets in the US, Canada and Australia to successfully complete distributed, multi-national virtual training. “To date, though, these still fall short on two fronts,” he explained. “First, they are mostly virtual and constructive training events, and second, they are an annual showcase or experiment of capabilities, not a regular and frequent undertaking as a normal course of joint training. For the most part, nations have yet to fund the design and implementation of the ‘Last Foot’ into the live cockpit. This requires updates to the real operational flight program aircraft loads, with all the right safety considerations to ensure pilots can train safely in the aircraft with a combination of real and virtual assets in their environment.” He concluded, “As industry, we need to do more to present the compelling economic benefits of LVC to militaries around the world.”

As exercise designs are enhanced, the technology bar is elevated and other progress occurs. Military forces around the globe are eyeing, or are on the cusp of receiving, even more new LVC programs and their enabling technologies.

Collins Aerospace’s Gilkison said his company was currently in discussion with several foreign militaries regarding TCTS Inc II, and suggested that every military aircraft in the world could conceivably carry TCTS Inc II, as it comes in a form factor conducive to all aircraft types.

“Fighters are leading the way in airborne LVC and many countries are watching our production on the CRIIS [Common Range Integrated Instrumentation System] program and development on the TCTS Inc II program so that they may benefit quickly. We have every reason to believe that TCTS Inc II is exportable to most partner nations and are already well down the path to achieving the proper clearances,” he added. And to help reach the goal of increased interoperability, Gilkison concluded, “Our MILS [Multiple Independent Levels of Security] encryption, cross-domain solutions and software-defined radios define TCTS Inc II as the LVC-enabling technology that will ensure interoperability.”

As MS&T readers may recall, MILS has been highlighted by Collins Aerospace at recent I/ITSEC demonstrations, supporting airborne and ground operations, tethered or autonomous, and even providing secure interoperability between 5th- and 4th-Gen aircraft.

CAE’s Perey also noted countries such as the UK and Australia are funding significant distributed training infrastructure programs that will set the stage to redefine the optimal live-synthetic blend. In the US and elsewhere, “The building blocks are being put into place, but it will still take time to overcome some cultural and financial challenges to make a fully integrated LVC environment a reality.”

Operations Specialist Seaman Hope Hernandez monitors a radar console aboard the USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) guided-missile destroyer during a Composite Training Unit Exercise. Image credit: US Navy/ Michael Chen.
Operations Specialist Seaman Hope Hernandez monitors a radar console aboard the USS Winston S. Churchill (DDG 81) guided-missile destroyer during a Composite Training Unit Exercise. Image credit: US Navy/ Michael Chen.

An Enterprise Construct

These events, projects and other activities are figuratively the “tip of the iceberg” in terms of the military-industry community’s quest to achieve true LVC interoperability. Hurdles remain: harmonizing architectures with the infusion of Big Data and other converging forces – for starters. As the community sprints toward the LVC finish line, it is clear no one service or company can solve the challenges alone. Indeed, Cubic’s Knowles sees multi-domain LVC as a broad enterprise of interoperable systems, not as one product. “These systems will communicate using open message standards over secure networks. To achieve ‘LVC-nirvana,’ it will require effort from a broad industry group that includes companies that make operational platforms, simulators, security solutions, constructive generated forces, and more. This of course not only applies to the air domain, but also to ground, surface, sub-surface, space and cyber.” 

Originally published in Issue 2, 2019 of MS&T Magazine.