Group Editor Marty Kauchak examines trends and developments in Middle East military forces’ simulation and training programs.
Military services in Middle Eastern nations, allied or friendly to the West, are engaged in operations across much of the spectrum of conflict. In one example, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia is engaged in air and land combat against the Houthi movement in Yemen. At the same time, Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) nations’ naval forces were joining their allied partners to complete escort missions, mine surveillance assignments and other operations in the Arabian Gulf and contiguous waters. Add Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Israel, etc. One outcome of this increased operating tempo is the regular and reserve components of the region’s nations are stepping up their demand for simulation and training (S&T) products, systems and services, to help raise their mission readiness.
S&T companies from the US, Europe and beyond are supplying diverse products and services to ME military forces. As these firms supply regional customers with products, ranging from individual devices up to turnkey training centers, they are also strengthening the life cycle support aspects of their current and planned contracts, often partnering with companies in customers’ nations to provide technical and other expertise. The implications of these activities are significant. As host-nation and customer expertise in S&T expands, other efficiencies and returns on investment will be realized.
Products, Systems and Beyond
One representative activity in this region finds Perth, Australia-based Calytrix Technologies providing in-country support to the Jordan Armed Forces (JAF) in the delivery of Joint Terminal Attack Controller (JTAC) and Joint Fires simulation systems. Coined the “Supporting Arms Virtual Trainer (SAVT)” by the JAF, the purpose-built facility is used to support the training, operational readiness, and tactical proficiency of JAF Joint Terminal Air Controllers/Tactical Air Control Party, Forward Air Controllers, and Forward Observer personnel during day, dusk, and night operations.
Shawn Parr, Calytrix CEO, explained: “The actual JTAC system is built on Titan Vanguard, advanced hardware from Virtual Simulation Systems [of Australia], and is supported in-country by dedicated training and technical staff.”
Meggitt Training Systems Inc. (MTSI) is supplying the entire line of both live fire and virtual training systems to its Middle East customers. Kirk Roetman, Business Development Manager, said the customer base ranges from private shooting clubs in Abu Dhabi to large training complexes for the Saudi Ministry of National Guard. “MTSI has delivered training systems to all the Gulf Cooperation Council countries,” the executive remarked, and noted, “The largest customer base to date is Kuwait with deliveries to the Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior and National Guard. Most recently, we commissioned a range renovation at the Ali Al Subah Military College in Kuwait. MTSI, along with its in-country company AIS-Kuwait, did the range design, supplied the ballistic protection, target system and a unique range ventilation system for a semi-enclosed range.
Saudi Arabia is MTSI’s second largest regional customer with deliveries to the National Guard and Land Forces for live-fire ranges. Other customer countries include the UAE, Qatar, Oman, Jordan, Bahrain and Egypt.
In some instances, the training audience and end-users of materiel delivered to and services furnished in the region is blurred, and with good reason. Thomas Ehmann, Manager for Product Line Sales at Moog Industrial Group, observed that while his company’s content is used in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Israel, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Qatar, “To be clear, all of this equipment was sold to US customers who train both US and foreign personnel in the Middle East.” This should come as no surprise, as one recent US Defense Department report acknowledged there were about 43,000 US personnel on the ground throughout the region. Ehmann also touched on another significant aspect of S&T sales into the region, observing that while Moog “doesn’t get much in terms of direct requests from these governments, the Foreign Military Sales (FMS) market for US military platforms has been very strong.”
Boeing is one major OEM supporting US FMS contracts in the Middle East and elsewhere. In the company’s internal Services Market Outlook 2019-2028 for government services, military aircraft figure significantly, projected a US $225 billion demand from the Middle East.
Tonya Noble, Director of International Defense Training, Boeing Global Services, highlighted the role of training in many company FMS contracts, emphasizing that “continuing to optimize our global presence while driving affordable training solutions remains a priority. Connecting with the right industry partners to optimize and deliver the appropriate solutions for our customers helps to care for challenges related to attracting personnel in the region.”
As part of one FMS contract, when the QEAF (Qatar Emiri Air Force) takes delivery of 36 Boeing F15 Advanced Eagle attack fighters, support services will be similar to the AH64 Apache helicopter program, with a greater focus on performance-based logistics and training. “The training is focused on making our customers more efficient in support of their requirements,” Noble added. “We are also competitively pursuing training services contract in support of other opportunities that are government to government.”
At the component level, there are many Barco projectors deployed in training installations in the Middle East, including in Turkey, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Israel, according to Dave Fluegeman, Vice President of Simulation. The Barco brand is continuing to flourish in this part of the world, as Fluegeman noted his company “continuously follows the developments in the region and are often part of the biddings for both smaller and larger programs through our key partners. As an example, the Barco F70 has just been selected for a new helicopter program in the UAE via one of our partners in the US. The F70 has also been selected for an advanced jet trainer program in the region as well. Additionally, we are closely following Saudi Arabia’s F15 upgrade program where the F70 has been bid through multiple partners.”
Expanded Life Cycle Focus
S&T firms are developing a long-term presence in the region by strengthening aspects of their products’ and systems’ life cycles – often with a local focus.
MSTI’s Roetman provided a candid perspective that local representative companies perform multiple functions, positioning Meggitt for growth in the region. In each country, MSTI sets up either a customer logistical support or distributorship agreement with a local company. “This provides us value for intelligence on upcoming tenders, as well as the geopolitical climate. These agreements provide a value-added service to the end user as well, with local support for repairs and a lower cost of products and services often sourced through the local companies. With increasing requirements worldwide to manufacture products in a particular country, we are establishing this network to meet those requirements and remain competitive.”
Roetman also pointed out: “Many of the companies we work with provide local labor for installations, training and follow-on service. In addition, we have set up two regional providers to source steel and ballistic rubber products. For virtual systems, the primary role of these companies is initial installation support and often includes follow-on contracts for system operation and maintenance, depending on customer requirements. When our partners provide the operations and maintenance, we see significant value to the end user by having knowledgeable and responsible personnel to operate and maintain the systems.”
To meet the demanding, unique regional environment, Barco delivers projectors with a sealed optical engine. “This is standard build on the newest generation of Barco simulation projectors such as F/FS70 and FL/FS40, and helps keep a clean optical path with a bright, stable image over time,” Fluegeman said. To protect the installation further, his team is offering accessories such as pollution and dust/smoke filters, particularly relevant for sandy/dusty environments where small particles are swirling in the air and might contaminate the projector installation. “We also cooperate with third parties that build complete enclosures for our projectors with different IP [internet protocol] classifications, which is often requested by this region. On top of this we offer the Barco essential care program where regular maintenance and cleaning is included as part of the service package. This helps put our partners’ minds at ease and keep the customer happy with an installation in top shape all the time.” This service is available in-region from Barco’s office in Dubai.
New Market, New Center
CAE is quickly expanding its simulation and training footprint across the region. The company reports six current regional defense programs: RQ1E Predator remotely piloted aircraft training program for UAE Air Force; UAE Naval Training Centre; UAE Joint Aviation Command 407MRH and UH60M simulators; Joint Multinational Simulation Centre for an unspecified GCC member; Oman Aviation Academy and the KC130J Training Centre for the Kuwait Air Force.
The UAE Naval Training Centre features the company’s logical and successful expansion into a new defense market (maritime), and brings to bear expanding internal competencies across a program life cycle. Under a contract awarded in 2016, CAE is leading an effort to design, build and maintain a comprehensive naval training system to increase the service fleet’s operational readiness for in-service and future ships. Chris Stellwag, Director for Marketing Communications at CAE Defense & Security, confirmed the initial phase, the main NTC in Taweelah, will be ready for training in mid-2020.
The customer’s NTC training vision includes courseware and reconfigurable whole-ship simulators representing multiple classes of naval ships, including bridge, combat information center and machinery control room training; and providing multi-ship/aircraft warfare scenarios for task group training. Representative warfare missions to be addressed in NTC courses include anti-air warfare, anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine warfare and electronic warfare. Other courses that resonate with the UAE and other GCC navies include escorting and maritime interdiction operations.
Contract options for future phases include distributed training center sites as well as networking with ships alongside and at sea.
Originally published in Issue 4-5, 2019 of MST Magazine.