“The future of training is very exciting. Come to I/ITSEC to experience it …” Group Editor Marty Kauchak provides a snapshot of the 2019 edition of the largest annual trade fair in the world for military simulation and training professionals.

Disregard the calendar. As you read this in, say, September, the industry-military members of the National Training and Simulation Association (NTSA) will be deep in the throes of finalizing their 2019 I/ITSEC programs. Debugging demos. Refurbishing or building new exhibit structures. Polishing presentations. Booking travel. While the latest products and systems from across the S&T domain for military trainees and learners in some adjacent high-risk sectors will again be on display on the Orange County Convention Center exhibit floor, government and corporate leaders and subject matter experts are scheduled to engage delegates with an array of forward-leaning topics in panel discussions and workshops.

Collins Aerospace claims the Joint Secure Air Combat Training System (JSAS) features “the only fully NSA-certified MILS architecture to allow warfighters to train anytime, anywhere, any mission”. Image credit: Collins Aerospace.
Collins Aerospace claims the Joint Secure Air Combat Training System (JSAS) features “the only fully NSA-certified MILS architecture to allow warfighters to train anytime, anywhere, any mission”. Image credit: Collins Aerospace.

Destination Orlando, 2-6 December

The 2019 conference theme, “Winning the War of Cognition by Pushing Readiness and Lethality Boundaries” comes from a speech given by US Air Force Chief of Staff, General David Goldfein. NTSA’s president, Retired US Navy Rear Admiral Jim Robb, said, “He believes that advances in networking, cyber, big data and artificial intelligence will enable us to ‘out-think’ the enemy in the future.”

The Air Force is the lead Service this year, and appropriately Vice Chief of the Air Force, General Steven Wilson, is the invited government keynote speaker. The Air Force has also invited the major Command operations officers to join a panel on the future of the Air Force. “We expect a very strong showing from the Air Force Acquisition Community as well in support of Air Force ‘Pitch Day’,” Robb noted. “This innovative program identifies key technologies and invites industry to ‘pitch’ their product at
I/ITSEC. Funding decisions will be made on site during the conference. This activity supports NTSA’s objectives to speed the assimilation of technologies to the warfighters.”

Reflecting on emerging trends and competencies in the S&T industry, I/ITSEC organizers continue to emphasize the importance of big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI) to the future force, and have several special events on those interrelated subjects. “Our dedication to supporting improvements to individual training, education and performance is a central theme,” the NTSA president emphasized, and added, “As always, innovation and accelerated product to the warfighter is critical to the joint force keeping pace with the enemy.”

In the adjacent healthcare side, NTSA has a patient safety “thread” in this year’s conference, emphasizing the need for more simulation-based training in the medical area. “The nation suffers over 400,000 accidental patient deaths per year, and this year’s conference will discuss these challenges,” Robb observed. As much of the US DoD medical care system has been centralized under the Defense Health Agency (DHA), NTSA will have leadership from DHA and the Veterans Health Administration addressing the conference and available on the show floor.

From a broader perspective, Robb reiterated this is a very exciting time for the simulation and training community. “We are seeing heavy Service investments into the transformation of training in the accession and education programs. Many Services are focused on tailoring education and training to the individual and working to even the accession playing field through intelligent tutoring and artificial intelligence that allows accommodation of candidates’ strengths and weaknesses. This is a perfect time to use new age technologies and education methods to transform today’s block training approach into a system to seek and build on their strengths while building a life-long learning training profile that represents all their skill sets.”

Exhibitor Sneak Peeks

Delegates at 2019 I/ITSEC will be able to view products and systems from across many of the S&T sector’s defense programs. Here’s a snapshot of a few exhibitors’ plans.

We have noted in recent years the continued growth of Frasca International (Urbana, Illinois) in both the military and civil markets. One current effort, based on a 2018 contract award, has Frasca as subcontractor to FlightSafety Services Corporation (FSSC) on the US Navy TH57 Aircrew Training Services (ATS) contract, providing 10 flight training devices (FTD), 10 debrief stations, and two Central Control Station (CCS) consoles.

Randy Gawenda, Frasca Business Development Manager, will be at booth #2157 to discuss various projects, including TH57 ATS activities. Frasca’s point of contact for this program, Gawenda provided insights on the program through the lens of trends such as partnering and the migration of onboard training to Level 6/7 FTDs.

“The TH57 ATS program has gone very well, along with the support from our partners FlightSafety Services and Aechelon Technologies,” Gawenda explained. “While Frasca has long delivered a full product line, from procedural trainers to operational flight trainers, our strength has always been in the high-level FTD where accuracy and fidelity are every bit on par with Level C/D requirements but are a much better fit for training pipelines. This also helps as the contracting and fiscal environments have been extremely difficult to navigate for long-term planning and procurement. However, the training need, as well as maintaining proficiency and operational tempo, has never been higher. So, we find the Level 6/Level7 FTD has what we call the ‘Goldilocks’ appeal in this environment, as it satisfies the need for increased training capability and technology, as well as fiscal needs.”

Glen Dimock, a Frasca Aero Engineer, noted: “Two CCS consoles are installed at NAS Whiting Field in Milton, Florida to provide remote instruction and air traffic control services for 10 FTDs. In addition, the first five FTDs and debrief stations have been delivered on-schedule and on-budget, with the CCS expected to enter service in August. The remaining FTDs [and debrief stations] are scheduled for delivery through February 2020.”

MetaVR's Virtual Reality Scene Generator version 6.4 will highlight 3D terrains such as Afghanistan, Kismayo, Somalia, Mischief Reef, Spratly Islands, and the South China Sea. Image credit: MetaVR.
MetaVR's Virtual Reality Scene Generator version 6.4 will highlight 3D terrains such as Afghanistan, Kismayo, Somalia, Mischief Reef, Spratly Islands, and the South China Sea. Image credit: MetaVR.

The effects of recent aerospace and defense mergers and acquisitions continue to ripple through the S&T industry. Lenny Genna, President of the recently rebranded L3Harris Technologies Military Training Sector (L3 Technologies and Harris Corporation finalized their merger on 29 June), said, “L3Harris delivers innovative solutions that address our customers’ challenges across air, land, sea, space and cyber.”

Focusing on I/ITSEC, Genna noted his sector’s mission, in general, is to support military aviation training across all combat readiness requirements by providing customers targeted capabilities within ever-present budget constraints. He explained, “We do this in a fully immersive learning environment for the best possible training experience. That includes leveraging emerging technologies, especially in augmented, virtual and mixed reality (AR/VR/MR) solutions as well as artificial intelligence where we continue to invest resources.”

At last year’s I/ITSEC, the former L3 Link business announced its new Blue Boxer Extended Reality (BBXR) trainer. Fast forward to this year, when the team, at booth #1449, will have the F/A18 BBXR on display alongside its new F16 AR/VR trainer. The corporate leader added, “Other L3Harris capabilities will be prominent, including our patented Adaptive Learning Engine (ALE) capability that is part of both the BBXR and the F16 AR/VR trainer.”

Genna declared BBXR “an exceptional trainer” – it hosts an MR training solution in a deployable container based on a fourth-generation tactical aircraft. BBXR is also human-portable with a rapid setup time. He further described, “We developed it to complement our existing full-scale full mission trainers while simultaneously providing a deployable networked device at markedly lower cost.

The ALE is the company’s patented performance and monitoring assessment technology that is applied to training systems including BBXR and F16, providing instructors and students real-time feedback on training events. Employing AI, the ALE provides data-rich debriefs and interactive grade sheets, and serves as a force multiplier for instructors who can intervene when necessary and provide coaching. Instructors and students can monitor and gauge stress, engagement, and fine motor control – all of which improve the learning experience.

In the visual display sector, MetaVR will be prominent (booth #1348). The Brookline, Massachusetts-based company will showcase scenarios rendered in its real-time 3D visualization application, Virtual Reality Scene Generator (VRSG), highlighting version 6.4 features such as dynamic self-shadowing (which increases the realism of a scene and increased support for VR devices), 3D terrains, and new high-resolution insets to the company’s CONUS++ terrain.

MetaVR will also demonstrate its terrain and visualization products and technologies that support applications ranging from unmanned air system (UAS) operator and joint terminal attack control (JTAC) training, to high-speed fixed-wing cockpit simulators, to littoral and marine-based operations to individual/ person ground-level urban operations.

SRPaero (formerly Swift Radioplanes) will be joining MetaVR in its booth again this year. W. Garth Smith, President and Co-founder of MetaVR, noted, “We use their hand-launched small UAS to capture sub-inch imagery to build ultra-high-resolution terrain suitable for ground simulation and close air support sim training.”

MS&T has also watched Collins Aerospace (booth #2501) become a leader in live, virtual, construction (LVC)-enabled training the past several years. Beginning in 2013 at I/ITSEC, the former Rockwell Collins conducted LVC demonstrations with live aircraft flying hundreds of miles away. In 2015, they qualified a JTAC on the exhibition floor with a remote live aircraft. A company statement pointed out: “We were also a leader during Operation Blended Warrior by bringing live aircraft again and connecting other companies’ assets with our Joint Secure Air Combat Training System (JSAS) to enable unprecedented levels of secure training realism.”

At I/ITSEC 2019, Collins Aerospace will showcase JSAS 2.0 as used on the US Navy TCTS Inc. II (Tactical Combat Training System Increment II) program, featuring actual equipment and software from the program. With FACE architecture hosted onboard, Collins Aerospace will manage a relevant air combat training multi-ship engagement in real-time using LVC applications run in the FACE environment. Airborne technology includes a Multiple Independent Levels of Security (MILS) architecture complete with cross-domain solution, encryption, and secure processing of LVC applications for up to four concurrent, physical levels of security.

At CAE Defense & Security (booth #1734), there continues to be ample emphasis on the global demand for pilots. Chris Stellwag, Director, Marketing Communications, said “Most of what CAE does is help our customers in civil and military aviation develop and train pilots – more than 135,000 a year. We believe we have unparalleled experience and know-how in creating proficient, well-trained aviation professionals.”

One way CAE is helping address this challenge is taking advantage of new technologies that help make pilot training more efficient and streamlined, enabling more throughput and helping produce qualified pilots more quickly. CAE will use I/ITSEC to once again highlight a range of company solutions. “The demonstration of this training continuum will include high-fidelity courseware, new self-paced virtual reality flight trainers, and a high-fidelity flight training device all linked and integrated to help pilots understand theory, practice procedures, and ultimately demonstrate proficiency,” Stellwag revealed the VR flight trainers and high-fidelity FTD will leverage CAE RISE (Real-time Insights and Standardized Evaluations), which utilizes the wealth of “big data” gathered during simulator training sessions and provides the ability for instructors to deliver standardized training and objectively assess pilot competencies using live data.

In another part of the corporate portfolio, CAE Healthcare produces patient, ultrasound and surgical simulators as well as audiovisual and center management solutions for debrief, curriculum and custom training solutions.

Level 6/7 flight training devices provide the ‘just right’ tools that contain the latest in simulation technology but also work within modern-day military training budgets. Shown here is a Frasca International TH57 FTD for the US Navy aircrew training services contract. Image credit: Frasca.
Level 6/7 flight training devices provide the ‘just right’ tools that contain the latest in simulation technology but also work within modern-day military training budgets. Shown here is a Frasca International TH57 FTD for the US Navy aircrew training services contract. Image credit: Frasca.

Pre-Show Preparation

NTSA’s Robb concluded, “The future of training is very exciting. Come to I/ITSEC to experience it and, further, engage with I/ITSEC year-round through our social media channels on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.” 

Originally published in Issue 4/5, 2019 of MS&T Magazine.