The simulation and training domain never ceases to interest me with its synergy of people and technology, and its challenges both enduring and emergent. It has a global community that for the most part shares its ideas and standards and looks to other sectors for innovation. It is a serious endeavour but one that often has to compete with platform and system priorities. So, at the start of the decade, what is the future of training and what are the challenges ahead?
Will we still need training in the future? Given the current conversations around automation and AI one might think we will not need humans at all. However, although we see striking developments in both civil and military domains, it will be a long time before machines can be as versatile and agile in thinking as humans. It is more likely that the nature of military tasks will change and that there will be more human and machine teaming, so there will continue to be a need for training for the foreseeable future.
What of the people we need to train? It is generally perceived that the newer recruits have different aspirations and learning styles to those of previous generations. Recruitment and retention are significant issues in several nations so it is vital to understand what recruits are seeking from a military career, how they learn best and how to maintain their motivation - excellent training, transferable skills and a working environment which supports diversity will become increasingly important.
What of future training? What is likely to endure is the extraordinary depth and breadth of military training with fighter pilots, tank maintainers, ships’ cooks and so forth. Environments such as air, land and sea will continue but there are new frontiers such as space and cyberspace. Training will need to reflect the complexity, sophistication and disorder of a dynamic operating environment with state and non-state actors, peer and asymmetric threats, and the need to balance kinetic and non-kinetic actions. The enemy will always have a say and training will need to be agile to changing threats and the chaotic nature of warfare.
Cost and time are also important drivers. Training will need to be faster, carried out anywhere, anytime and at less cost. In addition to technologies like the cloud, 5G and XR, approaches to training such as competence-based and gamification are likely to become standard with greater emphasis on tackling skill fade. The importance of instructors is unlikely to diminish; there may be less of them and AI may play a bigger role, but human interaction, storytelling and versatility will remain key.
How will training be delivered? A consistent message from militaries around the world is the desire for innovation and greater agility in training provision; research and procurement organisations will need to adjust accordingly but it will be important to balance this desire with the stability and security of long-term contracts.
Finally, when do we know we have trained effectively? Training measurements are currently done using predominantly qualitative methodology, but our ability to measure, analyse and store training data may in time lead to the adoption of a more quantitative approach. This will not only help in training design and optimisation but also provide better evidence to the wider defence establishment to support investment in S&T.
The future of training looks as interesting and important as ever and the MS&T team will continue to strive to bring the military S&T community the latest news and developments to inspire and inform. It is a great honour to be MS&T’s Editor and I would like to thank Rick Adams, Editor Emeritus, and the Halldale team for their support for my first issue of MS&T. - Andy Fawkes, MS&T Editor
Published in MS&T issue 1/2020